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Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Supporters of the NSA’s domestic spying programs say that a vast data collection effort is needed more than ever to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, but they are unable to point to any specific example of foiled terrorist plots through these unconstitutional, privacy-violating programs.

In June 2013, Gen. Keith Alexander, then the Director of the NSA, claimed that the spying programs prevented “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.” Testifying before a Senate committee in October of the same year, Alexander backtracked after Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled him for misleading the American public.

Spy

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. “These weren’t all plots and they weren’t all foiled. Would you agree with that, yes or no?” he asked the NSA chief.

Alexander, realizing he had been put on the spot for peddling misinformation, simply replied, “Yes.”

Of course Alexander was more honest than his colleague, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who lied about the NSA domestic surveillance program in a March 2013 Senate hearing. He was accused of perjury, although the allegation went nowhere in a Congress filled with pro-surveillance members.

Two government panels – President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – have since determined that NSA’s domestic spying programs have not played a role in thwarting terrorist attacks.

The attack on Sunday evening in Garland, Texas at the “Draw Muhammad” event hosted by an anti-Islam organization will undoubtedly be used as a reason to reauthorize a soon-to-expire provision, Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act by which the federal government claims the vast authority to spy on Americans.

But such claims should be met with a large dose of skepticism. One of the suspects involved in the attack had already come across the FBI’s radar. The United States’ top law enforcement agency began investigating him in 2006 on the suspicion that he wanted to join a terrorist group in Somalia.

The alleged attacker lied to federal authorities. He was convicted in 2010 of making false statements and sentenced to three years of probation. He was, however, able to avoid being placed on the “no-fly” list.

The alleged attackers in Garland are precisely are the needle for which the federal government claims that it needs the haystack, and intelligence and law enforcement officials failed to prevent what could have been a mass murder.

The NSA’s resources are spread too thin. Collecting the phone calls of virtually every American – the proverbial “haystack” – even if the people on the call are not suspected of any terrorist involvement, not only betrays the constitutionally protected rights defined by the Fourth Amendment, but also makes Americans less safe because intelligence agencies may not be able to connect the dots efficiently and effectively.

Rather than using the Garland attack as tool to further reauthorization of Section 215, which expires on June 1, lawmakers should seriously reexamine the approach to intelligence, requiring agencies like the NSA to focus on actual terrorism suspects as opposed to innocent Americans calling their families and friends.

Achieve Your New Year’s Goals — John Tierney and Roy Baumeister on Willpower (Video)

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Libertarian’s New Year’s Resolutions section in Volume 19, No. 27 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

If you’re serious about achieving success with your New Year’s resolutions, here is some hardcore information on how to do that, by two of the leading experts in the field (at least one of whom is a libertarian).

“Self-Control is the Key to Success: John Tierney and Roy Baumeister on Willpower” is a one-hour program produced by Reason TV earlier this year.

The two are authors of the bestseller Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

“There are two qualities that correlate with success,” says New York Times journalist — and libertarian — John Tierney. “One of them is intelligence and the other is self-control. And so far researchers haven’t figured out what to do about intelligence, but they have rediscovered how to improve self-control.”

Tierney spoke at an event sponsored by the Reason Foundation on January 28, 2014 along with his co-author Roy Baumeister, the Francis Epps Eminent Scholar in psychology at Florida State University.

Baumeister and Tierney discuss the importance of willpower in determining our success in life and offer tips for improving our self-control.

Among the highlights in this video (and where they can be found): laboratory experiments that show how willpower can be depleted (6:20); the effect of glucose levels on self-control (10:15); how to make good on your New Year’s resolutions (16:30); why dieting undermines self-control (20:45); how to make an effective to do list (22:30); Tierney and Baumeister’s experience meeting David Allen, author of Getting Things Done (24:30); why it’s a good idea to weigh yourself every day if you’re trying to shed pounds (25:30); the role of genetics in determining a person’s willpower (31:00); why self-help literature rarely emphasizes willpower (33:00); the victim mentality and Alcoholics Anonymous (35:20); willpower and crime (38:50); procrastination as a tool for getting things done (47:20); and willpower and evolution (51:45).

Check it out — and make 2015  your best year yet!

About 1 hour and 2 minutes. Shot and edited by Jim Epstein of Reason TV.

Don’t Win the Debate by Losing Your Opponent: Walter Block on Debating

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a recent post at the LewRockwell.com blog, the great libertarian writer Walter Block — a superb defender Walter Blockof libertarian ideas both in print and in live debates — shares his views on debating:

“My goal, in debating, is, along with my opponent, to get that proverbial one millionth of an inch closer to the Truth. I know this sounds a bit mawkish, and in the heat of the event — I’m only human — I sometimes forget myself, but, at least, this is my goal. In order to do this, I find, it is good to be polite. Not try to hog the podium, not interrupt my debating partner, not engage in ad hominems, etc.

“There are two arguments in favor of this. If we Austro-libertarians approach debates in this manner, we are perhaps more likely to win over our opponents. And if not them, then, perhaps, members of the audience.

“Second, it is always easier to escalate than de-escalate. It is very difficult to start off in a hostile impolite manner and later change our tune than to begin on the note I advocate and then if it is not reciprocated, escalate the hostilities.”

Great advice, Dr. Block! Dale Carnegie made a similar argument in his classic How To Win Friends and Influence People:

“Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

I’m also reminded of this hilarious remark from libertarian humorist Dave Barry (hopefully he’s joking!): “I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often — as a sign of their great respect — they don’t even invite me.” Ouch!

Block’s own story of how he became a libertarian is a great illustration of the importance of polite debate linked with a genuine desire to discover truth. He tells it in “How I Became a Libertarian.“ I highly recommend it. Here’s a quick summary.

Block was raised in a liberal household, and never had his leftist views seriously challenged — until 1963, when he was a senior at Brooklyn College and Ayn Rand came to give a lecture.

Says Block: “I attended, along with about 3,000 of my fellow mainly leftish students, in order to boo and hiss her, since she was evil incarnate. Afterward, the president of the group that had invited her to campus announced there was to be a luncheon in her honor, and anyone was welcome to take part, whether or not they agreed with her ideas. Not having had enough booing and hissing at Ayn in her formal lecture, I decided to avail myself of this opportunity to further express my displeasure with her and her views.”

The young Block boldly walked up to Rand and Nathanial Brandon “and announced that there was a socialist here who wanted to debate someone on economic issues pertaining to capitalism. (I was a bit of a chutzpanick in those days.) They politely asked, Who was this socialist, and I replied that it was me.

“Nathan very graciously offered to come to the other end of the table with me for this purpose, but he imposed two preconditions: first, I would be honor bound not to allow this conversation to lapse with this one meeting, but would continue with it until we had achieved a resolution: either he would convince me of the error of my ways, or I would convince him of his.

“Second, I would read two books he would later recommend to me (Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt). I agreed, and we spoke for an hour or so upon that occasion, followed up four or five times more for a similar duration at his apartment, where some of the other Randians took part, including Ayn, Leonard Piekoff, Barbara Branden and Alan Greenspan.

“At the end of this process I was converted to libertarianism.”

Block’s intellectual progress continued via spirited — but polite — debate and discussion with some leading libertarian intellectuals, most notably Murray Rothbard. (Again, you should read the whole story.)

Block’s story shows the importance — and the great pleasure — of friendly, spirited, and polite debate and discourse. Just imagine if Nathanial Brandon, instead of responding politely and helpfully, had simply dismissed Block or called him names. Would the liberty movement have lost the cocky young socialist — who went on to change his mind and become one of our finest writers and thinkers? (I shudder to think of the libertarian movement without the contributions of Walter Block!)

If you aren’t familiar with his work, Block is most famous for his groundbreaking classic Defending the Undefendable. Other books include The Privatization of Roads and Highways, Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty, Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective, Building Blocks for Liberty, and Toward a Libertarian Society. Add to that countless essays and articles.

And here’s the best news of all: you can download them for FREE from the Mises Institute, along with a treasury of hundreds of other liberty classics. Take advantage of this wonderful gift from the Mises Institute and fill your e-reader with some of the world’s greatest libertarian writing — again, for free.

Go back to the full issue here.

Are You Having Libertarian Conversations?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarian persuasion usually takes place in conversation.Libertarian Conversation

Not speeches or seminars, books or white papers, important though they are.

Libertarian understanding usually grows out of talking and listening.

So start or join a libertarian conversation. One-on-one. Or with a small group.

In person. On Skype. Or on the telephone.

Conversation engages us. Draws us out. Brings into play more of our intelligence and attention.

Which makes it ideal for teaching and learning. For grasping and embracing libertarianism.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Resource: A Verifiable and Disturbing Look Into “Top Secret America”

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

“Top Secret America” is a investigative report first published in The Top Secret AmericaWashington Post on July 19, 2010. It is based on a two-year investigation by a team of journalists headed by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dana Priest and William Arkin.

Top Secret America attempted to discover the size and scope of the post-9/11 growth of the U.S. intelligence community.

Though the report is now nearly three years old, it remains a startling and shocking profile of the post 9/11 security state. It’s available online, along with supplementary material.

The Post found that the top-secret world the federal government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 “has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

This constitutes nothing less than “an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.”

Among the investigation’s findings:

  • Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
  • An estimated 854,000 people — nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. — hold top-secret security clearances.
  • In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.
  • Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
  • Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Indeed, the secret government is growing so fast and so secretly that no one really knows its size or scope — including those who are supposedly in charge of it.

Reports the Post: “In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials — called Super Users — have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.”

In the years since, we can only imagine the further expansion of Top Secret America. Revelations since then include, for example, charges from reliable sources that the government is tracking most if not all electronic communication in America.

This report is an excellent mainstream account of startling information and thus is a useful and reliable resource. Just remember, things are even worse than the Post reports.