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Bipartisan Senate Amendment Seeks to End Indefinite Detention of American Citizens

in Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.

DetentionIn 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trail under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.

“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country. But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution guarantee Americans the right to due process of law. The Sixth Amendment protects the right to “a speedy and public trial.”

The indefinite detention provision was inserted into the FY 2012 NDAA at the request of the White House, according to then-Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who complied with the administration’s wishes. A Senate amendment, which passed the upper chamber with strong bipartisan support, to clarify the language was dropped during negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the FY 2013 NDAA.

“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”

“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.

The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.

New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

It’s exciting news when a bold libertarian idea moves into the mainstream. We’ve seen this again and again in recent years.

Now the New York Times — the very definition of mainstream, Establishment opinion — has asked a critical and timely question in the “Room for Debate” section of its Opinion Pages:

Abolish the CIA?“Do We Need the C.I.A.? Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the agency were dismantled?”

Writes the Times:

“Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies. …

“Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?”

That such a question is being asked and debated is great news, says Jacob Hornberger, president of the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation:

“That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: ‘Is It Time to Reform the CIA?’ …

“Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA… The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, ‘Why not abolish the CIA?’”

Hornberger gives his own answer to the New York Times’ question.

“The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. … It’s not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of ‘patriots’ who were protecting ‘national security’ from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the ‘terrorists,’ and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA’s steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.

“The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.

“The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.

“The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done. …

“The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world…

“The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s… At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world…

“From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world’s biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.

“Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers. …

“So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It’s a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it.”

They Said It… With Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Jonathan Gruber, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher“The fundamental principles are individual liberty, which Republicans have always talked about; limited government, which Republicans have always talked about; the doctor-patient relationship, which, of course, we have been stressing a lot about lately; and of course, states’ rights. … It is counterproductive to the people of this country to have our limited resources — we’re $500 billion in debt every year — to put in jail someone who is smoking a weed in their back yard, or especially for medical purposes. It is a total waste of resources. … To my fellow Republicans, this is going to help you politically. If I can’t appeal to you on your philosophical nature, come on over for just raw politics, the numbers are going this way now.” — U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), former Reagan press secretary and speech writer, quoted in the Washington Post November 14, 2014.

“If you have a law that makes explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it wouldn’t have passed. … Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the ‘stupidity of the American voter’ or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” — Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, who was paid nearly half a million dollars to help craft Obamacare, in a 2013 video that surfaced this month.

WHERE IS THE ANTI-WAR LEFT? “Hundreds of airstrikes, over 3,000 soldiers deployed, and a request for $5.6 billion is a war, folks. Had President Mitt Romney just doubled our military presence in the Middle East and launched airstrikes that even the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army have criticized, the reaction would have been entirely different from liberals throughout the country. We once again have over 3,000 American boots on the ground in Iraq (without a peep from the anti-war left)…” — journalist H. A. Goodman, “I’m a Liberal Democrat. I’m Voting for Rand Paul in 2016. Here Is Why,” Huffington Post, Nov. 17, 2014.

YET ANOTHER DUMB WAR: “For most of this century, we’ve been fighting wars to enhance our security, and each time, we find ourselves with more enemies and less security. By now it should be clear that is not a coincidence.”— syndicated columnist Steve Chapman, “The U.S. Goes to War Without a Clue, Again,” November 6, 2014.

Online Liberty Campaign: “Reset The Net” on June 5, 2014

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Sick of government surveillance spoiling the freedom and fun of the Internet?

Reset The NetYou’re not alone. And now there’s something you can do about it.

On June 5th, 2014 — the anniversary of the first NSA surveillance story revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden — a worldwide coalition of tens of thousands of Internet users, companies and organizations is pledging to “Reset The Net.”

Reset The Net is a day of global action to secure and encrypt the web to shut out the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. Tens of thousands of Internet activists, companies and organizations — from across the political spectrum and across the technology industry — have committed to preserve free speech and basic rights on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. And you can join them.

Participating organizations, sites and companies include the Libertarian Party, Fight For The Future (who initiated the campaign), reddit, CREDO Mobile, Namecheap, Imgur, Greenpeace, FireDogLake, Thunderclap, DuckDuckGo, Disconnect.Me, Demand Progress, Access, Free Press, Restore the Fourth, AIDS Policy Project, PolitiHacks, OpenMedia, Free Software Foundation, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Code Pink, Popular Resistance, Participatory Politics Foundation, BoingBoing, Public Knowledge, Amicus, New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Student Net Alliance, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

These and other organizations will participate by publicizing the effort and by improving their own security and/or promoting privacy tools to their followers.

Individual Internet users can act with Reset The Net in several important ways. They can get and install a free “privacy pack” of safe open-source software tools that make end-to-end encryption easy, as well as learning other ways to secure their online life against intrusive surveillance. Information on how to do this will be available from Reset The Net.

Individuals are also invited to sign a petition supporting online freedom and pledging to participate in the campaign. So far nearly 20,000 people have done so. Reset The Net hopes to have at least 50,000 signatures by the June 5 kick-off date.

Reset The Net will offer supporters a splash screen they can run at their web sites on June 5. These screens will potentially reach millions with a call for privacy and a link to the privacy tools pack.

Twitter users can join the #ResetTheNet Twitter brigade to further publicize the idea. Still more suggestions are at the Reset The Net website.

“The NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be,” says Reset The Net. “We can’t stop targeted attacks, but we can stop mass surveillance, by building proven security into the everyday Internet.”

For more information watch the short campaign video and visit

“The Libertarian Party enthusiastically joins Reset the Net,” said Carla Howell, Political Director for the Libertarian National Committee. “Over thirty Libertarian candidates running for federal office this year have pledged to shut down the NSA and invite Edward Snowden to return home a free man. He should be granted an immediate presidential pardon, awarded the American Medal of Freedom, and applauded for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s abuse of the Constitution.”

“Freedom to be yourself is everything. No government can take that away from us, so we’re going to use the power we have to take it back,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future. “Now that we know how mass surveillance works, we know how to stop it. That’s why people all over the world are going to work together to use encryption everywhere and make it too hard for any government to conduct mass surveillance. There are moments in history where people and organizations must choose whether to stand on the side of freedom or tyranny. On June 5th, the Internet will show which side it’s on.”

The Surveillance Scandal: The Right — and the Wrong –Terms

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

“In the animal kingdom, the rule is, eat or be eaten; in the 

Privacy or Liberty?human kingdom, define or be defined.”

So wrote the great libertarian Thomas Szasz.

Define or be defined. That’s a key principle of effective communication.

You can see this at work right now, in the unfolding scandal concerning government surveillance and the resulting public debate.

Those who defend such programs are using specific words to attempt to redefine and change what is at stake in this debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” President Obama said this month. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

Similarly, I’ve watched TV pundits and talk show hosts discuss this issue over and over again — always using the word “privacy” and talking about “the debate over balancing security with privacy.”

What’s going on here? The president and his supporters are attempting to define — or perhaps more accurately, redefine — the debate.

They want us to see this, and discuss this, as a question of “privacy” and “convenience” versus “security.”

Or even better for them, as Obama puts it in the quote above: “100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience” versus security.

They want these words and phrases to define the debate because, if we debate using these terms, they win.

The argument that we must compromise on “privacy” and “convenience” sounds so reasonable. After all, don’t we all routinely relinquish some privacy for other values? For example, we voluntarily give websites like Facebook our personal information, in exchange for the value of being able to use their services. We give credit card companies detailed information about our financial and personal lives for the benefits of using their cards.

As for “convenience,” it sounds unreasonable — in fact, downright selfish — not to be willing to give up something so trivial as a little convenience in order to protect Americans from terrorism.

That’s the argument the administration and its defenders want to make. It’s how they want to frame the debate.

But “privacy” and “convenience” are not what this debate is about. Not at all.

It’s about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

“Privacy” and “convenience” are squishy, malleable, non-political terms. It’s easy to imagine “striking a balance” between them and something so vital as security.

But it’s far harder to imagine “balancing” your fundamental liberty. Anyone familiar with politics and history can see that such balancing acts quickly tip over to the government side.

They want to change the debate. Don’t let them.

Don’t use terms like “privacy” and “convenience” when discussing this issue. You lose every time these words are the ones used to describe what’s at stake in this debate. Politely but firmly object to them if politicians and others use them.

Point out that this debate is about liberty. The Fourth Amendment. Fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. The Constitution. Constitutional guarantees. Basic rights. Core freedoms.

This is also a great time to memorize, and quote, the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

And the words of President Obama, in 2009: “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

Define — or be defined.