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The Debate Over NSA Spying is Finished. Or is it?

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

On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.

With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.

After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.


“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”

Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.

“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”

Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Although several organizations and tech companies backed the USA Freedom Act, the bill wasn’t without opposition because it didn’t go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., made his opposition clear because he wanted the ability to offer amendments to strengthen the bill.

Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”

But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”

So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Ron Paul: You’d Love My Government Shutdown

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the U.S. Senate averted a Ron Paulgovernment shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill,” notes Ron Paul in a column at CNBC.

“This year’s omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.”

That’s pathetic, Paul says.

“Instead of panicking over a limited shutdown, a true pro-liberty Congress would be eagerly drawing up plans to permanently close most of the federal government.”

“What would I shut down if given the opportunity for it to have any meaning?” he mused at Voices of Liberty.com.

“First, the Fed. No more welfare for the rich.

“Second, the IRS. Let the people keep all of their earnings and spend their money in their own interest.

“Third, abolish the NSA, the TSA, the CIA and all spying on American citizens.

“Spending would stop, no federal printing presses and no stolen money from the people would end entitlements, which mostly go to the rich.

“And all of our wars — we would come home from the 150 countries where we have troops stationed.

Concludes Paul: “Now that’s a government shutdown that would not go unnoticed and something to be proud of!”

Buckley for Senate

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

They Said It… With The Economist, David Letterman, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FACES TO VOICES: “President Obama now is meeting with the G-7 leaders… it must be fun for him to put faces to the voices he hears on the wiretaps.” — David Letterman, March 24, 2014.

PERVERSE INCENTIVES: “The War on Drugs creates perverse incentives. When the police find The Economistassets that they suspect are the proceeds of crime, they can seize them. Under civil asset-forfeiture rules, they do not have to prove that a crime was committed — they can grab first and let the owners sue to get their stuff back. The police can meanwhile use the money to beef up their own budgets, buying faster patrol cars or computers. All this gives them a powerful incentive to focus on drug crimes, which generate lots of cash, rather than, say, rape, which does not. This is outrageous. Citizens should not forfeit their property unless convicted of a crime; and the proceeds should fund the state as a whole, not the arm that does the grabbing.” — editorial, The Economist magazine, “Armed and dangerous,” March 22, 2014.

WHY DOES THE GOV’T HURT SICK PEOPLE: “It states in the Bible not to abuse a drug, it doesn’t say you can’t use it. If you ask me, cannabis is a gift from God.” — preacher’s daughter Aimee Curry, who found marijuana was the only medicine that relieved agonizing muscle spasms from a near-fatal car accident. She told her story on CNN’s “Weed 2: Cannabis Madness: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports,” Tuesday, March 11, 2014.


Dr. Mark Rabe

“Patients often come into my office and drop down a brown bag full of pill bottles on my desk and say,’I'm off Oxycodone; I’m off muscle relaxants. I’m off Ambien; I’m off Trazodone,’ because medical cannabis does the job better. Time after time these patients tell me that medical cannabis works better than the pills, and with fewer side effects. Cannabis has such a good safety profile and is much less addictive than opiates. In my mind, cannabis is a good potential replacement for opiates.” — Dr. Mark Rabe, a Northwestern University School of Medicine-trained physician who treats Aimee Curry, quoted above. Rabe noted that deaths from prescription drugs are on the rise, while death from marijuana overdose is virtually impossible.

NEW JERSEY GUN-GRABBER WANTS TO CLASSIFY ORDINARY GUN OWNERS AS “TERRORISTS OR GANGSTERS”: “Our top priority is a 10-round limit on magazine size. NobodyNew Jersey gun control activist Brian Miller needs a 15-round ammunition magazine unless they are a domestic terrorist or a gangster.” — New Jersey gun control activist Bryan Miller on proposed state legislation to outlaw possession of such guns in the state, including 43 commonly-owned rifles. The Post says the bill “has no grandfather clause and no amnesty period. So as soon as this legislation becomes law, everyone in possession of these rifles is automatically a felon and the guns are subject to seizure by the government. …The penalty is up to 10 years in jail and a mandatory minimum sentence of three to five years, with no chance of parole.” The legislation is expected to pass the state House and Senate and land on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.

Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict“Democrats and Republicans each got about $18 million of government money for their national conventions in 2012. We Libertarians pay for our own conventions.”— Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, quoted in the Washington Times, “Libertarians Strut Their Stuff,” March 19, 2014. Learn more about the upcoming LP convention — to be held in Columbus, Ohio, June 28-29 — here.

David Letterman

LETTERMAN ON TAX SLAVES: “The average American citizen — you hear the statistic all the time — works six months out of the year for the government. That’s how difficult the taxes are in this country. We work six months out of the year. Government employees don’t even do that.” — David Letterman, March 14, 2014.

Jimmy FallonYesterday Edward Snowden urged technology companies to improve their encryption techniques in order to prevent hacking. Then he said, ‘But not right away. I’m still using Obama’s Netflix password to watch ‘House of Cards.’”— Jimmy Fallon, March 11, 2014.

GOP Denounces NSA Spying as Unconstitutional; Calls for Repeal, Investigation

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Hey: the Republican Party National Committee has gone all Edward Snowden on us.

In what TIME magazine calls “the latest indication of a growing libertarian wing of the GOP,” the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a Resolution on January 24 calling for Republicans in Congress to conduct a public investigation into the “gross infringement” of Americans’ rights by National Security Agency programs and to repeal much of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance programs on Americans.

The “Resolution to Renounce the National Security Agency’s Surveillance Program” denounces what it called the “largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens… the surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and [the monitoring of the] searching habits of virtually every American on the internet…”

The remarkable document, while not binding on any GOP member, passed by an overwhelming majority voice vote.

The Resolution boldly declares that “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution” and says “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society and this [PRISM] program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy and goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act…”

Further, the Republican National Committee “encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court…” and they urge Republican lawmakers “to call for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying…”

This committee, says the RNC, “should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance…”

Good stuff! And there’s more. You can read the whole Resolution at TIME’s web site.

However, you’d also be wise to be skeptical, as journalist John Glaser astutely notes at Reason.com’s blog. After all, reminds Glaser, this is “the party that stood by President George W. Bush when he secretly (and illegally) ordered the NSA to spy on the domestic communications of Americans without any warrants at all.”

Remy Sings “Tap It: NSA Slow Jam” (VIDEO)

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Oh yeah! Reason TV presents the perfect song for this moment in history: a brilliant and hilarious music video on the NSA spy scandal, written and performed by the great comedian Remy.

“Tap It: NSA Slow Jam” manages the unusual feat of being laugh-out-loud funny and paranoia-inducing creepy at the same time. Pay close attention to the wonderful lyrics (which can be found at the same URL as the video).

Highly recommended! When you’re done laughing, share it with friends. Be aware, of course, that you’ll quite likely be sharing it with your uninvited online buddies at the NSA as well. Hope they’ve got a sense of humor.