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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.

Whoa: Donald Rumsfeld Criticizes George W. Bush’s Iraq Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, War by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.

“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”

The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”

President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.

In August 2006, only 36 percent of Americans supported the Iraq War while 60 percent, the highest number at the time, opposed it due to almost daily reports of violence in Iraq. By the end of that year, more than 3,000 American soldiers were killed in the line of duty, according to iCasualties.org.

With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?

It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.

Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.

“When do we get to hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ banner,” Boenig said, referring to the May 2003 photo op and speech by President Bush, “and when do I get my kids to come home safe again?”

“There’s no definite answer because our enemies get a vote in this process,” said Cotton. “In the end, I think the best way to honor our veterans…”

“Is to have more killed?” asked Boenig, who interrupted Cotton. “[I]s to win the wars for which they fought,” the freshman Arkansas senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is also trying to position himself as Bush-style foreign policy hawk. During a recent appearance on Fox News, obviously, Rubio gave an unusual answer to a question about Iraq.

“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”

When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.

Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.

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.”

They Said It… Leon Panetta, Dennis Kucinich, and More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

TAX KARMA: “I’m at the breaking point. It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes. I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.” — Austin, Texas artist Gretchen Gardner at an Austin town hall meeting. She fears that the rising local taxes she voted for will drive her out of her home. First quoted in the Austin-American Statesman, May 31, 2014, then widely disseminated.

Leon Panetta“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” — former Obama Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, explaining why he thinks the U.S. war with ISIS must be extended to Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere, for decades. Quoted in “Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War Is Official U.S. Doctrine” by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, October 7, 2014.

MERCHANTS OF DEATH CHEER ENDLESS WAR: “Led by Lockheed Martin Group (LTM), the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world… the four largest Pentagon contractors…rose 19 percent this year through yesterday, outstripping the 2.2 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Industrials Index…investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq…” — journalist Richard Clough, “Syria-to-Ukraine Wars Send U.S. Defense Stocks to Records,” Bloomberg, September 25, 2014. (Hat tip to FirstLook.org)

Dennis KucinichKUCINICH VS. OBAMA: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia can now overtly join with the U.S. in striking Syria, after they have been covertly attempting for years to take down the last secular state in the region. We are now advancing the agenda of the actual Islamic States — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — to fight the ersatz Islamic State of ISIS. …What does this have to do with the security of the 50 States United? Nothing!” — Dennis Kucinich, former 16-year member of Congress and two-time presidential candidate, “The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria,” Sept. 23, 2014.

Nicholas Sarwark“The U.S. government has been intervening in the Middle East for more than half a century under the pretext of achieving peace. But things just keep getting worse. We must stop stoking conflicts that tear countries apart, stop dropping bombs, and stay out of the region. Democratic and Republican politicians have meddled so extensively in the Middle East that they’re now in the ludicrous position of siding with very recent U.S. enemies: Iran, Assad, and al-Qaeda, all of whom oppose the Islamic State.” — Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian Party National Committee, “Libertarian Party urges lawmakers to get out, stay out of Iraq and Syria,” press release, September 9, 2014.

DRUG WAR POLICE STATE: “Thanks to the Drug War, merely on the whim of saying that they smell something, cops are now able to enter homes, search cars and totally violate the rights of nonviolent people. The Drug War and terrorism are the two biggest excuses used to violate people’s rights, yet according to the national safety council you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. The very existence of the Drug War to begin with, or a prohibition on any object is a fundamental violation of natural rights that should not exist in any civilized society.” — John G. Vibes, “8 Reasons to End Prohibition of All Drugs Immediately,” The Art of Not Being Government website, October 2, 2014.

Jimmy Fallon“Political reporters are complaining that the White House has been asking them to edit some of their stories to make the president look better. The White House said that’s not true, and those reporters should please change what they said.” — Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 25, 2014.

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.

Word Choice: Blowback — Foreign and Domestic

in Communicating Liberty, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, National Defense, War by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Blowback” is a term that originated in the CIA in 1954. It originally referred to the unintended consequences of a covert foreign operation — consequences that are often suffered by the civilians of the nation whose government instigated the covert operation. This “blowback” may take the form of riots, demonstrations, hostage-taking, terrorist attacks, and similar hostile actions. The civilians on the receiving end of the blowback don’t realize that it was their own government’s secret activities that caused the anger and violence being directed against them.

Blowback is a term heard more and more when discussing foreign policy. And its definition is often expanded to include overt as well as covert foreign interventions that have negative consequences.

Ron Paul helped popularize the concept of blowback, as well as the word itself, during his GOP presidential campaign runs. For example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary debates in South Carolina, he introduced it this way:

“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’ When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore [blowback], we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think… if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”

Scholar Chalmers Johnson also popularized the term in an influential trilogy of books: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2005); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006).

Johnson defines the term and tells about the operation that led the CIA to use it:

“’Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the U.S. government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”

Blowback is a useful word in describing the unintended, but often terrible,  consequences of foreign intervention.

But it is a very useful term for discussing domestic policy as well.

Just like foreign intervention, domestic government intervention has many unintended negative consequences. As the word “blowback” becomes a familiar, popular, colorful pejorative in foreign policy discussions, it is also beginning to be used to describe the unintended destructive consequences of domestic government activities.

Libertarians — who are very aware of the negative unintended consequences of government domestic policy — can use the word blowback to add power and color to our discussions of domestic issues.

Some examples:

“An increase in the minimum wage would lead to blowback in the form of the loss of hundreds of thousands of desperately needed entry level jobs. This blowback would hit the most vulnerable people in our economy: the low-paid, the unemployed, the under-educated, minorities, and the young.”

“Blowback from the War on Drugs includes crowded prisons and wasted law enforcement resources, overdoses from impure street drugs, the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis B and C from shared needles, drugs peddled to children, loss of fundamental Bill of Rights civil liberties, the enriching of violent criminal gangs, the funding of terrorism, drive-by shootings by warring drug gangs… and more.”

“The blowback from government welfare programs includes the break-up of families, multi-generational poverty, dependence on government, and a weakening of the vital role that voluntarily-funded charities play in our society.”

There are innumerable further possibilities.

Blowback is a powerful, provocative word that quickly and colorfully conveys a vital concept. Many people realize its significance in the foreign policy realm. Their ears will perk up, and they may reach new understanding, when you apply it to domestic policy as well.

Campaign for Liberty: National ID Is Back

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

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Bad ideas never seem to go away. The Republican House leadership has unveiled brand-new “Immigration Reform Principles” — and the pro-liberty organization Campaign for Liberty reports this proposal resurrects once again the foul idea of a national ID.

In a section entitled “Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement” the plan says: “In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.”

This, warns Campaign for Liberty, will require a new national ID card based on Social Security cards — cards that would:

* Be tied to a national database containing biometric identification information, potentially including fingerprints, retinal scans, or scans of veins on the back of your hands, which could easily be used for government tracking.

* Be required for all U.S. workers regardless of place of birth, making it illegal for anyone to hold a job in the United States who doesn’t obtain this ID card;

* Require all employers to purchase an “ID scanner” to verify the ID cards with the federal government. Every time any citizen applies for a job, the government would know — and, warns Campaign for Liberty, it’s only a matter of time until ID scans will be required to make even routine purchases, as well.

Further, according to Campaign for Liberty President John Tate, this sets us up for a swift slide down a steep slippery slope:

“Gun ownership, health records, purchasing habits, religious beliefs — virtually anything you could dream up could all be added to this massive national ID database.

“And doing so wouldn’t even require a vote by Congress. Instead, it could happen with a simple stroke of a president’s pen.

“This is exactly the type of battle that often decides whether a country remains free or continues down a slide toward tyranny.”

Terrorism, border control, immigration reform, voter fraud, gun control, insurance, health care… seems like every year Congress discovers yet another urgent new reason why we need a national ID.

Liberty-minded folks across the political spectrum have denounced the insidious dangers of these schemes. See Wired, the ACLUReason, and the conservative Rutherford Institute, for starters.