Home » unconstitutional

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.


“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.

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

* * *
Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.


in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off

 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 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.”