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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.

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“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… Alexander McCobin, Conan O’Brien And More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It… section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE MOST LIBERTARIAN GENERATION EVER: 

Alexander McCobin

“Today’s youth is the most libertarian generation that has ever existed. Today’s youth have grown up socially tolerant, but at the same time skeptical of government intervention in the economy. And we’re fed up with excessive military intervention in foreign affairs by the U.S. government, not to mention we’ve seen the failed presidential administration of both a big-government Republican and a big-government Democrat.” — Alexander McCobin, founder of Students for Liberty, at the Libertarian Party of Texas state convention, April 12, 2014.

LIBERTARIANISM “ON THE RISE”: Libertarianism [is] on the rise. There is,Chris Cillizza without question, an expanding libertarian streak within the Republican party — particularly among younger voters. The ideas of limiting foreign entanglements, spending less time cracking down on marijuana use and being OK with same-sex marriage are all growing in terms of their mindshare within the GOP. Need evidence? Six in ten young Republicans — defined as between 18-30 years of age — are in favor of same-sex marriage in new Pew data.” — award-winning journalist Chris Cillizza, “It’s time to start taking Rand Paul seriously,” Washington Post blogs, March 17, 2014.

NY TIMES EDITOR — OBAMA VS. JOURNALISM:

Jill Abramson

“The Obama years are a benchmark for a new level of secrecy and control. …Collectively [the Obama administration's criminal leak investigations] have really, I think, put a chill on reporting about national security issues in Washington. Sources who want to come forward with important stories that they feel the public needs to know are just scared to death that they’re going to be prosecuted. Reporters fear that they will find themselves subpoenaed in this atmosphere.” — Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, interviewed at The Takeaway.org, April 10, 2014.

RAND PAUL GOES FOR THE PRIVACY VOTE: “[Young voters] have all got a Senator Rand Paulcell phone and they all think the government shouldn’t be looking at their cell phone or listening to their cell phone without a warrant. We get to the young people with privacy. It’s not a conservative or Republican issue. It’s an area where we can connect with people who haven’t been connecting. Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1 but he’s losing them now. Hillary Clinton’s as bad or worse on all of these issues. It’s a way we can transform and make the party bigger or even win again, but we’ve got to be as proud of the Fourth Amendment as we are the Second Amendment.” —Rand Paul at an NH GOP rally at the Cottage by the Bay in Dover, N.H, April 11, 2014.


CAPTAIN AMERICA MEETS CAPTAIN CHINA:

Conan O'Brien

“‘Captain America’ is currently the No. 1 movie in China. The Chinese say their favorite part is when Captain America asks Captain China for a $17 trillion loan.” — Conan O’Brien, April 9, 2014.

THANKS A LOT, OBAMA: “The White House just releasedJimmy FallonPresident Obama’s tax returns, which show that he and Michelle paid $98,000 dollars in taxes last year. When he saw that, even Obama said, ‘Thanks, Obama.’” — Jimmy Fallon, April 11, 2014.

RE-QUOTED AND NOTED

AYN RAND ON RACISM:

Ayn Rand

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.” — Ayn Rand, quoted by Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation in his article “In Praise of ‘Thick’ Libertarianism.” See Rand’s full quote here.

Rand Paul: Who is Running the Government?

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!)

Even U.S. senators are scared of the run-amok NSA, said Rand Paul on March 19 at the University of California at Berkeley.

Paul, currently running at the front of the pack of GOP presidential hopefuls, won applause and standing ovations for his fiery anti-surveillance-state speech, entitled  “The NSA vs. Your Privacy.”

Some excerpts:

Rand Paul“I am here to tell you…that your rights, especially your rights to privacy, [are] under assault. I’m here to tell you that if you own a cell phone, you’re under surveillance. I’m here to tell you that the NSA believes that equal protection means Americans should be spied upon equally —  including Congress. Instead of equal protection, to them, it’s equal disdain. They don’t care if you’re white or black or brown. They care only that everyone must submit to the state. …

“They’re spying on Congress, they’re collecting our data as well. Digest exactly what that means: if Congress is spied upon without their permission, who exactly is in charge of your government?

“I don’t know about you, but that worries me. If the CIA is spying on Congress, who exactly can or will stop them?

“I look into the eyes of senators and I think I see real fear. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think I perceive fear of an intelligence community that’s drunk with power, unrepentant, and uninclined to relinquish power. …

“If you have a cell phone you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business. …

“The Fourth Amendment is very clear. Warrants must be issued by a judge. Warrants must be specific to the individual; must have your name on it if they want your records; and a single warrant for millions of Americans’ phone records hardly sounds specific to the individual. Warrants are supposed to be based on evidence or probable cause. …Generalized warrants that don’t name an individual and seek to get millions of records [go] against the very fabric of the Fourth Amendment. ….

“The FISA court is a court where the defendant gets no attorney; the debate is shrouded in secrecy. In the FISA court, the NSA can say whatever they want and they are not cross-examined.

“A secret court is not a real court. We must take a stand and demand an end to the secret courts. …

“The question before us is: Will we live as men and woman, will we cower, and will we give up on our liberty?”

Paul further said he intends to call for a bi-partisan independent select committee, styled after the 1975 Church Committee that investigated intelligence agencies’ abuses of power, to investigate the explosion of recent surveillance state abuses.

There’s much more in the 20-minute speech, which can be seen here, along with a 20-minute follow-up discussion.