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TSA Proves, Once Again, That It’s Not In The Business Of Boosting Safety

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

TSA Proves, Once Again, That It’s Not In The Business Of Boosting Safety

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in order to reportedly maintain Americans safe after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City. But despite the allegedly good intentions that drove the George W. Bush administration to create this arm of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has yet to prove itself useful.

TSA

Recently, a series of undercover tests have shown that the the TSA fails to intercept passengers carrying weapons and other dangerous materials 80 percent of the time. In other tests, the agency failed even more often, reaching the staggering 95 percent failure rate.

While Congress has called the high rates of failure “disturbing,” there’s little to nothing being done to either put an end to the TSA or to address the real culprit of such lack of success. Unfortunately, government agents aren’t there because their employers expect results. Instead, the agency exists as a means to create an appearance of safety. If the methods and procedures put in place by agents work or not isn’t what matters.

If the TSA truly was meant to function as a security firm would, any failure rate greater than 1 percent would be enough for consumers making use of the service to bring their contract with the agency to an end. And that means that the TSA would have been dismantled promptly after its inception as the agency has always had a high rate of failure.

But since the TSA is but a bureaucracy, not one single official employed to secure domestic and international flights is worried about showing results. After all, they have nothing to fear. Working for the government means that little is expected of you and that the agency is going nowhere, whether it’s effective or not. Without fierce competition, monopolies always win.

And if you think the TSA isn’t a monopoly, ask yourself, how many U.S. airports have you flown to or from where security was carried out entirely by private firms?

If the answer is zero, or just one, or two, that means that the TSA has a virtual monopoly on transportation security, putting us in danger of flying with a murderer, a terrorist, or an ill-intentioned individual 80 percent of the time.

After the latest report showed the TSA failed to identify weapons and other materials 80 percent of the time, changes were ordered and investigations were initiated. But as all other efforts to “fix” the TSA before this, nothing will come out of it. The more the TSA presses to be more efficient, the more taxpayer money. And what’s worse, consumers who were once happy to go to the airport to hop on a plane now live in dread of having to face what often takes one, two, or even three hours just to get through security.

The TSA is not only there to make us think we’re safe, it’s also there to hurt businesses. While the goal may have not been such, the result is clear. It’s high time we let airports and airlines deal with their own security by looking for the free market where security firms will compete by showing results. Ignoring that the TSA is actually increasing the risk of flying in America will only make matters worse.

It’s Time To Put Property First

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

It’s Time To Put Property First

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The very foundation of liberty seems ever so shaky as political groups try to destroy it by attacking it on every possible front. To libertarians, this reality keeps pushing us to try and spread the message of liberty at any given chance. Still, few appear to discuss the importance of property rights. Instead, libertarians tend to get too attached to policy, whether imposed by federal or state officials.

property

In his incredible 2000 essay “Property and Liberty,” James Bovard explains that liberty cannot be seen as a viable end if we do not see property as “the guardian of all other rights.”

At some point in the history of this country, Bovard writes, members of the Supreme Court were even wise enough to declare that all rights “would become worthless if the government possessed power over the private fortune of every citizen.” And still, he argues, politicians as well as judges and political philosophers have repeatedly ignored or underplayed the value of property rights and how it is the very foundation of freedom.

When looking at the relationship between the state and the individual, it’s clear that without property rights, the individual is incapable of escaping from under the state’s thumb. By boosting, celebrating, and teaching future generations about the importance of upholding property rights is that we will be able to place a limit on government power.

In countries where governments take the focus away from the individual’s right to property, it also moves toward policies that actually limit all other rights. In places like the Soviet Union, where the “anti-social individual” who enjoyed his privacy should be promptly located and reprimanded, it’s no wonder that extensive state intervention in all affairs pertaining to life led to the end of personal freedoms, Bovard explained.

In order to maximize the state’s power, elected officials often impose policies that expand their power over the economy. The more they become involved in the country’s economy, whether by regulating commerce or dictating monetary policies, the more difficulties common residents will experience, pushing the masses to demand more government interference in their affairs as a result.

As Bovard explained in his essay, “the worse the economic system [functions], the more power government [acquires].”

Whenever libertarians find an opportunity to teach others about the importance of free, voluntary transactions among individuals and how the state has turned into one giant hurdle to freedom, we must also remind ourselves that focusing on property again is how we can go about teaching others about the foundations of liberty.

As government grows and its minions become more greedy, our freedoms are taken, one by one. And it’s precisely because we have lost respect for property protections that in places like America, we’re struggling with a government that oversees too much, restricting our lives and our limiting our prospects for the future.

It’s time to go back to the basics.

Lawmakers Want To Collect Personal Information From Students Nationwide

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

Lawmakers Want To Collect Personal Information From Students Nationwide

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Congress may be inching closer to turning the United States into a full surveillance state with a new national student database bill. Now, federalist and 10th Amendment advocates are urging liberty-loving advocates to step up and fight the government’s attempted power grab.

In 2005, the George W. Bush administration proposed a federal student record system that would allow the Department of Education to request large amounts of information from post-secondary students, having the data stored in educational databases. But in 2008, the Higher Education Act of 2008 made this move illegal.

information

Recently, the ACLU, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, and Parents Across America came together to urge the Federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to bring an idea of pushing for a nationwide database of students down. In a letter, advocates urged officials to keep in mind that allowing the federal government to have a database with so much personal information would expose students’ privacy to a great deal of risk as abuse would be hard to prevent.

Currently, information on K-12 students is already gathered by state departments. Eventually, this data could be gathered by the federal government as states do not protect their students’ data from federal government abuse.

Unfortunately, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., are looking into bringing the 2008 ban to an end, and if they succeed, they will be able to give the feds full control over personal information on millions of students.

Advocates for less federal government control are urging residents of varied states to act now to pass laws that would protect their students’ data ahead of any federal push for a nationwide database. Hopefully, states will begin to push back as to ensure that their resources cannot be used to enforce any unconstitutional push for less privacy.

Simply put, working locally to push for protections that would ensure state students and their data are protected from abuse is an easier task than going straight to the federal government for help. Still, the work isn’t an easy one. And unless advocates are dedicated to the cause, the results won’t be fruitful.

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Are smokers infringing on your rights?

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Question:

I disagree with your recent column on smoking. Why is it up to the non-smoker to choose a smoke-free work environment or restaurant? Isn’t this a case where a person’s right to swing their arms (i.e., smoking) ends with the next person’s nose (potential health risks and fouling the clothing of non-smokers)? Isn’t it the smokers who are infringing on my right to be free of their smoke?

smokers

Answer:

I, too, am a non-smoker who appreciates a smoke-free environment, so I know exactly where you are coming from.

Libertarians don’t support government-mandated smoking bans in restaurants and bars, because these restaurants and bars are the property of the owners, not the patrons or the government. Only the owners of these establishments have the right to determine whether smoking will be permitted.

Similarly, libertarians wouldn’t outlaw smoking in residences so that non-smoking visitors wouldn’t have to breathe the smoke of their hosts. In both cases, the owners decide what type of environment that they will invest in; patrons and visitors are free to decide if they wish to expose themselves to that environment.

Of course, “public” (government-owned) property, like courthouses and municipal buildings, poses special problems, because the “owners” (supposedly the entire citizenry, which include smokers and non-smokers), are unlikely to agree on whether or not to ban smoking there. So settling such disagreements is almost impossible. Such dilemmas support the libertarian notion that all property (or at the very least, as much as possible) should be private, and such decisions left to the owners. Clearly-defined property rights solve many, many problems!

LAPD’s Drone Program Is A Threat To Liberty

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

LAPD’s Drone Program Is A Threat To Liberty

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Going against privacy advocates all across the district, the Los Angeles Police Department just approved a drone program that should initially last for one year, but that could end up benefiting officials elsewhere who are looking into expanding their own surveillance programs.

drone

This move makes L.A. the largest city in the country to have embraced this type of policy and the first to openly ditch the need for a warrant while doing so.

While the LAPD swears the new program will only be used in “tactical situations, searches or natural disasters,” the use of the technology can be allowed to proceed with the OK of a “high-ranking officer,” meaning that cops may end up employing the use of drones even if they don’t fall under one of the categories mentioned previously. Without a legal framework with safeguards that allow for the persecution of officers who abuse their power, the program’s rules are sure to be broken. As a result, the privacy of Los Angeles residents is in jeopardy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California has criticized the program, reminding the LAPD that LA residents aren’t adequately protected by the agency’s new rules. The ACLU also reminded officials that the plan to allow officers to make use of drones does not take into account public opposition to the program.

Unfortunately, the LAPD has a history of introducing enforcement programs that end up being implemented all across the country, such as the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, which were first widely used by the LAPD in the 1960s during the racially charged Watts Riots.

By implementing military-style raids using military grade equipment and tactics, the LAPD helped to kickstart the long-lasting process that has transformed our local police departments and that is often referred to as police militarization. With the implementation of the drone program, which is run entirely by the police department and without any oversight, we can make a prediction that other local police departments will follow suit. As such, we will end up with a local police force that is both fully militarized and fully equipped for total surveillance powers that will serve as an example to others.

When Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the federal government’s use of questionable surveillance programs to spy on common Americans, many libertarians felt that for the first time, the country was truly concerned about privacy. But despite the advocacy of so many groups standing against giving the government massive surveillance powers, what we’re seeing with this new LAPD program is that a lot must still be done if we want to change policy effectively.

Maryland Nullifies FDA’s Control Over Experimental Treatments

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Maryland Nullifies FDA’s Control Over Experimental Treatments

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Maryland residents have just been allowed to choose whether they will become involved in experimental treatments that would have otherwise been blocked by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A new “right to try” legislation just went into full effect in the Old Line State, effectively nullifying the FDA’s monopoly on drug treatments.

FDA's

House Bill 584 was sponsored by Maryland’s Karen Young, a Democrat, and counted with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as co-sponsors. The law allows for terminally ill patients to have access to experimental drugs and treatments that may not have been approved for use by the FDA.

With HB 584 now fully enacted, Maryland lawmakers were able to effectively nullify the federal control on life-saving drugs.

Much like the drug war, the FDA’s control over which drugs terminal patients are allowed to use or not goes against a fundamental right: The right to self-ownership.

If an individual has the ability to make his or her own decisions regarding their own life, they should also have the right to choose which drugs they will put in their bodies.

What regulations and drug laws do is to simply make it more difficult for researchers to look into said drugs and treatment. By keeping researchers from progressing, regulators and lawmakers are keeping people from having access to information regarding these drugs that could be saving their lives.

We have seen an incredible shift in how researchers use cannabis and how many individuals have been able to use legal cannabis to treat their illnesses after states started nullifying the federal drug war against weed. With states like Maryland enacting other pieces of legislation that give the terminally ill access to more choices, states are fighting on the drug war by targeting the federal government’s prohibitionist laws and the federal regulators’ control over who gets what treatment.

By controlling which drugs are allowed and which aren’t, the FDA dictates who lives and who dies. It’s because the FDA will rather see someone in their deathbed perish instead of giving them the option to try different and experimental treatments that passing these right to try pieces of legislation are so important and yes, urgent.

Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

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Bill Protecting Californians’ Personal Data Headed To Governor’s Desk

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The state of California has just passed a bill that essentially nullifies any effort from the federal government that would force the state to collect data concerning an individual’s religion, national origin, or ethnicity.

Senate Bill 31 was authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara and it was written to prevent local or state agencies from collecting any information that could later be placed in a federal database targeting people for their religious beliefs or ethnicity. This bill was supported by local nullification activists who do not want information from California residents ending up in a national database.

data

Since the federal government often relies on states to collect this type of information for later use, this bill could help protect people who may be targeted by rogue executive administrations. In President Donald Trump’s era, this means that people who subscribe to Islam or who are from particular countries targeted by his travel ban wouldn’t be forced to share that information with any state agency. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other organizations supported the bill at the time it was introduced by saying that it served as means to create a database firewall.

But to libertarian-leaning individuals who have been working with organizations such as the Tenth Amendment Center (TAC), SB 31 also serves as a perfect example of why the nullification of federal rules within a city or state government is a battle worth fighting for.

To Brian Gonzalez, a nullification activist who has worked closely with TAC and other coalitions, the passage of SB 31 was an important step toward shielding Californians from the federal government’s power grab. Now that the bill is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, he told The Advocates for Self-Government he’s hopeful that the bill will protect Californians from participating in the federal government’s paranoia.

“Over the years, we’ve witnessed a peeling away of our civil liberties here at home,” Gonzalez said. “Indefinite detention, mass surveillance, civil asset forfeiture, etc. [The creation of a] database or registration is just another step into mass paranoia and injustice.”

By keeping the state shielded from having to comply “with federal requests for information based on race, religion, ethnicity for the purpose of creating a database/registry,” Gonzalez added, the bill doesn’t just protect Californians from the Trump administration’s plans but also other administrations that may want to target individuals over different characteristics in the future.

If anything, nullification is the most practical tool we have at our disposal to make sure the states are not cooperating with the federal government when its goal is to violate our rights. And with SB 31, this becomes even clearer.

Now, Gonzalez is alerting his friends and fellow advocates on social media that is time to contact Gov. Brown to let him know the bill has a great following and that he must sign it into law as soon as possible.

Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You

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Your Tax Dollars Are Helping Local Law Enforcement To Spy On You


This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The fight for a more libertarian society begins with the identification of policies that make us less free precisely because they are enacted by a centralized power. As we learn about these restrictive rules and programs, we also learn about how the federal government uses any tool at its disposal to ensure smaller, more local government organizations fall in line.

spy

As expected, these smaller entities end up becoming effective arms of the federal government in its fight against personal freedoms, mostly due to the fact federal government agencies and regulatory bodies often have special influence over state agencies.

This is the case with surveillance policies.

In a December 2016 report released by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, lawmakers confirmed that federal agencies give state and local law enforcement extra funding so they may purchase stingray devices.

The stingrays, as they are known, are cell site simulators that spoof cell phone towers, capturing data from devices within their range. As the phones targeted get tricked into connecting directly to the stingray, officials are able to primarily track and locate targeted devices. But depending on the technology in use, systems may be modified to also gather data from these phones such as text messages.

As these stingrays are used without a warrant, targeting any cell phone within range, the use of this technology is a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. Still, feds provide the incentives that push local law enforcement to ignore the Constitution.

What’s worse is that you and I as taxpayers are paying the federal government to spy on us illegally.

According to the report, the bulk of funding for this program comes from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but the grant programs are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)

Up until 2016, this program had officially cost taxpayers $1.8 million, but the real number could be much higher as the DHS “does not maintain a separate accounting of grant funds used to purchase cell site-simulators,” the report concludes.

If local or state officials want to participate and get the extra dough from the feds, they may obtain grants through a variety of programs such as the Citizen Corps Program, the State Homeland Security Program, the Emergency Management Performance Grants, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Transit Security Program, the Intercity Passenger Rail Program, and the Buffer Zone Protection Program.

Still, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied that it funds local stingray purchases, despite claiming there were a “handful of instances” where the DOJ knows grant money was used to purchase stingrays — not to our surprise. As it turns out, the Tenth Amendment reports, the congressional report does not go deep enough as state and local agencies that purchase stingrays often sign non-disclosure agreements with both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the company behind the device As such, both the feds and the companies that produce these towers end up shrouding the exchange in secrecy.

With clauses in place that guarantee law enforcement won’t make it clear that data or records obtained in a criminal investigation were gathered via stingray use, local law enforcement agencies have nothing to lose.

Due to the secrecy surrounding these programs, the public is left in the dark, completely oblivious that, perhaps, their local law enforcement bodies might be gathering their personal information even if they were never formally accused of any crime.

Despite being told that stingrays should not be authorized, the federal government still acts exactly as you would expect: It tells you to relax because the government has it all under control.

Unfortunately, this isn’t  anywhere close to what the Founding Fathers envisioned, as any program that is used to violate our privacy should be under great scrutiny, especially as the data collected by local and state law enforcement is sent to state and local governments.

California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

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California May Soon Put An End To Unchecked Police Surveillance

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bill introduced in the California Senate earlier this year that requires law enforcement agencies in the Golden State must get local government approval before deploying surveillance technology has just passed California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. Now, it must pass the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection by a majority vote.

surveillance

If this bill remains favorable among California lawmakers and it becomes law, it could mark the beginning of a new era for privacy advocates since privacy advocates in other states might be inspired by seeing advocates targeting law enforcement agencies that abuse their power in the local level.

The bill, SB 21, mandates that law enforcement follows a Surveillance Use Policy for surveillance technologies available for use. This document would also cover the type of information these technologies collect. Once agencies develop their own operational policy, they would then have to submit these documents to a local governing body for approval. A hearing that would be open to the public would then be scheduled, and if the agency’s plan isn’t adopted then officials would be barred from using that particular surveillance technology within 30 days.

The proposed legislation would also ensure that civilians have the ability to sue a particular law enforcement agency if officers violate the legislation.

Officials would also have to amend policies related to any new surveillance technology they acquire in the future, forcing agencies to subject the new system to the same approval requirements.

While so far the bill seems promising, one of the risks associated with having this piece of legislation go through yet another committee is the fact lawmakers may feel compelled to amend the bill enough as to make some provisions in it toothless. Since this move would make law enforcement agencies fighting this bill quite happy, it’s important that SB 21 passes as is for it to be effective.

In order to help push the bill through the California legislature in a clean fashion, Media Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, and the Tenth Amendment Center are all pushing legislators to focus on the end goal, ignoring calls for watering down the bill coming from law enforcement interests.

As it stands, officials are allowed access to an enormous amount of access to a series of surveillance equipment without any significant oversight. As officials notice access to these tools may be restricted, forcing them to do actual investigative work to do their jobs, pressure mounts. So it’s no wonder that law enforcement unions and their lobbyists aren’t willing to give up on this fight so easily.

As agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show they are willing to let criminals go so their surveillance methods are challenged in court, we can only hope this legislative effort remains strong, producing the end goal desired so that Californians’ privacy is protected.

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

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

Obama Era Rule Expansion Could Finally Kill The Fourth Amendment

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Just before President Barack Obama left office, his administration gave President Donald Trump’s administration the best parting gift a power thirsty official could have asked for: More access to innocent Americans’ private information.

Fourth AmendmentAfter Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on innocent Americans without due process, the country — and the world — learned that the U.S. government prefers to collect the haystack before looking for the needle. As the debate surrounding privacy rights heated up due to this revelation, others dismissed the reports, saying that those who have nothing to hide should have nothing to fear.

As a counterargument, privacy advocates pointed out that officials don’t need to do their jobs correctly to bust someone for a crime they didn’t commit if they have data.

With data, these advocates would explain, officials can tell a story, even if you had nothing to do with a certain crime.

Now, the Trump administration has the power to make use of the data collected by the NSA even more widely, since Obama gave sixteen federal agencies access to the agency’s database.

These agencies include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

While the government says that the collected communications available via the NSA are “masked” to protect the identity of innocent Americans, several government officials have the authority to demand unrestricted access. And what’s worse, Congress is now working hard to expand this information sharing system with a series of other agencies.

Thanks to Rep. John Katko (R-NY), HR 2169, or the Improving Fusion Centers’ Access to Information Act, may change the rules so that more agencies under the DHS control have the same access to NSA’s database, such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If flying hadn’t been made nearly unbearable thanks to the sexual harassment that comes along with going through airport security, the TSA is about to get even more invasive by combing through information provided by the NSA and doing what it pleases with it — unless HR 2169 gets booted.

To privacy advocates, this bill would only do more damage to America’s already fragile civil liberties protections. Instead of keeping government officials and workers from having more reasons to abuse their power, this new rule expansion would put more Americans at risk of having their rights violated for entirely new reasons.

If the Fourth Amendment still means anything in this country, it might as well die an agonizing and definite death if Katko’s bill gets to the president’s desk. Are we ready for more TSA and ICE scandals?

Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

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

Why It Matters That Vizio Collected Personal Data For Years

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In the age of smartphones and mass Internet communication, it isn’t a surprise to learn that smart TV makers like Vizio and Samsung have been gathering and storing personal user data for years. What’s surprising is to know that some continued doing so without letting its customers know anything about it.

vizioWhile this action alone is grounds for a lawsuit, going to the courts won’t guarantee government agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) won’t explore this privacy breach. And that is the problem.

The security breach was unveiled after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) struck a $1.2 million settlement with the smart TV vendor Vizio. The agency alleged Vizio had used its smart television sets to track user behavior starting in 2014. While this action isn’t uncommon, Vizio failed to disclose this information to consumers and potential consumers. For years, the company advertised its “Smart Interactivity” feature by claiming it was designed to “program offers and suggestions.” Nevertheless, suggestions were never made. Instead, the company collected a great variety of consumer data, such as IP addresses, metadata, and much more using its interactivity feature. And without alerting consumers.

According to the FTC complaint, the company was so good at collecting data that it was able to “[append] specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value,” selling this information to third party organizations. These organizations then used the info to target advertising to certain consumers. Of course this was the only issue brought up by the FTC. And not the fact that law enforcement agencies could have explored this breach in order to boost its surveillance of households across the country without using due process or respecting the U.S. Constitution.

But as a consumer, the individual has the power to sue a company or service provider that broke its contractual obligations. As a citizen, the American or resident has no power to keep law enforcement from spying on his every move.

Thanks to whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, we now know that agencies like the NSA went far and beyond to obtain access to data that would have been otherwise unreachable without a warrant — and not a mass warrant covering countless of innocent individuals at home and abroad.

While we’re grateful the FTC made this discovery, it’s time to complain about this type of action over why it matters. Because we are still powerless before a big, out of control government but we aren’t powerless as consumers.

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that police are allowed to destroy marijuana seized in criminal investigations, reversing the requirement that police store marijuana as personal property.

Property RightsAccording to the Associated Press, local police disliked the requirement that forced officers to care and store marijuana gathered as evidence correctly. As a result, the recent decision has been welcomed by local law enforcement.

The decision stems from a 2011 case revolving around a medical marijuana patient from Colorado Springs whose plants were seized after he was accused of having more plants than allowed by law. Currently, residents are allowed to grow up to 12 plants .

As a result of the investigation, the Colorado Springs resident lost more than 60 pounds, which were held by the police and then returned moldy. While the accused was later acquitted, he lost access to his possessions because of police’s lack of proper care to the product.

According to Colorado Justice Allison Eid, a possible Supreme Court nominee, the return provision that had been en vogue violates federal law. The decision supported that Colorado law enforcement should thus follow federal rules, despite comments made by dissenting judges who argued that the return provision does not violate federal law.

To libertarians, this decision sounds beyond appalling for a simple reason: it ignores property rights altogether in the name of the U.S. government’s long lasting war on personal choice — also known as the war on drugs.

While Colorado set an example to the entire country by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, restrictions concerning growth of the plant require law enforcement officials to violate property rights of the individual in question by not allowing individuals to do what they please in their own property. And by ruling that even during an investigation seized marijuana is not to be treated as personal property, the state’s highest court just emphasizes both the state and local governments’ lack of dedication to the individual’s right to the fruits of his labor.

Instead of spending precious resources seizing, investigating, and arresting individuals for exercising their right to keep and maintain personal property, it’s time to put an end to the madness that the nationwide war on substances seen as immoral or damaging. After all, it’s up to the individual whether he is willing to expose his own body to whatever substance available or not. And the government has no moral obligation to stop him.

Indiana to Reform Asset Forfeiture Laws, Rendering the Feds Useless

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

Indiana to Reform Asset Forfeiture Laws, Rendering the Feds Useless

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Institute for Justice, famous for fighting against civil asset forfeiture, once ranked Indiana as a “C+” state. According to the institute, the Hoosier State “earned an average grade for its laws and practices compared to other states” but “recent reporting suggests that these laws are often flouted.” In order to address this problem, IJ added that reform was badly needed.

Now, it looks as if their wish is about to come true.

car-1590508_1280According to the Tenth Amendment Center, a bill has recently been filed in the Indiana Senate that would prohibit the state from seizing property without due process. The bill, which is known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), would effectively reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, requiring state prosecutors to bring a criminal conviction to the judge before proceeding with the activity.

Currently, Indiana officials are allowed to seize property and cash from an individual without having him arrested first. Even if he was never found guilty of a crime.

If SB8 is signed into law, the new requirement would keep prosecutors in check, while also making it nearly impossible for state officials to send these cases to the federal government.

Currently, state laws allow prosecutors to bypass restrictions by sending cases to the federal government. This move is allowed due to the Equitable Sharing program, which gives states the option to keep a portion of liquidated seized assets. But if the new bill passes, Equitable Sharing will no longer be an option.

By repealing Section 9 IC34-24-1-9, the bill closes the federal loophole, helping to protect Indiana residents and their property.

In other states like California, referring to Equitable Sharing to get away with government-sponsored theft is no longer an option. If the Indiana legislature chooses to follow into the Golden state’s steps and this loophole is finally closed, the spark of property protection and constitutional rights will continue to ignite other local movements, helping to nullify this immoral law.

Now that SB8 was introduced, it will first be reviewed by the House Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. If passed by a majority vote, it will move to the full Senate for further consideration. According to Tenth Amendment’s Mike Maharrey, “‘equitable sharing’ provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.” Without this pipeline, the incentive to steal people’s property is gone. Striking the problem at its root.

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

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

The Pentagon Wasted a Ton of Taxpayer Money Then Buried the Evidence

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Seems counterproductive to say this out loud, after all, which bureaucracy in the world does not waste taxpayer money? But here it is: The Pentagon, which serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), has been wasting taxpayer money for a very long time.

PentagonBut in January 2015, a report released by the Defense Business Board — a federal advisory panel of corporate executives — was finally able to illustrate the scope of the waste and offer a solution. Instead of taking heed and allowing Congress to have access to this report, Pentagon leaders decided that having Congress look into the report would lead to a budget cut. And how could they survive that?

In order to make sure nobody would see the likes of this study, the Pentagon imposed a series of secrecy restrictions on the data used by the Defense Business Board. Even after being made public in its website, the Pentagon removed the 77-page summary of the report for good measure. According to the chairman of the Defense Business Board, Robert “Bobby” L. Stein, this particular move was reprehensible.

“They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” he told Washington Post, so “[w]e proposed a way to save a ton of money.” As it turns out, the Pentagon wasn’t interested in being frugal with the taxpayer dough. Nevertheless, Stein added, the Pentagon’s decision to make it hard for the public or Congress to have access to the report is a “travesty.”

“We’re going to be in peril because we’re spending dollars like it doesn’t matter,” he concluded.

According to the Washington Post report, this irresponsible approach to its finances could result in less money over time to the DOD.

But what about the DOD leadership? Are they OK with this disregard for the public?

As you may have guessed, nobody within the leadership of the defense community has, so far, been able to admit that the DOD is an entangled bureaucracy, living large and oblivious of the sacrifices Americans have to make to pay their taxes and keep the DOD afloat.

A great example of this lack of commitment to the taxpayer’s well being is easily spotted in comments made by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered the Defense Business Board to conduct the study.

When talking to the Washington Post about the study, Work dismissed the Defense Business Board’s plan to save $125 billion, claiming that “[t]here is this meme that we’re some bloated, giant organization, … [while] there is a little bit of truth in that … I think it vastly overstates what’s really going on.”

We’re not surprised. After all, those who are part of the high levels of command within government agencies — whether we’re talking about the post office or the Pentagon — will always defend their actions and their agencies’ hands-off approach to accountability.

When we earn our own money, we’re wiser about how we spend it. When someone else is in charge of spending our money, however, their actions are no longer grounded on the notion that the cash on hand is scarce and restricted.

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Who will fund national monuments in a libertarian country?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

QUESTION: National landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are symbols of national unity, strength, and sources of inspiration. They are monuments of a national republic. How would these monuments be constructed for the entire nation in a libertarian society?

Monuments

MY SHORT ANSWER: They would be constructed and maintained through private donations rather than taxes. Donations are given freely; taxes are forced.

We honor Jefferson, Washington, and other American icons because they believed in the importance of individual freedom, even though they may not have practiced it perfectly (e.g., Jefferson had slaves). We dishonor their memory and the values they cherished by forcing our fellow Americans to pay for their memorials.

Without tax funding, the edifices of these great men might be less grandiose than they are today. (Of course, they might just as well be even grander, better preserved and staffed, and better funded.) However, they would be a truer symbol of the freedom that made our nation great.

Even today, many renowned historical sites and monuments are privately funded. George Washington’s home Mount Vernon — the most popular historic estate in America, open 365 days a year — has been maintained and made available to the public since 1853 by the Mount Vernon’s Ladies’ Association, which proudly declares it “does not accept grants from federal, state or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes.”

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello is maintained by a private, non-profit corporation, in cooperation with the University of Virginia.

Colonial Williamsburg was restored with private funds and is run as a private national museum not dependent on government funding.

A libertarian society, based on free enterprise and free from today’s crippling tax burden, would be far wealthier than our society today and thus better able to fund such monuments and landmarks. And the drive to collect the funding for them could unite and inspire the country every bit as much as the actual monuments themselves.

 

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

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

Creepy County Officials Stalk Grocery Shoppers in Search for Unlicensed Pets

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When collectivists get their way, life gets complicated. And over time, even expensive.

The movement to ensure pets are properly taken care of has created a nightmare to some residents in Seattle, Washington, to the point that their privacy is now at risk.

PetsAccording to Komo News, thousands of pet owners in the county are receiving letters from local officials telling them to license their pets. The letter adds that, if they do not comply, they could face a 250 fine.

For the last four years, King County officials have been using the data gathered by the company paying stores such as Safeway and QFC, a supermarket chain based in Bellevue, Washington, to have access to customer data registered in their system every time consumers use a reward swipe card. By having access to this data, King County officials have access to information on what these consumers are purchasing, making pet owners an easy target of local authorities.

When thousands of residents received this letter, many felt officials were “snooping around in a place where they shouldn’t be.”

But according to representatives from the local Animal Services, this is just a “standard marketing practice.”

But should government have access to this information?

To defend their actions, local officials claim residents are being made aware of the requirements and benefits associated with pet licensing. But to companies like Safeway, the county’s approach is wrong and in the long run, it might even cost them business considering the company promises its customers it does not give their data to third parties.

Last year, this sneaky practice helped county officials bring in $100,000 in new pet license revenue. But at what cost? Data on how much King County pays third parties for customer information doesn’t seem to be factored in, and with what pet owners pay the county yearly to keep their pets licensed, they could be instead investing in other much more necessary pet-related purchases.

As far as the privacy issue is concerned, the fact that a county official has access to your grocery list opens up your private life to further scrutiny. Instead of minding their own business, officials might soon be using this privilege to target you for other products you purchase regularly, going as far as using this access to help piece together criminal enterprises that never took place.

In the great haystack of data, officials end up targeting innocent individuals at time, wasting taxpayer-backed resources just like mass online surveillance does.

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

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

DOJ’s Rule Risks Our Privacy, And It’s About to Become Law

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Department of Justice’s proposed Rule 41, which would allow U.S. judges to provide law enforcement with search warrants for devices outside of the DOJ’s and its agencies’ jurisdiction, could soon become law, unless Congress does something.

DOJWhile Rule 41 could make Americans less safe, putting their privacy at risk, that is not the only issue with the proposed change to the law. According to Tech Dirt, Rule 41 could also turn millions of computer users across the world into criminals, simply because they use privacy tools to communicate with one another.

“From journalists communicating with sources to victims of domestic violence seeking information on legal services, people worldwide depend on privacy tools for both safety and security,” wrote the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). But if the DOJ wins this battle, the reality is that the U.S. government will be given the power to access phones and computers remotely with little to no oversight.

By allowing law enforcement to seek warrants to computers or other devices equipped with privacy tools, many have argued, Rule 41 adds a presumption of guilt to an activity that is part of the daily lives of most innocent American technology users.

In order to make sure the DOJ is not successful in its battle against privacy, several congressmen and senators from both political parties sent a letter to the DOJ asking for clarification on how the agency seeks to interpret the proposed changes to the law.

According to EFF, if Rule 41 becomes law, “anyone who is using any technological means to safeguard their location privacy could find themselves suddenly in the jurisdiction of a prosecutor-friendly or technically-naïve judge, anywhere in the country.” In their letter to the DOJ, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), and several others argue that Rule 41 would give law enforcement the power to hack into any device, expanding the scope of the DOJ’s authority, and risking our safety and privacy as a result.

Tech Dirt argues that while the DOJ claims that Rule 41 would not interfere with current laws, which already establish the need to demonstrate probable cause before the warrant is produced, judges have already been caught signing on warrants that exceeded existing jurisdiction limits.

Claiming that Rule 41 would keep those safeguards in place, Tech Dirt adds, is simply dishonest.

Unless Congress acts fast, Rule 41 will become the law by December 31st. Unfortunately for privacy, all the media seems to be talking about is the presidential election. Is anyone even paying attention?

WE Will Build the Roads

in Communicating Liberty, From Me To You, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

WE Will Build the Roads

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

I’m trying something new with the From Me to You column this week, and I’d love to get your feedback on it. Please send me an e-mail to let me know if you like this, hate this, or even if you’re indifferent.

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

in First Amendment, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Speech Censorship Is Bad, Even If It Targets Terrorists

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Censorship never works. Especially when it comes to speech that is considered offensive or criminal. Why? Because when individuals are given a platform where they may express themselves openly, they become more visible, giving others who disagree with their methods or philosophy an opportunity to spot them and stay out of their way.

TwitterBut when fear is at play, people tend to lose grasp of their emotions and what could have turned into a reasonable debate turns into a witch hunt.

As politicians and others urge companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to crack down on users who identify as Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) fighters and sympathizers, encouraging these users to be banned from their platforms, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) admits that banning ISIS users from online platforms pushes them “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way.” Meaning that, when users are blocked from Twitter, it makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them down.

Who would have thought?

According to Tech Dirt, intelligence officials are usually able to get good intelligence from paying attention to social media accounts from ISIS fighters. But in spite of what many consider to be a risk associated with how easily ISIS fighters are able to recruit by keeping active accounts on social media, Tech Dirt points out that nearly every single study on radicalization shows that online recruitment is not as effective as many would think.

Silencing users might help to keep social media websites “clean” from speech we find offensive, but instead of making us safe, it just pushes individuals who follow dreadful philosophies into the shadows, making it harder for us to spot them and keep an eye on what they are up to next.

When translated into enforcement, the banishment of users from online platforms only makes it hard for officials to track terrorists down.

As US officials continue to press private tech companies to open backdoors so that law enforcement is able to closely spy on American citizens, public pressure to ban offensive speech adds fuel to the fire, oftentimes giving officials reasons to lobby for the expansion of government’s spying powers.

Instead of allowing our feelings to speak louder than reason, we must always remember that what may seem as the best solution superficially might not produce the desired outcome. No matter how many times we implement the same policy.

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Brett Bittner Comments are off

What Would It Take To Make You Leave Everything Behind?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The actions that could lead one to leave everything behind is the central theme discussed by Oliver Stone’s newest film, “Snowden.”

Framed by the June 2013 release of information to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, along with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the film takes us on a course of a young man enlisting in the Army Reserves, being discharged after an injury, and moving on to a series of information security positions both inside and contracted by the CIA and the NSA.

LeavePrior to the screening, a special message from Oliver Stone spoke to the danger to privacy that our smartphones create, a theme made quite prominent in the film. Stylistically, Stone really drives home the point by including the privacy invasion in his directorial vision to depict the dragnet being run on the entire world by the American government.

Those of us who know the story of the whistleblower/dissident/patriot/traitor will appreciate the way in which the film chronicles his journey through the CIA, as an NSA contractor, and finally, as the person who exposed the extent to which the American government collects data both domestically and abroad. More importantly, the story will offer those who aren’t as aware of what occurred a dramatic look at his story, especially the “why” behind his actions to expose the federal government’s actions.

A theme present throughout the film was about how the surveillance and data collection did not present as a means to safety or security, rather an opportunity to exert control, both economically and socially. Whether in his time in Geneva in the CIA, or as a contractor for any of the other alphabet agencies, the use (and misuse) of access and authority passed by legislation exemplifies the danger of giving authority over from one’s self to another.

Ultimately, the connections we make with others when we communicate our thoughts, actions, and even our deepest secrets are what can be held against us, should the time come that we are to be a pawn. The merging and sharing we do make us feeling, connected, empathetic human beings. We crave the attention, as well as to give it.

In real life, Snowden exposed that we, through our lives, thoughts, and actions, are simply sitting in a database somewhere in a rack inside a data center, waiting to be looked at, manipulated, and controlled. In the film, Stone helps explain that to an audience that may not understand the full extent that exposure affects us all, whether libertarian, conservative, liberal, centrist, or even authoritarian.

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