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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?

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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.

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

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

Remember: the FBI Is Still Trying to Have Full Access to NSA’s ‘Unfiltered’ Data

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

As the country follows the cries of politicians in Washington doing their best to undermine our security and freedom in the name of the war on terror, don’t forget that, just a few months before the deadly Orlando shooting, the Obama administration was reportedly looking into allowing the National Security Agency (NSA) to share data on private communications with other intelligence agencies without the benefit of privacy protections.

NSAOn paper, access to the contents of phone calls, emails, satellite transmissions, and communications between individuals abroad gathered by NSA employees is restricted, meaning that agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not allowed to use data collected by the NSA without due process. But due to executive order 12333, an order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that binds US intelligence agencies to cooperate with CIA requests for information, the NSA may soon be sharing information on innocent Americans with the FBI.

According to the New York Times, the current administration is interested in expanding the NSA’s reach by giving the intelligence community access to unprocessed information pertaining to countless Americans who were never accused of any crime to begin with. But by augmenting the intelligence community’s access to more information, the haystack becomes much larger, making it harder for officials to find the needle.

According to Alexander Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, the country should not be allowing the NSA to “spread that information further in the government” if protections on people’s personal information are not being erected. But according to the spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the final rules under consideration by the current administration would help to “ensure that they protect privacy civil liberties and constitutional rights while enabling the sharing of information that is important to protect national security.”

Despite the US government’s claims that officials are doing all in their power to protect innocent Americans from the government’s overreach, abuse exists. Giving agencies such as the NSA and the FBI blanket access to the private information of others has and will continue to backfire, allowing employees and officials to abuse their power whenever possible.

The framework under review by the current administration has been under development since when President George W. Bush triggered the change but now, the Obama administration is carrying on with the task of developing a framework to put the changes in motion. And as officials work on a way of continuing the NSA’s involvement with the country’s war on drugs while boosting the agency’s role, progressive and conservative politicians, and even presidential candidates, continue to justify their support for mass surveillance by evoking the war on terror.

Expect to hear more on this and other efforts to boost the surveillance state, especially after the tragic killing of Pulse club goers in Orlando, Florida.

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

Vermont Legislature Sends Sweeping Privacy Bill to Governor’s Desk

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

In Vermont, legislators are beginning to fight the federal government’s power grab by passing legislation that would hinder federal surveillance programs.

DronesIf the Tenth Amendment Center is correct, the activism sprung from the growing anti-surveillance spirit sparked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may have helped to push the Vermont legislature to pass a bill that would boost the state’s privacy protections in the state.

As it now stands, the bill’s text bans the warrantless use of stingray technology to track phone location, restricts the police’s use of surveillance drones, and keeps law enforcement from having warrantless access to user data from service providers.

Senate Bill 155, which was filed in December by Sens. Tim Ashe, Joe Benning, and Dick Sears originally addressed the state’s law enforcement’s use of drones by stipulating certain restrictions concerning the law enforcement’s data sharing and storage policies gathered through the use of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technologies. While in review, however, both the Senate and the House added amendments to S.155, limiting warrantless collection of electronic data and warrantless use of stingray devices. With the bill as it now is written, the ALPR law in the state could change significantly.

According to TAC’s Mike Maharrey, stingray programs are vastly funded by the US federal government, giving state and local law enforcement agencies extra incentives to make use of the intrusive technology, considering states don’t have to squeeze any extra funding to cover the use of these systems locally. But for agencies to have access to the technologies, the federal government requires agencies to sign non-disclosure agreements. As a result, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and even judges are kept out of the loop.

A recent trial demonstrated how these non-disclosure agreements hurt investigations.

According to an article on the Baltimore Sun, Detective Emmanuel Cabreja refused to answer questions when pressed to give information on the device used during the investigation. After the local detective cited a non-disclosure agreement, the judge threatened to hold him in contempt if the information wasn’t unveiled. Instead of caving in, prosecutors withdrew the evidence, which is what the feds instruct prosecutors to do in similar cases.

According to privacysos.org, the FBI often allows criminals to go unpunished rather than having to face “a possible scenario where a defendant brings a Fourth Amendment challenge to warrantless stingray spying.”

While the federal government allows states to make use of these technologies under the guise of the war on terror, the technology is used primarily for routine criminal investigations, a fact that has been revealed by the Tacoma Police Department.

Maharrey argues that the federal government’s network of drones, which are funded by the American taxpayer, is increasingly cornering innocent individuals, infringing on their right to privacy, which is guaranteed by the US Constitution. With pieces of legislation like S.155, states may stand a chance at fighting the federal government’s overreach.

Both chambers have passed S.155, and the bill now awaits to be sent to the governor’s desk. ​

To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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

To Resist Tyranny, We Must Celebrate and Stand By Our Whistleblowers

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

The need for transparency was an important talking point during the 2008 presidential elections, but once the current administration had an opportunity to handle information leaked by whistleblowers such as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a constitutional manner, making sure that the National Security Agency’s disregard for privacy was investigated, the Barack Obama administration decided to, instead, start one of the most effective anti-whistleblower campaigns in the history of the United States.

SnowdenAccording to Tech Dirt, the current administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. And what the most recent case of official mishandling of another NSA whistleblower proves is that officials are oblivious of what due process is all about.

Recently, Foreign Policy reported, another NSA whistleblower attempted to “go through the proper channels” in order to report issues she felt that should be addressed by her superiors. Instead of investigating her complaints, the FBI raided her house.

According to Foreign Policy, the FBI suspended the whistleblower’s clearances without giving her any reason. The publication also explained that she “wasn’t allowed at work, and for two years, the NSA made her ‘call every day like a criminal, checking in every morning before 8.’”

The report continues:

“[Elham] Khorasani went to the agency only for interrogations, she says: eight or nine sessions that ran at least five hours each. She was asked about her family, her travel, and her contacts.”

According to Khorasani, the “special” treatment she received from the FBI only came after the NSA whistleblower set up a meeting with Thomas Drake, another whistleblower prosecuted by the current administration. She had decided to meet with Drake in order to learn more on how she should proceed to make an effective complaint regarding what she calls an unfair reassignment. Once she contacted Drake, he explained that too much time had already passed, and that her efforts would be fruitless from that point on.

He allegedly told her that she had “the bull’s-eyes on” her. “You’re done.”

Khorasani’s story may have been covered by Foreign Policy, but countless others haven’t been pursued. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one to have suffered increased scrutiny over her decision to pursue proper channels in order to have her complaints investigated. According to Foreign Policy’s James Bamford, people under suspicion of misconduct such as Khorasani are often given a special red badge, which replaces the blue card used by employees and contractors with access to secure facilities.

This sort of scarlet letter, Foreign Policy reports, often forces employees to live in “purgatory.” During the entire process, they are never told why they are under scrutiny. And in many cases, they are given jobs inside the gardening department or at the NSA’s museum.

To Tech Dirt, the United States doesn’t have enough whistleblowers because the “proper channels” simply don’t work, which is what the Khorasani case shows us.

If more people within the US government had more incentives to speak out and more often, we would be able to hold our officials accountable. “Unrestrained power may be many things,” Edward Snowden wrote recently, “but it’s not American… We, the people, are ultimately the strongest and most reliable check on the power of government.”

If resistance to tyranny is what we’re looking for, Snowden contends, “Change has to flow from the bottom to the top.”

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

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

As the country watches the battle between the FBI and Apple unfold, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden uses his notoriety to bring attention to the surveillance problem publicly.

During an interview with the Spanish TV channel Sexta, Snowden gave his two cents on the subject, extending his commentary to the realm of bulk data collection and why it never works.

SnowdenDuring the interview, Snowden claimed that what Washington D.C. believes to be the most effective way to deter terrorists doesn’t pass the smell test.

“In the wake of the revelations of mass surveillance,” Snowden explained, “[US] President [Barack Obama] appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these [surveillance] programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism.” What they found, Snowden continued, was that none of the surveillance programs carried out by Washington “stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.”

When looking into how the CIA and NSA have violated the US Constitution for ten years by snooping on Americans’ private communications without ever producing warrants, Snowden continued, “we must ask ourselves: Was it ever worth it?”

With news showing surveillance programs are used for purposes other than fighting terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore the whistleblower’s claims. Especially since the current administration seems unwilling to put an end to its ineffective programs.

Nowadays, bulk data collection is “more aggressive and invasive” than ever before, Snowden told Sexta. “Law enforcement and intelligence structures do not any longer bother to pick up a suspect and hack his cell phone, they cut into all lines and communications” instead. To the whistleblower, this is a clear violation of innocent people’s rights, since federal agents attack the “heart of the society” instead of following tangible evidence.

The debate revolving around privacy and bulk data collection often misses the importance of privacy in a free society. Something that Snowden likes to revisit often. During the interview, he explained this angle of the debate by reminding the reporter that “it is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, … There are rights that provide value to you even if you’re not actively engaged in them in that moment.”

Currently, Americans are struggling to identify exactly what is and isn’t the best way to go about the surveillance subject. As the public is bombarded with divisive, autocratic rhetoric tied to the presidential campaign, many become oblivious, ignoring their surveillance-related concerns.

Understanding that existing tools like the Internet will always be abused by criminals, and that the federal government is incapable of keeping tabs on what citizens are doing at all times is all part of the problem. Famed economist F. A. Hayek talked extensively about the knowledge problem, explaining that the importance of knowledge of individual circumstances is often minimized by state officials, and the results are often bad to freedom since central planners like to claim they know just what they need to do to solve whatever problem is at hand.

Much like economic problems, which often become much worse as government intervention gets a boost, more surveillance has the same effect, forcing criminals to take part in even more obscure communication methods in order to remain untraceable. The unintended consequences are seldom discussed, but it’s the American individual who pays the price.

If Snowden and many other privacy advocates are right, the federal government’s efforts against terrorism could benefit greatly from a privacy-centered policy. After all, sacrificing freedom in the name of a false sense of security makes us both less safe and less free.

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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

No, the FBI Does Not Want to Simply Break Into a Terrorist’s Phone

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

The case involving the FBI and Apple continues to draw immense media attention. But what many outlets have chosen to mostly ignore is the fact that one of the most important claims made by the FBI is actually fraudulent.

At least that’s what the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming.

Phone In the FBI’s court order handed to Apple, the federal agency claims that it requires Apple’s assistance to unlock the iPhone 5c that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter. Syed Rizwan Farook is tied to the December terrorist attack against government workers in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead, and the FBI has his phone in their possession for investigative purposes.

One of the most pressing demands made by the FBI involved Apple disabling the iPhone’s “auto-erase” security feature, an action that would render Apple’s security features vulnerable to future attacks.

The auto-erase system works by protecting user data from hackers, not destroying it. By wiping the key to the phone data after ten failed passcode attempts, the system keeps would-be snoopers from having immediate access to the phone’s information. And the FBI claimed it was afraid of losing the information contained in the San Bernardino shooter’s phone in case Apple chose not to comply.

According to ACLU’s Daniel Kahn Gillmor, however, the FBI’s concern isn’t warranted. Instead of referring to Apple for assistance, Gillmor explains, the FBI should simply back up part of the phone before attempting to guess the passcode. Instead of taking that step, however, the FBI decided to press Apple, urging the tech giant to “bypass or disable the auto-erase function whether or not it has been enabled.”

In his post for ACLU’s website, Gillmor claims the FBI already knows how to bypass the security system. He also claims that a close look at how the FBI claims the auto-erase feature works may offer important clues as to what the agency actually wants with this request.

Before Apple’s Tim Cook issued a formal statement explaining why he refused to comply with the FBI’s requests and just a few days before the court order was issued, the government issued a strongly worded motion to compel. In this motion, the FBI explains what the auto-erase feature does.

The document reads:

“The FBI has been unable to make attempts to determine the passcode to access the SUBJECT DEVICE because Apple has written, or ‘coded,’ its operating systems with a user-enabled ‘auto-erase function’ that would, if enabled, result in the permanent destruction of the required encryption key material after 10 failed attempts at the [sic] entering the correct passcode (meaning that, after 10 failed attempts, the information on the device becomes permanently inaccessible)…”

By using the “permanently inaccessible” term, Gillmor explains, the FBI may be attempting to add urgency to its request, causing Apple to panic before the order. But there’s a problem with how the government explains how the feature works, which means that the FBI may not be disclosing its intentions.

Instead of making the data “permanently inaccessible,” Gillmor explains, the system built into the iPhone to protect the user’s data works by protecting the data from immediate access when a hacker or snooper attempts to guess the passcode ten times. Instead of destroying the data, the system actually destroys one of the keys that protects the data, making that particular data unreadable. What is erased is the “file system key,” which is stored in what Apple calls “Effaceable Storage,” a part of the phone’s flash memory. But the destruction is not exactly a serious issue. According to Apple’s iOS Security Guide, the key is designed to be “erased on demand (by the user, with the ‘Erase all content and settings’ option, or by a user or administrator issuing a remote wipe command…” So what the feature concerning the FBI really protects is a key, not the actual data.

According to Gillmor, the FBI is scared of losing access to the system key, not the data, and yet its officials wrote a request that made a very different claim.

“All the FBI needs to do to avoid any irreversible auto erase,” Gillmor explains, “is simply to copy that flash memory (which includes the Effaceable Storage) before it tries 10 passcode attempts.”

Then, officials will have the ability to re-try guessing the passcode as many times as it is necessary for them to break the code. Once they have access, they can restore the data from its backup copy.

Gillmor closes his article by claiming that what the FBI wants to do is to “weaken the ecosystem we all depend on for maintenance of our all-too-vulnerable devices.” So if the federal agents are so concerned about our security, how come they are so invested in rendering the systems that protect us useless?

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

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

NSA Spied on Israel to Counter Criticism of Iran Deal, Communications with U.S. Lawmakers Intercepted

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

The National Security Agency is bracing for another heavy round of criticism. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the controversial intelligence agency spied on Israeli leaders while the United States was ironing out a nuclear agreement with Iran. But the spying apparatus also captured communications between Israeli and members of Congress.

NSA

President Barack Obama and the NSA have already come under fire for spying on leaders of countries that are allied with the United States, such as Brazil, Germany, and Mexico. The White House was reportedly unaware of the NSA’s activities, which came to light in the summer of 2013.

President Obama, in early 2014, pledged to stop snooping on the United States’ allies. “The leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue,” he said, “I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance.” The only exceptions to the prohibition were countries that served a national security interest. Among them was Israel.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA has continued to spy on Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a fierce critic of the nuclear agreement that the United States worked out with Iran. Netanyahu brought his concerns against the deal to Washington in March during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

The intelligence received by the NSA, according to the report, was used to “counter” Netanyahu’s criticism of the agreement with Iran. Inadvertently or not, the NSA “also swept up the contents of some of [Israel leaders’] private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

The intercepts revealed that Israel was coordinating with U.S.-based groups to criticize the Iran deal. “The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. [Israeli Ambassador Ron] Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal,” the report explained.

It’s unclear which lawmakers’ communications were intercepted by the NSA. But the report could reignite the already fiery debate in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail over the intelligence agency’s snooping, as well as renewed criticism of the Iran deal and the Obama administration’s already stressed relationship Israel and Netanyahu.

The Internet Privacy Conversation

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Internet Privacy Conversation

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

Baby Anarchist (BA) (10): I need to use my device upstairs because it has directions to my Lego project.
Me: Can you print the directions?
BA: It’s hundreds of pages long.
Me: Do you and your dad have an agreement about using your device upstairs?
BA: Yes.
Me: Just for the instructions?
BA: Yes.
Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying GlassMe: YS, do you know why no one in the house uses devices in their own private spaces?
Young Statesman (YS): It gives you the impression that there’s privacy on the Internet.
Me: Right. Is there privacy on the Internet?
YS: None.
Me: Do you know about Ashley Madison?
YS: No.
Me: People married and agreed to forsake all others and they made this agreement in front of their families and friends and the understanding was that this was their agreement. They used the Ashley Madison service to violate the terms of their agreement. They believed that to be in secret. That they had privacy on the Internet. They were publicly exposed as users of Ashley Madison.
YS: Wow.
Me: Some of them lost their families, their friends, their jobs, and some were so distraught that they killed themselves. All because they rejected reality. Reality is that there is no privacy on the Internet.
YS: They thought because they didn’t like reality it wouldn’t hurt them.
Me: Right. They weren’t oriented towards reality. They thought their ignoring reality would somehow defend them.
YS: There’s no privacy on the Internet.
Me: None. And if we allowed you to think there was privacy associated with Internet use by allowing the use of devices in private spaces we’d be allowing you think something that wasn’t true.
Me: Do you remember the story about the teenagers who were sexting and arrested for it?
YS(14): No.
Me: One of them sexted the other and was charged as an adult for distributing child pornography. That’s a crime that can include being registered as a sex offender as well as jail time.
YS: How can they be tried as adults? They’re minors.
Me: For some crimes minors are tried as adults.
YS: That doesn’t make sense. They were pictures of themselves.
Me: It’s wrong but that doesn’t matter. If a person goes to court on child pornography charges even if it’s ridiculous and dismissed…
YS: That never goes away.
Me: Right. Even if they were wronged and it’s insane…
YS: It’s going to stick.
Me: Yes. So if you receive something like that you can be charged with possession of child pornography. As an adult. Even if you didn’t want it. You can be set up.
YS: That’s unbelievable.
Me: I know. And this is awkward, but it’s too important for us not to have this conversation.
YS: Just because you don’t want to know doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you.
Me: Right. And if you find yourself in a situation where you’re holding something that can get you jail time, you have to tell us immediately. We trust you understand how dire it would be to face jail and that you would not willingly do anything that would result in jail time.
YS: Right.
Me: So if you find yourself in a dangerous situation you must tell us immediately. We know you wouldn’t put yourself there on purpose so there’s no blame. Just help. But you have to be quick.

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

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

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

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.

uncle-sam-watching-you-feature

“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.”

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

Don’t be surprised when Garland is used as an excuse to renew the Patriot Act

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

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.

Spy

“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.

Libertarians Cheer New “Surveillance State Repeal Act”

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Two congressmen have introduced bold bipartisan legislation that will fully repeal the police-state 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act and substantially roll back the U.S. surveillance state that has metastasized in recent years.

Repeal the Surveillance StateThe Surveillance State Repeal Act (H.R. 1466) was introduced on March 24 by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY), and it offers a great opportunity for Americans to restore lost liberty and privacy in one swoop.

“The warrantless collection of millions of personal communications from innocent Americans is a direct violation of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Rep. Pocan. “Revelations about the NSA’s programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans’ privacy.

“I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security — we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Libertarians and other defenders of civil liberties have cheered the bill.

The Surveillance State Repeal Act will:

  1. Repeal the 2001 U.S. PATRIOT Act, which among other things contains the telephone metadata harvesting provision by which the NSA has justified collecting phone information on millions of Americans.
  2. Repeal the FISA Amendments Act (which contains the email harvesting provision), with the exception of the provisions regarding FISA court reporting and WMD intelligence collection.
  3. Protect whistleblowers: Make retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers illegal and provide for the termination of individuals who engage in such retaliation.
  4. Ensure that any FISA collection against a U.S. Person takes place only pursuant to a valid warrant based on probable cause (which was the original FISA standard from 1978 to 2001).
  5. Retain the ability for government surveillance capabilities to be targeted against a specific natural person, regardless of the type of communications method(s) or device(s) being used by the subject of the surveillance.
  6. Retain provisions in current law dealing with the acquisition of intelligence information involving weapons of mass destruction from entities not composed primarily of U.S. Persons.
  7. Prohibit the government from mandating that electronic device or software manufacturers build in so-called “back doors” to allow the government to bypass encryption or other privacy technology built into said hardware and/or software.
  8. Increase the terms of judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) from seven to ten years and allows their reappointment.
  9. Mandate that the FISC utilize technologically competent Special Masters (technical and legal experts) to help determine the veracity of government claims about privacy, minimization and collection capabilities employed by the U.S. government in FISA applications.
  10. Mandate that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regularly monitor such domestic surveillance programs for compliance with the law, including responding to Member requests for investigations and whistleblower complaints of wrongdoing.
  11. Explicitly ban the use of Executive Order 12333 as a way of collecting bulk data, which pertains to the collection and storage of communications by U.S. Persons.

Make no mistake: The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress. FreedomWorks chair Matt Kibbe called upon its 6.9 million members to fight for the bill, and created a web page where supporters of the bill can easily email this message to their representatives.

Libertarian Party chair Nicholas Sarwark called on all Americans who love liberty to create a grassroots campaign to support the Surveillance State Repeal Act, to contact their congressmen and women and urge them to support H.R. 1466, and to spread this message through social media and whatever other means possible.

In fact, Sarwick’s only complaint was that the bill, sweeping though it is, doesn’t go far enough.

“The Libertarian Party would like to see all aspects of government mass surveillance ended, including complete elimination of the secret FISA court whose work issuing warrants for terrorist and criminal suspects can be easily assumed by existing federal courts,” said Sarwark. “But this bill is a good first step.”

They Said It… With David Simpson, Matthew Fogg, and More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Matthew FoggFORMER DEA AGENT SAYS DRUG WAR IS AIMED AT POOR BLACKS: “What I began to see is that the Drug War is totally about race. If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs, they would have done the same thing they did with Prohibition. They would have outlawed it. They would have said, ‘Let’s stop this craziness. You’re not putting my son in jail. My daughter isn’t going to jail.’” — Matthew Fogg, retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshall and former DEA special agent, in  an interview with Brave New Films. Fogg says he and other agents were ordered by superiors not to enforce drug laws in prosperous white neighborhoods.

THE FOURTH AMENDMENT VS. THE NSA: “The Fourth Amendment… is the law of the land. And the NSA is violating its letter and spirit, no matter how many times its defenders use dubious legal reasoning to argue otherwise. The right of the people to be secure in their ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ is meaningless if the NSA can seize and later search details about everyone’s communications. The requirements for probable cause and particularity cannot be squared with surveillance that implicates practically everyone. The Fourth Amendment’s historic attempt to end general warrants cannot be viewed as a success so long as the government is prying into the private affairs of tens of millions of people who are not even suspected of any wrongdoing.” — journalist Conor Friedersdorf, “The Surveillance State’s Greatest Enemy? The U.S. Constitution,” The Atlantic, March 3, 2015.

ACTUALLY, IT’S A POLITICAL PROBLEM, TOO: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem. … Everyone is looking at the model right now, asking how do we do math? Every [restaurant] operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like.” — Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Restaurant Association, on the new difficulties restaurant owners face because of Seattle’s new $15 per hour minimum wage (i.e., tax on employers who hire workers). The law is expected to send labor costs skyrocketing, and is being blamed for a rash of restaurant closings. Quoted in “Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately?” in Seattle magazine, March 4, 2015.

ZERO WAGES FOR SEATTLE’S NEW JOBLESS: “As the implementation date for Seattle’s strict $15 per hour minimum wage law approaches, the city is experiencing a rising trend in restaurant closures. The tough new law goes into effect April 1st. The closings have occurred across the city, from Grub in the upscale Queen Anne Hill neighborhood, to Little Uncle in gritty Pioneer Square, to the Boat Street Cafe on Western Avenue near the waterfront. The shut-downs have idled dozens of low-wage workers, the very people advocates say the wage law is supposed to help. Instead of delivering the promised ‘living wage’ of $15 an hour, economic realities created by the new law have dropped the hourly wage for these workers to zero.” — Paul Guppy, Washington Policy Center blog, “Seattle’s $15 wage law a factor in restaurant closings”

BEST RE-LEGALIZATION BILL EVER:

Representative David Simpson (R - Longview)“I am proposing that this plant [marijuana] be regulated like tomatoes, jalapenos or coffee. Current marijuana policies are not based on science or sound evidence, but rather misinformation and fear. All that God created is good, including marijuana. God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix. Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment. Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants.” — Texas Republican state representative David Simpson, who describes himself as a “constitutional conservative,” explaining his marijuana re-legalization bill, KETK NBC TV, Tyler, Texas.

World’s Smallest Political Quiz and OPH Recruit New Libertarians at CPAC

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Committee — is the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists and office holders. In recent years it has featured a strong and growing contingent of young libertarian activists among the attendees. This year’s CPAC was February 26-28 in Washington, DC.

As in past years the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz and Operation Politically Homeless (OPH) were prominent at CPAC, too. Videos from the Washington Post and Reason TV briefly captured OPH in action — highlighting the visual appeal and the effectiveness of this legendary outreach tool.

Last year the Daily Beast reported that a booth by Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) featuring the Quiz and OPH was “the one consistently drawing the biggest crowds.”

This year Libertarians were once again all over CPAC. One of the highlights of each CPAC is the presidential straw poll at each CPAC, widely viewed as a barometer of activist sentiment within the party. Libertarian-friendly Sen. Rand Paul won this year’s presidential poll — his third victory in a row — with 25.7 percent of the 3,007 total votes cast.

According to The Polling Company, 42 percent of the voters were students and a plurality of voters were between the ages of 18 and 25 — another sign of the strong and fast-growing libertarian sentiment among young GOP activists. (See this article on the growing generational split within the GOP on issues like marijuana re-legalization and marriage choice.)
Gary Johnson at CPAC
The Libertarian Party was there, as was 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. A video from a panel discussion in which Johnson mocked Reefer Madness-style marijuana propaganda quickly spread around the Web. Students For Liberty (SFL) and Young Americans for Liberty were among other libertarian and liberty-minded organizations there.

In fact, libertarianism is getting so popular at CPAC that even people who plainly are not libertarians are trying to claim they are. Perhaps the most surreal moment of the entire conference was the startling proclamation by former NSA head, former CIA head, and current surveillance state and torture apologist Michael Hayden, who stunned a debate audience by declaring “I’m an unrelenting libertarian…” which had many in the audience laughing out loud in disbelief, and one person shouting loudly, “No you’re not!”

OPH: Campus Groups Get it FREE 

COPHSpeaking of OPH and young activists… In the past few years the Advocates has given — completely free of charge — over 1,000 OPH booth kits to libertarian campus organizations across America. These kits have reached tens of thousands of students with the ideas of liberty, and they will continue to do so for years to come.

OPH is a fantastic way to turn an ordinary, dull outreach table into a crowd-drawing fun event! From the very first time the Advocates introduced OPH, some 25 years ago, users have told us over and over again that OPH brings their outreach booth and tabling efforts alive.

OPH makes it easy and fun to discover libertarian-leaning individuals and sign up new members and supporters — new libertarian activists who will work in college and after graduation to bring liberty to all Americans. OPH consistently makes a booth the most active, the most talked about, the most fascinating, at any event.

Did I mention we’re giving OPH kits FREE to libertarian student groups?

Student groups: Learn more about OPH — and how you can get your FREE OPH kit — if you haven’t already — here.

They Said It… With Pat Buchanan, Gustavo Arellano, and MORE

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cathy Lanier

DC POLICE CHIEF “EMBRACES” LEGAL MARIJUANA: “All those [marijuana] arrests do is make people hate us. … Marijuana smokers are not going to attack and kill a cop. They just want to get a bag of chips and relax. Alcohol is a much bigger problem. [Marijuana] is not healthy, but I’m not policing the city as a mom, I’m policing it as the police chief — and 70 percent of the public supported this. … We’ve embraced it.” — Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier speaking at the American News Women’s Club, Feb. 25, 2015.

MEXICANS MOVING TOWARDS LIBERTARIANISM: “A 2014 Pew Hispanic Center survey showed that 11 percent of Latinos surveyed identified as libertarian — almost as many as gabachos! … Mexican immigrants from the countryside and their descendents (the majority of Mexicans in el Norte) are natural libertarians, what with their up-by-the-bootstraps mentality, skepticism toward government of any kind, hatred of police and love of liberty (let us play our tamborazo in the back yard and raise chickens in peace!)…” — “Ask A Mexican” syndicated columnist Gustavo Arellano, “Are Mexicans More Conservative, Liberal or Libertarian?” Feb. 26, 2015.

GOP CALLS FOR ENDLESS WAR: “Listen for long to GOP foreign policy voices, and you can hear calls for war on ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, the Houthi rebels, the Assad regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to name but a few. Are we to fight them all? How many U.S. troops will be needed? How long will all these wars take? What will the Middle East look like after we crush them all? Who will fill the vacuum if we go? Or must we stay forever? Nor does this exhaust the GOP war menu. Enraged by Vladimir Putin’s defiance, Republicans are calling for U.S. weapons, trainers, even troops, to be sent to Ukraine and Moldova.” — Pat Buchanan, “The GOP Marches to Endless War,” syndicated column, Feb. 27, 2015.

THE DRUG WAR VS THE WORLD’S POOR: “Since the mid-twentieth century, global drug policy has been dominated by strict prohibition, which tries to force people to stop possessing, using and producing drugs by making them illegal. This approach, which has come to be known as the ‘War on Drugs,’ has not only failed to achieve its goals — it is fueling poverty, undermining health, and failing some of the poorest and most marginalized communities worldwide. … The militarization of the War on Drugs has fueled — and been used to justify — murder, mass imprisonment, and systematic violations of human rights… It’s time we recognized the threat that unreformed global drug policy poses to our attempts to tackle poverty worldwide ” — Health Poverty Action, a British organization seeking health care access for the world’s poor, from their 28-page report, “Casualties of War: How the War on Drugs Is Harming the World’s Poorest,” February 2015.

WHAT IT ONCE MEANT TO BE AN AMERICAN:
Jacob Hornberger“Our American ancestors lived in the most unusual society in history — no income tax and no IRS, few economic regulations, no big standing army, no torture, no state-sponsored assassinations, no CIA, no NSA, no Federal Reserve, no paper money, no legal-tender laws, no wars of aggression (except against Mexico and native Americans), no drug laws, no gun control, no surveillance schemes, no foreign aid, and no immigration controls. That’s what it once meant to be free. That’s what it once meant to be an American.” — Jacob G. Hornberger, president of The Future of Freedom Foundation, “Why Did Our Ancestors Approve the Constitution?” Feb. 11, 2015.

They Said It… With John Kerry and Rand Paul

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

LIBERTARIANS HELP WIN LEGAL POT IN ALASKA: “Smoking, growing and possessing marijuana becomes legal in America’s wildest state Tuesday, thanks to a voter initiative aimed at clearing away 40 years of conflicting laws and court rulings. Making Alaska the third state to legalize recreational marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the state’s constitution.” — journalist Molly Dischner, Associated Press, “Alaska Becomes 3rd State With Legal Marijuana,” Feb. 23, 2015.

HOW GOV’T SPIES HACKED VIRTUALLY EVERY CELL PHONE IN THE WORLD: “With the help of the NSA, British intelligence broke into the world’s leading manufacturer of SIM cards and stole millions of keys that encrypt cell phone communications, including what you say. … U.S. and British spies hacked into Gemalto, which makes SIM cards for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and hundreds of other wireless networks. With Gemalto’s encryption keys in hand, the intelligence agencies gained ‘the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data’ without having to get a single warrant or tell a telephone company.” — the Daily Beast website, summarizing “The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Castle” by Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley (based on files from Edward Snowden), The Intercept, Feb. 19, 2014. Ajit Pai

GOV’T AT WORK: “[Net Neutrality] is a solution that won’t work to a problem that doesn’t exist.” — Ajit Pai, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

UBER REDUCES DRUNK DRIVING, SAVES LIVES: “In May 2014, Uber set out to answer a simple but important question: what, if any, effect did the availability of safe, reliable rides on the Uber ridesharing platform have on drunk driving in Seattle, where prior to Uber’s arrival in 2013, approximately 7.6 people per day — or 2,750 per year — were arrested for driving under the influence. Using publicly available data and a simple econometric model, we discovered Uber’s entry into the Emerald City was associated with a 10% decrease in DUI arrests. The results were robust and statistically significant, providing meaningful evidence of the power Uber’s network of safe, reliable rides has on drunk driving in major metropolitan cities. … And the pattern is the same in cities across America. … [W]e believe there is a direct relationship between the presence of uberX in a city and the amount of drunk driving crashes involving younger populations.” —Uber and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) from their new study, “More Options. Shifting Mindsets. Driving Better Choices.”

FOOLS:
“American foreign policy is controlled by fools. What else can one conclude from the Doug Bandowbipartisan demand that the U.S. intervene everywhere all the time, irrespective of consequence? … Not only has virtually every bombing, invasion, occupation, and other interference made problems worse. Almost every new intervention is an attempt to redress problems created by previous U.S. actions. And every new military step is likely, indeed, almost guaranteed, to create even bigger problems.” —Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, “Washington’s Foolish Foreign Policy: American People Must Say No to More Wars,” Forbes.com, Feb. 21, 2015.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR: “So just what did several thousand dead Americans, and at least tens of thousands of civilian casualties, plus a couple of trillion dollars get us? … Are we living in a safer world with a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya? Isn’t there, as some experts have posited, a possible casual link between the way we prosecuted the war on terror so far, and the proliferation of violence so much of the world is still living with today? … We are on a ‘wars of the future’ conveyor belt where we will keep spending mindlessly, without pausing to see what the trillions we have already spent have actually bought us and the planet.” — Robert Hennelly, “What did thousands of dead Americans get us? Before granting war powers, let’s see where the last two got us,” Slate.com, Feb 22, 2015.

EXCELLENT QUESTION: “Remember there was this [federal government] shutdown about a year ago, and in Washington everyone was clamoring, everyone was worried. I went home to Kentucky and you know what they said: ‘Why in the hell did you open it back up?’” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaking in Montgomery, Alabama, Feb. 20, 2015, quoted by Breitbart.com.

John KerryKERRY SWIFTBOATS NETANYAHU: “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush. We all know what happened with that decision.” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Feb. 25, 2015, attacking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the grounds that Netanyahu’s support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq shows his judgment on Iran can’t be trusted. Yes, this is the same John Kerry who himself voted for the war in Iraq in 2002 and touted that support while running for president in 2004.

RULE OF THUMB: “Here’s a good rule of thumb: Any time a president says new tech laws are to protect ‘our kids,’ you know something bad is on the way.” — tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin on anti-privacy laws being considered by the Obama administration, “President Obama’s tech-centered State of the Union,” Boing Boing, Jan. 20, 2015.

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