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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.

They Said It… With John Stossel, David Boaz, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE FIRST AND ONLY: “BREAKING: Brian Williams becomes first person in human history to suffer professional consequences for lying about the Iraq War.” — tweet from Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress, February 10, 2015.

GOP VS. MEDICAL FREEDOM: “House Republicans have voted yet again to repeal Obamacare. … Of course, there is a greater chance that the sun will not rise tomorrow than that Obama would sign the bill to repeal the healthcare law that bears his name. But if the Republicans are so interested in a free market in health care, why don’t they vote to repeal Medicaid, Medicare, and Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003)? The answer is that Republicans and conservatives don’t believe in medical freedom at all.” — Laurence M. Vance, “The Stupid Party Strikes Again,” LewRockwell.com blog, February 4, 2015.

RAND PAUL SLAMS NSA: “It’s none of their damn business what you do on your phone.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), criticizing the National Security Agency (NSA) during a rally in Ames, Iowa, February 6, 2015.

JOHN STOSSEL ON POLITICIANS, TAPEWORMS AND OTHER PARASITES:
John Stossel“Compare politicians and politicians’ cronies to tapeworms and ticks. Like parasites in nature, the ticks on the body politic don’t want to kill the host organism — meaning us. It’s in politicians’ and regulators’ interest to keep the host alive so they can keep eating our food and sucking our blood. After watching members of Congress applaud President Obama during his last State of the Union address, I came to think that politicians were worse than tapeworms and ticks. … At least tapeworms and ticks don’t expect us to clap.” — award-winning libertarian journalist John Stossel, “Parasites,” syndicated column, February 4, 2015.

LIBERTARIANISM, AMERICA’S CORE PHILOSOPHY: “Libertarianism, a belief in what Adam Smith David Boazcalled ‘the obvious and simple system of natural liberty,’ is the core philosophy of America. The first colonists fled aristocratic Europe to find religious liberty, individualism, and economic opportunity. They declared their belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. American history has been a struggle between liberty and power, between those who wanted to defend and extend the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and those who wanted to make the United States more like the countries our ancestors left, with powerful and paternalistic government. Throughout our history, libertarian sentiments have been rekindled when the federal government has grown beyond what Americans will tolerate — such as the past few years. … Libertarianism is the framework for a future of freedom, growth, and progress, and it may be on the verge of a political breakout.” — Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz, “Libertarianism Is on the Verge of a Political Breakout,” TIME, Feb. 5, 2015. Check out Boaz’s great new book The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom.

They Said It… With Patrick Cockburn, Jimmy Kimmel, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Lew RockwellTHE THREE BRANCHES OF GOV’T: “The Arizona government will now force all students in government schools to pass a government civics test. One proponent complained that students couldn’t name the 3 branches of government, which is shocking because it’s so obvious: CIA, Pentagon, NSA.” — Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Civics: All Hail Government,” LewRockwell.com blog, January 16, 2015.

BLOWBACK FROM THE BLOWBACK: “Interior and justice ministers from Europe and the U.S. gathered in Paris on Sunday, calling for increased Internet surveillance and stricter border security to counter attacks like the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper. … French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that ‘fundamental liberties’ would be still respected under increased surveillance measures.” — Voice of America News, January 11, 2015.

BIN LADEN’S VICTORY: “The most important victory of Osama bin Laden did not come on the day the 19 mainly Saudi hijackers took command of the planes, but in the months and years which followed as President Bush led the U.S. into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which American troops fought Muslims. As the U.S. resorted to rendition, the mistreatment and torture of prisoners, expanded security agencies and limited civil rights for its own people it delegitimised itself and acted as recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda and its clones. If bin Laden had been hiding in the attic of the White House giving instructions to those in the rest of the building he could not have devised a cocktail of measures more likely to aid his cause.” — journalist Patrick Cockburn, “Paris attacks: Don’t blame these atrocities on security failures,” The Independent, January 11, 2015.

OBAMA-SECURITY:
Jimmy Kimmel“President Obama is focused now on cyber security. He’s pushing for new laws to protect companies from hackers. And who better to do that than the people who brought us the Obamacare website? Not only couldn’t hackers get in, no one could penetrate it.” — Jimmy Kimmel, January 14, 2015.

Ron Paul: You’d Love My Government Shutdown

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 25 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the U.S. Senate averted a Ron Paulgovernment shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill,” notes Ron Paul in a column at CNBC.

“This year’s omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.”

That’s pathetic, Paul says.

“Instead of panicking over a limited shutdown, a true pro-liberty Congress would be eagerly drawing up plans to permanently close most of the federal government.”

“What would I shut down if given the opportunity for it to have any meaning?” he mused at Voices of Liberty.com.

“First, the Fed. No more welfare for the rich.

“Second, the IRS. Let the people keep all of their earnings and spend their money in their own interest.

“Third, abolish the NSA, the TSA, the CIA and all spying on American citizens.

“Spending would stop, no federal printing presses and no stolen money from the people would end entitlements, which mostly go to the rich.

“And all of our wars — we would come home from the 150 countries where we have troops stationed.

Concludes Paul: “Now that’s a government shutdown that would not go unnoticed and something to be proud of!”

Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

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

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

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

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

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rand Paul: Who is Running the Government?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

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

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

Some excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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