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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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

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

Oakland Officers Fail to Find Suspect Through Surveillance so Feds Step In—All Without a Warrant

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

In Oakland, California, feds were caught helping local police departments to spy on suspects without warrants. And in at least one instance, the individual targeted, Purvis Ellis, wasn’t even the main suspect in the murder case that led to his capture.

OaklandAccording to Tech Dirt, court documents obtained by Ars Technica show that the Oakland Police Department used stingray technology without seeking a warrant first against Ellis in 2013. The use of the device was deployed in order to catch the suspect who had been associated with the attempted murder of officer Eric Karsserboom.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stingrays “are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information.”

Oakland police attempted to use an older version of the device in 2013 to find one of the suspects in the attempted killing of a police officer, but officials were unsuccessful. They then reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), asking federal agents to step in. Promptly after, FBI officials were able to locate the suspect using a more advanced stingray technology.

But despite the successful operation, state and federal officers failed to follow the constitution, ignoring the need for a warrant.

During the suspect’s trial, both the FBI and the Oakland PD stated that they didn’t need to obtain a warrant at the time due to “exigent circumstances.” In the FBI case, officials also claim the warrant requirement was not in place at the time of the operation, making the evidence obtained through surveillance tactics less likely to be tossed by a judge.

Nevertheless, news sources were finally able to report on this story since the judge presiding over the suspect’s prosecution ordered the government to submit detailed information on how Ellis was located. But despite the commotion surrounding Ellis, he has not been accused of actually shooting the officer, prompting privacy advocates to wonder whether the police has used the same surveillance tactics in other similar cases, targeting individuals who have not been accused of a crime and going to the lengths both the FBI and the Oakland PD went to keep this a secret.

Two years after the 2013 incident, the Oakland Police Department tried to secure a grant from the Department of Homeland Security in order to upgrade their stingray technology, suggesting that local police had been invested in this type of surveillance tactics long after the Ellis case. The technology local officials had at the time was unable to locate the suspect, but the latest system used by the FBI got the job done pretty quickly.

But details regarding why the suspect was targeted and why only his phone was intercepted were never revealed. All we know up until now is that two law enforcement agencies suspended the potential suspect’s rights to privacy, even as they knew that he hadn’t shot the officer.

Whether Ellis was directly involved in the attempted murder remains a mystery. But what should also be addressed in this case is the fact that individuals who haven’t been formally accused of a crime nor charged are being targeted by both local and federal law enforcement agents who continue to ignore the unconstitutionality of their actions.

States have been pushing their own anti-federal surveillance laws as the nullification movement initiated by groups like the Tenth Amendment Center gains more ground. But the American individual’s privacy rights won’t be truly upheld until federal agencies have been stripped of their surveillance powers.

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

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

US Gov’t Targets Public Employees With ‘Whistleblower-Like’ Characteristics

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

The United States government may be looking for the “next Chelsea Manning,” a report from The Guardian argues.

ManningAccording to documents obtained by the UK newspaper, disgruntled employees, egomaniacs, and the office “door mat” are all potential whistleblowers under the ever watchful eyes of the US government.

In what many call a witch-hunt, the US government is allegedly placing all public employees under surveillance in order to spot individuals with characteristics that match Chelsea Manning’s profile. According to the government’s own standards, individuals with motives of greed, too much ego, or who experience financial difficulties may become whistleblowers. Employees who are “disgruntled,” or who appear to have “an ideology,” or a “divided loyalty” are also potential risks to the government.

According to Manning’s article, even employees with “any family/personal issues” should be closely watched for potential problems.

As Manning pointed out, anybody holding a security clearance may, at some point, be labeled as a potential threat if officials are trained to single out individuals by looking for the characteristics listed above.

The 31-page document reviewed by The Guardian was originally obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request placed by Chelsea Manning, the former United States Army soldier-turned whistleblower who became famous for leaking information on the US government’s actions in Iraq.

A video leaked by Manning and released by WikiLeaks in 2010 shows two American helicopters firing on a group of ten men, including two Reuters employees who had ben photographing an American Humvee under attack. The footage also shows helicopters firing at a van that had stopped to help the victims of the previous attack. Children inside the van were injured while their father was killed.

Months after Manning was arrested over violations of the Espionage Act, the National Insider Threat Task Force was created, and officials involved with the agency were given the task of deterring threats to national security by anyone “who misuses or betrays, wittingly or unwittingly, his or her authorized access to any US Government resource.” According to Manning, this gives the task force broad powers, resulting in “total surveillance.”

The 2011 “Insider Threat” program that followed Manning’s arrest, or what many call “modern-day McCarthyism,” also teaches officers to spy employees presenting what they believe to be deviations of sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics that match the government’s profile of Manning.

As the country watches in horror what is now unfolding in Brussels after the deadly terrorist attack that killed over 30 innocent civilians, this report gets buried by the news cycle. With both Republican and Democrat candidates competing to show the county who’s the toughest on foreign policy, liberty advocates like former congressman Ron Paul argue that the American voter will be much more likely to urge government to do more after the Brussels attack, putting both of our safety and liberty in jeopardy.

Under a hawkish administration whose plans include expanding our presence in the Middle East, programs like the “Insider Threat” will be the norm. But can increased surveillance bring us safety?

History shows that the answer is no.

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.


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.

Report: U.S. Losing Freedom of the Press

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Each year the respected international organization Reporters Without Borders issues a World Press Freedom of the PressFreedom Index that explores and ranks freedom of the press in the countries of the world. According to the organization, the Index reflects “the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

In this year’s report the United States is ranked a sad 49th out of 180 countries. This is the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002. (The lowest was in 2006, when the U.S. was ranked 53rd). Ranking immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.

Americans accustomed to the U.S.’s reputation as the bastion of a constitutionally protected free press may be surprised by the rankings. Reporters Without Borders cites incidents it considered in its rankings, including:

  • The U.S. government’s years-long effort to force two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal sources for his 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.
  • The U.S. continued war against WikiLeaks and similar whistleblower organizations and individuals like Edward Snowden. 
  • The arrests of at least 15 journalists covering the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Journalists definitely feel a chill in post-9/11 America. As the Liberator Online reported last year, the PEN American Center, an organization of professional writers whose membership includes some of America’s most distinguished writers, surveyed its members and found:

“73% of writers have never been as worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are today. Writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. The fear of surveillance — and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers — has prompted PEN writers to change their behavior in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information.”

It’s not just the U.S. facing such problems. Press freedom is in decline around the world, says Reporters Without Borders. They say it is “incontestable” that “there was a drastic decline in [worldwide] freedom of information in 2014. Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year. …

Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents. … All warring parties without exception waged a fearsome information war. The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, or even silenced.”

They Said It… With Judge Napolitano, Seth Meyers, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

OBAMA’S ILLEGAL WAR: “The war against the Islamic State is now illegal. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 gave President Obama 60 days to gain consent from Congress and required him to end ‘hostilities’ within 30 days if he failed to do so. This 90-day clock expired this week.” — Bruce Ackerman. professor of law and political science at Yale University, “Congress must act as Obama’s war against the Islamic State hits an expiration date,” Washington Post Nov. 7 2014.

MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS: “In case you didn’t notice, the new Congress is likely to be closer to President Obama’s views on executive power, surveillance, transparency.” — post-election tweet from journalist Conor Friedersdorf, Nov. 5, 2014.

Judge Andrew NapolitanoTWEEDLEDUMB AND TWEEDLEDUMBER: “The two major political parties are more alike than they are different. On the two paramount issues of our day — war and debt — they are identical. With the exception of Democratic progressives and Republican libertarians, the two parties stand for perpetual war and perpetual debt. Both stances increase the power of the government, and each invites present and future destruction.” — Judge Andrew Napolitano, “More Culture Wars,” syndicated column, Nov. 6, 2014.

COINCIDENCE? “New Hampshire has among the least restrictive gun laws in the U.S. and the lowest homicide rate of any state.” — tweet from the Free State Project, Nov. 11, 2014.

YOUR FBI FILE: “Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database. … Over the past years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates.” — reporters Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller, “For More Teens, Arrests by Police Replace School Discipline,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20, 2014.


Seth Meyers“It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” — Seth Meyers, “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Nov. 6, 2014.

They Said It… Chuck Schumer, Edward Snowden And More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Chuck Schumer(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

DEMOCRATS TO VOTE AGAINST FIRST AMENDMENT: “The First Amendment is sacred, but the First Amendment is not absolute. By making it absolute, you make it less sacred to most Americans. We have to bring some balance to our political system.” — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Apr 30, 2014, announcing that Democrats will vote this year on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to override First Amendment protections of political speech and political activism by restricting the amount that individuals and groups can spend on such speech and activities.

SAVE THE FIRST AMENDMENT: “Displeased with recent legal victories in which free speech has prevailed over limitations on political speech imposed by Congress, Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), Mark Udall (D., Colo.), and other Senate Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment that would not only set aside the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence and invest Congress with virtually unlimited power to regulate the political activism of private citizens, alone or in groups, but would also give the federal government and the states the power to shut down newspapers, television stations, and radio networks that displease them. This is an all-out assault on the First Amendment and an act of vandalism against the Constitution.” — The editors of National Review, “Save the First Amendment,” May 2, 2014.


Edward Snowden

“[Surveillance] is no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing. It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.” — NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, “Everyone is under surveillance now, says whistleblower Edward Snowden,” Associated Press,, May 3 2014.

PULLED OVER FOR DRIVING WHILE HUMAN: “Driving stiffly, having tinted windows, slowing down when seeing law enforcement, and driving in an out-of-the-way area may be innocent conduct by themselves. But when taken together along with driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates in a mountainous smuggling corridor 40-45 miles away from the border, we conclude Agent Semmerling had reasonable suspicion Ms. Westhoven was involved in smuggling activity.” — Federal Judge Scott M. Matheson, Jr., writing in US v. Westhoven (US Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, April 24, 2014). Also cited by the judge as reasonable cause for suspicion: acne, nervousness, driving with hands on the steering wheel in the 10-2 position.

Jimmy KimmelEARTH DAY GIFTS: “I never know what to get the Earth for Earth Day. So I just bought it an iTunes gift card and buried it.” — Jimmy Kimmel April 23, 2014.


Jimmy Fallon

“Joe Biden said the U.S. will help Ukraine with financial aid as long as the leaders tackle corruption. Because if anything stops corruption, it’s bribing someone to stop corruption.” — Jimmy Fallon April 22, 2014.

NOT IN AMERICA: “Donald Sterling’s girlfriend said she’s ‘going to be president of the United States’ one day. Yeah, like we’re going to elect someone who secretly records people’s private phone calls and conversations.” — Jimmy Fallon May 1, 2014.


MISES ON POLITICAL ACTIVISM: “No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is Ludwig von Misessweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.” — Ludwig von Mises from his 1922 classic Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, quoted by Jim Powell in his investment newsletter Global Changes and Opportunities Report, April 2014. You can read Socialism by Mises in its entirety online here or download it as a free ebook from the Mises Institute here.

Rand Paul: Who is Running the Government?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

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

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

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

Some excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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