Vote on Amash Amendment Reveals Ruse of Two-Party System

For all those who still believe that Republican=Constitutionalist and Democrat=Liberty-hating liberal, something happened on Capitol Hill that might change your mind.

As was reported by The New American, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment to the defense appropriations sponsored by Republican Congressman Justin Amash (shown) of Michigan and Democratic Congressman John Conyers, also of Michigan.

The Amash Amendment would have revoked authority “for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215” of the Patriot Act.

Despite the threat to the Establishment (or perhaps because of it), Amash’s measure failed by a vote of 205-217.

It’s the identity of the “ayes” and “nays” that tells the rest of the story.

An analysis of the roll call reveals that a majority of Democrats voted in favor of restricting the Obama administration’s wholesale surveillance of Americans, while a majority of the GOP voted to uphold the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of all electronic communications.

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Montana Anti-Spying Law Good, More Needed

On May 6, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed  an Anti-Location Electronic Spying Bill (HB 603) into law.

The new law provides strong privacy protections for Montana citizens, requiring state and local government agencies to obtain a warrant before spying on electronic devices or communication services.

Except as provided in subsection (2), a government entity may not obtain the location information of an electronic device without a search warrant issued by a duly authorized court.

The law covers services that “provide to users of the service the ability to send or receive wire or electronic communications,” and any device “that enables access to or use of an electronic communication service, remote computing service, or location information service.”

Even with some exceptions such as law enforcement access when a device is reported stolen or for “life threatening situations,” the new law provides extensive privacy protections that did not exist before.

The law represents a solid win for privacy in Montana, although confusion surrounding the new law does exist. Some media outlets have reported the legislation prohibits NSA spying. But the law does not apply to federal agencies, as section three of the definitions makes clear.

(3) “Government entity” means a state or local agency, including but no limited to a law enforcement entity or any other investigative entity, agency, department, division, bureau, board or commission or an individual acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of a state or local agency.

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Obama Wants Us to Trust Him

BALANCE“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch, but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.” Obama added that the National Security agents behind the surveillance programs “cherish our Constitution…You can shout Big Brother or program run amok, but if you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance,” he explained.

I actually felt a sense of relief when I read Obama’s statement. Finally, he gets it. We don’t trust him, or Congress, or the political appointees we loosely call federal judges. I can’t think of a single reason to place my faith in any of them.

Can you?

In my lifetime, the last executive I felt willing to trust was Kennedy.

And I was three.

I may have been taken in!

Look, we shouldn’t trust these people. And history bears this out.

Take Lyndon Johnson and his winking Congress. They led us into the undeclared Vietnam catastrophe. Did you know that the Viet Cong were quite comfortable ignoring the Geneva Convention because we didn’t formally declare war? As a result, U.S. POWs could be classified as political criminals…and tortured.

And of course, we were all disgusted with Nixon’s betrayal of the country in the Watergate affair. But like jailing Capone for tax evasion, we hardly nailed Nixon’s greatest crime. Under his leadership, supported by Congress, and repeatedly upheld by our courts, the shredding of the Fourth Amendment became a federal past-time. Thanks to the criminalization of drugs, policing shifted from community service to community intimidation. RICO laws sank to IRS levels, eliminating due process. Suddenly, property could be taken from an individual just on the suspicion of wrongdoing – no conviction required. DUI checkpoints, once illegal, became commonplace. Prior to that, police had to observe driving behavior and have probable cause in order to stop you. Oh, and if pulled over, our automobiles used to be safe from police searches under the Fourth Amendment. No longer. All thanks to the War on Drugs.

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NSA Seizures: Papers, Effects, and the Constitution

Randy Barnett has an interesting op ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the NSA’s seizure of voluminous data on U.S. citizens was unconstitutional and that the approval of the seizure by the secret FISA court was also unconstitutional.

Randy makes several important points:

1. “By banning unreasonable “seizures” of a person’s “papers,” the Fourth Amendment clearly protects what we today call ‘informational privacy.’”

2. The FISA Court’s approval of the “blanket seizure of data on every American” represents “indiscriminate data seizures” that “are the epitome of ‘unreasonable,’ akin to the ‘general warrants’ issued by the Crown to authorize searches of Colonial Americans.”

3. The program’s approval by the FISA Court violates due process, because “secret judicial proceedings adjudicating the rights of private parties, without any ability to participate or even read the legal opinions of the judges, is the antithesis of the due process of law.”

These are powerful arguments and the entire essay is well worth reading.  I am not entirely sure if Randy is using an originalist methodology here.  If he is, here are my thoughts regarding each of his three points.

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What Does Peggy Hill Have to Fear from the NSA?

I work nights.

On my “days” off, I used to switch to a daytime wake/sleep schedule in order to spend quality time with my family, but I no longer do.  In my old(er) age, I have discovered that the amount of time I render myself useless due to lack of sleep, plus the amount of time it takes me to get back into night-mode after a 3-day weekend is just too much to be worthwhile for anyone anymore.  Consequently, I spend a lot of time watching King of the Hill in the early morning hours while waiting until it is time to wake my daughter for school.

During a particularly funny re-run, I saw something that just happened to illustrate the problem with the NSA’s, and many American’s, reasoning, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s your problem with us monitoring you?”

This episode of KOTH starts with Bobby (son) going camping with Hank (dad) and the guys for the weekend.  Peggy (mom) assures Hank that she will be fine alone – getting some housework done, and maybe working a crossword puzzles over the weekend.  But while the guys were out getting scouting badges, something happens that Peggy hopes Hank and Bobby never find out.

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If You Like The Surveillance State, You’ll Love E-Verify

by Ron Paul

From massive NSA spying, to IRS targeting of the administration’s political opponents, to collection and sharing of our health care information as part of Obamacare, it seems every day we learn of another assault on our privacy. Sadly, this week the Senate took another significant, if little-noticed, step toward creating an authoritarian surveillance state. Buried in the immigration bill is a national identification system called mandatory E-Verify.

The Senate did not spend much time discussing E-Verify, and what little discussion took place was mostly bipartisan praise for its effectiveness as a tool for preventing illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. It is a tragedy that mandatory E-Verify is not receiving more attention, as it will impact nearly every American’s privacy and liberty.

The mandatory E-Verify system requires Americans to carry a “tamper-proof” social security card. Before they can legally begin a job, American citizens will have to show the card to their prospective employer, who will then have to verify their identity and eligibility to hold a job in the US by running the information through the newly-created federal E-Verify database. The database will contain photographs taken from passport files and state driver’s licenses. The law gives federal bureaucrats broad discretion in adding other “biometric” identifiers to the database. It also gives the bureaucracy broad authority to determine what features the “tamper proof” card should contain.

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FISA Court Colludes with NSA to Allow Unconstitutional Surveillance

Documents obtained by The Guardian (U.K.) reveal that the court that was ostensibly created to keep the federal domestic spy apparatus from invading the rights of Americans is actually routinely giving the National Security Agency (NSA) and others the go-ahead to use data “inadvertently” collected during unwarranted surveillance of American citizens.

The newspaper that broke the story of the NSA’s activities as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden published on June 20 “two full documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” Both documents were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and were issued in July 2009.

According to the article written by Glenn Greenwald and James Ball, the documents “detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.”

Not surprisingly, neither the Fourth Amendment nor the freedoms against tyranny that it protects are honored by Holder or the other architects and construction crews erecting the surveillance state.

As Greenwald and Ball report, the leaked documents demonstrate that when the NSA is conducting surveillance under the pretense of monitoring foreign targets, any U.S. communication caught in the dragnet is “collected, retained and used.”

Using Section 215 of the Patriot Act as justification, the NSA is now known to monitor and seize the phone records of millions of Americans who are not now or ever have been suspected of any crime that would justify the issuing of a search warrant. This wholesale watching of the telephone activities of citizens was revealed by The Guardian a few weeks ago as part of Snowden’s release of information on his former employer.

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Why They Really Spy on You

by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom Foundation

If you’re a good little citizen who doesn’t make waves and loyally supports whatever the federal government does, always deferring to its authority and trusting its officials, and if you maintain this mindset for the rest of your life, the probability is that you don’t have anything to worry about with respect to the government’s keeping records of your telephone calls, your emails, and other aspects of your private life.

But if you’re the type who has an independent mindset, one that might come to recognize that the warfare state is one great big racket by which power-lusters use federal power to plunder and loot your wealth and income, and if you’re the type of person who might begin objecting to this racket and calling for a restoration of American freedom, then it’s entirely possible that the files that the government is keeping on your private life might come back to haunt you.

Recall what they did to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that national-security state officials were knowingly lying to the American people about the progress of the Vietnam War. They went after him with everything they could. For revealing their lies, they considered Ellsberg to be a super bad guy, a traitor. He certainly wasn’t a good little citizen who deferred to authority.

So, what did they do?

For one, they had him indicted and tried to send him to jail for a long time.

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Nothing to See Here, Says the Mainstream Right?

Last week we received a few heckles for posting a Facebook meme of George Bush signing the Patriot Act. We stand by our intent – Republicans and Democrats, George Bush and Barack Obama – are sell-outs and equally culpable for the security-surveillance industrial complex of whose scary details were leaked to the press last week.

If you are the sporting type and keeping score, the Democrat-Republican Party is beating the Constitution by six touchdowns going into the fourth quarter. These dudes are on the same team, even if it took you half the game to figure it out. Behind the inexorable expansion of the state, the Right and the Left often stand as one.

Take, for instance, Rich Galen, a neo-con who blogs at Townhall.com, writing today about NSA-whistle blower Edward Snowden:

As a taxpayer, I’m not paying you to look out after my Fourth Amendment rights. I’m paying you to do whatever job you were hired to do, and if you find that job too ethically distasteful, then you should quit.

But keep your mouth shut.

Galen suggests a long federal prison sentence would be just deserts for Snowden for exposing a creepy, out-of-control national government sifting warrantlessly through our personal emails and internet searches. After all, Galen declares, he is a 66-year-old guy with nothing to hide.

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