July 25, 2014

Earth to Bill Maher: Edward Snowden isn’t the crazy one

GREENWALD-largeTAMPA, January 21, 2014 – Bill Maher interviewed journalist Glenn Greenwald following President Obama’s speech on Friday in which the president discussed his proposals to reform the NSA. Greenwald is the journalist who first reported on the information released by Edward Snowden on the government’s domestic surveillance activities.

While Maher was respectful of Greenwald and, to some extent, Snowden, he went out of his way to smear some of Snowden’s claims about the government’s activities as “completely nuts.” He also found it necessary to take a shot at Ron Paul, who wasn’t even involved in the issue at hand.

For Maher and too many likeminded people, anyone who doesn’t view the government as a benevolent force for good is a tinfoil-hat-wearing kook who believes all civilian life is the target of a massive conspiracy involving the government, secret societies, aliens, etc. Thus Maher’s retort, “Everyone in the government isn’t out to get you.”

That’s what’s known as “framing the debate.” You’re either with Bill Maher and President Obama or you’re with the kooks. You may also be somewhere in the middle, where Maher apparently places Snowden. It completely ignores the many other perspectives one might have, including that of most libertarians.

Libertarians don’t believe that the people who work for the government are evil. It’s the institution of government itself, a monopoly on the use of force that can martial the resources of the entire nation. That kind of power is dangerous even when used by good people with good intentions.

Read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post…

Obama’s proposed NSA reforms prove he doesn’t understand checks and balances

utah datacenterPresident Obama delivered a speech on Friday outlining his plans to address the widespread outrage over the domestic surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. However well-intentioned, the president’s proposals indicate he just doesn’t get the constitutional notion of delegated powers.

Implicit in the Fourth Amendment is the principle that the government should remain powerless unless and until an individual is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime. It isn’t even allowed to search one’s person or papers (viz. phone records, emails) to collect the proof it needs until it persuades a judge that it has probable cause.

The only reason the Fourth Amendment offers any protection is it prescribes an adversarial process. The judicial branch is predisposed to refuse to issue a warrant until the executive branch provides sufficient evidence of probable cause.

Read the rest of the article at the Daily Caller…

Obama’s NSA speech proves government can’t prevent terrorism in a free society

obama911TAMPA, January 18, 2014 – President Obama outlined his proposed reforms of the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities in a speech on Friday. The speech was at times eloquent and the president’s intentions appear genuine, but his recommendations for reform are inadequate. As long as the government is trying to prevent crime or terrorism in the future, it’s going to trample liberty in the present.

The president stated the crux of the problem during his speech:

“So we demanded [after 9/11] that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.”

Freedom requires that the government not attempt to prevent anything. All powers granted to the government relate to crimes committed in the past.

The Bill of Rights rests upon this assumption. Rooted in what is now called the “libertarian” principle of non-aggression, the Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from using force against an individual until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The Fourth Amendment goes even farther, prohibiting the government from even searching an individual or his papers (e.g., phone records, e-mails, etc.) without probable cause that the individual has committed a crime in the past.

The entire Bill of Rights supposes that you are beyond the reach of government until you have actually committed a crime. That logically excludes the possibility of the government preventing anything, because the government must employ force against the innocent to do so.

Read the rest of the article at Communities Digital News…

Why Civil Libertarians Should Oppose Federal Civil Rights Charges in Kelly Thomas Case

r-KELLY-THOMAS-TRIAL-large570On Monday, a jury acquitted Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli of charges related to the death of Kelly Thomas. Immediately afterwards, the FBI field office in Los Angeles announced that it would review the case to determine if federal charges would be brought against the officers.

The verdict was unpopular with civil libertarians, who cited the case as evidence of increasing police brutality, the result of a militarization trend in state and local police departments. They had hoped a guilty verdict would establish some accountability for officers who abuse their power.

They were correct to call attention to the case, but they should oppose federal charges against Ramos and Cicinelli. Affirming the authority of multiple governments to charge defendants with crimes for the same behavior loses the forest for the trees. While a conviction in federal court may feel good in this case, it further empowers the federal government to encroach upon state jurisdiction and weakens due process rights for defendants in general.

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post…

We’re all Osama Bin Laden now

TAMPA, June 25, 2013 – Twelve years ago, the U.S. government demanded that the Taliban extradite Osama Bin Laden to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The Taliban responded similarly to how they had in the past to the same demand. They asked the U.S. government to obey the principles enshrined in its own Fourth Amendment and produce evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt.

The Bush Administration responded with carpet bombing, followed by an invasion.

Most Americans didn’t lose much sleep over Bin Laden’s rights being violated. He was the world’s most infamous terrorist. Had the U.S. been able to pinpoint his location and take him out with a missile or drone attack, there would have been no pundit debate about the constitutionality of the execution (and no, the constitution doesn’t apply only to U.S. citizens).

First, they came for the terrorists…

Flash forward twelve years and quite a few people are losing sleep. Not only has the government’s disregard for the Fourth Amendment “come home” to apply to every American, but all due process protections have been completely abolished. The government claims the right to search, spy on, arrest and detain you without probable cause or warrant. It even claims the right to kill you without charging you with a crime.

For war hawks, the year is perpetually 1939 and every tin pot dictator is Hitler, even if originally installed and supported by the U.S. government. We have been forced to pay for two completely useless wars over the past twelve years, with the specter of Nazi Germany and another Holocaust thrown in the faces of anyone who objected. Anything other than full commitment constitutes “appeasing a dictator,” the fatal mistake that led to WWII.

Yet, the abridged world history textbook that every neoconservative seems to have read apparently contains nothing else about Nazi Germany. It doesn’t seem to tell them anything about why Hitler was a dictator in the first place, long before the Holocaust got under way.

The truth regarding that question is stranger than fiction.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Jury nullification, not a pardon for Edward Snowden

TAMPA, June 10, 2013 – The whistleblower who has risked his life and his freedom to expose the NSA’s domestic spying program has fled to Hong Kong. Caught red-handed violating one of the most fundamental limits on its power, codified in the Fourth Amendment, the federal government has responded predictably. It wants to prosecute its accuser.

While mainstream conservatives call for Hong Kong to extradite Snowden for trial, libertarian and civil libertarian groups have started a petition to get him pardoned. That’s the wrong solution.

Pardons are for people who have already been convicted. No jury with any sense of justice should allow that to happen.

Yes, there are plenty of laws that Edward Snowden probably broke, but as Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The law is often but the tyrant’s will.” Never was that more true than now.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had right to remain silent only after he confessed

TAMPA, April 24, 2013 – Civil libertarians seemed to have cause for relief on Monday as reports were released that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been formally charged with the crime, given a Miranda warning and assigned counsel.

Some prominent officials, including U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, had called for Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant. The Obama administration indicated that it would prosecute the U.S. citizen in civilian court, but would invoke the public safety exception to the Fifth Amendment in questioning Tsarnaev before reading him his rights.

It appeared that justice had prevailed. Major news outlets reported that a bedside hearing had taken place, presided over by a judge, with counsel for the defense present. A transcript of the hearing is available online or in pdf above.

The bedrock legal principles that make America the “land of the free” had been preserved. Tsarnaev would be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He would have the benefit of counsel to challenge the government’s case against him, examine the evidence and cross examine any witnesses.

He would not be subject to punishment until he had been proven guilty in an adversarial proceeding, rather than merely accused.

There was only one problem. We now know that Tsarnaev had already confessed to the crime.

So, Tsarnaev had the right to remain silent only after there was no longer any reason to remain silent. That defeats the whole purpose of the Fifth Amendment. One of the reasons it was established was the routine use of torture in obtaining confessions in the Middle Ages.

So, how did federal authorities obtain Tsarnaev’s confession? Was he tortured? All we know is he was alone with federal authorities and helpless in his hospital bed.

Read the rest of the article at Communties@ Washington Times…

How do we know Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a witch?

TAMPA, April 22, 2013 – Predictably, neoconservative politicians have already called for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant, meaning that he would not enjoy the constitutional protections afforded criminal defendants in civilian courts. Pundits and blog commenters have echoed the sentiment that “terrorists don’t deserve due process” or other constitutional protections. According to this argument, they forfeited them when they decided to wage war against Americans.

This begs an obvious question. How do we know Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed the crime and therefore doesn’t deserve due process, when due process is the means by which we make that determination?

Neoconservative logic isn’t much better than Sir Bedevere’s in the witch scenein Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sadly, many Americans are acting every bit the mob depicted in that satire.

Read the rest of the article at Liberty Pulse…

The Bill of Rights was written for Dzhokar Tsarnaev

TAMPA, April 20, 2013 – 19-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev is in custody. Assuming that Tsarnaev is indeed guilty of these crimes, a very real threat to public safety has been taken off the streets. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the Tsarnaev brothers have taken the last vestiges of a free society in America down with them.

The Bill of Rights was already on life support before this tragedy. Before the dust settled after 9/11, the 4th Amendment had been nullified by the Patriot Act. The 5th and 6th Amendments were similarly abolished with the Military Commission Act of 2006 and the 2012 NDAA resolution, which contained a clause allowing the president to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil without due process of law.

Americans had already grown accustomed to having their persons and papers searched at the airport without probable cause and without a warrant supported by oath or affirmation. After a brief, politically-motivated backlash against the Bush Administration, Americans similarly resigned themselves to the government tapping their phones, reading their e-mails and generally spying on them wherever they went. Things were already very, very bad.

They just got a lot worse.

Not only did the militarized domestic law enforcement complex put the City of Boston under martial law, but nobody seems to have found it out of the ordinary, much less outrageous. Yes, a few journalists like libertarian Anthony Gregory raised a finger. But, for the most part, nobody seemed to mind that the entire city was under military siege, complete with paramilitary units in full battle gear, battlefield ordinance and tanks. Tanks!

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

Questions remain after Rand Paul’s filibuster

TAMPA, March 10, 2013 – First, the good news. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul squared off in a 13-hour game of chicken with the White House on Wednesday. At stake was the bedrock American principle that no one will be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Early Thursday morning, the White House blinked.

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no. Sincerely, Eric H. Holder, Jr.”

It took “a month and a half and a root canal” to get that carefully worded answer, according to Senator Paul, and even then some obvious questions remained.

Does the president have the authority to use manned aircraft to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? How about a rifle? A bow and arrow?

Perhaps due to the popular support for Paul’s filibuster, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attempted to clean up Holder’s overqualified answer.

Read the rest of the article at Liberty Pulse…