Obama To Talk NSA Reforms Friday, It May Disappoint You

President Obama is expected to present his proposal addressing reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA) this Friday following a lengthy review of the agency in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations last summer of agency data collection.

But, as James Oliphant writes in the National Journal, don’t expect to see anything really concrete addressing the overreach of the agencies’ powers into the lives of ordinary Americans. Not likely from a man who is now promoting a “9/11 justification” for the NSA program:

To lay the groundwork for that position, aides to the president told the Los Angeles Times this weekend that the NSA’s metadata collection scheme could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. What’s more, Obama has adopted that “9/11 justification” for the NSA program, the paper reported.

That’s a blinking-red signal that the administration is not about to be accused of making the country more vulnerable by tampering with such a preventive weapon. Remember that George W. Bush, a Republican, walked back his warrantless wiretapping program in 2007 after a public outcry. This president, a Democrat, isn’t going to follow suit—especially given the new instability in Iraq and worries about the vacuum left by the coming pullout from Afghanistan.

Federal judge dismisses legal challenge to NSA surveillance

A federal district judge ruled this morning that the National Security Agency’s phone metadata surveillance program is constitutional and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley acknowledged that the NSA phone surveillance program “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States.” But he opined that the program could have prevented the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific,” wrote Pauley in ACLU v. Clapper. “Technology allowed al-Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attack remotely.”

“The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the Government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to re-construct and eliminate al-Qaeda’s terror network,” he added.

Pauley acknowledged that there have been “unintentional violations of guidelines,” but dismissed this at “human error” and “incredibly complex computer programs that support this vital tool.” He also wrote that the program is “subject to executive and congressional oversight” and “monitoring” by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

Pauley was appointed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in May 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed by the Senate in October 1998. The court on which Pauley serves is based in New York City.

TSA doesn’t get the job done, should we abolish it?

When essential service providers don’t have competitors to worry about, consumers become hopelessly dependent and often frustrated, wondering how much better life could be if they were offered the opportunity to choose.

The service offered by the monopoly also becomes extremely expensive and less efficient. After all, the sole service provider has nothing to worry about. Where are consumers going to get what they need? The monopoly can always afford to be ineffective but it can only continue to be a monopoly while government keeps competitors out of the game.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created in 2001 as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In 2002, the agency was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. The service that the TSA provides should be a simple yet vital one: operating security screenings at commercial airports in order to avoid the same type of terrible occurrence that devastated the country back in 2001.

But the problem is: TSA hasn’t proven to be any more efficient than private contractors were before the creation of the special bureau. Instead, the U.S. spends about $7.9 billion a year to maintain an agency that is widely known for poor screening performances, mismanagement, security failures and somewhat suspicious investments.

Public debate over NSA spying has only just begun

If you thought last week’s vote on the amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) to defund the NSA was the end of the fight to restore privacy rights, think again.

Just a couple years ago, it seemed that the PATRIOT Act and other constitutionally questionable legislation were destined to pass each time they came up for renewal. There were some minor victories along the way, but news of the NSA’s broad surveillance program, through which the agency collects third-party records (including phone records and Internet metadata), sparked a welcome backlash from Americans and many members of Congress.

The result was a strong push by civil libertarians from both parties to preserve the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right to privacy, but not hamper the intelligence community from doing their jobs. Instead of blanket surveillance, however, Amash’s amendment would have simply required that data collection “pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation.”

The vote on the Amash amendment was much closer that many civil libertarians thought it would be. Just two years ago, the PATRIOT Act, through which the NSA has claimed the power to broadly surveil Americans, was renewed by a 275-144 vote.

Gun control talk is heating up

Second Amendment

After last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians have made loud calls for increased gun control measures, including a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban — nevermind that the .223 Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been covered under that law.

Politico notes this morning that President Barack Obama, who has previously called for more gun control measures, has announced that he will form a “guns task force” to presumably look at gun control policies that the White House could pursue. Of course, pro-Second Amendment advocates see this tragedy being politicized by policitians who have long clamored for increased gun control measures.

We’ve hear gun control advocates talk about how these mass shootings are on the rise. Despite the rhetoric, the facts just don’t bear that out. In an article published the day after the shooting at Shady Hook, the Associated Press explained:

“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.

The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.

America Survived 9/11, But Will It Survive Obama?

Eleven years ago, America was attacked by bloodthirsty Muslim terrorists who hijacked commercial jetliners and flew them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and failed in a fourth attack on the Capitol Building or the White House. Three thousand Americans died that day in the most horrific and hateful attack on American soil in history, an attack injuring not only the American economy, but the American psyche. We felt vulnerable and afraid. However, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge the attacks of 9/11 as only the second most destructive event during that span and, in terms of long term damage to the stability of the United States, paling in comparison to the damage inflicted upon us by the Obama administration.

Now, I am well aware this will be considered a hyper-partisan attack on our president, but I believe the facts will justify the claim. The terrorist attacks were brutal to watch, and we could witness the devastation and destruction wrought with our own eyes. The terrorists desired to crush our economy and undermine our faith in our government, to weaken us. You might even say that they wanted to “fundamentally transform” America. Yet within two years America was well on her way to recovering from those events.

It was understandable that the economy was severely damaged that day. As noted in Kiplinger Financial, on the day of the attacks, the unemployment rate was just below 5%, and in the aftermath, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the travel, tourism, and financial industries alone, it would rise to just over 6% in 2003. However, by 2007, the unemployment rate was back down to just over 4%, and America had come roaring back.

VIDEO: Daily Caller Remembers 9/11, Examines Life Since

Via the Daily Caller’s video producer Sean W. Malone comes this new mini-documentary reflecting on the horrors of 9/11, and an examination of how America and the world reacted in terms of public policy. The video features Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, Cato Institute vice president for defense and foreign policy studies Christopher A. Preble, Cato research fellow in defense and homeland security studies Benjamin H. Friedman, Heritage Foundation’s director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies James Carafano, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla. 22nd), and Antiwar.com’s development director Angela Keaton.

National security policy, like all other forms of public policy, involves an innumerable series of trade-offs. We should be applying the same rigorous cost-benefit analyses to the Pentagon and DHS budgets that we do to social welfare programs.

The best line in the whole video comes from Tucker Carlson, who quips,

Charity Begins at Home (and Church)

In our society it is almost axiomatic that liberals are charitable and conservatives are greedy and heartless. After all, conservatives are the ones calling for spending cuts to social programs, and tax cuts to stimulate job growth. Liberals are the ones that vociferously object to even the most minute of spending cuts to any type of social program, lest the poor, downtrodden and innocent suffer. Yet, as with so many things, such a conclusion may be accepted with little argument, but has very little basis in fact.

Most of us have seen coverage of the personal tragedies in the aftermath of the historic outbreak of tornadoes across the southeastern United States a few weeks ago, which left more than 300 dead. Footage of the massive tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa and other parts of Alabama are heart wrenching. In my little section of northwest Georgia we received significant damage as well. For the second time in three years my home narrowly escaped the brunt of a tornado’s destructive path, but many of our friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

Two days after the tornados hit I drove through Adairsville and Ringgold and witnessed the awesome force of nature’s fury; billboard frames bent at 90-degree angles, warehouses demolished as if they were made of tin foil and swaths flattened trees that looked like matchsticks. There were huge sections of towns that had essentially vanished. If ever there was a need for government this was it, right?

BREAKING: Osama bin Laden is dead

According to just about every major news network, Osama bin Laden is dead and the United States is in possession of his body. President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation in a few minutes to give details and warn of possible retaliation against the United States.

This a developing story, please check back for live updates below.

[11:34pm] Obama: “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden””

[11:40pm] Bin Laden was apparently killed in a firefight. Some of the reports this evening claimed that Bin Laden was shot in the head.

[11:42pm] Obama: “Justice has been done.”

[11:45pm] Crowds have been gathering in front of the White House celebrating since the news of Bin Laden’s death broke.

[11:46pm] As was reported by news networks, Bin Laden was killed deep inside Pakistan.

[11:50pm] DNA testing was used to confirm that the body was that of Osama bin Laden.

[11:55pm] Here is the statement from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA):

“Nearly a decade ago, in the days after 9/11, President Bush said, ‘Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.’ Tonight, we’ve learned that justice has been done. The man with the blood of more than 3,000 Americans on his hands, the man who forced us to begin to think the unthinkable - is now dead.

Remembering 9/11

World Trade Center on 9/11

Last year, Brett and I sat down to put together some of our thoughts for a podcast for 9/11. Not necessarily to memorialize it, but to share what we’ve learned from it.

We discussed where we were that day and our thoughts on the state of the country, our rights in the aftermath and the wars that have taken place as a result of the “war on terror.” I also recommend two books by Michael Scheuer, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes and Imperial Hubris, on terrorism and al-Qaeda in relation to our foreign policy.

You can download the podcast here (39 minutes/35 MB).

Here is some coverage from that day. You can read my own recollection of that day over at my personal blog. Please share your own recollection in the comments.

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.