Tonight President Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address, but something that happened yesterday illustrates the true state of our union far better than anything you’ll hear tonight. As we reported yesterday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was detained by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at the Nashville International Airport. Paul was detained by TSA officials after refusing an invasive full body pat-down following some kind of anomaly in the body scanner’s reading. Some might argue that there’s nothing to get worked up about here. After all, shouldn’t we expect senators to be treated like everyone else? But it is precisely because everyday citizens are subjected to these invasive procedures on a daily basis that Sen. Paul’s detention is so alarming. His high-profile detention by the TSA serves as a reminder that Americans are having their privacy violated every day on their way through the nation’s airports.
You probably won’t hear about Sen. Paul’s detention by the TSA in President Obama’s address tonight. You’re not likely to hear anything about it in the GOP response delivered by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.), nor even in the Tea Party response offered by businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-Ga.). You probably won’t hear about the National Defense Authorization Act, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or any of the other manifold ways that Washington has undermined the Bill of Rights. But whether our politicians want to raise these issues or not, these are the issues that define the state of our union in the 21st century. And the state of our union is dire.
It was a magical day. Wikipedia, Google, and a host of other websites stood up against the United States government and said, “No!” to their attempts to control the internet in a vain attempt to combat online piracy. Sponsors of SOPA and PIPA began to jump ship like rats on the Titanic. Honestly, it was a great day to be a libertarian.
However, it’s important to note that the fight is far from over. Not only are SOPA and PIPA still around and far from dead, but there is another potential threat: The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA.
The ACTA may actually be worse than SOPA or PIPA. You see, ACTA isn’t a bill before Congress, but an international treaty. What’s worse, we’ve already signed it.
President Obama, acting as President of the United States, signed the treaty and has argued that ACTA doesn’t require ratification by Congress and is instead handled by a mechanism called “executive agreement”. Is this legal?
Well, my understanding of law is better than most, but I’m always willing to defer to people who clearly know more than me. From Legal As She Is Spoke:
In the midst of last week’s protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), I suggested that “[w]e’re fighting an uphill battle” against the powerful forces that want to censor the internet in the name of anti-piracy. Since then, many pundits and bloggers have been striking a triumphalist note now that both SOPA and PIPA appear to be dead in the water. But the best rule of thumb when you think you’ve beaten those who would erase our civil liberties is to reject complacency and assume that you haven’t. When they look like they’ve lost they’re usually just regrouping. The recent MegaUpload bust should prove that.
But if you’re still not convinced, you probably haven’t heard of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The U.S. Trade Representative’s office declares ACTA “the highest-standard plurilateral agreement ever achieved concerning the enforcement of intellectual property rights.” A 2008 report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes clear that ACTA would accomplish at an international level what SOPA/PIPA were supposed to accomplish here in America. We, along with eight other nations, signed ACTA on October 1, 2011.
If you haven’t heard of ACTA before, here are five things you need to know: