civil liberties

United Liberty Podcast: Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)

Walter Jones

“I blame Congress more than the President because we really have not brought the issue before Congress as to whether or not the President should or should not have so much authority.” — Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on executive power

There aren’t many in Congress who are willing to take strong stands against bad policies no matter who is sitting in the White House. Democrats were once strongly supportive of civil liberties, but now that President Obama is in the White House, there is little criticism to be found. And while expansive executive power and an aggressive foreign policy were popular during the Bush Administration, Obama’s expansion of these policies have started a conversation amongst conservatives.

Yesterday, I spoke with Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s Third Congressional District, about President Obama’s State of the Union address, foreign policy, and executive power.

Rep. Jones, who has served in Congress since 1995, has been at the forefront of questioning foreign policies decisions made by previous and current administrations. While he expressed disappointment that Obama didn’t talk in detail about the deficit, Rep. Jones explained that he was happy with the annoucement that 34,000 troops would be coming home from Afghanistan.

Once proud civil libertarians, Democrats have now accepted Bush’s policies

Barack Obama and George W. Bush

During his 2008, presidential campaign, Barack Obama spoke forcefully against then-President George W. Bush’s expansion of executive power, leading many to believe that he would strengthen civil liberties. In March 2008, Jeffrey Rosen wrote at The New York Times that “[i]f Barack Obama wins in November, we could have not only our first president who is an African-American, but also our first president who is a civil libertarian.”

That was the great “hope” about Obama, to borrow a phrase from his 2008 campaign. There is no question that Bush waged an assault on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by signing the PATRIOT Act, approving warrantless wiretaps, among other concerning policies he enacted.

But since taking office in 2009, President Obama has not only kept these policies of his predecessor in place, but he actually greatly expanded them — and he has done so with the approval of neo-conservatives, who were frequent targets of the Left during Bush’s presidency. During an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS just this morning, former Vice President Dick Cheney praised President Obama’s drones program.

The irony here is thick. BuzzFeed noted recently that there are several aspects to Obama’s presidency that not many Democrats are willing to acknowledge — from the troops surge in Afghanistan to the “kill list” and drones to torture of terrorist suspects — though when Bush pushed them, they absolutely lost their minds.

Father of Sandy Hook student defends Second Amendment

Bill Stevens

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians at all levels of government are looking at stricter gun control measures; policies that they are foolish enough to believe will prevent similar incidents from occuring.

While President Obama has used children as a political prop in the debate, Bill Stevens, a resident of Newton whose daughter attends Sandy Hook, recently took on legislators in Connecticut who are seeking to expand gun control.

Stevens, who appeared before a Working Group Public Hearing on guns, explained that his daughter was “in lockdown” at Sandy Hook on the day of the shooting, noting that a sibling of her classmate was killed during the shooting. Stevens went over the meaning of the Second Amendment, quoting directly from the Constitution of Connecticut.

“We all know what the Second Amendment says, but Section 15 of the state Constitution says very clearly, ‘Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state,’” noted Stevens. “There’s no registration, there’s no permitting, there’s no background checks. It’s quite clear.”

Noting that the legislature couldn’t restrict the constitutionally guaranteed, Stevens explained, “In order to limit the rights of individuals, there is something called due process, and legislation is not due process.”

“You want to take my rights away, let’s go to court,” proclaimed Stevens.

Drone Strikes: Questionably Legal, Certainly Not Ethical, and Most Unwise

Above, watch Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay Carney explain that the drone strikes are “legal”, “ethical”, and “wise.” This has got to be one the biggest loads of crap I have heard since Obama was elected in 2008.

The legality of these drone strikes is highly questionable, as Doug Mataconis notes over at OTB. I fully expect court challenges to these strikes. Whether or not they succeed is a matter of speculation for people far more trained in the arcane arts of the law than I.

They are certainly not ethical. There have always been deep ethical qualms about killing human beings. In the modern era, we have notions such as due process, trials, courts of appeal, and judicial oversight, as well as punishment for those who kill wrongly. In combat situations, we accept homicide as par for the course, with both sides shooting at each other to kill. But this is not the same situation. This is picking an individual and raining missiles on him via robot death kites. This is not war. This is assassination. There are no restraints nor oversight. If you have a code of ethics that allows you to just kill people, on a whim, without any restraint whatsoever, you are a deeply troubled person and should be committed to a mental hospital. When will Obama go?

They are most definitely not wise. If anything, the drone strikes have only hardened al-Qaeda against us, and have turned us into enemies to the locals there, killing and maiming at will. Is it wise to “double-tap” targets and blow up emergency responders? Is it wise when only one in fifty of our victims are actually bad guys? No, this is not wise. This is most certainly unwise.

Despite Obama’s second term, there is light at the end of the tunnel

As the presidential inauguration comes upon us today, I can’t help but think that we’re seeing Bush’s fourth term. Barack Obama, while talking up a good liberal game on international peace and social issues, is really quite similar to his Republican predecessor. He has widely broadened the use of drones pioneered with Bush 43. His signing of the NDAA act authorizing indefinite detention is merely a sequel to the PATRIOT Act Bush signed in 2001. And his recent executive orders on guns have elicited much the same outrage from conservatives that liberals had over Bush’s signing statements.

Combined with staying the course on military spending, staying the course on not making any significant reforms to entitlements, staying the course on the War on Drugs, and staying the course on corporate bailouts…

…and I’m wondering if George W. Bush ever left.

Certainly, there are differences. George W. Bush championed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while the Obama Administration has just given up on defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama is also far more supportive of a woman’s right to choose, while George W. Bush was pro-life (mostly). But on nearly all other issues, ranging from torture, to war, to government spending, our 44th president is little more than an “expansion pack” to our 43rd — doing the same things, only worse.

Mike Lee: “We can’t abandon constitutional rights for temporary security”

See Video

During the debate over re-authorization of FISA warrantless wiretapping practices, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) articulately defended the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

So much for the Fourth Amendment: Senate passes FISA and Obama will sign it

You mad, bro?

The Senate passed the FISA re-authorization bill this morning:

The Senate on Friday approved a bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in a 73-23 vote.

The bill will extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court.

The House already approved the legislation, meaning the Senate vote will send the bill to President Obama’s desk. The president is expected to sign the bill.

You can see how your Senators voted here.

FISA was set to expire at the end of the year, so the rush to renew it lead to some bipartisan fear-mongering from some members of the Senate. Perhaps the only positive was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed for debate on reasonable, substantive amendments to the bill, though none of them passed. Some members, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), didn’t want any debate on amendments that would have enhanced the privacy of Americans or require some transparency from the Obama Administration on how FISA is being used.

The Fourth Amendment Protection Act, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would have protected Americans against warrantless searches of their cell phone records and other similar third-party service providers. This amendment was rejected in a 79 to 12 vote.

United Liberty’s Top 30 Most Read Posts from 2012

Being a libertarian-leaning blog, we touch on a variety of issues. From those of you that aren’t familiar with libertarianism, it is a philosophy grounded in individual liberty, limited government, and free markets. Our commentary is based from that unwaivering viewpoint.

This past provided endless fodder for bloggers. From the push for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) to the terrorist attack in Benghazi to the 2012 election. While there was plenty to talk about this year, 2012 also served as a reminder that our liberties are still being slowly taken away.

With all that said, here are the top 30 most read stories from United Liberty during 2012. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them:

Let’s have a discussion about the Second Amendment

This post was written by Richard Schrade, an attorney from Georgia and member of the Libertarian National Committee, and gun rights proponent.

This current meme being circulated by those that even seek to think about the real reasons for the Second Amendment is that no matter how well armed the populace that a tyrannical repressive government will always have superior firepower.  That being the case, so goes this meme, there is no reason to allow assault weapons, high capacity magazines etc. in private hands.  That argument is welcomed so far as it is intellectually honest in recognizing that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the citizenry from the government and has little to do with hunting.  However, the argument is fundamentally flawed.

If revolution ever visits this country again, the central government will be better armed and better organized (as it was in 1775); the early participants in the revolution will represent less than 50% of the citizens (as in 1775); and the ultimate fate of the revolution will rise and fall on the tenacity of the revolutionaries (as with nearly every revolution in western history).

Revolutions are necessarily asymmetrical.  The government always (nearly always) has the upper hand in financing, organization and manpower.  Often the revolution will be loosely organized – sometimes for ideological reasons (St. Petersburg in February 1917) and sometimes for reasons of safety (Chechnya 1990s).  Sometimes the revolution seeks to throw off a colonial ruler (Vietnam 1950s), sometimes a tyrannical government (France 1789).

Saxby Chambliss: Shut up and pass FISA


Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who has come under fire recently for his support of increased tax revenues, is now sounding off on the upcoming reauthorization vote for FISA. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to allow at least some amendments, some of which would protect the privacy of Americans, to be voted on by the chamber before the bill is pushed forward for a final vote.

Unfortunately, Chambliss believes that no votes on these amendments are necessary and that Reid should just pass the bill, apparently with no questions asked:

Senator Saxby Chambliss, apparently with no regard to the Constitution or the privacy of the public he’s supposed to represent, has apparently complained that any debate is a waste of time after Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to bring up the issue.

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