civil liberties

Why Should We Care? We Have Nothing to Hide…

The consistently principled Glenn Greenwald recently broke the story that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting phone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers daily. Unsurprisingly, the usual Big Brother apologists chimed in with the rebuttal, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ah, yes. Civil libertarians are used to hearing the nothing-to-hide argument from people who are willing to trade privacy for security, or a false sense of it, anyway. When American citizens strongly opposed the Patriot Act that allows the government to wiretap phone lines without a warrant, we were told: “No secrets? No worries.” When we criticized the warrantless house-to-house raids in Boston following the Marathon bombing, we were told: “If you’re not housing the terrorists, what’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal: privacy isn’t simply the option to hide bad things. Privacy enables us to freely pursue the things that we enjoy, on our own terms. Maybe the Kardashian family enjoys putting their entire life out there for the world to see and harshly judge, but most of us like to keep some things to ourselves— and rightfully so!

Privacy is your right to control the flow of information about yourself. You choose what details to share, when, where, and with whom. There are likely parties from college that you do not want your employer to know about. You may not want your mother to know all the juicy details about your love life, or your friends to know the humiliating health questions you’ve searched on WebMD. When the government is snooping without your consent, they have taken away your right to a very important personal choice.

Big Brother Government Says “Trust Me”

Big Brother Obama

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” — George Orwell, 1984

On May 5th, speaking at Ohio State University, Barack Obama lamented that “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Obama has it exactly wrong. It is not that our experiment in self-rule is a sham, or that it can’t be trusted, it is that the experiment has been undermined by the growing power of government in our lives, the very danger of which the Founding Fathers warned us. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” declared that “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Obama tries to convince us of just the opposite; namely, that we should place our trust in a benevolent government which will take care of us, and all we have to do is give up a little freedom.

Gun Control Advocates Hate Us for Our Freedoms

gun control

Let’s face it — the fight for stricter gun control measure is an assault on civil liberties, just the same as laws that infringe on Americans’ right to privacy or free speech. That’s something the Left won’t admit to, but the intent is clear.

The talking point is that expanded background checks and reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban, policies for which the White House and many Senate Democrats are pushing, is consistent with “reasonable regulation” of gun rights. But these measures are a step toward the long-held policy views of gun control advocates, and they will lie and fear-monger until they get their way.

Just last week during a visit to Mexico, President Barack Obama said that many of the guns that are being used by the drug cartels wreaking havoc in the country come from the United States.

“[We] recognize that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States,” said President Obama. “I think many of you know that in America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms, and as President I swore an oath to uphold that right and I always will.”

“But at the same time, as I’ve said in the United States, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people,” he continued. “That can save lives here in Mexico and back home in the United States. It’s the right thing to do. So we’ll keep increasing the pressure on gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico.  We’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong — behind bars.”

After Boston, Senators Aim to Deny Your Rights

In a statement released via Facebook, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) made the case for (1) denying the Miranda rights of the Boston marathon bomber and (2) to hold him without trial as an enemy combatant, regardless of his status as a US citizen.

“Nonsense!” you may say, “They don’t want to deny my rights, just those of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” While this Dzhokhar guy is truly a first class piece of crap, selectively denying the rights of one US citizen “just because two Senators say so” is an affront to the liberties we all enjoy.

The statement, posted on Senator Graham’s Facebook page, reads in full (with emphasis added in bold):

Just put out this statement with John McCain about the suspect captured in Boston and whether they should be held as an enemy combatant.

“We truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement and intelligence communities.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.

The Potential of Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul

Following the 2012 presidential election, many Republicans found themselves in a state of shock. To lose to a president whose policies had not only been controversial but had failed to stifle an enduring economic downturn seemed implausible. There were no doubt countless conservative voters who joined an incredulous Bill O’Reilly the next day asking, “What the heck happened last night?” In recent weeks, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has provided an answer.

In the wake of his 13-hour filibuster and narrow victory in CPAC’s presidential straw poll last weekend, the freshmen senator has become an overnight sensation in American politics. Though much of the support for his dramatic defense of due process may have been partisan at first, it has generated a groundswell of soul-searching within the Republican Party.Conservatives have failed to provide a message that resonated with voters since the Bush administration and they have two failed presidential campaigns to show for it.

Standing on the Sidelines is Not an Option for the Freedom Movement

Below is the speech I gave last night at the FreedomWorks’ Spring Break College Summit at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, DC.

Before I get down to the crux of my talk this evening, I’ve gotta say, watching Senator Rand Paul’s epic 13-hour filibuster on Wednesday was nothing short of inspirational. For more than half a day, Senator Paul — aided at times by some of his colleagues, including Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — gave a brilliant defense of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and challenged the notion of perpetual war.

While Democrats in Congress have claimed to be champions of civil liberties, it was the Tea Party, led by Senator Paul, defending due process. It was the Tea Party making the case against a government that could arbitrarily kill its own citizens on American soil. And it was the Tea Party who was fighting against an extraordinary expansion of executive power.

The message got out there. Senator Paul gained some 40,000 new followers on Twitter and the social media service reported that over 1-million tweets were sent about the filibuster. Ironically, it was Politico that recently suggested that hashtags were no longer relevant. The hashtag, #StandWithRand, pretty much killed that notion.

C-SPAN confirmed that they had received viewership that was on par with events like the presidential inauguration. The filibuster also had the profound effect of gaining support from individuals and groups who aren’t typically fans of Republicans, including John Cusack, Van Jones, and Code Pink.

And not only was this a courageous stand against a President who has abused his authority, but it was also a rejection of the GOP’s past, and they’re losing their minds because of it. We saw that the next morning when John McCain and Lindsey Graham had a complete meltdown on the Senate floor.

Lindsey Graham is Ignoring the Constitution in Favor of Party Lines

Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham has declared war on the Constitution (on the same day Kim Jong Un declared war on his enemies… hmm…). What’s especially funny is that he couldn’t have chosen a less popular time to do so, as the Constitution — courtesy of #StandwithRand — is trending. With overwhelming support for Rand Paul’s filibuster coming from conservatives, libertarians, and even many Democrats; Graham, joined by John McCain, has decided that the possibility of the government killing Americans on American soil without due process is a non-issue.

Graham told POLITICO:

“I do mind our party taking a position completely different than we had with President Bush. I didn’t hear any of these people say anything during the Bush administration. Where were they? I just think it’s politics. I think it’s creating a straw man, creating a situation that doesn’t exist.”

First of all, let’s look at the issue of droning under President Bush. Not once did Senator Paul praise President Bush during his filibuster. Unlike his colleague, Senator Graham, Paul is able to look at an issue based on constitutionality instead of on which political party is at stake. If Senator Graham cared to remember those “good old days”, he might remember the huge anti-war movement that arose during Bush’s War on Terror. Much of that movement was directed at tactics such as waterboarding and use of drones, but the movement was against a Republican president. As a party-line opportunist, I guess it’s not all that surprising that there’s a bit of a memory gap for the senator.

Rand Paul, Tea Party Senators Stand Strong for the Constitution in Historic Filibuster

Rand Paul

“Epic,” “inspirational,” and “historic” are three words that best describe what I watched transpire on the floor of the United States Senate yesterday. At 11:47am, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) began his filibuster of John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, largely due to the lack of transparency from the Obama Administration on its drone program — specifically the targeted killing of Americans inside the borders of the United States.

The reasons that this gained so much interest was because it was an actual filibuster. This wasn’t a situation where Brennan couldn’t get 60 votes for cloture. Sen. Paul performed an old school filibuster, something that has become all too rare.

There was also another point that made this filibuster unique — Sen. Paul, along with several of his colleagues, spent nearly 13 hours talking substantive policy. There was no reading from a phone book or any other manner of time-buying tricks. Sen. Paul and others spent their time relaying a very pointed message about the Constitution, limits on executive power, and civil liberties.

For nearly 13 hours, Sen. Paul gave one of the most eloquent defenses of the Constitution that I’ve ever witnessed. He was joined at various times by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), both of whom spoke at length on the constitutional concerns over the policy.

On Digital Privacy, Congress’ Offer Is This: Nothing

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

It had the makings of a shockingly reasonable legislative bargain: Two outdated federal privacy statutes would be reformed together, removing some unnecessarily stringent restrictions on sharing video records while finally imposing a clear warrant requirement for government searches of e-mail and other private files stored in the “cloud.” Then Congress, perhaps in homage to Darth Vader, decided to alter the deal: A bill weakening the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 has been sent to the president for his signature, but without the corresponding badly-needed reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.

Why I voted for Gary Johnson

Over the last few months I’ve read many posts and arguments about why libertarians should vote for Mitt Romney. None of them really spoke to the core libertarian beliefs of libertarians, which is the advancement of individual sovereignty and free markets. Of course, my conservative friends making these arguments never really spoke to how a Romney/Ryan ticket would advance those beliefs. The argument was almost exclusively along the lines of how badly Barack Obama has been as president.

Based on the numbers from David Kirby at the Cato Institute, Romney will take some 70% of libertarian-minded voters. Many of my libertarian friends are casting their ballots for Romney. Though I may disagree with them, I understand why and respect them.

Look, I don’t disagree that President Obama has been bad for the country. The national debt has skyrockted by more than $5.5 trillion, passed a terrible health care law, and he has expanded executive power. Nearly every step Obama has taken to “help” the economy and create jobs has hampered businesses. Moreover, the tax hikes that he wants to pass, which would marginally lower the deficit over the long-term, are among the things keeping employers from investing or hiring. Passing these tax hikes in the phony notion of “fairness” would almost certainly lead to another economic downturn.

The damage to the economy during Obama’s presidency are points that we’ve been over countless times. But there are other parts of his first-term agenda that need to attention.


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