civil liberties

Rand Paul explains incident with TSA

Fresh off his detenion by TSA officers at Nashville International Airport on Monday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), son of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has written an explanation of the incident:

Today, while en route to Washington to speak to hundreds of thousands of people at the March for Life, I was detained by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for not agreeing to a patdown after an irregularity was found in my full body scan. Despite removing my belt, glasses, wallet and shoes, the scanner and TSA also wanted my dignity. I refused.

I showed them the potentially offending part of my body, my leg. They were not interested. They wanted to touch me and to pat me down. I requested to be rescanned. They refused and detained me in a 10-foot-by-10-foot area reserved for potential terrorists.

I told them that I was a frequent flier and that just days ago I was allowed to be rescanned when the scanner made an error. At no time did I ask for special treatment, but I did insist that all travelers be awarded some decency and leniency in accommodating the screening process.

My detention was real and I was repeatedly instructed not to leave the holding area. When I used my phone to inform my office that I would miss my flight, and thus miss my speech to the March for Life, I was told that now I would be subjected to a full body patdown.

I asked if I could simply restart the screening process to show that the machine had made an error. I was denied and informed that since I used my phone, to call for help, I must now submit or not fly.

5 Things You Need to Know About ACTA

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:

5 Reasons Obama Should Stop SOPA & PIPA With Veto Threat

In keeping with the goal to educate readers about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, here is a piece by Nate Nelson, originally posted on January 17, 2011.

Given President Obama’s first instincts to centralize power in Washington and expand his own executive power, it might seem unlikely that he would issue a veto threat against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). But we might be able to persuade him if we speak in language that is well understood at the White House, which is the language of reelection. While the Obama campaign might think backing SOPA/PIPA will help the president’s reelection efforts by way of generous campaign contributions from Hollywood, the White House might want to consider that signing SOPA/PIPA into law could damage his chances of reelection in at least five important ways.

ACLU scores candidates on civil liberties

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a candidate report card, dubbed Liberty Watch 2012, that weighs the Republcians hopefuls, now-Libertarian Gary Johnson and President Barack Obama on various civil liberties issues, including ending torture, closing Gitmo, and ending the surveillance state.

To be clear, I don’t necessarily agree with the ACLU on all of the issues weighed, but the group has been great on fighting for privacy and personal liberty. The ACLU’s rundown on these issue, from the perspective of the Republican candidates, is interesting:

Just in time for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, we’re releasing a report card today, with the ACLU’s Constitution and civil liberties experts providing a critical assessment of the major candidates of all parties, grading them with four to zero constitutional “torches” on seven key issues, including national security, immigration, marriage equality and reproductive choice. More issues will be added.

We may surprise some people in that the scores in the report card — which is viewable here — don’t divide along party lines. In fact, the report card reveals a deep ideological rift in the GOP.

Our experts found that Republicans Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman earned solid scores, with four, three and two torches across most major categories, although both received one torch on marriage equality and none on reproductive rights.

Ron Paul may not win, but his influence will be lasting

“[T]here’s something weird going on when Paul, the small-government constitutionalist, is considered the extremist in the Republican Party…” - Jonah Goldberg

Establishment Republicans have worked hard during this election to play down the impact Ron Paul is having on the race. Why? They’re scared of him. Paul, with his anti-war and passion for the Constitution, represents a change in the traditional way of thinking in the Republican Party.

Ed Crane, president of the Cato Institute, explained this recently in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, noting that Paul “has traction because so many Americans respond to his messages.” Crane says:

Support for dynamic market capitalism (as opposed to crony capitalism), social tolerance, and a healthy skepticism of foreign military adventurism is a combination of views held by a plurality of Americans. It is why the 21st century is likely to be a libertarian century. It is why the focus should be on Ron Paul’s philosophy and his policy proposals in 2012.

Most of us can recall Paul predicting the financial crisis and many of the problems the country currently faces from an economic perspective. And while many Republicans are quick to dismiss Paul as being loony on his claims of increasingly diminished liberty, all you need to do is, you know, pay attention to the last few weeks as Congress passed and President Obama signed the NDAA; legislation that allows for the detention of American citizens.

Senators introduce the Due Process Guarantee Act

A bipartisan group of Senators have wasted no time in trying to apply a legislative fix to the “indefinite detention” language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was passed last night. The Due Process Guarantee Act (full text below), sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would ensure the protections that the NDAA would seemingly erase:

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011, legislation that states American citizens apprehended inside the United States cannot be indefinitely detained by the military.

The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 amends the Non-Detention Act of 1971 by providing that a Congressional authorization for the use of military force does not authorize the indefinite detention—without charge or trial—of U.S. citizens who are apprehended domestically.

The Feinstein bill also codifies a “clear-statement rule” that requires Congress to expressly authorize detention authority when it comes to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The protections for citizens and lawful permanent residents is limited to those “apprehended in the United States” and excludes citizens who take up arms against the United States on a foreign battlefield, such as Afghanistan.

NDAA: How bad can it be?

With Congress passing the NDAA, the question many ask is simple: How bad will/can it get?  It’s a fair question.  While the constitutional questions this bill raises are a topic of debate amongst the talking heads and various other politicos, the average person must ask that simple question.

The NDAA essentially turns the entire United States into a warzone for the purposes of combating terrorism.  It also gives the government extra-constitutional powers for this very same purpose. Officially, this is about Al Qaeda and “associated forces”, whatever that means.

The thing is, when you look at how Obama’s White House has defined “domestic terrorists”, one is left to wonder when will they decide to define “associated forces” to include domestic terrorists.  Honestly, I don’t think it would take very long, and as there is no due process, it’s unlikely that the courts will get a say on this for a very long time.

So the first thing we have to understand is, “what is a domestic terrorist”?

((5) the term `domestic terrorism’ means activities that—

NDAA passes the Senate

The last hope of killing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has failed as the United States Senate effectively gutted Habeas Corpus and Due Process protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. With only 13 members voting against the conference report, it wasn’t even close.

The NDAA now heads to President Barack Obama, who has showed in recent days how much contempt he holds for civil liberties. Even though Obama has said he’d sign the bill, I would still suggest that you call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and make your voice heard.

Many thanks to Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and the other members of the Senate that stood with the Constitution and the civil liberties of their constituents this evening.

It’s ironic that yet another fundamental civil liberty has been gutted on Bill of Rights Day.

Assassinations, Spying and The Constitution: ACLU President Susan Herman Talks Big Govt and Liberty

See Video

NDAA moving forward in Congress

The very same week Gallup released a poll showing that fear and distrust of the federal government is at a near record high, the Congress is poised to move forward on the National Defense Authorization Act, which would allow for the indefinite detention of Americans:

Congress is pressing ahead with a massive $662 billion defense bill that requires military custody for terrorism suspects linked to al-Qaida, including those captured within the U.S., with lawmakers hoping their last-minute revisions will mollify President Barack Obama and eliminate a veto threat.

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees announced late Monday that they had reached agreement on the policy-setting legislation that had gotten caught up in an escalating fight on whether to treat suspected terrorists as prisoners of war or criminals in the civilian justice system.

Responding to personal appeals from Obama and his national security team, the lawmakers added language on national security waivers and other changes that they hoped would ensure administration support for the overall bill.

“I assured the president that we were working on additional assurances, that the concerns were not accurate,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., who spoke to Obama last week, told reporters at a news conference. “That we’d do everything we could to make sure they were allayed, and met.”

White House officials said Tuesday they were reviewing the bill. It was unclear whether they would hold firm on the veto threat.

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