civil liberties

Congress must shoot down the defense authorization bill

A few days ago, I wrote that the compromise is the Senate over the detainee language in the defense authorization bill was a good thing. Well, after reading more about it, it’s clear that Americans are still in danger of being detained indefinitely by their own government without formal charge, as Sheldon Richman of the Foundation for Economic Education explains at Reason:

Permit me to state the obvious: The government shouldn’t be allowed to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this nearly 800 years after Magna Carta was signed and over 200 years after the Fifth Amendment was ratified.

Yet this uncomplicated principle, which is within the understanding of a child, is apparently lost on a majority in the U.S. Senate. Last week the Senate voted 61-37 in effect to authorize the executive branch to use the military to capture and hold American citizens indefinitely without trial—perhaps at Guantanamo—if they are merely suspected of involvement with a terrorist or related organization—and even if their suspected activity took place on U.S. soil.

The provision, which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, was drafted without a public hearing by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Mark Udall (D- Colo.) sponsored an amendment to remove the power, but the amendment was defeated. A related provision requires that terrorism suspects who are not citizens be held by the military rather than being tried in a civilian criminal court. (The executive branch can waive this requirement after certifying to Congress that the waiver is a matter of national security.)

Senate clarifies detainee language

There is some rare good news out of Washington, even rarer when it deals with civil liberties. In a vote of 99 to 1, the United States Senate adopted new detainee language in the defense authorization bill:

The U.S. Senate on Thursday night struck a bipartisan deal that modified controversial language in a major defense policy bill which had drawn strong opposition from critics in both parties, who charged it would allow the indefinite detention of American citizens by the military.

The 99-1 vote came after several days of heated debate on the Senate floor over whether this defense bill really changed how U.S. citizens accused of supporting terrorists would be treated, or if critics were right that U.S. citizens could be held by the military indefinitely without the filing of formal charges.

Compromise language developed in part by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was ultimately approved, which read as follows:

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”

The compromise won almost unanimous support, as Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) said he would fight to protect that language in upcoming House-Senate negotiations; it was unclear whether the language would be accepted by the White House, which has threatened to veto the entire defense bill.

What’s more important, civil liberties or economic freedom?

While liberals traditionally are more concerned with civil liberties and Republicans with economic liberty, Aeon Skoble, Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University, explains in this video from Learn Liberty (it’s a couple months old) that civil and economic liberties are equally important and inseparable:

Man, Those ICE Guys Sure Have Some “Balls”

I, for one, welcome the ballsy-ness of our new ICE overlords:

The ACLU of Tennessee filed a lawsuit this week in federal court on behalf of fifteen residents of an apartment complex in Nashville, TN who say they were targets of an unlawful immigration raid. The defendants allege that ICE agents and Metro Nashville police officers forced their way into their homes without warrants. When residents asked the officers to show a warrant, one agent reportedly said, “We don’t need a warrant, we’re ICE.” Then, gesturing to his genitals, the officer reportedly said “the warrant is coming out of my balls.”

I’m sure he meant it was going to be generated in his balls and then be distributed via his deployment tube; if it actually was coming out of his balls, he should get them checked. I don’t think they’re supposed to have holes in them. I mean, they’re not Wiffle balls, are they?

Snark aside, this is yet another dangerous abuse of government power. It is nothing new, and that’s the part I find most shocking. In the most powerful country on Earth*, one that has in the past championed civil liberties the most, where we have a Constitutional amendment protecting privacy in one’s home and prohibiting officials from invading said privacy, we have “law” enforcement going around completely disrespecting said law in order to pursue, at best, questionable policy outcomes set in place by politicians with, at best, questionable comprehension of the situation and the consequences. And we’re not outraged by this? What a docile population we’ve become.

Cain flip-flops on due process for Americans, criticizes Perry

Back in May, Herman Cain answered a few questions from Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic dealing with Libya and civil liberties issues. Cain’s answers on the USA PATRIOT Act were disappointing; and quite frankly, showed a severe lack of respect for the Fourth Amendment, especially for someone that supposedly wants to restore the Constitution.

Oddly though, Cain rejected the idea of a president authorizing the death of American citizen, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, without due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Here the relevant part of the interview (Friedersdorf’s questions are in bold):

President Obama has said that he has the authority to assassinate American citizens if he’s declared them an enemy combatant in the War on Terror. Al Awlaki is one guy who is on the official government list where he can be taken out. Do you have any thoughts on that? Is it a good policy because it allows us to take out Americans who may have joined Al Qaeda? Or is it a bad policy-

Well first of all, this is the first that I have heard - you’re saying it’s okay to take out American citizens if he suspects they are terrorist related. Is that what you said?!

Yes, that’s what I said.

Part of the PATRIOT Act ruled to be unconstitutional

Yesterday, a federal judge found two parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law that was passed in the wake of 9/11, to be an unconstitutional infringement on the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment:

Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, “now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” she wrote.

How should libertarians handle the drug question?

Having only three years or so of libertarian experience, I sometimes find myself in the midst of a learning opportunity. This may well be one of those, but if it spurs some discussion, I am willing to be a martyr.

In the 2008 Presidential election, I was amazed at the intelligence of Bob Barr. I was constantly impressed at the depth of each subject he was asked about. How much basic sense each answer made even though some answers contained a level of sophistication that may have been over the heads of some.

Well, all except for one question.

In an interview with Sean Hannity fairly close to Election Day, Mr. Barr was put on his heels and frankly never recovered. Hannity’s style of attack, which one might term as that of an angry pit bull, didn’t help. That question of course was about the legalization of drugs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have documented my struggle with this concept, and documented the “light bulb moment” I had - finally understanding that it was part of individual liberty, not to mention the amount of futile spending and creation of powerful underworld figures. It makes sense to me. I agree with it.

However, this question seems to take a serious, if not mortal, toll on all candidates running as small “l” libertarians within the Republican Party. In 2008, it halted what I believe might have been a staggering number of Independents and Republicans willing to vote for the Libertarian Party candidate when the best the Republican Party could offer was John McCain.

My theory is not about this question being asked… it’s going to be asked… but about the available answers. It’s about viable candidates explaining this concept in a thirty second sound bite or a timed answer during a debate that took me weeks, many hours of research and discussion with libertarians, to understand.

Big Brother is coming

The book 1984 is probably the most pan-partisan book ever.  Regardless of your political ideology, the book scares the pants off of you, at least to some extent.  If you’re like 99.9% of the population, you blame the another side for taking us closer to the point that Big Brother is reality.  Laws that extent surveillance powers are usually the most vehemently debated because of that fear of 1984′s world.  Only now, it seems the government’s skipping the new laws and just trying to change the interpretation of current law for the same effect.  At least, that’s according to a couple of senators who would, at least in theory, have a clue about what’s going on.

“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”

OK, I probably wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m cynical and paranoid when it comes to government, but I suspect that most of my fellow Americans don’t feel the same way as me.  So what’s the concern specifically?

The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

Economic freedom brings quality of life put out a video yesterday explaining why societies with free or mostly free economies succeed and their people have a better quality of life. Conversely, countries that rely on statist policies ultimately struggle and their citizens often live under corruption and they are deprived of many civil liberties take for granted.

The video also shows how the United States is slowly falling down the ladder in terms of economic freedom because our government is growing and pro-growth policies are being ignored, and as a result our quality of life is at risk:

Congress passes PATRIOT Act, continues to ignore the Bill of Rights

Well, the PATRIOT Act, a law with some serious constitutional concerns, has been renewed for four more years thanks to some bipartisan statism, as Corie Whalen put it, in the United States Congress.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gave in and allowed amendments to be brought to the floor - but not before essentially saying that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who single-handedly brought the Senate to standstill on the issue, was siding with terrorists, they were rejected. It also became clear that Senate Republicans were working to railroad Paul, with most of the caucus voting with Democrats to prevent the government from snooping on gun owners.

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