Ok, so it’s not really this bad… yet. But if the incremental intrusions into our privacy aren’t stopped, a phone call like this isn’t so far-fetched for our future.
Naturally a recurrent theme of this lecture was monetary policy, specifically having to do with the dollar’s spiral toward hyper-inflation in the midst of the current economic collapse. Schiff stressed that sooner than later the rest of the world, more importantly those still buying our debt would wise up to our inability to repay those fiscal obligations. He told a short story about a wily old man in a certain neighborhood who had hoodwinked the neighborhood kids into vying for the job of painting his fence. He related the metaphor by surmising, “We’ve got the world painting our fences, as if they don’t have their own fences to paint.” Essentially, he said the way it is now, we get all the stuff and they only get the jobs. He then fittingly asked, “What good are jobs without stuff?” In short, we are barreling straight toward a currency crisis.
The controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection of innocent Americans phone and Internet record has led to a tremendous backlash in Congress. Not only have there been several pieces of legislation filed to end the agency’s spying, Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) has introduced a measure — H.R. 3436, The National Security Agency Inspector General Act of 2013 — that would subject the NSA’s inspector general to Senate confirmation.
“With information continuing to drip out regarding activities at the NSA that at best raise questions about the legality of their conduct and at worst are in direct violation of the Constitution, [last Wednesday] I introduced legislation to help correct this behavior, by making the NSA Inspector General (IG) position a presidential appointment, to be confirmed by the Senate,” said Sanford in a press statement from his office.
Inspectors general have a duty of reporting rule violations and transparency issues to senior officials and/or members of Congress. For example, the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) confirmed that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has wittingly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups attempting to apply for tax-exempt status.
Though the TIGTA isn’t subject to Senate confirmation, inspectors general at the CIA, Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security are, Sanford noted, and with the controversy surrounding the NSA, a measure of independence from high-level officials is needed.
More than two weeks after outlining principles behind the USA FREEDOM Act in a speech at the Cato Institute, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) will reportedly introduce the anti-domestic surveillance measure today with strong bipartisan support, according to Breitbart, a conservative news outlet.
Sensenbrenner, who sponsored the PATRIOT Act in 2001, has emerged as one of the primary critics of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs and contends that the Justice Department and intelligence is relying on a broad interpretation of the anti-terrorism law, far beyond congressional intent, to collect Americans’ phone and Internet metadata.
The FREEDOM Act would limit the NSA’s ability to collect data “adopting a uniform standard for intelligence gathering under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act,” according to Sensenbrenner.
What’s more, the measure would reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) by creating a civil liberties advocate, create new reporting requirements and oversight from Congress for the court, and allow the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena authority. The legislation will also reform National Security Letters (NSL) to ensure that the current administration or its predecessors don’t use another agency to collect bulk data.
The StopWatching.Us coalition released a new video in advance of its planned rally this weekend in Washington explaining the threats that the NSA’s unprecedented spying and secrecy represents to Americans’ personal privacy and to our democracy.
The video features comments from several activists, legal experts, whistleblowers, and celebrities — including John Cusak, Wil Wheaton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Oliver Stone — all of whom note that the NSA is collecting data of Americans phone calls, Internet records, emails, and even their social media connections without any cause. The video also compares the NSA’s secrecy to that of the Nixon Administration:
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) could soon be coming back up in Congress thanks to efforts by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
After quite speculation at the end of last month, Mother Jones reported on Monday that Feinstein confirmed that she and Chambliss were working to revive the measure, which is sure to get under the craw of Internet activists and civil liberties groups.
“I am working with Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on bipartisan legislation to facilitate the sharing of cyber related information among companies and with the government and to provide protection from liability,” Feinstein told Mother Jones. “The legislation will…still maintain necessary privacy protections.”
This is the second attempt this year to move CISPA through Congress. The House of Representatives passed CISPA back in April, over a veto threat from the White House due to a lack of privacy protections. The Senate, however, shelved the measure shortly thereafter.
The Heritage Foundation, considered to be one of Washington’s most influential think tanks, appears to have had a change of heart on government surveillance programs that it once supported.
Once a place where ignoring constitutionally protected civil liberties seemed to be a virtue, the conservative think tank, under the leadership of former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), recently declined to publish two papers that supported the National Security Agency’s snooping, according to Foreign Policy:
Heritage refused to publish two papers about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs written by a prominent conservative attorney. Why? Because he concluded that the programs were legal and constitutional, according to sources familiar with the matter. It was a surprising move for a think tank that has supported extension of the Patriot Act — which authorizes some of NSA’s activities — and has long been associated with right-of-center positions on national security and foreign policy.
The heavy emphasis on the war on drugs is leading police officers to neglect other areas of public safety, according to the latest video from Learn Liberty, a project of the Institute for Human Studies.
In the video, Alex Kreit, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explains that in New York City, for example, police officers have spent 1 million man-hours to make 440,000 arrests for marijuana possession since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002. He notes that these hours could have been better spent tracking down violent criminals, such as murderers and rapists.
“Nationwide, we would save $41.3 billion every year by ending the war on drugs,” says Kreit. “That’s tens of millions of man-hours in investigation, office work, and court appearances for drug cases. We’re choosing to direct these resources to crimes other than rapes and murders, only to arresting and incarcerating large numbers of non-violent offenders.”
“Worse yet,” he continues, “the war on drugs doesn’t even work.”
Congress may be dealing with other legislative priorities at the moment, such as passing a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government open, but the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus remains a hot topic.
Seeking to roll back the intelligence agency’s ability to spy on Americans, a bipartisan group of senators have proposed a package of measures to reform the PATRIOT Act — the legislation through which the NSA has claimed such broad power — and restore the Fourth Amendment.
The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and Internet metadata and prevent warrantless collection of communications, according to a statement provided by his office. It would also provide for a “constitutional advocate” on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), an idea backed by President Barack Obama.
“The overbroad surveillance activities that have come to light over the last few months have shown how wide the gap between upholding the constitutional liberties of American citizens and protecting national security has become,” said Wyden in the statement.