civil liberties

John McCain in 2000: Only Republican organization on Peter King represents is the Irish Republican Army

Peter King

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) are interesting characters. Both are often portrayed as part of the Old Guard of the Republican Party, frequently taking up the mantle of national security, including more war and domestic surveillance.

But King’s recent disgusting tirade against Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has prompted some conservatives, even those who agree with him on national security, to speak out. Some, in fact, are going so far to highlight his past support of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a Marxist nationalist group that for years used terrorism and the deaths of innocents as a tool to advance its cause.

Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of, pointed yesterday to comments made by McCain in 2000 during an appearance on CNN’s The McLaughlin Group in which he lambasted the King’s self-interest and support for the IRA.

“There is little in Mr. King’s singularly unimpressive legislative record to suggest that he is motivated by anything other than a compulsion to utter provocative sound bites,” said McCain. “I have never met a single other Republican who felt that Mr. King spoke for the party or for any Republican other than himself.”

“Indeed, the only Republican organization I have ever noticed Mr. King represents is the Irish Republican Army,” he added.

Federal judge strikes down Chicago’s anti-gun laws

In yet another win for the Second Amendment, U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang ruled yesterday that Chicago’s ordinances banning the sale or transfer of firearms are unconstitutional:

U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang said in his ruling that while the government has a duty to protect its citizens, it’s also obligated to protect constitutional rights, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense. However, Chang said he would temporarily stay the effects of his ruling, meaning the ordinances can stand while the city decides whether to appeal.
Chang’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and three Chicago residents. The judge noted Chicago’s ban covers not only federally licensed firearms dealers, but also gifts among family members, all in the name of reducing gun violence.

Chang wrote that the nation’s third-largest city “goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms, and at the same time the evidence does not support that the complete ban sufficiently furthers the purposes that the ordinance tries to serve.”

Chicago has had a lot of bad luck in federal courts when it comes to their onerous gun laws. In the landmark case McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the United States Supreme Court struck down the Windy City’s hand gun ban and incorporated the Second Amendment to the states.

Rand Paul to file class-action lawsuit against the NSA

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced on Friday that he plans to file a class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance programs, after garnering more 250,000 signatures through his campaign and related political action committee.

“The question here is whether or not, constitutionally, you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people,” said Paul on Friday during in an appearance on Hannity. “So we thought, what better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign-up for a class-action suit.”

“So about six months ago,” he continued, “we began this call, and we now have several hundred thousand people who want to be part of this suit to say to the government and to the NSA, ‘No, you can’t have our records without our permission or without a warrant specific to an individual,’” adding that every American who has a cell phone can join the class-action lawsuit.

ACLU files appeal to NSA surveillance decision

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced on Thursday that it had filed an appeal to federal court decision upholding the legality of the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program.

“We believe that the NSA’s call-tracking program violates both statutory law and the Constitution, and we look forward to making our case in the appeals court,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, in a statement. “The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance.”

“Further, as the president’s own review panel recently observed, there’s no evidence that this dragnet program was essential to preventing any terrorist attack. We categorically reject the notion that the threat of terrorism requires citizens of democratic countries to surrender the freedoms that make democracies worth defending,” he added.

U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley ruled last week that the NSA bulk data collection program is legal and dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit. In a 53-page opinion, he argued that Americans don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to third-party records, including phone records. The legal precedent for the opinion was established in Smith v. Maryland, a case that was decided in 1979, before the existence of modern digital communications.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul praise NSA court ruling

The preliminary federal court ruling issued on Monday which found the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program to likely be unconstitutional has drawn bipartisan praise from several civil liberties advocates on Capitol Hill.

Among the politicians praising the ruling were Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“The government has no business conducting overbroad surveillance of ordinary, law-abiding citizens. At the same time, we must provide for national security and thwart terrorist plots against our homeland and our citizens,” said Cruz via a statement, adding that the Obama Administration “seems to consistently favor undermining the rights of law-abiding Americans.”

“The NSA’s massive data mining program raises serious civil liberties concerns, and Judge [Richard] Leon deserves praise for giving the program a close review,” he said. “The Senate too must carefully scrutinize our surveillance programs to ensure that they protect American citizens without infringing on their constitutional rights.”

Paul, who has introduced and cosponsored a measures to restore the Fourth Amendment, commended Judge Leon for “upholding and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights.”

Rand Paul on domestic surveillance: Strengthen the Fourth Amendment

Rand Paul

The solution to the National Security Agency’s broad domestic surveillance apparatus, according to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), is to pass legislation applies Fourth Amendment protections to third-party records.

“I would like to apply the Fourth Amendment to third-party records,” said Paul, referring to the NSA’s bulk data collection programs, which includes obtaining records of Americans’ phone calls. “I don’t think you give up your privacy when someone else holds your records. So, when I have a contract with a phone company, I think those are still my records. And you can look at them if you’re from the government if you ask a judge.”

The comments came during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. Paul also disputed the legality of what the NSA is doing, arbitrarily collecting these records, even if they don’t in anyway relate to actual investigations into terrorist activity. He also said that the Supreme Court needs to take a look at the issue of privacy.

Arizona legislator to NSA: Get out of my state

The fight against the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs has moved to some state legislatures, in addition to the ongoing debate in Washington, thanks to a push by the Tenth Amendment Center, an organization that advocates for federalism.

An Arizona legislator, state Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City), has become the first legislator in the country to introduce the Fourth Amendment Protection Act, which purports to prohibit state and local agencies, including utility providers, from providing the NSA with any material support.

“While media attention is focused on a possible effort to shut off water to the NSA data center in Utah, I’m introducing the Arizona Fourth Amendment Protection Act to back our neighbors up,” Ward said in a statement from the Tenth Amendment Center. “Just in case the NSA gets any ideas about moving south, I want them to know the NSA isn’t welcome in Arizona unless it follows the Constitution.”

The legislation would make information provided by the NSA inadmissible in state courts and blocks state universities from serving as research facilities for the controversial intelligence agency. It would also sanction companies if they cooperate with the NSA.

“I believe the number one priority for national security is defending and protecting the Constitution. Without that, the rest becomes irrelevant. There is no question that the NSA program, as it is now being run, violates the Fourth Amendment. This is a way to stop it,” Ward added.

The Tenth Amendment Center is encouraging other states to follow suit.

Legislation filed to make NSA Inspector General post subject to confirmation

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.

Sensenbrenner to introduce USA FREEDOM Act today

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.

StopWatching.Us: Celebrities, activists demand the NSA end surveillance


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 callsInternet recordsemails, and even their social media connections without any cause. The video also compares the NSA’s secrecy to that of the Nixon Administration:

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