American liberty took one more punch to the gut yesterday when the Supreme Court decided that Americans can’t sue the government’s spy machine in court:
A sharply-divided Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out an attempt by U.S. citizens to challenge the expansion of a surveillance law used to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects.
With a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that a group of American lawyers, journalists and organizations can’t sue to challenge the 2008 expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because they can’t prove that the government will monitor their conversations along with those of potential foreign terrorist and intelligence targets.
The outcome was the first in the current Supreme Court term to divide along ideological lines, with the conservative justices prevailing.
Justices “have been reluctant to endorse standing theories that require guesswork,” said Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote for the court’s majority.
If state legislators in Oregon have their way, certain gun owners will be subject to warrantless searches by police. That’s right, legislators in these two states have proposed bills that would rob these individuals of their rights simply because they happen to own an “assault weapon.”
Last week, I noted that legislators in Washington had proposed a bill that would allow for warrantless searches of gun owners who happen to own an “assault weapon.” That specific part was eventually removed after it was pointed out to the bill’s backers, who had apparently not taken it upon themsevles to read what they were proposing.
In Oregon, a group of Democrats have proposed new regulations (SB 3200) that limits the number of “assault weapons” a person may own and requires registration of these aribtrarily defined firearms within 120 days of the law going into effect. What’s more, the legislation states in Section 5 that the Department of State Police “may conduct inspections of registered owners of assault weapons and large capacity magazines to ensure compliance with the storage requirements of Section 4.” Those “storage requirements,” however, aren’t made clear.
That’s pretty concerning. Gun owners in the Beaver State would be targets for warrantless searches, which are explicity prohibited under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution.
Don’t look now, folks, but the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is making a comeback thanks to President Barack Obama.
Between the end of 2011 and early 2012, online activists were able to raise a firestorm over legislation — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and CISPA — that would have severely diminished Internet privacy. Thanks to the outcry, all three bills eventually died.
According to a report yesterday from The Hill, President Obama will on Wednesday sign an executive order — completely bypassing Congress, which is becoming an all too familar pattern with this White House — that will implement cybersecurity measures from against attack on the United States:
The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill.
The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cybersecurity policy.
The executive order would establish a voluntary program in which companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government.
Over the last few years, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken well deserved heat for its use of naked full-body scanners in airports across the country. Despite concerns expressed by privacy advocates, the TSA fear-mongered by insisting that the screening procedure was necessary due to the threat of terrorism.
But after being unable to produce a software to settle privacy concerns, the TSA announced today that they will pull the naked body scanners out of airports:
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing.
TSA will end a $5 million contract with OSI’s Rapiscan unit for the software after Administrator John Pistole concluded the company couldn’t meet a congressional deadline to produce generic passenger images, agency officials said in interviews.
“It became clear to TSA they would be unable to meet our timeline,” Waters said. “As a result of that, we terminated the contract for the convenience of the government.”
In the waning days of 2012, the United States Senate pushed through renewal of FISA for another five years. As privacy advocates in the chambers sought to improve the legislation with sensible amendments to address privacy concerns, others, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), fear-mongered or otherwised avoided addressing tough questions about how FISA had been used to collect data on innocent and unassuming Americans.
In a new video from the Cato Institute, Julian Sanchez explains — with some video of privacy advocates in the Senate — why the debate over FISA deserves a more in-depth, serious discussion:
During the debate over re-authorization of FISA warrantless wiretapping practices, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) articulately defended the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.
The Senate passed the FISA re-authorization bill this morning:
The Senate on Friday approved a bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in a 73-23 vote.
The bill will extend for five years the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists overseas without first getting permission from a court.
The House already approved the legislation, meaning the Senate vote will send the bill to President Obama’s desk. The president is expected to sign the bill.
You can see how your Senators voted here.
FISA was set to expire at the end of the year, so the rush to renew it lead to some bipartisan fear-mongering from some members of the Senate. Perhaps the only positive was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed for debate on reasonable, substantive amendments to the bill, though none of them passed. Some members, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), didn’t want any debate on amendments that would have enhanced the privacy of Americans or require some transparency from the Obama Administration on how FISA is being used.
The Fourth Amendment Protection Act, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would have protected Americans against warrantless searches of their cell phone records and other similar third-party service providers. This amendment was rejected in a 79 to 12 vote.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who has come under fire recently for his support of increased tax revenues, is now sounding off on the upcoming reauthorization vote for FISA. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to allow at least some amendments, some of which would protect the privacy of Americans, to be voted on by the chamber before the bill is pushed forward for a final vote.
Unfortunately, Chambliss believes that no votes on these amendments are necessary and that Reid should just pass the bill, apparently with no questions asked:
Senator Saxby Chambliss, apparently with no regard to the Constitution or the privacy of the public he’s supposed to represent, has apparently complained that any debate is a waste of time after Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to bring up the issue.
In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, renewed calls for gun control is hardly surprising. This isn’t unusual. People, now terrified that the same thing could have happened to their children, turn to their elected officials to do something to make the problem go away.
This isn’t the first time this has happened either. After 9/11, people wanted something that would make sure this would never happen again. What we got was the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, and the Patriot Act. The Fourth Amendment was gutted in an effort to catch “terrorists.” Our ability to travel freely is now interfered with by a group of people who look more like the cast of a sitcom than a barrier against terrorist acts. But the politicians “did something.”
Now, in light of Sandy Hook, we find ourselves at the same crossroads. Battle lines are being drawn as you read this. People who don’t even consider themselves pro-gun control are calling for limits in the round capacity of magazines. Others are expecting gun rights advocates to defend reasons why certain features should be legal, rather than understanding that they don’t change the function of the weapon in any way and therefore a ban would be idiotic.
The kneejerking is normal. On May 31, 2012, I went through it myself. That’s the day I learned that Kimberly Lynn Layfield was murdered in a shooting at the Cafe Racer in Seattle, Washington. Kim was a good friend of mine from high school, someone I treasured knowing more than almost anyone else. My initial reaction? That my views on guns had been wrong for all these years. (For the record, I don’t know where Kim or her family stood on gun control on that day, nor how her family stands on it now)
How do you feel about the feds snooping around your e-mail account without a warrant? According to Declan McCullagh, that’s exactly what a bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would do if passed:
A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.
Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy’s staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.