Police State

Chatting with Igor Birman

Igor Birman

“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation.” — Igor Birman

Late last year, I ran across video of Igor Birman, who immigrated to the United States with his family as the Soviet Union was collapsing, warning against a more centralized government healthcare system. Birman, who now serves as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), was explaining that the Soviet system relied on rationing of healthcare, which would be the end result of ObamaCare.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Birman to discuss his story, the transformation of the United States into a police state, ObamaCare, the budget, and other destructive economic policies that are being pushed by the White House.

When asked about the recent filibuster in the Senate, Birman applauded Sen. Rand Paul and noted that it was refreshing to hear a politician be so passionate. He also compared the policies implemented as part of the “war on terror”  to life in the Soviet Union, where the government frequently searched homes of ordinary citizens without cause, which he called a “fact of life,” noting that “you just accepted it as much as you did the cold weather and the long lines for the basic staples of food and water.”

Birman experienced this first-hand. “A week before we left for the United States, we went to say goodbye to my uncle in St. Petersburg and when we came back, we found our apartment just absolutely ravaged,” recalled Birman. “The authorities must have been looking for whatever lame excuse they could find to either delay or disrupt our departure.”

Welcome to the Police State

police state

Police state might be a tad bit strong.  Police city might be more appropriate.  However, it’s still a pretty scary thing to watch.

Paragould, Arkansas Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall offered up a “solution” for the towns crime problem.  That solution?  Well, it looks like something out of a dystopian novel:

Stovall told the group of almost 40 residents that beginning in 2013, the department would deploy a new street crimes unit to high crime areas on foot to take back the streets.

“[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck,” Stovall said. “If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID.”

Stovall said while some people may be offended by the actions of his department, they should not be.

“We’re going to do it to everybody,” he said. “Criminals don’t like being talked to.”

Gaskill backed Stovall’s proposed actions during Thursday’s town hall. “They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” he said. “But they’re going to have to prove it.”

Stovall said the foot patrols would begin on the east side of town and would eventually snake into the Pecan Grove area.

So citizens engaged in a lawful activing - like walking their dog - have to prove that they’re not up to no good?  Will police officers in Paragould phrase their requests as “Papers, please?”  Possibly.  Here’s more about Stovall’s warped thinking behind this draconian move:

House Republican Raises the Issue of Drone Usage

On Thursday, Georgia’s Austin Scott introduced H.R. 5925, the Preserving Freedom From Unwarranted Surveillance Act, a bill with the stated purpose of protecting privacy against unwarranted intrusion by use of drones.

When I saw the headline, I was skeptical. Scott’s a good guy; I’ve met him a handful of times, and though I think his intentions are usually good, he’s been a pretty big disappointment since he got to Washington. When he was campaigning (in the Georgia gubernatorial race first, and then for Congress), he said all the right things that made me think he’d be good to have in Washington. Once he got there, however, his tune changed, and he quickly sold out to the establishment.

That’s not to say that everything he’s done in the last 2 years has been a disappointment, but I was shocked to see that he was leading a charge to protect the Fourth Amendment. To be fair, I’ve not read this bill because it’s not available online as of this writing, so it might be wonderful legislation. The reports I’ve seen, however, list some exceptions in the bill that are troubling.

The legislation, according to this report, says that there are “several exceptions for the use of drones without warrants, including the patrolling of U.S. borders or during the threat of a terrorist attack.” On the surface, maybe that doesn’t sound so bad, but this is similar to some other legislation that violates the Fourth Amendment:

NDAA: “Indefinite detention only applies to you if we think you’re involved in terrorism. Otherwise you’ve got nothing to worry about.”

The Real Tragedies of 9/11

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.

I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:

  • 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
  • 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
  • 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
  • 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
  • 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
  • 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
  • 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
  • 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
  • 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
  • 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties

Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?

Philadelphia: Rights come in at second place

The City of Brotherly Love may want to rethink their nickname when they get a chance. How about the City of Statist Tyranny. Doesn’t that have a nice ring? Why, you may ask? Because the City has arrested at least eight people over the last two years who’s only “crime” was to carry a legal firearm. That’s it.

Apparently, due to a quirk in local law, Philadelphia residents will get Florida gun licenses since the out of state license allows them to carry in their home state, but is easier to issue. It’s referred to as the “Florida Loophole”. Go Florida!

The “loophole” is unpopular with Philadelphia cops, who say that it allows those denied a permit here or whose permits were revoked to circumvent Philadelphia authorities and obtain it elsewhere.

But proponents say that it’s necessary because Philadelphia has unusually strict criteria for obtaining a concealed-carry permit. Philadelphia, according to police and gun owners, relies heavily on a clause that allows denial of a permit based on “character and reputation” alone.

“Character and reputation”? It sounds like a good idea, since it would prevent someone widely known to be a gangster from carrying his weapon legally. However, what provisions like this do in practice is give gun-grabbing local bureaucrats an out. Something bad has been said about almost anyone. The rumors that I know have been said about me alone would make me question my sanity and ability to responsibly handle a firearm…if any of them were true. Character and reputation are weapons used to disarm most of the population, so that population has attempted to find a way around it. With a Florida license.

Federal Court Puts Arizona Immigration Law On Hold

A Federal Judge in Arizona has blocked the key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law from going into effect tomorrow:

PHOENIX — A federal judge on Wednesday, weighing in on a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.

In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on a border state’s fierce debate over immigration, Judge Susan Bolton of Federal District Court here said that some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.

But Judge Bolton took aim at the parts of the law that have generated the most controversy, issuing a preliminary injunction against sections that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times.

Judge Bolton put those sections on hold while she continued to hear the larger issues in the challenges to the law.

“Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced,” she said.

Specifically, the injunction prevents the following provisions of the law from going into effect:

•  The portion of the law that requires an officer make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there’s reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.

•  The portion that creates a crime of failure to apply for or carry “alien-registration papers.”

Campaign for Liberty Staffer Questioned by TSA for Carrying Cash

See Video

Campaign for Liberty staffer, Steve Bierfeldt, tells his story about being detained by the TSA and police because of the amount of cash he was carrying on him, and why the MIAC report factored into his decision to tread carefully while answering questions.

H/T: Matt Chancey

NSA Probably has Your Phone Records

NSA Spying

Just last week a friend joked, “Between you, me, and the NSA reading this text message right now.” It’s a joke that has become common in the post-9/11 world, but we got a sobering reminder as to why it’s no longer funny.

The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained a court order in April requiring Verizon to turn over phone records of all calls on its network for no apparent reason at all. Glenn Greenwald broke the story last night at The Guardian (emphasis mine):

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Police Want To See Your Text Messages

Fourth Amendment

Law enforcement agencies want to require cellular providers under the force of Federal law to keep a record of all text messages in case they ever need them:

AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and other wireless providers would be required to capture and store Americans’ confidential text messages, according to a proposal that will be presented to a congressional panel today. The law enforcement proposal would require wireless providers torecord and storecustomers’ SMS messages — a controversial idea akin to requiring them to surreptitiously record audio of their customers’ phone calls — in case police decide to obtain them at some point in the future.

So the cops want a record of every single text message sent. What ever happened to privacy and being secure in our communications? How can people communicate if they know that a permanent record of the communication is being kept by a third party? This is an attack on the right to privacy:

“Billions of texts are sent every day, and some surely contain key evidence about criminal activity,”Richard Littlehale from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will tell Congress, according to a copy (PDF) of his prepared remarks. “In some cases, this means that critical evidence is lost. Text messaging often plays a big role in investigations related to domestic violence, stalking, menacing, drug trafficking, and weapons trafficking.”

Yes, but most Americans are not criminals. There is no compelling need for the state to require a permanent record of all text messages sent.

This Week in “Gun Disgust”: Social Services Visits New Jersey Man’s House Because of a Facebook Picture of His Son Holding a Gun

Written by Trevor Burrus, research fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

A picture of Shawn Moore’s 11-year-old clad in camouflage and holding a scary-looking gun prompted New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families to visit his house for an “inspection,” according to Moore. As reported by the Associated Press:

The elder Moore was at a friend’s house when his wife called, saying state child welfare investigators, along with four local police officers, were at the house, asking to inspect the family’s guns.

Moore said he called his lawyer Evan Nappen, who specializes in Second Amendment cases, and had him on speaker phone as he arrived at his house in Carneys Point, just across the Delaware River from Wilmington, Del.

“They said they wanted to see into my safe and see if my guns were registered,” Moore said. “I said no; in New Jersey, your guns don’t have to be registered with the state; it’s voluntary. I knew once I opened that safe, there was no going back.”

The Department of Children and Families has not confirmed that the Facebook picture was the reason for the surprise “inspection,” but a spokeswoman did comment that it is “important to note the way an investigation begins is through the child abuse hotline. Someone has to call to let us know there is a concern.”

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