warrantless wiretaps

Left taking issue with Dems on civil liberties

civil liberties

Most people seem to come to libertarianism from the right.  It honestly makes sense when you think about it.  The right tends to be a place of minimal government and typically argues for more freedom.  The problems kick in on some specific issues.  Many libertarians came to libertarianism after searching for a more consistent ideology.

Me?  I’m a bit of an oddball.  I came from the left.  I came from a place of seeking more consistency on the issue of civil liberties that I was getting from the Democrats.  There have been times when I wondered if there was ever being a small “L” libertarian in the Democratic Party.  Based on what’s being reported over the party’s new platform, I can see that is a resounding “no.”

The piece points out several issues where the Democratic Party has decided to back away from their stances on civil liberties just four years ago.  Issues like indefinite detention, closing Gitmo, illegal wiretaps, and racial profiling all pretty much continue without any modification from President Bush’s era.  Even torture, for which many wanted heads on the proverbial pikes, has reportedly continued despite an executive order ending the practice.

So which conservative or libertarian publication makes such remarkes about President Obama and the Democratic Party?  Townhall?  Nope. Red State? Not even close.

The Weekly Standard? No. The National Review? Hardly. Reason? Wrong again. Try the left leaning Mother Jones.

Many on the left are less than pleased that Obama has done so poorly on civil liberties.  That says nothing over any meaningful move on gay rights (besides the appeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) or a host of other issues.

Was it all worth it?

As every last soul has surely heard by now, Osama bin Laden is dead.  Finally located and taken out by American special forces, the death of bin Laden marks a significant moment for America.  The occasion was marked by numerous celebrations and expressions of profound relief and satisfaction, coupled with a harsh brushing of the wounds left by 9/11.  Whether it helps Obama’s political fortunes is yet to be seen, but it surely has raised Americans’ spirits.

But one question still remains in the minds of many - were the sacrifices we have made up to this point worth it?  Over the past nine years Americans have had their privacy invaded, their values called into question, and their coffers tapped to fund two wars expensive in both treasure and blood.  We’ve certainly engaged in some ugly practices in our anger over what bin Laden did to us on that fall day in 2001.  Your average citizen may never know the true extent of the things done in the name of fighting terrorism.

It’s clear to me then that we have paid an immense price for this victory, one that is hard to justify in retrospect.  It’s hard to look at the way our lives have profoundly changed and not say that, despite the fact that his life ended at the point of an American rifle, Osama bin Laden will go down as a victor.  His actions have altered the American landscape permanently and have led us to do things that we ought be ashamed of.

Obama: Reject Voices Warning of Tyranny

Barack Obama at Ohio State University

During a commencement address at The Ohio State University, President Barack Obama praised government, played down the role of the individual, and urged students to reject the voices of tyranny.

“We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition,” President Obama told graduating students. “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works.”

“They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” he continued. “You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

The shot against “individual ambition” is ironic because President Obama himself is the defintion of that term. He was an Illinois state senator who gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Later that year, he was elected to the United States Senate. By 2007, he was campaigning full-time for his party’s presidential nomination, which he won in 2008, and would subsequently be elected president.

If that doesn’t define ambition, what does? That’s not a shot against him, by the way. President Obama’s personal story is one that should be admired. The problem with him, of course, is the policies he pushes, which leads us to the next point.

Mike Lee: “We can’t abandon constitutional rights for temporary security”

See Video

During the debate over re-authorization of FISA warrantless wiretapping practices, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) articulately defended the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

So much for the Fourth Amendment: Senate passes FISA and Obama will sign it

You mad, bro?

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.

The Senate’s Rushed Debate on NSA Spying Powers

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

As I write, the Senate is gathering in an unusual special session to debate the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act, which I discussed in a recent Cato podcast. Unfortunately, as Sen. Ron Wyden pointed out in opening the discussion, this sparsely-attended holiday session is likely to be the only full floor debate on sweeping surveillance legislation that has been in force for four years already (during which we know it has already been used unconstitutionally), and is all but certain to be renewed for another five. That’s especially disturbing given that, when the House debated the law back in September, its strongest supporters revealed themselves to be profoundly confused about what the law does, and just how much warrantless spying on the communications of American citizens it permits, despite being nominally restricted to “foreign targets.”

Welcome to 1984 — The CIA to spy on you through your TV

The CIA may soon have a new way to spy on Americans. According to a new report from Wired, the intelligence agency will be using the Internet through electronic devices, including TVs and alarm clocks, to pry into our lives:

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”


More on the police state

The year was 2008.  It was a fact that President Bush wasn’t going to be the president for much longer and a young, charismatic senator from Illinois was set to take the reigns of power.  Even some of us who stood against Obama during the campaign were optimistic that perhaps we had been wrong about the new president.  Two and a half years into his presidency, there’s not much “hope” left for a lot of us.  Especially as President Obama seems to be intent on continuing the most police state-like tactics of his predecessor.

Without getting into the evidence which I mentioned recently, there’s more evidence to be considered courtesy of Forbes:

2010, it seems, was a landmark year for federal snooping. According to the U.S. courts systems’ annual report on law enforcement wiretaps, federal law enforcement requested 1,207 intercepts placed on phones and electronic communications last year, nearly double the 663 requested in 2009.Overall, wiretaps jumped 34%, including a smaller increase in the number of state-requested law enforcement eavesdropping. The total comes to 3,194 requests, up from 2,376 in 2009 and just 1,190 in the year 2000.

Of course, wiretaps that are subject to judicial oversight don’t sound nearly as bad.  However, I find it somewhat telling that we are spying on more Americans (with or without judicial oversight).  The fact that many of these wire taps end up leading to raids by SWAT teams just adds to the anxiety many Americans are feeling when it comes to the government.

UPDATED: Reid attaches PATRIOT Act to small business bill, bypasses amendments

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) continues to press forward on a vote for reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act without time for debate and votes on amendments - as he promised, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) continues to stand his ground; defending himself against baseless attacks:

It’s worth noting that Paul isn’t the only member of the Senate pushing amendments to the law before it can be reauthorized; both Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) are making their case for transparency and oversight in what they, rightly, view as a secret law.

Herman Cain would trade liberty for security

Herman Cain didn’t have a good weekend. Yes, he formally announced his long-shot bid for the presidency; but he made an embarrasing gaffe on the Constitution and demonstrated  an even more concerning lack of knowledge on foreign affairs while visiting with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

And while Mr. Cain says that “[w]e don’t need to re-write the Constitution,” rather “we need to re-read the Constitution and enforce the Constitution,” he continues to show a severe lack of understanding on the limitations of government laid out by that document. For example, Cain recently gave an interview to The Atlantic where he essentially says it’s perfectly fine and legal for the federal government spy on its own citizens and endorses extension of the PATRIOT Act while dismissing concerns over the law:

Tell me about the domestic side of our counter-terrorism efforts. What kinds of protections should be in place in terms of federal law enforcement going into people’s bank records or listening to their phone calls. Do you think that should require a warrant?

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