Tag: USA PATRIOT Act

Left caught posturing again.

So Obama, and most of the left that now seems totally missing in action when it comes to our rights and whatever the left has renamed the action against terrorism, were then, and are now, all full of shit. Back when Boosh was president we lived in a theocratic thugocracy, with people’s freedoms violated by things like the patriot act. Back then we tortured non-American terrorists, imprisoned them without due process, and violated all the rights the left granted them, be it through the Constitution of the United States of America or the Geneva convention, both entities that shouldn’t apply to ununiformed foreign combatants, and in general were a nation led by evil people. These days where we know for a fact that the NSA and the rest of the Obama administration, all caught red-handed spying on us, consider American citizens a far greater danger. So much so that when we finally have a chance to redress the evils of the Patriot Act, evils Obama himself protested when this law was passed, one is left wondering why the Obama WH would strip out that reform:

The U.S. House of Representatives has substantially reduced the effectiveness of the USA FREEDOM Act, a surveillance reform bill that sought to end mass collection of U.S. citizens’ data. House Leadership was pressured by the Obama Administration to weaken many of the bill’s provisions. The EFF and the Center for Democracy & Technology had both given their backing to the bill earlier this month, but they’ve now withdrawn their support. CDT Senior Counsel Harley Geiger said, “The Leadership of the House is demonstrating that it wants to end the debate about surveillance, rather than end bulk collection. As amended, the bill may not prevent collection of data on a very large scale in a manner that infringes upon the privacy of Americans with no connection to a crime or terrorism. This is quite disappointing given the consensus by the public, Congress, the President, and two independent review groups that ending bulk collection is necessary.”

Robyn Greene of the Open Technology Institute added, “We are especially disappointed by the weakening of the language intended to prohibit bulk collection of innocent Americans’ records. Although we are still hopeful that the bill’s language will end the bulk collection of telephone records and prevent indiscriminate collection of other types of records, it may still allow data collection on a dangerously massive scale. Put another way, it may ban ‘bulk’ collection of all records of a particular kind, but still allow for ‘bulky’ collection impacting the privacy of millions of people. Before this bill becomes law, Congress must make clear—either through amendments to the bill, through statements in the legislative record, or both—that mass collection of innocent people’s records isn’t allowed.”

As I pointed out then when the left protested this stuff it was never about protecting our freedoms but about them assuming that given the power those in the opposition power would resort to the same abuses of power democrats would surely do given the chance. What’s that I hear out there? A drone? Oh, shit. Obama is da bomb! He is so good for us….

Security Letters In The Lurch

So this happened:

They’re called national security letters and the FBI issues thousands of them a year to banks, phone companies and other businesses demanding customer information. They’re sent without judicial review and recipients are barred from disclosing them.

On Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco declared the letters unconstitutional, saying the secretive demands for customer data violate the First Amendment.

The government has failed to show that the letters and the blanket non-disclosure policy “serve the compelling need of national security,” and the gag order creates “too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted,” U.S. District Judge Susan Illston wrote.

She ordered the FBI to stop issuing the letters, but put that order on hold for 90 days so the U.S. Department of Justice can pursue an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The NSL’s do not allow agents to examine the content of communications, but look for patterns. But there is zero judicial oversight and, as mentioned, the gag order prevents recipients of NSL’s from even telling people what they’re doing, placing them under enormous stress.

I suspect — or maybe hope is the right word — that the Ninth Circus will also have issues with the security letters on both First and Fourth Amendment grounds (they recently put limits on the governments ability to search your computer at the airport). The FBI issues tens of thousands of these a year and a 2007 investigation found that they were very lax in following the few rules that applied to them (Surprise! A federal agency was abusing the rules in the absence of oversight!). The Second Circuit demanded the FBI notify recipients that they can challenge the gag order in Court but EFF is of the opinion that it’s not enough and it’s not being done consistently.

The secretive NSL’s create another issue beyond First and Fourth Amendment concerns. One of the problems with challenging the Surveillance State is that people being surveilled often don’t know it. This makes it very difficult to challenge surveillance powers in Court because, in the Clapper decision last week, SCOTUS ruled that challengers lack standing unless they personally have been subject to a problematic search. This puts civil libertarians in a catch-22. You can’t know if you’re being surveilled but you can’t challenge the law unless you know you’re being surveilled.

In the end, a lot of this is going to end up in the lap of the Supreme Court. I have little faith that they will rein in the government now that Stephens is gone. But it’s possible, given Scalia’s occasional sympathies toward civil liberties, that the facade of unilateral unlimited government surveillance power could be cracked.

Why you can not take them seriously

Where’s the anger from the perpetually mad leftists these days? Man, did the left howl about the Patriot Act when that was passed. Evil Boosh-Hitler and his fascist government tactics violating the rights of terrorists! Never mind that fascism is a disease of the left, and Bush while a big government lover, never rose to the level of the left and their desire to have government control all aspects of the rube’s lives, or that terrorists really are dangerous and deadly. Team Obama decides to ratchet up the scary government in what seriously amounts to a near fascist move, and we get nothing….

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.

Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.

Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

“Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. “The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”

The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.

Look, while not comfortable with it, I think some aspects of the Patriot Act where necessary because the terrorists need to be dealt with, but my support was always predicated on the premise that someone was really paying attention and the first time government abused these powers, there would be hell to pay. After all, it was obvious that the LSM so desperately wanted to help their partners in crime in the democrat party nail Bush, that even the appearance of impropriety would result in massive coverage implying the most negative possible scenario, and that would keep these powers somewhat in check.

Fast forward a few years, and not only is the Patriot Act still around, but now the LSM doesn’t quite care that much about improprieties. And when the left decides to do some seriously scary things like this, and there is no way you make the case that collecting information on citizens using the weak argument that a database you can mine might help you catch a terrorist, it results in nary a peep. Oh, privacy advocates are worried. Shit, this is the time to scream about fascist moves by government people.

“It is a vast expansion of the government’s surveillance authority,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period.

The government put in strong safeguards at the NCTC for the data that would be collected on U.S. citizens for intelligence purposes, Rotenberg said. These new guidelines undercut the Federal Privacy Act, he said.

“The fact that this data can be retained for five years on U.S. citizens for whom there’s no evidence of criminal conduct is very disturbing,” Rotenberg said.

“Total Information Awareness appears to be reconstructing itself,” Rotenberg said, referring to the Defense Department’s post-9/11 data-mining research program that was killed in 2003 because of privacy concerns.

The Washington Post first reported the new rules Thursday.

Tracking suspected or know terrorists and keeping data on them is one thing. If carefully scrutinized to prevent abuse, and abuse is punished, I can live with that. It’s an unfortunate consequence of the horrible times we live in and our inability or lack of desire to really do what would break the terrorist’s will to keep doing these sort of things. But collecting information on people – and we are unclear if the intent is to collect information on everyone or just certain people, but I am inclined to assume that once they can do a few, they will just do all people – is a whole other sort of game. It is frightening. Even if it is just for 5 years.

Tyrannical government starts with 2 things: the first is the attempt to disarm the populous, and the second is the collection of information about the people so you know who will give you grief and needs to be dealt with. Fast & Furious anyone? And now this. And yet, no anger from the LSM or the left. After all, Obama will just use it to sick Media Matters on conservatives or to see whom to hit up for donations in these idiot’s minds, and all that stuff is awesome.

Look, I am not saying that the right doesn’t do dumb things, but shit, and yeah, this is a hypothetical where I reverse the order of the political party holding the WH when things happen, if I was insanely angry at Obama for Passing the Patriot Act, and he was followed by Bush whom did something like this that takes it to a whole new level of scary, I would be howling at Bush too. My guy or not. Not gonna happen on the left though, because the anger was never over any fear of government abuse of power, but simply because the guy in the WH had the wrong letter next to his name.

The Obama administration said the new rules come with strong safeguards for privacy and civil liberties as well. Before the NCTC may obtain data held by another government agency, there is a high-level review to assure that the data “is likely to contain significant terrorism information,” Alexander Joel, the civil liberties protection officer at national intelligence directorate, said in a news release Thursday.

Yeah, sure. Because there isn’t any history at all of government, once it has access to a gimmick to bypass the proper process, has never abused it. The argument that we should collect data on everyone and that they will only look at it when they suspect something suddenly, with all kinds of precautions to prevent abuse, might appease some, but if you didn’t like the previous ability to collect information on suspects and actual terrorists, this expansion of power should leave you even more scared and angry. And I am not getting any of that from the usual suspects, when to me now the power and the ability to abuse definitely have crossed a threshold of tolerability.

Snooping

You know, I like to think that laws like this get passed because our politicians are ignorant about technology. But then again, sometimes I think they like the idea of snooping on us. Behold: the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act:

If Congress had to name laws honestly, it would be called the “Forcing Your Internet Provider to Spy On You Just In Case You’re a Criminal Act of 2011″ — a costly, invasive mandate that even the co-author of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), says “runs roughshod over the rights of people who use the Internet.”

The centerpiece of this ill-conceived law is a sweeping requirement that commercial Internet providers retain a one-year log of all the temporary Internet Protocol addresses they assign to their users, along with customer-identification information. The Justice Department says this will help track down child-porn peddlers by linking online activity and real-world identities. But the government would be able to access that sensitive data for all kinds of investigations, most of which would have nothing to do with child porn.

The Constitution protects privacy against government intrusion, but it doesn’t stop the government from forcing private companies to do its dirty work. Records held by a corporation don’t enjoy the same Fourth Amendment protection as does the data on your personal computer — so a search warrant isn’t necessary.

All right. Does anyone … anyone … think this will be used just to catch child pornographers? Does anyone think this will not eventually be turned to cracking down on drugs, terrorism, legal porn and copyright violations? As we have learned with the Patriot Act, all our elected officials are looking for is an excuse to violate our civil liberties and privacy. Once they are in there, anything goes. The Patriot Act, for example, has been overwhelming used to prosecute drug cases.

Think of the government as a horny teenage boy with absolutely no moral scruples. Once our underwear is off, they don’t feel any need — legal or otherwise — to stop at third base. Or to use a condom. Or to take us out to dinner afterward. They will go as far as they can before we smack them.

The question is … why do we need this? When the Bush Administration tried to bypass the FISA Court, we all asked why they wanted to since it rarely refuses wiretaps. The government has never had a problem finding kiddie porn peddlers through their ISP’s. A subpoena is rarely refused and ISP’s provide tens of thousands of tips every year. So we’ll get a nice big store of our personal information, a catch-all for anything the feds decides to snoop on — all paid for by increased ISP costs, of course. And for what? The feds haven’t even concluded their study on the subject.

But you drop that magic word — “children” — into the conversation and, to return to my earlier analogy, we immediately jump into the back seat and unhook our bras. Popehat made this point spectacularly with a post on the stupidity of Kaylee’s Law:

You might think that politicians and other state actors hate it when a Casey Anthony gets acquitted. You’d be wrong. The acquittal of someone like Casey Anthony — accused of killing a cute white girl, and worse yet, accused of being a slut and a party girl — is an opportunity for the state to get useful idiots to drive its favorite narratives. Those narratives are “when the government charges you with something, that means you are guilty” and “government witnesses are credible; defense witnesses are not” and “defense lawyers deal in deceit; prosecutors deal in truth” and “a juror’s job is to convict the guilty”, and so on. Th Mommy Mob is flogging those narratives like crazy. They devote web sites to excoriating the jurors and suggesting that they ought to be prosecuted for some sort of fraud or dereliction of duty. They attack the defense attorneys, suggesting that they ought not be paid and arguing that the State Bar ought to investigate them. They speculate about what citizens might be associated with Casey Anthony and then post contact information for those citizens. They call on their flying monkeys to harass the judiciary. They demand retrial of Casey Anthony based twisted interpretations of the Dual Sovereign Doctrine.

And they support a law to give the feds unlimited ability to snoop into our web browsers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, God bless them, is fighting this tooth and nail. Let’s hope they slap some sense into the American people.

War Powers? What War Powers?

I have emerged from my proposal hermitage. And in the time between now and the rapture (be sure to set your alarms!), I’m starting to wonder: does anyone give a shit about the law anymore?

President Obama may be on the brink of breaking the law.

At issue: The 1973 War Powers Act, which says if the president does not get congressional authorization 60 days after military action, the mission must stop within 30 days.

The president formally notified Congress about the mission in Libya with a letter on March 21, which makes Friday the 60-day deadline.

Administration officials don’t yet feel compelled to seek such permission and some party leaders have been satisfied with the information flow so far, but still, inaction is angering other lawmakers from both the left and the right who rarely agree on anything.

Let’s be blunt, shall we? The President is not “maybe” breaking the law; he is breaking the law. He was on shaky ground to begin with — the President should have used the War Power for rapid action and then gotten Congressional approval. But he doesn’t even seem remotely inclined to comply with the law. And our Congressional leaders can’t be bothered to press him on it. And do I even need to remind everyone that the Eeevil Tyrannical Bush complied with the War Powers Act? As has every other President? (Clinton may have broken it in Kosovo.)

Of course, they did find time to work out a deal to extend the Patriot Act, which expires in a week, for four years with zero additional oversight. When it comes to gobbling up liberties, deadlines are absolutely vital. But limiting the power of the President? Meh.

Update: The more I think about this, the more annoyed I get. We’ve gone from a situation where Congress took the War Power with the seriousness it deserves to the eve of the Iraq War, when they essentially punted any responsibility back to the President, to now, when they’re just too busy to bother.

The simply don’t want to take responsibility — either for ending our Libyan escape or continuing it. They’re happy to just blame Obama for it (as they blamed Bush for Iraq). It’s disgusting.

Update: Obama has no graciously asked Congress to authorize the war. Consider me unmollified. The President should have been seeking and Congress should have been debating this from day one.