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Current Topic: Civil Liberties

RE: Setting ourselves up for more 9/11s. - By Stewart Baker - Slate Magazine
Topic: Civil Liberties 4:02 pm EDT, Sep 27, 2007

Decius wrote:
This is an interesting discussion of the line between intelligence gathering and law enforcement that hasn't been recommended here before. I have some thoughts about this that perhaps I'll discuss at phreaknic.

It's interesting because it's a common attitude in the US these days, but it's not at all convincing to me.

Baker invokes "the hypothetical risk to privacy if foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement were allowed to mix." I find this risk neither hypothetical or particularly complicated to identify. If all risks to American lives or property become conflated, then either you must increase the protections given to foreign nationals or agents to the equivalent of the 4th amendment protections a US citizen gets (which we don't want), or you have to diminish the 4th amendment protections for citizens (which we don't want).

Now, to argue that staff ought to be cross trained and capable of acting in dual roles might make sense, assuming certain protocols for admissibility of collected information are followed, is fine. There may be some efficiencies to be gained there.

The second lesson is that we cannot write rules that will both protect us from every theoretical risk to privacy and still allow the government to protect us from terrorists.

This is true, almost simplistically so. The question that matters is whether it is more important to you to live in a nation that is "safe" from terrorism, or if it is more important that you live in a nation which values such semi-tangible benefits as privacy, freedom and due process (among others).

I very clearly fall into the latter camp. I think it's terrible that people died on September 11th. I feel deep sorrow for their families and for the brave emergency workers that died or became ill as a result of their efforts. Yet I continue to feel that their deaths were not the most costly result of the attacks. The most costly result is precisely the erosion of civil liberties -- the erosion of the very meaning of America -- espoused by this column. After all, if we allow our nation to be subverted by fear, suspicion and an iron hand, I believe we will no longer be the country we set out to be.

Surely, we should expect protection and feel safe in our homes and lands, but eroding our rights -- in the very *best* case -- only substitutes the oppression of the State for the threat of terrorist attack.

I, for one, do not at all find this a worthwhile trade.

When Baker says "We should not again put American lives at risk for the sake of some speculative risk to our civil liberties," I hear, "Of course we should trade liberty for security!" I simply do not agree, particularly in light of the illusory nature of "security" in a system predicated on such beliefs.

RE: Setting ourselves up for more 9/11s. - By Stewart Baker - Slate Magazine

The Volokh Conspiracy - Full Transcript of Comey Testimony on NSA Surveillance Program:
Topic: Civil Liberties 10:16 am EDT, May 16, 2007

I'm sure Dems will do their best to commit political suicide by pressing this issue right through a massive terrorist attack. Fundamentally the American public expects any President post-9/11 to do whatever it takes to stop terrorists. Civil rights concerns be damned. Pushing legalisms only tells Americans one side is not serious about fighting terrorism. I'm sure Bush wants to be thrown into that briar patch.

Levaing aside the actual article, this is the scariest thing I've read in weeks. People actually think like this.

The Volokh Conspiracy - Full Transcript of Comey Testimony on NSA Surveillance Program:

The Two Malcontents » U.S. Border Patrol Bars Canadian Psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar
Topic: Civil Liberties 3:06 pm EDT, Apr 27, 2007

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government is using the "ideological exclusion provision" of the Patriot act to bar perfectly peaceful people from the United States because they may express points of view that the administration dislikes. These are the actions of a totalitarian state.

"These are the actions of a totalitarian state."

Can't be emphasized emphatically enough.

The U.S. we thought we knew is already gone. The terrorist's brutal and horrifying tactics have done precisely what they were designed to do : Created a culture of fear, mistrust and oppression, bankrupted the treasury, shattered world opinion, mired us in war and destroyed the moral compass set forth in the Constitution.

No one seems to want to take up that call because of the political repercussions, but the bottom line is that it WORKED. That's the scariest, saddest, most depressing thing I can think of. For all the fine words and heartfelt sympathy for the victims of 9/11, the plot was allowed to succeed. Not the plot to kill people in the buildings, the preventability of which could be argued over for an eternity, but the plot to shake the Nation's very foundations loose from their moorings. We're adrift in a very fundamental way, and it's heartbreaking.

The Two Malcontents » U.S. Border Patrol Bars Canadian Psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar

Student Writes Essay, Gets Arrested by Police
Topic: Civil Liberties 1:42 pm EDT, Apr 26, 2007

"April 26, 2007

High school senior Allen Lee sat down with his creative writing class on Monday and penned an essay that so disturbed his teacher, school administrators and police that he was charged with disorderly conduct.

"I understand what happened recently at Virginia Tech," said the teen's father, Albert Lee, referring to last week's massacre of 32 students by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. "I understand the situation."

But he added: "I don't see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions."

Allen Lee, an 18-year-old straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with disorderly conduct for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location."
I f'ing knew this was going to happen. :(

[ Yeah, it's basically inevitable. Be a good little sheep and don't think any bad thoughts or we'll ruin your life.

Let's call this what it is, they basically arrested the kid for Thought Crime.

Beyond which, they've sent the message that if you have strong emotions or violent thoughts, you better not express them, because you'll get arrested for it. They've sent the message that it's better to bottle those feelings up, keep them to yourself. They've sent the message that thinking that way makes you an alien and an outsider which is precisely 180 degrees from the message that ought to be sent.

Shit like this is about sweeping everything unpleasant under the rug without any acknowledgement that such tactics only make problems worse in the long run.

And don't even get me started on the absurdity of the disorderly conduct charge. If the teacher, or even her bosses, had handled this privately, and appropriately -- e.g. by engaging the boy's parents -- there would have been ZERO disruption for anyone. It was the cheap way out and it's a damn shame.

God knows it's hard to be a teacher these days, but this knee-jerk, zero tolerance crap is a bad way to run things. If shit was this bad when I was in school, I'd've gotten hauled in for the nine inch nails lyrics i had taped inside my locker door. -k]

Student Writes Essay, Gets Arrested by Police

Community responds to Taser use in Powell
Topic: Civil Liberties 8:49 pm EST, Nov 20, 2006

According to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.

"It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

"The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death," Eliasberg said.

According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would "get Tased too." At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.

Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an "illegal assault," Eliasberg said.

"It is absolutely illegal to threaten anyone who asks for a badge - that's assault," he said.

Until tonight I hadn't watched the video of the taser incident. Its linked here. Its hard to watch. In fact, I didn't make it through and I was very angry for a while after seeing it. I actually don't recommend watching it.

These cops are tasering this kid and then demanding that he stand. They are demanding over and over again that he stand up and then tasering him when he refuses to stand. Its fucked up. Would you want to stand after getting electrocuted? Worse, they threaten to taser the other students that are watching the incident because they express concern with the situation. I do not understand how people can watch this video and not get that this is a bunch of guys who enjoy hurting people and have found a victim. How warped can you possibly be? What sort of authoritarian brain washing leads you to look at this and wonder whether or not it was justified?

[Hear hear.

It's one of the most difficult things I've ever watched too.

Had I been present I'd have had a tough time avoiding getting tasered too. That shit was completely obscene.

Losing their jobs will probably force those fucks to take out their animal urges in some other way, i guess, but for gods sake, they shouldn't be there.

My cousin goes to UCLA. If she got tasered by some jackass with a fake badge, I'd be wanting to fly out there and taser him with a tire iron. -k]

Community responds to Taser use in Powell

RE: Gonzales Says Prosecutions of Journalists Are Possible - New York Times
Topic: Civil Liberties 10:01 am EDT, May 22, 2006

Decius wrote:

Mr. Gonzales said that the administration promoted and respected the right of the press that is protected under the First Amendment. "But it can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity," he said.

Anybody know if transcripts of this are available? I'd like to know if he is being taken out of context. I'd like to see exactly what was said.

Not really out of context. The usage of "possible" in the title here implies action as opposed to simple feasibility, and Gonzales is just unclear enough that either is possible. But the last sentence does tell me that they think it's a reasonable thing to do.

Anyway, here it is :

George: "Do you believe journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information?"

Alberto: "There are some statutes on the books which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility. That's a policy judgement by the Congress in passing that kind of legislation. We have an obligation to enforce those laws. We have an obligation to ensure that our national security is protected."

That's courtesy of Crooks and Liars who also have the video.

RE: Gonzales Says Prosecutions of Journalists Are Possible - New York Times

Bush says he signed NSA wiretap order
Topic: Civil Liberties 12:15 am EST, Dec 18, 2005

Rattle said :

Bush added: "Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."

I do not see any direct legitimate way this is putting citizens at risk. I am sure al-Qaeda assumes any communications inside the United States could be monitored. Rather, I see this as exposing an abuse of executive powers that are putting citizens civil liberties at risk. There is no system of accountability in place.

Well, after all this, Al Queda will be a little more confident that those wiretaps won't exist, because they'll know the American public won't tolerate it. So starting from that, I guess you could make the connection that lives are at risk.

The fact is, though, that that's not the fucking point. Will greater surveillance reduce the threat of violence from terrorists? Probably. Is it worth the trade? NO. That's what Americans have said since the very beginning... we don't want to live in a country where every move is monitored and scrutinized. Even if it means that we're more vulnerable to certain types of attack, we're willing to take that risk to live in a free society.

At least, that's what I thought. We'll see.

Bush says he signed NSA wiretap order

BREITBART.COM - Miami Police Take New Tack Against Terror
Topic: Civil Liberties 11:31 am EST, Nov 30, 2005

"People are definitely going to notice it," Fernandez said. "We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."

Deputy Chief Hernandez, you just used the same terminology to describe your new initiative as was used by our government in it's overwhelmingly violent invasion of Iraq. And you say you wish for me not to feel threatened? Apologies for being blunt, but you're fucking dreaming. Constant or near-constant police presence, coupled with random ID checks DOES NOT make me feel comfortable and, in fact, DOES make me feel like my rights are being violated. Such activities are prelude to a police state, in which all activities are scrutinized and no sign is too small to warrant investigation. We've been moving toward this for the past, oh, 6-ish years, and this is a major strike against the society I always thought of as America. It's a travesty, plain and simple.

Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people's rights are not violated.

"What we're dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution," Simon said. "We'll have to see how it is implemented."

Mr. Simon, you ought to be run out of the ACLU on a rail. As far as I can tell you're saying that you'd rather have the cops publicly scanning us and checking our papers than doing so secretly. Well, I can't disagree, but then, I guess I'd rather be punched in the face than cracked in the back of the head too. 'Course, I'd really rather that not one of those things happen. This statement makes me want to cancel my membership. I'm not talking about simply not renewing... this statement makes me want to call the ACLU and tell them I want a fucking refund. I absolutely cannot see a way to implement random ID checks that aren't an affront to the freedoms I *thought* this nation stood for.



BREITBART.COM - Miami Police Take New Tack Against Terror

Scalia opposed to separation of church and state
Topic: Civil Liberties 10:41 am EST, Nov 29, 2004

] "There is something wrong with the principle of
] neutrality," said Scalia, considered among the court's
] staunchest conservatives. Neutrality as envisioned by the
] founding fathers, Scalia said, "is not neutrality between
] religiousness and nonreligiousness; it is between
] denominations of religion."

Our founding fathers and other great national leaders were brilliant men who developed powerful ideas about how to build a successful society. However, you have to put them in a context. Abraham Lincoln, for example, would be viewed as a contemptible bigot were he alive today, but that does not mean that we should not honor him and the value of his ideas. What Scalia misses is that the society which existed in 1776 is not the same society which exists today, and in fact it was a great deal less mature.

The valuable idea here is that the government should not get involved in the task of dictating religious beliefs or doctrine. However, in the context of the late 1700's all of the white people in America practiced some form of Christianity or Judaism. Other religions were certainly practiced by people who weren't white, but this mattered little in an institutionally racist society. So, in that context, references to God were not understood to fall into the scope of dictating religious doctrine. People were simply not aware of an example of a way of thinking which did not include God.

Today we are much more mature. There are a far wider array of religions acknowledged and practiced in our society, including a growing minority of the population that does not practice any religion at all. In that context the fundamental philosophy of the founders must be applied differently then it would have been applied 200+ years ago. That means building a society which respects religious beliefs but doesn't require them.

Of course, the cynical thought here is that Scalia is far too intelligent to have missed this distinction, or to be unaware of the context in which he lives. Its clear in the quotes taken in this article that he promotes a religious government, and opposes secularism. In doing so, he in fact advocates the establishment of religion, and stands opposed to the fundamental constitutional law that he is tasked with defending.

There is another argument in there, which Scalia does not make, but which must be asked...

Insofaras we can see that philosophically the values inherent in our system of government require protecting rights that the populace, on the whole, doesn't respect, how should we respond? One might argue that the democratic government ought to drive these changes, as if the court out steps the democracy too far its legitimacy is threatened. On the other hand, we don't need to defend popular rights. The whole purpose of limited government is to protect unpopular minorities from the tyranny of the majority. The Constitution, and the court, mean nothing, if we are simply operating on majority rule. How do you strike that balance?

To be honest, the impeachment mechanism provides a safety value through which a court that went too far could be reigned in by the democracy without violence and without threatening the basic institution.

So my answer is, Insofaras we can see that philosophically the values inherent in our system of government require protecting rights that the populace, on the whole, doesn't respect, we should respond by protecting those rights unless we would be impeached for doing so.

Scalia opposed to separation of church and state Patriot Act fixes
Topic: Civil Liberties 10:38 am EST, Nov 24, 2004

] The most common charge levied against critics of the
] Patriot Act -- one that Alberto Gonzales, the new face of
] Justice, is likely to repeat in his days ahead -- is that
] they're "misinformed." Well, as a former U.S. attorney
] appointed by President Reagan, a former CIA lawyer and
] analyst, and a former Congressman who sat on the
] Judiciary Committee, I can go mano a mano with any
] law-enforcement or intelligence official on the facts.
] And the facts say that the Patriot Act needs to be
] reviewed and refined by Congress.

The most reasonable position on the Patriot act that I have ever read.

[ This is one of Bob Barr's strongest positions, and I tend to agree with him, as unexpected as I found that. He's written on the topic before and spoken about it at GA Tech, and I think he's generally got a clear view of what needs to happen on this one. -k] Patriot Act fixes

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