The Bureau turned its back on its own traditions of floating above partisan politics in the pursuit of justice.
I’m not the least bit surprised, yet I am very much concerned, at the reaction to the complete disregard for and the infringement upon our liberties on the part of our government. As the scope of the situation widens day to day, we have those who simply shrug their shoulders and those that say it’s just what must be done in today’s world. They are more than willing to sacrifice freedom..or better yet, freedoms…for security. I understand the need for security. What I DON’T understand is the willingness to entrust an entity with such power that has the potential to place limits upon our very lives. History has proven taking that risk is very dangerous. In our case, with those currently in charge of our government, that risk is exceptional! The Obama administration simply CANNOT be trusted to employ such power in our best interest. THEIR best interest is the priority in their eyes!
Charles C. W. Cooke at National Review has a great, if somewhat lengthy, analysis on the matter and why it’s not such a good idea to entrust those who are supposedly in charge of protecting our freedoms…
THE PRICE OF LIBERTY
“In the case of government spying, “oh well” is NOT the correct response!”
‘Until August 1914,” A. J. P. Taylor wrote, heartbreakingly, at the beginning of English History, 1914–45,
a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. . . . All this was changed by the impact of the Great War.
Thus did Liberal England begin to suffer its quick and “strange death.”
Here in America, eyebrows are being raised. In the middle of Queens this weekend, I heard a moderate-seeming father of three tell his friend that he generally had “no time for the conspiracy people.” “But,” he continued, shrugging his shoulders, “you look now and think, ‘Well, yeah.’ Those guys were always going on about this or that. Maybe I should have listened more closely?” What strange bedfellows the last two months of scandal and revelation have made. And what a disgrace that it has taken so long.
Nonetheless, who really needs “the conspiracy people” when so many of our institutions are tasked with spying on us in plain sight? “No one likes to see a government folder with his name on it,” wrote Stephen King inFirestarter. If this is true, we tolerate it manfully. Every year, as a condition of my being alive, I furnish the IRS with a huge range of personal information. As of next year, I will be required to alert them of my health-care arrangements, too. Who among us was honestly surprised when the IRS used the vast powers with which it has been endowed against the people who object to its existence? Nowadays, the government openly keeps files on each and every one of us. Lord knows what happens in secret.
In the country that I left behind, it is worse. The streets of England are paved with cameras that film day and night without rest or interruption. On the roads, “average speed check” equipment tracks drivers along their way, recording where they have been and averaging out the time it took for them to get to each checkpoint in order to ensure that they are not traveling too fast. Number-plate-recognition systems are commonplace, and intended to become ubiquitous. At 3.4 million strong already, the National DNA Database grows like Topsy. No distinction is made between innocent and guilty; everyone falls into the net.
Because the British government owns and runs almost all the hospitals and employs the vast majority of the medical staff, if you wish to access the care for which you are forced at gunpoint to pay, you must hand your most sensitive information over to a bureaucrat. This process is not only accepted in the country of Locke, Mill, and Orwell; it is wholeheartedly celebrated, as if it were the national religion.
So complete has been the destruction of liberty’s cradle that, a few years back, the ruling Labour party felt comfortable suggesting that all British automobiles be mandated to carry state-owned GPS equipment that would track each car’s movements and automatically calculate one’s road taxes. With a few admirable exceptions, the ensuing debate was over whether this was practically feasible. One hundred years ago, the very suggestion would have been treated as downright treasonous. Now, it is blithely ignored. If this can happen there, it can happen here.
Indeed, it already is. America, which has proven better than most at resisting the ills that afflict so much of the world, is rapidly joining the international status quo. The FAA predicts that by the end of the decade, 30,000 drones will patrol the air, many equipped with high-definition cameras that can recognize a face from five miles away. Already, the Border Patrol “has been lending out the drones to federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies with no oversight,” the watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals. About this insidious development, there has been little outcry. If you are concerned about the government’s collecting metadata, imagine what flying squads of law-enforcement vehicles will do.
Relative to what we’ve been accustomed to lo these five years, their messianic zeal is subdued, but the president’s chastened defenders are correct when they insist that the government saw fit to obtain a warrant before it ventured to collect user information from Verizon and other private companies. This, however, is a strictly technical defense. Legality does not equal morality, just as something’s being permissible does not render it wise. That the American state could do all manner of things in order to make us safer is not an irrefutable justification for its doing so.
Virtually everybody in America can recite Benjamin Franklin’s hyper-famous quotation about “liberty” and “safety” — and virtually everybody does. So allow me to join the ranks: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Sadly, this quote is now so often deployed that it has come effectively to demonstrate George Orwell’s perspicacious observation that familiar sayings “spread by imitation” are commonly recited without much thought. This is troubling, for Franklin’s words carry with them adifficult, incommodious, but vital implication: that liberty is an imperative, and its price is discomfort, danger, and even, to borrow from Patrick Henry, death. Lest you wonder how serious Franklin was about abstractions, in the sentence before the famous line, he contended that “Massachusetts must suffer all the Hazards and Mischiefs of War, rather than admit the Alteration of their Charters and Laws by Parliament.”
In our frivolous age, we are comforted by politicians who assure us that we never need to make such difficult choices. Their promise is invariably of a “third way.” There is no such thing. Last week, the president lamented that Americans expect to “have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.” Obama is correct to warn us that we cannot have it both ways, but it’s impossible to ignore that there are few politicians who have spent as much time as he trying to convince the country that we need never face a trade-off.
The adult truth, as ever, is that being free means accepting the negative consequences of being free. I daresay that if cameras were installed in every one of the Republic’s private bedrooms and monitored around the clock by well-meaning sentinels, then the rates of both domestic violence and spousal murder would decrease dramatically. But a free people must instinctively reject such measures as a profound threat to their liberty and, in doing so, accept the risks of unregulated home life. Alas, the story of the last century is the tale of a gradually diminishing tolerance for risk. “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. In almost all areas, our modern calculation is quite the opposite.
A popular rejoinder to those of us who agree with Jefferson’s contention — and who are willing to run with it to the point of genuine discomfort — is that we are neo-Luddites, heirs of William Blake who hark back to a lost Ruritanian age. Inherent in such accusations is the suggestion that the founding principles of the United States are not timeless and immutable, but instead the product of another era. From the beginning of the Republic, we have heard people insinuate this, urging that we give up on individual liberty because the domestic and foreign threats have become too great, or technology has grown so ubiquitous, or — worst of all — that the People could not stop the state even if wished to. On his cable-news show, which is conveniently protected by the First Amendment, Bill Maher took this to its logical conclusion last week, arguing that the Founding Fathers could never have imagined these threats, and asking pugnaciously whether the Fourth Amendment was now as obsolete as he considers the Second to be. Suffice it to say that to take this position is to accept that the American ideal of a limited government that exercises its powers judiciously and only with explicit permission is no longer viable.
One expects this stuff from the Left: It has been its hallmark since the Jacobins. But conservatives and libertarians should have no part of it. Earl Warren’s grave contention that “the fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a great danger to the privacy of the individual” was not an unfalsifiable prediction, but a warning. To throw up one’s hands at this and say “Oh, well” is to embrace the tentacles of the state and, in the words of the poet Richard Brautigan, to welcome a country in which we are “all watched over by machines of loving grace.” I will not stand for that. Will you?
When I argue about this question with friends, they usually tell me that it is unreasonable for me to expect my liberty to remain intact in the electronic realm. I am afraid that this is an intolerable conceit. Whether they intend to or not, defenders of our surveillance state help weaken our expectation of privacy, and they blur the crucial line between the public and private spheres.
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom,” said William Pitt the Younger. “It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” If I ceased to be a “sensible, law-abiding Englishman” and elected to commit a crime — or, for that matter, if the authorities had reasonable cause to suspect that I had done so — I would be happy to concede that my privacy, after the relevant permissions were sought, would be abrogated.
As it stands, however, like the tens of millions of Verizon customers into whose private lives the state has intruded, I have committed no crime. Nor does the state have any reason to suspect that I will commit one. Here, our assumptions should be inverted: When I send an e-mail, I have no expectation that somebody in Virginia will be monitoring it; nor should I surmise that when I charge my dinner to my American Express card or make a call via AT&T, the federal government will know about it.
This distinction between privacy in the concrete and in the virtual worlds is silly in principle and even sillier in practice. As Justice Potter Stewart, writing in Katz v. United States, explained in 1967:
The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.
That Constitution, I might remind naysayers, is still in force, and it is not dependent for its authority on the nature of the government over which it reigns. Those who voted for Barack Obama because they liked his civil-libertarian stump speech must be the most disappointed of all. But the great lesson of the last decade is that our vast bureaucracy makes it almost impossible to check abuses of liberty, and that such abuses have become the norm.
“Who are you?” Juliet asks from the balcony in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “Why do you hide in the darkness and listen to my private thoughts?” Romeo replies, wary of her reaction: “I don’t know how to tell you who I am by telling you a name.” Many Americans tend to tailor their reactions to news of privacy abuses according to the names of those responsible — the hypocrisy from both sides in the last week has been astonishing — and yet spying is now a bipartisan game, for Leviathan makes no genuine distinctions. Montague or Capulet, Republican or Democrat, the surveillance state is now a constant, apparently beyond even Congress’s control. Who cares in whose name it violates you?
The Fourth Amendment exists now for precisely the same reason that it existed in 1791: to ensure that, in the absence of extremely compelling situations, Americans are not subject to casual government scrutiny. Its authors understood that knowledge is power, and that, as there is no justification for the state to have too much power over you, there is also no justification for the state to have too much knowledge about you. If you don’t believe that metadata can afford its voyeurs too much information, then consider this study, conducted by MIT and Belgium’s Université Catholique de Louvain, and written up in National Journal last week:
After analyzing 1.5 million cellphone users over the course of 15 months, the researchers found they could uniquely identify 95 percent of cellphone users based on just four data points — that is, just four instances of where they were and what hour of the day it was just four times in one year. With just two data points, they could identify more than half of the users. And the researchers suggested that the study may underestimate how easy it is.
Moreover, the relegation of the spying to supposedly harmless “metadata” is misleading. As my colleague Dan Foster points out:
Unlike the ordinary collection of phone records for law-enforcement purposes, the metadata the government is collecting from Verizon can easily be used to track the movements of users; it includes information on the cell-phone towers calls are routed through.
After 1914, wrote A. J. P. Taylor, finishing his thought:
The mass of the people became, for the first time, active citizens. Their lives were shaped by orders from above; they were required to serve the state instead of pursuing exclusively their own affairs. . . . The state established a hold over its citizens which, though relaxed in peacetime, was never to be removed and which the Second World War was again to increase. The history of the English state and of the English people merged for the first time.
It is precisely this confluence that Americans must resist. The policeman and the postmaster of Taylor’s report knew intuitively that their role was to capture only that which needed capturing. Our policemen may now fly and our postmasters may communicate in binary, but that principle remains as important as ever. Are we really to concede that we must lose our right to it when we pick up the phone?”
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.
As Barack Obama continues to coast through the scandal gauntlet, it could be sadly reported the President’s “fundamental change” notion has firmly taken root. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have successfully managed to change the rules from ideas and debating the issues to simply demonizing ANY opposition as evil, hateful, and downright demonic. That practice has convinced the ever shrinking minds of so many Americans on practically any concern. An alliance with the media has been the largest component in convincing the weak and the willing that THIS President can do no wrong. Despite the reality of just how WRONG his administration is on so many fronts.
Barack Obama’s disdain and disregard for what used to be worthy aspirations of the nation as a whole is propped up by his claim that those values are so yesterday..so old fashioned..so close minded…so discriminatory.
A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times – Dispatch outlines how the President has declared war on the Constitution. You know..that document which WAS the basis for law in what USED to be a nation of laws…
OBAMA’S WAR ON THE CONSTITUTION
The President, who first campaigned on a claim to constitutional expertise, is now the document’s biggest threat.
“A physician’s expertise makes him capable of inflicting great harm, noted Plato a couple thousand years ago, and no one is better positioned to steal than a guard. So perhaps we should not be surprised that the most conspicuous foe of liberty and the Bill of Rights turns out to be a former professor of constitutional law.
As a general rule, politicians tend to whipsaw between two poles. Conservatives try to increase economic liberty but show less regard for civil liberties. Liberals care deeply about civil liberties while trying to restrict the economic kind.
But the Obama administration is remarkable for its degree of disdain for both.
The president’s principal first-term achievement was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The law greatly increases government’s role in health care and includes an expansion of government power unprecedented in American history: a requirement that all citizens purchase a consumer good irrespective of their personal behavior.
The administration also has pressed relentlessly – and successfully – for tax hikes, which shift control over economic resources from private hands to government. It also has indulged a regulatory binge, which shifts control indirectly, by cranking out burdensome new rules at a rate far faster than the Bush administration ever did. (This holds true even if you count only “economically significant” rules – those costing $100 million or more – and rely only on administration-friendly accounts.)
The result: Government not only is taking more of your money, it increasingly is telling you how to spend what’s left. A recent study estimates the cost of regulation at nearly $15,000 per household. This means the three principal drains on the family checkbook, in order, are: (1) taxes, (2) housing, and (3) regulation. And Washington is working hard to move regulation into the second slot.
While trends like these drive conservatives nuts, they gladden liberal hearts. Yet liberals are not happy with the Obama administration these days – for exceptionally good reasons.
Most saliently, the Justice Department has been trolling through the phone records of reporters for the Associated Press and, even worse, has accused a reporter (Fox News’ James Rosen) of acting as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the unlawful leaking of classified materials. Rosen’s offense was to do what reporters are supposed to do: break a story. This, too, is unprecedented, and it goes too far even for Obama’s most knee-jerk defenders. The New York Times views the investigation as “threatening fundamental freedoms of the press.”
The Rosen matter alone would suffice to disqualify the administration from any Friends-of-the-First Amendment society. Yet it is only one of several such assaults. Others include the administration’s campaign, through its insistence on a contraception mandate underObamacare, against religious liberty, and the president’s suggestion after Citizens United that “we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process” to limit the free-speech rights of persons who incorporate their social organizations; and its thuggish targeting of its political opponents.
If the IRS’ treatment of tea-party groups were an isolated story, you could swallow the explanation that a few low-level bureaucrats went rogue. But that account does not explain why the EPA has been far more generous to freedom-of-information requests from liberal groups than from conservatives. Or why, shortly after the Obama campaign slimed Romney supporter Frank Vander Sloot as a disreputable fellow, he was audited three times – twice by the IRS and once by the Labor Department. Or why, after Texas resident CatherineEngelbrecht started a Tea Party group, she received scrutiny not just from the IRS but also from the FBI. And OSHA. And, just for good measure, the ATF. Or why the IRS took 17 months to respond to an initial tax-exempt status from the conservative Wyoming Policy Institute. Or why it shared confidential files from conservative groups with the liberal ProPublica. Or why. . .
Enough on the First Amendment. The president also has tried with considerable vigor to undermine the Second, and has succeeded in subverting the Fourth: Under Obama, who has gone to court to defend warrantless wiretaps he once condemned, warrantless “pen register” and “trap-and-trace” monitoring has soared to unprecedented heights.
In 2011 the president signed a reauthorization of the Patriot Act with just one regret: Congress approved an extension of only one year, while Obama wanted three. He signed into law a defense reauthorization bill allowing the indefinite detention, without charge, of American citizens, thereby gutting the principle of habeas corpus. Granted, he issued an executive order promising not to exercise that power. But the order does not constrain future presidents or, technically, even him.
From a civil-liberties perspective, Obama has carried forward nearly every one of the war-on-terror powers that led liberals to denounce George W. Bush as a goose-stepping fascist, and in fact has made many of them worse. When he retires from public life, perhaps he will return to teaching the Constitution. That should be much easier work – given how little of it there will be left.
This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Following Independence Day, I thought this would be an uplifting story!…You will be happy to know you’re government is on the job!…On the job possibly watching YOU, that is!….
From Info Wars:
Homeland Security Report Lists ‘Liberty Lovers’ As Terrorists
Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority, reverent of individual liberty” deemed domestic threat
Paul Joseph Watson
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
A new study funded by the Department of Homeland Security characterizes Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” and “reverent of individual liberty” as “extreme right-wing” terrorists.
Entitled Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008 (PDF), the study was produced by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland. The organization was launched with the aid of DHS funding to the tune of $12 million dollars.
While largely omitting Islamic terrorism – the report fails completely to mention the 1993 World Trade Center bombing – the study focuses on Americans who hold beliefs shared by the vast majority of conservatives and libertarians and puts them in the context of radical extremism.
The report takes its definitions from a 2011 study entitled Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism, produced by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, in which the following characteristics are used to identify terrorists.
– Americans who believe their “way of life” is under attack;
– Americans who are “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation)”;
– People who consider themselves “anti-global” (presumably those who are wary of the loss of American sovereignty);
– Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority”;
– Americans who are “reverent of individual liberty”;
– People who “believe in conspiracy theories that involve grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty.”
The report also lists people opposed to abortion and “groups that seek to smite the purported enemies of God and other evildoers” as terrorists.
As we have exhaustively documented on numerous occasions, federal authorities and particularly the Department of Homeland Security have been involved in producing a deluge of literature which portrays liberty lovers and small government advocates as terrorists.
The most flagrant example was the infamous 2009 MIAC report, published by the Missouri Information Analysis Center and first revealed by Infowars, which framed Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, people who display bumper stickers, people who own gold, or even people who fly a U.S. flag, as potential terrorists.
The rush to denounce legitimate political beliefs as thought crimes, or even mundane behaviors, by insinuating they are shared by terrorists, has accelerated in recent months.
Under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism program, the bulk purchase of food is labeled as a potential indication of terrorist activity, as is using cash to pay for a cup of coffee, and showing an interest in web privacy when using the Internet in a public place.
As we have documented on numerous occasions, the federal government routinely characterizes mundane behavior as extremist activity or a potential indicator of terrorist intent. As part of its ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign, the Department of Homeland Security educates the public that generic activities performed by millions of people every day, including using a video camera, talking to police officers, wearing hoodies, driving vans, writing on a piece of paper, and using a cell phone recording application,” are all potential signs of terrorist activity.
The DHS stoked controversy last year when it released a series of videos to promote the See Something, Say Something campaign in which almost all of the terrorists portrayed in the PSAs were white Americans.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show and Infowars Nightly News.