Articles of Interest
This morning I spent reading articles from my usual haunts. I've no real post for today, other than to share the URL's of those articles because I felt they were all excellent and shared valuable information in their own ways. Here they are (in no particular order):
The Five Morons Revisited by Paul Craig Roberts (I originally read this the other day on LewRockwell.com's site, but re-read it because it was "that good.")
Have a read... and enjoy.
Having grown tired with chasing phantom international terrorists, the powers-that-be have decided to turn their collective eye inward--to domestic terrorism. From this AP article, we learn that:
Intelligence officials now fear that homegrowns pose as much of a threat to the U.S. as foreign terrorists. State and local police are being enlisted to watch for signs from people who in the past would have never gotten a second look.
Is it possible that the reason the people never got a second look is because they never deserved a second look? This sounds to me like creating they're creating problems to solve. To set the stage for their new domestic terrorism fear mongering, they cite some recent events:
Mass transit bombings, in Madrid in 2003 and London in 2005, were carried out by self-organized cells of homegrown extremists. In June, 17 Canadian Muslims were charged with plotting to bomb targets in Ontario. British citizens are charged with conspiring earlier this month to bomb as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights headed to the United States.
Closer to home, five U.S. citizens were charged in June for plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and a federal building in Miami. They allegedly took an oath to al-Qaida and sought help from the terrorist organization, although FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said the group was "more aspirational than operational."
Numbers of all federal arrests and prosecutions in homegrown terror cases were not immediately available -- in part because of differing definitions of what a homegrown terrorist is, said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
So, their justification hangs on a bunch of al Qaida wanna-be's who couldn't terrorize their way out of a paper bag. Brilliant! To make matters worse, no one in the law enforcement community can actually point to a national definition of what terrorism actually is. (For example, see this FEMA document, "Modeling the Vulnerability of Potential Targets to Threats of Terrorism," page 3 - Terrorism Defined.)
So, where does that leave us? We have this elastic blob called terrorism that the government can now use to cover all sorts of acts. So what? Well, if you haven't been paying attention to the ever-increasing powers that have been granted to law enforcement in combating terrorism, then you're in for a surprise. Most of the restraints placed on policing powers are non-existent if you can place the criminal activity under the "terrorism" umbrella. Don't believe this is where they're headed with this? Read on...
Cilluffo is working with scholars at the University of Virginia, law enforcement officials and prison counselors on a study to be released next month on homegrown terrorists. "We don't want to suggest we have an absolute epidemic on our hands; we just don't know," he said.
Allen said federal analysts will rely heavily on suspicious activity reports and other information from state and local authorities to root out homegrowns. "A lot of data flows into Washington, and we need to learn a lot more about how to read that material, and I think the answer will be at state and local governments," he said.
Interpreted, they intend to have field offices spread throughout the country. Looks more like a swarm of secret police every day, no? It gets better:
"We need to start looking at people who look more like us," said Gaithersburg, Md., police detective Patrick Word, president of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, which shares intelligence among law enforcement officials.
Word said the federal government also "needs to broaden the scope of what terrorism is and what homeland security is."
"Are you more worried about the plane crashing into the building or biker gangs bringing a pipe bomb to a local restaurant? Or drive-by shootings, or machete attacks by armed gang members?" he said.
They need to "broaden the scope" of something that no one can currently define? How the heck will the average person on the street even know if he's simply breaking the law, or committing an act of terrorism? How will a law enforcement officer know if he's dealing with a common criminal or a domestic terrorist? Will civil disobedience be considered an act of terrorism? Trust me: we don't want to go down this path.
Warrantless Wiretapping Before 9/11?
Here's a press release that should make you ask, "What the hell is going on over at the White House?!?"
Lawyers Will Subpoena Bush White House in Phone Company Spying Case
DETAILS: Two lawyers who brought the first lawsuit against the Bush Administration, Verizon and ATT for illegally examining the phone records of virtually every American citizen will announce today that they are serving subpoenas on the Bush White House and on Verizon.
"We are subpoenaing the White House because we have developed evidence that the Bush Administration began unlawful efforts to obtain Americans' private phone records prior to 9/11/01 and the White House must disclose documents relevant to that claim," said Afran. "We believe that Verizon had extensive involvement in illegally disclosing the records of millions of Americans." (Emphasis mine)
"We are going to determine with these subpoenas whether the Bush administration has unlawfully targeted journalists, peace activists, libertarians, members of congress or generated an 'enemies list' by creating the most massive domestic spying operation in America's history," said Mayer.
They had better hope this doesn't play out or there's going to be hell to pay from the American public.
The Forfeiture of Freedom
Did you know it was a crime to carry large sums of money on you? Neither did I. However, a federal appeals court ruled that if you're pulled over and are found with large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. The problems with this ruling multiply in my mind... What is considered a "large sum of money"? What about property rights? What about due process of law? What about "...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
You have to take a minute to read this article. It will make you realize what a joke our legal system has turned into here in the United States of America. I pity anyone who doesn't trust banks, or snowbirds with a large chunk of walking around money. Your claim to it is all but gone. This fellow, Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, was never accused of or convicted of any crime. They just took his money in a court case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency." Yes, you read that correctly: the case was brought against his money. And to support their position, the court relied, in part, on these three cases:
United States v. Dodge Caravan Grand SE/Sport Van,
United States v. $84,615 in U.S. Currency, and
United States v. $117,920.00 in U.S. Currency.
From the court transcripts we see them acknowledge that "[f]orfeiture is warranted under 21 U.S.C. § 881 when the government establishes a "'substantial connection' between the property" and a controlled substance offense. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(3)." (See page 5 of linked .pdf below.) They're paraphrasing what the code says. What it actually says is ():
18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(3) if the Government's theory of forfeiture is that the property was used to commit or facilitate the commission of a criminal offense, or was involved in the commission of a criminal offense, the Government shall establish that there was a substantial connection between the property and the offense.
In reading the case, you'll not find where the government has established a criminal offense. Sure, they eluded to some theoretical offenses that may have taken place, but that's not good enough for the taking of private property under this law. Forfeiture is only allowed when there's a nexus between property and a criminal offense. They proved that Gonzolez had property, but never showed a nexus to his conviction for criminal activity.
If they're reasoning is that large sums of money have been connected to drug trafficking and therefore subject to forfeiture, then you could also reason that guns have been used for robbing banks and are also subject to forfeiture if you're found with one.
In my opinion, this whole forfeiture business is ripe for abuse and should either be reworked to only be used after a conviction, or done away with.
Source: US v. $124,700 (US Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 8/19/2006)
No, I Didn't Fall Off The Face Of The Planet
I wanted to put up a quick post to let you know that I'm still here (in case you're wondering). I've been slightly distracted with a project that has now been completed, so I should be back into "blogger mode" tomorrow. As you know (or at least I hope you know), Aaron Russo is working on getting his film into theaters, America: Freedom to Fascism. Right now, he's trying to raise money to get his film distributed to movie houses throughout the country. I was working on a project related to that. Hopefully, Mr. Russo will be successful in his endeavors, as we will all benefit from the fruits of his labor.
I do have a challenge for you... if you're interested. I was reading Usama Bin Laden's wanted poster over at the FBI's Wanted web page when I noticed something--or rather I should say--didn't notice something about it. Have a read through and see if you can find what it is that's missing from his wanted poster. I'll give you a hint: Any mention of the events of 11th of September, 2001.
Keep this in mind as we head into another election season.
Privacy 1, Bush 0
A small victory was had in the fight to retain our rights to free speech and privacy. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor struck down President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. You can read the article by clicking here. Of course, the Bush administration isn't going to take no for an answer. They've already announced that they intend to appeal the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
The government claimed that the ruling removes a key tool for fighting terrorism that has already stopped attacks. The ACLU countered that argument by pointing out that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set up a secret court to grant warrants for such surveillance, gave the government enough tools to monitor suspected terrorists. If we follow the government's reasoning, we could argue that a general nuking of the Middle East would also be an effective tool for fighting terrorists, but I don't see any sane persons arguing for that. There has to be limits to the reach of government, or they become no better than those they protect us from.
The Bush administration has argued that the NSA program is well within the president's authority but said proving that would require revealing state secrets. Here's the problem with that logic. What Judge Taylor has seen of the program has provided her with enough evidence to rule the program unconstitutional. How could the government reveal any additional information, i.e. states secrets, that would reverse that decision? If its unconstitutional now, it will still be unconstitutional no matter how much more information you try to pile on it.
An RFID-Enabled Airport Video
There's a flash video on the web that caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you. I learned about it from an article at Free-Market News Network. Their article explains:
CompEx Inc. President Aram Kovach, who developed the film as a demo for the TSA, received a U.S. Patent for the idea he calls "Method for Tracking and Processing Passengers and their Transported Articles" in November of 2005. According to company press releases, TSA officials entertained his ideas twice, once in 2002 and once in 2003, and "offered to direct CompEx in pursuing a segmented objective within the guidelines they have set forth."
The video shows "Bob" entering an airport. From that moment on, he's tracked by RFID as he moves through the airport. Additionally, all of his belongings are also tagged. The video concludes with a scene showing a government agent scanning Bob from a distance. What is disturbing about this scene is that Bob, having his back turned to the agent, is completely unaware that he's being monitored while he sits in the waiting area.(Click here to see this video in its original context.)
Here's your challenge: How many rights violations can you identify in this video? (There's extra-credit for identifying misspellings, too.)
Wanted: New A.G. For N.J.
A news headline caught my eye last night that I wanted to share with you. The headline read, N.J. attorney general quits over ethics. My first thought was that someone in New Jersey has something that she could no longer stomach, forcing her to resign. After reading the article, I realized I was way off. It turns out that it was the actions of the attorney general, herself, that caused the problem. Zulima Farber, the attorney general in question, showed up at a traffic stop involving her boy friend. After a little "intervening," he was able to leave even though it appeared that his vehicle was improperly registered and he was driving on a suspended license.
While that all looks bad for her, what I found interesting was what was stated at the end of the AP article:
Motor vehicle records show that Farber, 61, has had at least 12 speeding tickets, four bench warrants issued for her arrest and three license suspensions.
The report renewed calls for the resignation of the New Jersey's first Hispanic attorney general.
The next paragraph has got to be the understatement of the decade:
"She is incapable of leading the fight against official misconduct and abuse of power because her conduct indicates that she does not even recognize what those things are," said state Republican chairman Tom Wilson.
So tell me, exactly how crooked do you have to be before the state considers it to be too much? Incredible!
Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion
There's a story unfolding in Michigan which involves three Texas men that I want to discuss. But first, lets brush up on a couple of legal terms. To fully understand these terms will aid us in making an educated assessment of the facts presented thus far in this case.
The most widely held common definition would be "a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed" and that the person is linked to the crime with the same degree of certainty. An alternative definition has been proposed, "reason to believe that an injury had criminal cause", which is claimed to be more protective of individual rights as was intended by the authors of the Bill of Rights. See the critique below.
In the context of warrants, the Oxford Companion to American Law defines probable cause as "information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that the wanted individual had committed a crime (for an arrest warrant) or that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search (for a search warrant)." "Probable cause" is a stronger standard of evidence than a reasonable suspicion, but weaker than what is required to secure a criminal conviction. Even hearsay can supply probable cause if it is from a reliable source or is supported by other evidence.
Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard in United States law, that a person has been, is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences. It is the basis for an investigatory or Terry stop by the police and requires less evidence than probable cause, the legal requirement for arrests and warrants. Reasonable suspicion is evaluated using the "reasonable person" or "reasonable officer" standard, in which said person in the same circumstances could reasonably believe a person has been, is, or is about to be, engaged in criminal activity; such suspicion is not a mere hunch. Police may also, based solely on reasonable suspicion of a threat to safety, frisk a suspect for weapons, but not for contraband like drugs. A combination of particular facts, even if individually innocuous, can form the basis of reasonable suspicion.
Now that we understand the legal requirements for 'probable cause' and 'reasonable suspicion' we can look at this CNN News story:
CARO, Michigan (AP) -- The FBI said Monday it had no information to indicate that the three Texas men arrested with about 1,000 cell phones in their van had any direct connection to known terrorist groups.
Authorities had increased patrols on Michigan's five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge after local prosecutors said investigators believed the men were targeting the span.
Local authorities didn't say what they believed the men intended to do with the phones, most of which were prepaid TracFones, but Caro's police chief noted that cell phones can be untraceable and used as detonators.
The FBI issued a news release Monday saying there is no imminent threat to the bridge linking Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas.
Obviously, their reliance on 'probable cause' is out the window in this case. Technically, there has been no crime committed, unless purchasing mass quantities of cell phones has somehow become illegal. If that's the case, the Wal-Mart store where they bought the cell phones from could have just as easily been charged.
So, what were they charged with? The article states:
Local prosecutors charged them with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes.
These are, of course, crimes found under the USA Patriot Act (see 18USC2339A and 2339B for more information). According to the article, the FBI field office is using pictures of the Mackinac Bridge which they found on a camera belonging to the men as well as the not yet realized profits from the sale of these cell phones. William Kowalski, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit field office, even went so far as to say there was nothing illegal about buying cell phones in bulk, but that profits from that kind of activity can be suspicious.
So, where does that leave us? The FBI is essentially relying on 'reasonable suspicion' that these men were up to no good. The problem with their argument is that they themselves have disconnected the men from any 'terrorist acts' or 'terrorist purposes' by admitting they don't have any evidence connecting these three individuals to any known terrorist organizations. They also admit that they believe their activities "can be suspicious," but that they technically have done nothing illegal. Their admissions, in my opinion, pushes their case back under the umbrella protection of 'probable cause'.
This story stinks to high heaven of heavy handed policing. The FBI office needs to admit that it made a mistake, give back their cell phones, and hope to god that they don't get sued.
In the spirit of Stephen Colbert's wordsmithing of truthiness, I'd like to submit my own entry to the American lexicon. My new word is a combination made up of the two words sycophant and psychopath and was inspired by listening to a talking head on the radio. This guy stated that despite the fact that most of Europe, France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Canada, and a large portion of America can't see the Iranian threat, we should go ahead and nuke 'em before they attack us. My first thought was, "Mabey its you who needs to review the evidence." Anyway, here's the two words followed by my new word complete with definition:
In modern English, the term has come to mean one who seeks to please people in positions of authority or influence in order to gain power themselves, usually at the cost of pride, principles, and peer respect.
Intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.
Lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, he seeks to charm, manipulate, intimidate, and violently control others in order to please people in positions of authority or influence as well as cold-bloodedly takes what he wants and does as he pleases, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret in order to gain power for himself regardless of the cost to his pride, principles, and peer respect.
Hope you like it. And please, feel free to use it!
GWOT: Got Way Off Track
In most of the recent news articles telling of the terrorist's plot to blow up passenger jets over the Atlantic, I kept reading repeated references to their connections to terrorist organizations located in Pakistan. Being curious, I did a quick check to see what groups were known to be located within that country. Here's a list of the terrorist organizations
I compiled from Wikipedia
. Keep in mind that Pakistan is our ally in the Global War on Terror
This rather large list seems to beg the question, "Are they really serious about eradicating these terrorists groups, or are they just keeping tabs on them for us?" Think about this for a minute. The Pakistani government has had almost five years to round up and end these terrorist groups, yet we still being subjected to their influences:
And the plot's threads back to Pakistan are likely to further concerns that the South Asian nation has become a hub for international terrorism. Source
In my opinion, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has done a piss-poor job of eliminating indigenous terrorist groups. Mabey its time the United States refocuses on its goal
of apprehending those responsible for 9/11. After all, those responsible still need to be brought to justice for their crimes against the innocent.
A Time to Make Their Case
There's been some chatter on the television, the radio, and the blogosphere of how the Britains were able to foil this latest terror plot because they're not bound by the same restrictions as their counterparts in United States law enforcement. In Britain, they're basis for searching an individual is what they call 'reasonable suspicion' while in America they have to have 'probable cause' of wrong doing. The former is immensely less restrictive than the latter, but it also is immensely more violative of your right to privacy and property. For example, they have 'sneak and peak' warrants to enter a target's home unannounced to search for whatever they're looking for. Remember, all of this is done without the target's knowledge or consent. In the United States, we now have these types of warrants thanks to the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is trying to thwart their usage through various lawsuits.
We must understand that there are fundamental differences between citizens of the United States and subjects of the British Crown. Ours is a representative democracy while theirs is a monarchy of sorts. The biggest difference is that we in the United States have Rights independent of the State while British subjects have privileges extended to them by their sovereign. Therefore, the State has restrictions set on it's authority by American citizens via our Constitution and Bill of Rights which limits how far the State can intrude into our lives. To put it in simple terms, the people assign boundaries to the State in the United States, while the State assigns boundaries to their subjects in the United Kingdom. (See rights and privileges for a more in-depth look at their differences.)
Unfortunately, this creates a situation that pits the State against the people as it tries to increase its authority. The State is constantly pushing at the edges of its boundaries to gain control over new areas. History shows us that the State's push usually occurs when there is an event that threatens the security and safety of the people like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. When the people are at their most vulnerable, the State steps up and says, "Grant us these new powers and we'll protect you." A quick run through a history book will show this to be true.
That is why I'm so worried about something that is sitting out there on the horizon. Unless you've been really paying attention, you'll of most likely missed it. There are two bills in committee right now, S. 2453 and S. 2455. I've written about these before, so I won't go into them again in this post. Needless to say, I view both as a direct assault on our rights and liberties. Both bills are meant to weaken our Bill of Rights protections and allow the State even more authority to intrude into our personal lives without just cause.
So, let me lay out this scenario for you as I see it. There are these two bills in committee that the Bush administration would love to have passed into law. With the Senate being on recess until September 5th, the Bush administration has time to make its case for how these two bills would give them the authority to at least match their British counterparts in the UK, all the while couching their arguments in their pursuit of capturing terror suspects. In the coming weeks, watch for the revelations made by the UK of the methods they used. Then watch for the reactions by our law enforcement agencies. I'm guessing something along the lines of: "It would be great to have tools like that." or "If only we had that kind of authority, we could thwart all kinds of terrorist plots." Americans, ever the fearful bunch, won't raise any kind of meaningful protest to this new expansion of the police state.
Let me leave you with a couple of quotes which further illustrate my point...
The first is by President Bush:
[President] Bush also thanked investigators in the U.S. and Britain for working together to stop the plot. White House aides said they hoped the successful investigation would dampen criticism of the administration's controversial anti-terror methods, such as secret monitoring of phone calls, e-mail and financial transactions.
"This week's events demonstrate the vital importance of ensuring that our intelligence and law enforcement personnel have all the tools they need to track down the terrorists and prevent attacks on our country," Bush said.
Lost in the intense and breathtaking reporting concerning the averted terrorist airline attacks in Great Britain was a side bar report that the key intelligence that MI5 and Scotland Yard gleaned was from so-called 'sneak and peak' warrants.
These warrants allow agents to clandestinely break into the target's premises and search for certain prescribed items and information. Although in the U.S. the Second and Ninth Circuit Courts have historically upheld these warrants, the first express statutory authorization of them came with the Patriot Act in 2001.
First amendment lawyer Lawrence Walters was a featured guest on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" Thursday night, discussing the foiled terrorist plot in the U.K., and Scotland Yard's use of NSA (National Security Agency) wiretap surveillance to execute the arrests of 21 terrorist suspects who were plotting to down as many as 10 airlines headed to major U.S. cities.
The topic of debate between O'Reilly and Walters focused on whether the U.K.'s use of wiretap surveillance should serve as an example that aggressive surveillance is an effective method of tracking terrorist activities, and, therefore, the Bush administration should be given carte blanche to conduct covert investigations into the private activities of American citizens.
I don't know about you, but this seems like pretty compelling evidence to me.
UPDATE: While watching Fox News, I saw a sound bite in which Michael Chertoff commented:
"What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information,"
A quick search on the Fox News site turned up this article. This is exactly what I was warning about:
The U.S. should consider reviewing its laws to allow for more electronic surveillance and detention of possible terror suspects, citing last week's foiled plot, the chief of homeland security said Sunday.
Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stopped short of calling for immediate changes, noting there might be constitutional barriers to the type of wide police powers the British had in apprehending suspects in the plot to blow up airliners headed to the U.S.
But Chertoff made clear his belief that wider authority could thwart future attacks at a time when Congress is reviewing the proper scope of the Bush administration's executive powers for its warrantless eavesdropping program and military tribunals for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
To Declare an August War
In the melee following the announcement that the British government managed to foil a plot to blow up passenger flights in mid-air, President Bush, while in Green Bay, Wis., said the events showed that the nation "is at war with Islamic fascists." This is news and should be considered as significant to all Americans because we currently are not at war with Islamic fascists. Right now, there are just two AUMF's (Authorization for Use of Military Force) on the books.
Section 2 - Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Section 3 - Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces
(a) Authorization.--The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
In the first resolution, the President has authorization to use force against those who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons." The second resolution deals with using armed forces to defend the U.S. against Iraqi attacks and to enforce "relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."
With the President's declaration that we're at war with Islamic fascists, I have to ask, "Does he intend to broaden his AUMF to cover all Islamic fascists?" Let's look at who would now be covered if he gets his way. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has the following entry for Islamic fascists:
Organizations that have been labeled Islamofascist include Al-Qaeda, the current Iranian government, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
Some of those listed are covered by his original AUMF, but some are not. To include them would be to make a huge leap--one that I'm not prepared to make. Note the last two groups in the list, Hamas and Hezbollah. I find their inclusion interesting in light of current events with Israel.
As I see it, there are really only two possible solutions. The first would demand that the President go back to Congress and ask for a brand new AUMF that allows him the authority to wage war on "Islamic fascists". This would satisfy the requirements found in the War Powers Resolution (see 50USC1542). Either that, or he could wage an undeclared sixty days war on Islamic fascists. However, when the sixty day period ran out he would be required by law to end it or ask Congress for an extension (see 50USC15449(b)).
If the President does not pursue the first option, then consider the clock running on the second. Hmm... Sixty days from now would put us in the middle of October. Could this be an indication of an upcoming October surprise or am I just paranoid? Only time will tell.
With the stroke of a pen, criminal acts committed by policymakers would simply disappear. Even better, that pen-stroke would have the power to time-travel by erasing their past crimes. From this AP article:
The Bush administration drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for authorizing any humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to lawyers who have seen the proposal.
The Bush administration is trying to implement these amendments to shield itself from prosecution for torturing individuals which is prohibited under existing laws.
As Mel Brooks once remarked, "It's good to be the king!" But why stop here? Why not pass a law that makes all of government immune from both criminal and civil punishment? That way, they can rule unimpeded. Imagine how protected and secure the American people would feel if policymakers didn't have to worry about being sued every time they violated an individual's rights. They could then focus on protecting large swaths of Americans. Imagine the efficiency!
...I'm being sarcastic, of course.
How Secure is Your Citizenship?
a) The term "individual subject to this order" shall mean any individual who is not a United States citizen with respect to whom I determine from time to time in writing that:
(1) there is reason to believe that such individual, at the relevant times,
(i) is or was a member of the organization known as al Qaida;
(ii) has engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit, acts of international terrorism, or acts in preparation therefor, that have caused, threaten to cause, or have as their aim to cause, injury to or adverse effects on the United States, its citizens, national security, foreign policy, or economy; or
(iii) has knowingly harbored one or more individuals described in subparagraphs (i) or (ii) of subsection 2(a)(1) of this order; and
(2) it is in the interest of the United States that such individual be subject to this order.
The above hinges on the clunky language, "any individual who is not a United States citizen with respect to whom I determine from time to time..." To me, that seems to say that the President has the authority to look at an individual and any relevant evidence associated with that individual to make a determination of citizenship. In other words, the President is saying that he can--at will--revoke your citizenship. This is the point that I went searching for the smoking gun. I didn't exactly find it, but I did find some shell casings. Here are two such clues for you to ponder while the search continues.
The Department of Justice requested that a Survey of the Law of Expatriation be made. It was completed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo. In his findings, he states:
In summary, both the Third Circuit and the district court in Schiffer (which the Third Circuit affirmed without opinion) have determined that the act of serving in a foreign armed force engaged in hostilities against the United States may itself manifest a specific intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship.
I read that to mean that any act of aggression towards the United States could be evidence used to show your intent to relinquish citizenship. So what? Well, if the Justice Department can show prima facie evidence that your intent was to discard your citizenship, you could then be reclassified as an enemy combatant. Thus begins your life as persona non grata.
The next clue is taken from the U.S. Department of State's website informing travelers of what the United States considers lawful methods of relinquishing their U.S. citizenship. The portion that I'm interested in is as follows:
DISPOSITION OF CASES WHEN ADMINISTRATIVE PREMISE IS INAPPLICABLE
The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual:
(1) formally renounces U.S. citizenship before a consular officer;
(2) takes a policy level position in a foreign state;
(3) is convicted of treason; or
(4) performs an act made potentially expatriating by statute accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship. (Such cases are very rare.)
Cases in categories 2, 3, and 4 will be developed carefully by U.S. consular officers to ascertain the individual's intent toward U.S. citizenship.
What this says is that the state would normal assume that U.S. citizens always act in such a way as to retain their citizenship. It is only under the above circumstances that this assumption would not exist. Take special note of the fourth example. I believe this is the loophole that allows the President to make his determination of your citizenship.
I'll continue my search, but I did want to pass on one last item for you to consider. In my searching, I ran across the following quote a number of times. It addresses an section found in the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (a.k.a. The Patriot Act II). I'm really not sure what happened to this act. It may be sitting on some shelf waiting for "another Pearl Harbor" type event or it may have been relabeled and quietly passed into law. The following is an example of an alert of potential abuse posted repeatedly all over the web that speaks right to the subject of this post:
SECTION 501 (Expatriation of Terrorists) expands the Bush administration's "enemy combatant" definition to all American citizens who "may" have violated any provision of Section 802 of the first Patriot Act. (Section 802 is the new definition of domestic terrorism, and the definition is "any action that endangers human life that is a violation of any Federal or State law.") Section 501 of the second Patriot Act directly connects to Section 125 of the same act. The Justice Department boldly claims that the incredibly broad Section 802 of the First USA Patriot Act isn't broad enough and that a new, unlimited definition of terrorism is needed.
Under Section 501 a US citizen engaging in lawful activities can be grabbed off the street and thrown into a van never to be seen again. The Justice Department states that they can do this because the person "had inferred from conduct" that they were not a US citizen. Remember Section 802 of the First USA Patriot Act states that any violation of Federal or State law can result in the "enemy combatant" terrorist designation.
In closing, I can not at this time prove without a doubt that a U.S. citizen could have his citizenship revoked at will, but I think the groundwork has been laid for it at some future time.
"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
~James Madison (letter to W.T. Barry, 4 August 1822)
Feds threaten lawsuit over Verizon probe
By KEVIN WACK Blethen Maine Newspapers
The Bush administration is threatening to sue Maine regulators should they decide to investigate whether Verizon Communications illegally turned over customer information to the National Security Agency.
Verizon customers in Maine have asked the state's Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether the telecom giant violated privacy laws by cooperating with a domestic surveillance program. The PUC is expected to decide Monday whether to open such a probe.
In a July 28 letter to the PUC, the U.S. Department of Justice cites national security as a key reason for its opposition to a state investigation. The seven-page letter suggests that a lawsuit is likely if Maine regulators decide to investigate.
(Click here to continue with this article.)
"...a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both." This, my friends, is despotism staring you in the face. The question is, "Will you recognize it?"
Building of the Secret Police Force
A quick stroll down the path that lead to the formation of the Gestapo in Hitler's Germany will be enough to remind us how little effort it took to create this massive secret police force. If I were asked to summarize in one word the purpose for having the Gestapo, it would be control. Hitler knew that the only way he could accomplish his goals was through total control of the German population, and the only way to effectively control the German population was through fear. Hitler surrounded himself with individuals who understood these basic principles. Needless to say, history proves they did their jobs well.
So, what makes me write about events from sixty-plus years ago? Well, dear reader, we're being lead down the garden path again. You may or may not be aware that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that enemy combatants cannot be held in absentia at U.S. prison camps anymore. They must be afforded the basic rights under the Geneva Conventions. The United States Department of Justice, in an attempt to comply with the Supreme Court ruling is trying to come up with a set of rules that will govern their forthcoming trials. So far, so good.
But here is where we go off course. The Justice Department, in drafting its new rules, is pushing for a broad expansion of authority. To better explain this, lets look at this article from the Washington Post:
A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.
The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.
The draft proposed legislation, set to be discussed at two Senate hearings today, is controversial inside and outside the administration because defendants would be denied many protections guaranteed by the civilian and traditional military criminal justice systems.
Under the proposed procedures, defendants would lack rights to confront accusers, exclude hearsay accusations, or bar evidence obtained through rough or coercive interrogations. They would not be guaranteed a public or speedy trial and would lack the right to choose their military counsel, who in turn would not be guaranteed equal access to evidence held by prosecutors.
Detainees would also not be guaranteed the right to be present at their own trials, if their absence is deemed necessary to protect national security or individuals.
Read this excerpt again so that you fully comprehend the implications and ramifications of just how much power the Bush administration is trying to usurp.
What they're building is a black hole from which anyone who gets sucked into it's inner-workings will most likely never see the light of day-let alone their freedoms-again. You must understand that if the Executive is allowed the powers sought by this proposed legislation, there will hardly be an act committed by an American that cannot in some way, shape, or form be defined as terrorism under our existing ambiguous definition for domestic terrorism (See USA PATRIOT Act, Section 802 for more information).
If given this power, how long do you think it will take before we hear of Americans who seem to just "disappear"? How long will it take for us to accept this practice as commonplace?
No Warrant? No Search
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The Senate will soon vote on a bill that permits the Administration to spy on Americans without court approval. This violates the Bill of Rights and leaves us all unprotected from snooping government agents. Click here to tell the Senate to oppose the Specter-Cheney Deal and to preserve the role of the courts to approve searches of Americans.
Quote of the Day
The only things standing between you and your freedom are your government and you.
~Don V. Bangert, III
What Were Their Intended Targets?
Before we begin, I want to warn you that the following may be a bit controversial to some. This is presented solely for the sake of raising alternative points of view for discussion. Proceed at your own risk...
In recent weeks, there's been some talk around the blogosphere about who or what were on the terrorist's target lists. One such blogger, Tim Birdnow, asserts that the terrorists aim to exterminate all Westerners because they stand in the way of their restoring the Caliphate (see Wikipedia's entry for background on the Caliphate). This and other articles about American foreign policy (see here) got me thinking about what exactly it was that started this recent round of battles between the West and the East. Specifically, the events that transpired on September 11, 2001.
Without delving too deeply into what others have theorized, I thought I'd put forth my own observations with some supporting evidence, too. There's an old article over at the Telegraph that talks about a video that circulated amongst al-Qaeda's members after 9/11. It's a video that was released by bin Laden that's purportedly meant to rally support for their cause amongst his followers. That's not why I'm interested in it, though. What I'm interested in is how he perceived his targets when he discussed them with his fellow comrades. Remember, this video was not intended for "public consumption" like so many other of bin Laden's videos. This video was meant to stay in-house as a sort of training and recruiting aid.
My theory? Here it is: al-Qaeda's intended targets on September 11, 2001, were not the citizens of America, but the symbols of America. Bin Laden meant to destroy our symbols of financial might and military dominance by attacking and destroying what he believed to be their greatest examples--the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House. We all know that flight 93 was meant for the White House, but was unsuccessful in reaching it's destination. Unfortunately, the other two planes were successful in reaching their targets.
If we look to the video for bin Laden's perception of his targets, we find that he clearly states:
"The Twin Towers were legitimate targets, they were supporting US economic power. These events were great by all measurement. What was destroyed were not only the towers, but the towers of morale in that country."
Note that his focus is on objects--not people. He then addresses concerns apparently raised by those around him that Islam forbids the killing of innocent civilians which would mean that he'd be guilty of murdering people when he ordered the destruction of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House. Again from the Telegraph's article:
The hijackers were "blessed by Allah to destroy America's economic and military landmarks". He freely admits to being behind the attacks: "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism then history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal religiously and logically."
"The towers were supposed to be filled with supporters of the economical powers of the United States who are abusing the world. Those who talk about civilians should change their stand and reconsider their position. We are treating them like they treated us."
His comments, in my opinion, show that he never intended for American citizens to be directly targeted on September 11th. They're subsequent deaths were what our military likes to call collateral damage. To reiterate, I believe that al-Qaeda's intended targets for the September 11 attacks were symbols of America's dominance.
In Osama bin Laden's mind, September 11 was not a first strike, but a retaliation to previous aggressions made by the West. This can be seen by his use of the word 'avenging' which implies their action to be a reaction to our action. To further this claim, note the last sentence from his statement above, "We are treating them like they treated us." Again, their reaction to our action.
Am I justifying their attacks on us? Absolutely not. I merely wish to look at the facts in their proper context. Its when facts get distorted that innocent people usually end up dead... and the original problems remain unresolved. So, what is the original problem? I'm not sure, but I'd venture to guess that America's intervention in Middle Eastern affairs plays a major part in it. I think we need to look there for the answer.
The True Cost of State Government
The Daily Zero has this article, Ranks of State Workers Swell, which tells how the Washington State government is about to grow yet again. From the article:
Total employment of state government crept up by the equivalent of 1,672 full-time positions to 108,254 in the budget year that began in July.
This got me thinking about exactly what those numbers translate into on a real bread-and-butter type of level. After a bit of searching on the internet, I came up with some figures to put with this article to flesh it out for us.
But first, keep in mind the fact that the following dollar amount does not account for the estimated 64,000 part-time State Employees. I deliberately left these positions out because there's really no way of telling how to accurately add them into our equation or how much money it takes to pay them. I discovered that the budget doesn't include their salaries, either. Here's what is included in the budgeted amount (from A Citizens Guide to the Washington State Budget, January 2006 - page 9 (.pdf)):
The $6.4 billion Salaries and Benefits expenditure in FY 2005 provided compensation to the nearly 107,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff that the state directly employs. In addition to salaries and wages, this amount includes health, life, and disability insurance; Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI is sometimes referred to as "Social Security"); retirement and pensions; and other employee benefits.
First, let's figure out what the average yearly salary is for a State Employee:
$6,400,000,000.00 ÷ 106,639* FTEs = $60,015.56
Next, let's multiply this average yearly salary against our new State Employee number provided by the Daily Zero's article:
$60,015.56 x 108,254 = $6,496,924,432.24
This amount will probably be our new Salaries and Benefits expenditure for FY 2007 after the bump up in the number of State Employees.
Now that we have our adjusted numbers, all we need to do is figure out how many people live in the State of Washington. The answer: The Office of Financial Management estimates that as of April 2006, 6,375,600 people live in Washington State (Source).
And now for the really disturbing numbers:
Would it surprise you to learn that for every 58 Washington State citizens there's a State Employee to look after them (6,375,600 ÷ 108,254).
The cost to each and every Washington State citizen--man, woman, and child--to employ all these State Employee's: $1,019.02 per year ($6,496,924,432.24 ÷ 6,375,600).
Nanny Statism, my friends, is very much alive and well here in Washington State. Which leads me to ask, "How many State Employees do we really need to run this State? One in 58 citizens to look after each of us seems a little disproportionate to me. Are we all really so inept that we need constant minding by the State?"
The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!
...no seriously, I think this may be real this time. Patrick Wood has a good article over at NewsWithViews.com that you should read. It's a piece which highlights our impending doom (said with dramatic echo effect):
A stunning 23 page report by Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff titled "Is the U.S. Bankrupt?" was issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in November, 2005, and quietly posted on their public website. Although publicly accessible, it was totally ignored by the U.S. press.
Kotlikoff is professor of Economics at Boston University and has penned at least 355 papers published by the Federal Reserve over several years.
Kotlikoff concludes that "Countries can and do go bankrupt. The U.S., with its $65.9 trillion fiscal gap, seems clearly headed down that path."
Hmmm... $65.9 trillion you say? Makes one wonder how safe his retirement is if its wrapped up in U.S. currency and/or assets.