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Liberty Lost

Saturday, September 30, 2006

With the passage of the Military Tribunal Act of 2006, and the pending passage of warrantless surveillance, I felt compelled to create the following...
As an added bonus (or, if you prefer, a kick in the you-know-what's), I read that on Friday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told federal judges that they shouldn't substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime. Quoting from the article:
He said the Constitution makes the president commander in chief and the Supreme Court has long recognized the president's pre-eminent role in foreign affairs. "The Constitution, by contrast, provides the courts with relatively few tools to superintend military and foreign policy decisions, especially during wartime," the attorney general told a conference on the judiciary at Georgetown University Law Center.
"Judges must resist the temptation to supplement those tools based on their own personal views about the wisdom of the policies under review," Gonzales said.
Got that? He just told them to butt-the-hell-out. He then goes on to explain that judges are not immune from public criticism and that more states should move away from having judges stand in partisan elections to keep their seats. In such contested elections, "most of the contributions come from lawyers and law firms, many of whom have had, or will have, cases before the court," Gonzales said. "The appearance of a conflict of interest is difficult to dismiss." Again from the article:
He noted favorably that some states have adopted other ways of picking judges, including merit selection and appointment with simple up-or-down retention elections rather than contested campaigns. With polls showing many voters think judges can be swayed by campaign contributions, Gonzales said, "If Americans come to believe that judges are simply politicians, or their decisions can be purchased for a price, state judicial systems will be undermined."
The unspoken other part of that last sentence that I'm sure was heard loud and clear by all in attendance was, "which would force the Federal government to step in with uniform guidelines for all the states when it comes to selecting judges." Strong-arm tactics, anyone?
"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."
~Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Swallowing Propaganda's Pill

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's funny how politicians see reality. War is peace, Ignorance is knowledge, and Freedom is slavery are classic Orwellianisms. But, today, modern Americans are far too clever to fall for such simple mind-games. The politicians of today are faced with an ever-increasing challenge to hide their attempts at subverting the truth. As an example, while reading an article about President Bush defending his approach to the war on terror, I ran across the following quote:
He lashed out anew at critics "who make a case that, by fighting the terrorists, we're making our people less secure here at home. This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them," he said.
The first thing that popped into my mind was this analogy:
The bully lashed out anew at critics "who make a case that, by poking dogs with sharp sticks, we're making our people less secure here at home. This argument buys into the dog's propaganda that the dogs attack us because we're poking them with sharp sticks," he said.
Anyone with an IQ level above a turnip can see that the only propaganda here is that which is being pushed by our government to maintain support for its floundering war on terror. This is a classic example of misdirection through projection. The way this works is for you to accuse your enemy of the very thing you're doing which diverts attention away from you by placing them in the spotlight, allowing your misdeeds to remain in the shadows. Unfortunately, most people fall for it.
Am I saying that we should close up shop in Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow and head for home? Not really. We've made a huge mess over there and we need to help bring some stability to the region. However, we need to tell the local governments that we're leaving their countries by a certain date regardless if they're ready for us to leave or not. In the interim, we can educate their people in policing techniques, etc. They need to understand that they must do things for themselves; that we're not there permanently to hold their hands.

A Quick Review of HR 6166

Thursday, September 28, 2006


(A) The term 'unlawful enemy combatant' means

(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or

(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.

Can a United States person be labeled as an 'Unlawful Enemy Combatant'? I would have to say 'Yes' because there is no exclusionary clause included in the language that specifically seperates U.S. persons from the rest.

§ 948b. Military commissions generally

(a) PURPOSE.--This chapter establishes procedures governing the use of military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States for violations of the law of war and other offenses triable by military commission.

An 'alien' is defined in this bill as 'a person who is not a citizen of the United States.' From the preceding definitions and this terminology, we can deduce that there are two classes of 'unlawful enemy combatants,' i.e. 'aliens' and everyone else. Presumably, we must include in that second category all United States persons who have been found to be 'unlawful enemy combatants.' Does this established military commission cover non-alien enemy combatants? On it's face, I'd say 'No.' But, let's continue.

(b) AUTHORITY FOR MILITARY COMMISSIONS UNDER THIS CHAPTER.--The President is authorized to establish military commissions under this chapter for offenses triable by military commission as provided in this chapter.

§ 948c. Persons subject to military commissions

Any alien unlawful enemy combatant is subject to trial by military commission under this chapter.

§ 948d. Jurisdiction of military commissions

(a) JURISDICTION.--A military commission under this chapter shall have jurisdiction to try any offense made punishable by this chapter or the law of war when committed by an alien unlawful enemy combatant before, on, or after September 11, 2001.

Again, more language dealing strictly with the class of 'unlawful enemy combatants' known as 'alien,' but doesn't mention the other class of 'unlawful enemy combatants'.

(b) LAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANTS.--Military commissions under this chapter shall not have jurisdiction over lawful enemy combatants. Lawful enemy combatants who violate the law of war are subject to chapter 47 of this title. Courts-martial established under that chapter shall have jurisdiction to try a lawful enemy combatant for any offense made punishable under this chapter.

Here we see that 'lawful enemy combatants' are excluded from the military commission's jurisdiction.

(c) DETERMINATION OF UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT STATUS DISPOSITIVE. A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.

Bad news, boys and girls. This is where I think the bill tries to include your plain ol' vanilla 'unlawful enemy combatants' in with your 'alien unlawful enemy combatants.' Don't see it? Read it again. This time note the word 'dispositive.' They're saying, 'If a person is found to be an 'unlawful enemy combatant' by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (whatever that is), then that person is 'transferred' under or 'related to' the jurisdiction of military commissions."

My assessment of this bill: It's crap and anyone who voted for it should be thrown out of office... or the nearest window, whichever one being the closest.

I ran across this article by Benjamin Davis of the University of Toledo College of Law at the Jurist web site. In his piece, he parses this bill much the same as I. When he got to § 948d(c) DETERMINATION OF UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT STATUS DISPOSITIVE, he came to almost the same conclusion. His comment on this section was:
This provision anchors the jurisdiction of the military commissions in determinations for which there is little or no review. Once considered an unlawful enemy combatant, one is truly alone and made to have limited recourse before the end of the proceeding. And the powers of the Secretary of Defense are enhanced as the punishments are no longer to be determined by the President in Section (d) on that same page 8.

11 Basic Rules of Life

(A friend faxed this to me. I'm sure it's been out for awhile, but I liked it and wanted to share.)
Life is not fair - get used to it.
The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
You will not make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with a car phone -- until you earn both.
If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping - they called it opportunity.
If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault; so don't whine about your mistakes. Learn from them.
Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rainforest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Be nice to the nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Democracy, Washington Style

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I want to ask you a question or two about your blind faith in government, but we need some background before I ask. While surfing the web, I stumbled on an article at World News Trust. This article, written by Joshua Frank, explains how Aaron Dixon, the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Washington State, was allegedly seduced with money to drop out of running. The article explains:
Allegedly it all started with a phone call from Mark Wilson, the former antiwar challenger to Maria Cantwell, who dropped out of the Democratic Primary halfway through the campaign to take a lofty post within the Cantwell camp. After agreeing to take the position, Wilson told a reporter that the amount of money he would be making was "confidential," but several people familiar with the campaign say similar positions pay upwards of $8,000 a month. Apparently even antiwar positions have a price tag attached.
Unless you are Aaron Dixon, that is.
As Dixon tells it, "Mark [Wilson] called and basically told me that a lot of people have a lot of money within the Cantwell campaign, and he said that they could put on a fundraiser for Central House that would 'blow my mind.' He called a week later and basically told me the same thing. I didn't bite, ending this war is too important." [Note: Dixon founded Central House, a not-for-profit organization that works to provide housing for young homeless adults, where he is still acting director.]
Instead of running a legitimate race, Maria Cantwell's campaign staff decided that it would rather guarantee a win by buying up all the competition rather than allowing their fate to be decided by the will of the people.
And now to the questions I wanted to ask: Can anyone look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face and true sincerity that the democratic process in this country has not been totally corrupted by power and money? With the revelation of antics such as these, who's interests are really being served by Maria Cantwell other than hers and those who are buying her way back into power? Remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

It May Be Time To Call It

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How can I say this without piquing the interest of the guys and black suits and sunglasses? I see our country in a race to the bottom. We are quite literally moments away from total bankruptcy. At any moment, maybe one more military adventure, maybe one more super-sized natural disaster away from going flat-frickin' broke. When its creditors tell the U.S. Government no more, the end is at hand. It will be like the fall of the USSR and I can't wait. Heck, I'd be willing to poke a few more holes in the ship of state to quicken the sinking if I could. These dirty, greedy politicians have milked Americans long enough. Its time this farm folded, and the sheeple moved on to greener pastures.
Here's the thing we need to be ready for. When this titanic crashes, there will be vultures ready to swoop in to pick at the carcass. We need to be ready to rush in and defend that which will allow us the freedom, liberty, and responsibility we espouse in these writings. What's the use in trading one master for another? We'd still be slaves. I won't stand for that option. I'm tired of the leash; I'm tired of the regulations; I'm tired of the constant erosion of freedom. I would rather die a free man tomorrow, then live an entire lifetime as a slave to another.
Here's hoping the end comes quickly for this rotten ship of fools! Getting Frist elected as president would perpetuate this process. We libertarian-types may want to consider changing our tactics. Instead of trying to resurrect this stinking corpse, mabey we should put our energies into whatever will get the grave dug the quickest. Attempting to breathe new life into this government is like giving CPR to a mass-murderer... Some things you should just let die.

IRS v. The Church, Part Two

Monday, September 25, 2006

A couple days ago, I attempted to post about a church who had gotten into hot water with the Internal Revenue Service over a sermon that was given by a visiting minister. Unfortunately, I ran short on time and was not able to complete it. I indicated that I would complete it at some future time, and that time is now. However, I've decided to abbreviate my post and just give you some relevant links so that you can check it out for yourself.
The first link is to an old American Radio Show program, hosted by Dave Champion, which aired back in May of 2003. His guest that day was Peter Kershaw, author of In Caesar's Grip. This book address how churches have converted themselves into "corporate religious institutions" by signing up for 501c3 tax exempt status.
Hour 1 (RealAudio)
Hour 1 (MP3)
The second link is to an actual web page on the IRS's web site that explains the 501c3 exemption, better known as Publication 557. In particular, I want to draw your attention to two separate sections. The first section states:
Application for Recognition of Exemption

This discussion describes certain information to be provided upon application for recognition of exemption by all organizations created for any of the purposes described earlier in this chapter. For example, the application must include a conformed copy of the organization's articles of incorporation, as discussed under Articles of Organization later in this chapter. See the organization headings that follow for specific information your organization may need to provide.
Form 1023.   Your organization must file its application for recognition of exemption on Form 1023. See chapter 1 and the instructions accompanying Form 1023 for the procedures to follow in applying. Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These are discussed later in this section.
Form 1023 and accompanying statements must show that all of the following are true.
  1. The organization is organized exclusively for, and will be operated exclusively for, one or more of the purposes (charitable, religious, etc.) specified in the introduction to this chapter.
  2. No part of the organization's net earnings will inure to the benefit of private shareholders or individuals. You must establish that your organization will not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests.
  3. The organization will not, as a substantial part of its activities, attempt to influence legislation (unless it elects to come under the provisions allowing certain lobbying expenditures) or participate to any extent in a political campaign for or against any candidate for public office. See Political activity, next, and Lobbying Expenditures, near the end of this chapter.
Political activity.   If any of the activities (whether or not substantial) of your organization consist of participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, your organization will not qualify for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3). Such participation or intervention includes the publishing or distributing of statements.
Whether your organization is participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each case. Certain voter education activities or public forums conducted in a non-partisan manner may not be prohibited political activity under section 501(c)(3), while other so-called voter education activities may be prohibited.
Seems pretty clear to me. The IRS is saying to those who incorporate under the state and seek tax exempt status will be prohibited from certain activities. Remember, if you are subject to the state, you don't have rights, you only have privileges and benefits which can be terminated without notice and at will.
Continuing with Publication 557, the next section I want to look at states:
Organizations Not Required To File Form 1023

Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023.
These include:
  • Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men's or women's organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group.
  • Any organization (other than a private foundation) normally having annual gross receipts of not more than $5,000 (see Gross receipts test, later).
These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).
I wonder why that is? Trust me, this publication doesn't give a complete picture. I'm not claiming to be an expert on 501c3 organizations and church to state relationships, but I know when something smells fishy. For a church to declare it's 501c3 tax exempt status, it moves itself from "outside" to "inside" the government's purview. Why would anyone do that?
Also note that the Publication leads the reader to believe that churches are required to file Form 1023 through the language used ("charitable, religious, etc."). It's only later and the publication that we discover that when it said "religious," it didn't intend to include "Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men's or women's organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group." What other "religious" entities are left if we exclude all of these? This publication is deliberately written to mislead the reader into believing it applies to him.

DownsizeDC: No Torture! No "Star Chamber" Courts!

(Note: This message from Jim Babka couldn't have come at a worse time for me. The last couple of days I've been wearing a scowl because I'm feeling the pressure from our crushing government. It's gotten to the point where one is left to surmise that those in Washington do as they please; the rest of us be damned! I'm losing my patients with the lot of them. If one more politician tells me how lucky I am to be "free," I'm likely to go revolutionary on his ass!)
Downsize DC Logo
Something bad is about to happen. Only you can stop it, and the clock is ticking. 
We hate to sound apocalyptic. We loathe the politics of fear (even if it works!). So we're not looking to scare you. But you need to know that the end is near for "archaic" ideas like... 
  • the right to security in your home and papers
  • the right to be free from unreasonable searches 
  • the safety net of judicial warrant requirements
  • the right to a trial by a jury of your peers in a system of due process
  • reasonable bail and recourse for false arrest
  • protection from cruel and unusual punishment
Those were great ideals for "dead white men," but apparently your children won't need them anymore. Because, you know, the politicians need to protect you and your children from terrorism.
But the politicians need to get a grip, and a sense of proportion. You don't turn the country upside down for light and transient causes. You're more likely to die in your car, or be struck by lightening, than be harmed by terrorism. We don't fret about such risks, so why are they destroying American freedoms in the name of an even smaller risk? 
A bill is about to pass the House. It permits unlimited spying on your internet usage and telecommunications, the Fourth Amendment be damned. For brevity, I'll call it the "Spying on Americans Act," or SPA for short.
The SPA is likely to pass the Senate too, but there we have a chance to stop it.
Under SPA...
  • The President can spy on you without a warrant
  • You'll never learn that his spys have done so, until they use the information against you (legally or not)
  • Your phone and internet providers can't refuse to provide information about you
  • Or tell you they've done so after the fact
The result will be more warrantless searches than in all of U.S. history. And if that history is any guide, it's only a matter of time before this power is used for reasons other than "national security."
The House may vote any minute. The Senate will likely vote Tuesday. THIS IS URGENT. I'll tell you what to do in a moment, but first, there's more bad news. 
Congress also has a plan for non-citizen residents and ANYONE on foreign soil.
Senator Bill Frist wants to be your President, so he's pandering to the "my country right or wrong" crowd. He wants to leave the Senate with a bang. He thinks he can do this by combining the Tribunal/Torture bill with the Spying on Americans Act.
And the news on the Tribunal/Torture bill just got worse. There was a "lesser evil" version of this bill from Senators Warner and McCain, but Warner and McCain just rolled over. The new bill will...
  • Allow the President to detain people indefinitely without charges,
  • Deny detainees access to courts to challenge their detention or their treatment,
  • Create special military tribunals with reduced standards of due process,
  • Deny detainees the protection of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3,
  • Allow the President to define torture.  
But you may not hear it reported this way in the media, because the politicians are playing clever games with words. Take note: The protections of Common Article 3 aren't defined in the legislation, so Congress can claim they've left these protections in place. But it isn't true, because now only the President decides what those protections actually are, and no accused person can even claim the protection of Common Article 3 before the special tribunals this legislation creates.
Nice trick. The protections are still there, but the President decides what they are, and no one can use them.
Do you want this President to have this power? Do you want future presidents to have it? Do you want to risk that these powers won't be applied to citizens as well, as soon as the politicians have the slightest excuse for doing so? 
So here's what the Senate will face Tuesday...
  • A bill permitting spying on Americans without a warrant.
  • Another bill creating special tribunals and permitting torture.
  • A proposal to combine these bills.
None of these bills will be read, and none of us will have a chance to review them before the vote happens. But they are likely to pass, because the Republicans control both chambers and their President is in big trouble. He's broken existing laws in a number of ways, and now he needs new legislation to cover his butt after the fact. 
This shouldn't be possible in our system, but a court decision on the President's illegal spying opened the door for Congress to do this. We have no checks. We have no balances. The courts have failed to do their duty and the Republican Congress is a rubber stamp for a lawless Republican President.
Are we exaggerating? Are we being partisan? We aren't telling you the half of it. This President has violated so many laws in so many ways it would take a book to catalog them. And we aren't being partisan because plenty of Republicans in Congress agree with us, they just need public encouragement to develop a little backbone.
This is your role. 
These bills will pass in the House, but we need to have as many votes against them as we can muster. This will help us in the Senate. Senate rules make it possible for us to stop these bills in that chamber. YOU need to make a BIG NOISE. And know this...
You won't be alone. We're working with more than a dozen national organizations to make this BIG NOISE.
We need to pull out all the stops. Please, PLEASE, pay close attention to these instructions. DO ALL FOUR OF THE FOLLOWING THINGS AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!!
1) Go to the campaign opposing warrantless spying: "No Warrant? No Search." Send a message to your Senators and your Representative. Tell them to resist in every way they can the combination of this bill with the Tribunals bill. Urge them to do everything in their power to block, stop, and/or filibusters this bill. And if it still comes up for a vote, tell them to vote NO, and that you'll be watching. The message to Congress for this campaign has been reconfigured to make this easy for you.
2) Go to the campaign opposing the new tribunals: "No Torture! No "Star Chamber Courts!" Send a message to your Senators and your Representative. Tell them torture is un-American, useless, and counter-productive. Urge them to keep the warrantless spying bill separate. Implore them to do everything they can to block, stop, and/or filibuster this bill. And if it still comes up for a vote, tell them to vote NO, and that you'll be watching. The message to Congress for this campaign has been reconfigured to make this easy for you.
3) We have a targeted list of Senators. If your Senator is on the list, it's urgent that you call and leave a message ASAP. Remember, this vote is scheduled for Tuesday. Tell them you're a constituent. Keep it short, simple, and polite. Make notes before you call. Make the points already made in #1 and #2 above. Here's the list...
Idaho - Larry Craig  202-224-2752
Rhode Island - Lincoln Chaffee  202-224-2921 
South Dakota - Tim Johnson  202-224-5842
Louisiana - Mary Landrieu  202-224-5824
Michigan - Carl Levin  202-224-6221
Arkansas - Blanche Lincoln  202-224-4843
New Jersey - Robert Menendez  202-224-4744
Alaska - Lisa Murkowski  202-224-6665
Florida - Bill Nelson  202-224-5274
Nebraska - Ben Nelson  202-224-6551
Nevada - Harry Reid  202-224-3542
Maine - Olympia Snowe  202-224-5344
New Hampshire - John Sununu  202-224-2841
Remember, this is urgent. We're about to lose precious rights. We need extraordinary effort. So I want to ask you to do one more thing...
4) Tell everyone you know to do the same thing. Pass this message to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and customers. Maybe they'll think you're un-patriotic for opposing torture and for mistrusting politicians with such great powers. SO WHAT! And if you received this message from a friend, and it's not Wednesday, September 27, 2006 yet, there's still time. Act fast and then pass this message to everyone you know.
Keep in mind, you're not alone. And we can still win by blocking this in the Senate. The Senate is eager to get back home and campaign. Most observers believe they'll pack up and head home Saturday. Delay the vote and we may stop the danger. 
DC Downsizers, rise up and take a stand for the 4th and 8th Amendments. Do your part. We're counting on YOU.
Jim Babka
President, Inc.

IRS v. The Church

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Once again, we see the long standing war between church and state being waged in the headlines. A church who filed for section 501(c)(3) tax exempt status has come under fire for a sermon that was delivered from it's pulpit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decided that this sermon, titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush," went too far when the guest pastor stated that Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine. Because of this, the IRS has threatened the church with the revocation of it's tax-exempt status. The church said it would fight the determination, citing freedom of speech protections.
A couple of points to consider when looking at this matter:
The first is what the Internal Revenue Code says:
26USC501(a) Exemption from taxation

    An organization described in subsection (c) or (d) or section 401(a) shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle unless such exemption is denied under section 502 or 503.
26USC501(c) List of exempt organizations
   (3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
The statement made by IRS spokesman Terry Lemons:
"We recognize the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion," Lemons said. "But there is no constitutional right to be exempt from federal taxation."
(Note: I have to go to work. I'll finish this when I get home... Sorry!)

Surf Anonymously With Tweaked Firefox

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's always nice to get some good news every now and then. When it comes to online privacy and who may be peeking over your shoulder, there's a new tool available to keep out unwanted snoops. Quoting this article from
A tweaked version of Firefox that makes Web browsing anonymous has been released by a group of privacy-minded coders.
Every few minutes, the Torpark browser causes a computer's IP address to appear to change. IP addresses are numeric identifier given to computers on the Internet. The number can be used along with other data to potentially track down a user, as many Web sites keep track of IP addresses.
This is good news for those of you in the crowd who hold the belief that what you do online is your business alone. You can download the browser for free at It's a modified version of Portable Firefox, an optimized version of the browser that can be run off a USB memory stick on a computer. Be sure to check out the linked article for additional information.
Chalk one up for the hackers!

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Dr. Phil: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on "this" side of the road before it goes after the problem on the "other side" of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his "current" problems before adding "new" problems.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

George W. Bush:
We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either against us or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Donald Rumsfeld:
Now, to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

Anderson Cooper, CNN:
We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

John Kerry:
Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am for it now and will remain against it.

Judge Judy:
That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

Pat Buchanan:
To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

Martha Stewart:
No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level.

Dr. Seuss:
Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed, I've not been told.

Ernest Hemingway:
To die in the rain. Alone.

Jerry Falwell:
Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's why they call it the "other side". Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side." That chicken should not be free to cross the road. It's as plain and simple as that!

In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road and that was good enough.

Barbara Walters:
Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

John Lennon:
Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

Bill Gates:
I have just released eChicken2006, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken. The platform is much more stable and will never cra..#@&&^(C:\REBOOT.

Albert Einstein:
Did the chicken really cross the road or did the road move beneath the chicken?

Al Gore:
I invented the chicken!

Colonel Sanders:
Did I miss one?

Free Willie

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What do Willie Nelson, Tony Sizemore, Bobbie Nelson, Gates Moore, and David Anderson have in common? ...Anyone? ...Anyone? Well, besides all being over fifty, they were passengers on Willie's tour bus. That and they all were issued misdemeanor citations for possession of narcotic mushrooms and marijuana after a traffic stop Monday morning by Louisiana State Highway Police. What is interesting about this traffic stop, though, is that it occurred one week after Toby Keith admitted to smoking weed with Willie on his bus on the Colbert Report. (Click here to watch the video.)
I had to laugh while reading this article about the incident. Basically, what saved Willie from felony drug charges was the claiming of the drugs by his passengers. For an explanation, let's look to the article:
There were enough drugs on the bus to merit a felony charge of distribution if they had been found in one person's possession, Williams said. However, he said, all five people on the bus claimed the drugs as their own, so each was charged with misdemeanors.
Who says pot dulls the mind? Seems to me like quick thinking on their part to save Willie's bacon.

A Follow-Up to Constitution Day

Monday, September 18, 2006

In many ways, the United States Constitution can be likened to a mirror. Everyday, we hold up for comparison the actions of our government to check them for constitutionality. It's a good tool, but more importantly, it's important to understand why we do it. The short answer, of course, is to prevent usurpation and oppression of our liberties and freedoms by government officials. The Constitution was written to create a limited federal government. It laid out the basic framework for that government, and also put into place boundaries it to keep it in check. From the beginning it was understood that the people would always be in control our government, not the other way around. Those days are gone.
While reading A Very Inconvenient Document, an article at by Vin Suprynowicz, it occurred to me that we have a serious problem. Let me explain. In his article, Mr. Suprynowicz explains that U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., got a law passed in 2004 that demands "every American school and college that receives federal money must teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17 (the date the document was adopted, in 1787), or the closest school day available."
There's really nothing wrong with this goal. I think that children should learn about the document that will play a crucial role in how they live their lives as American citizens. In my opinion, I don't think the children coming out of our public school system know near enough about our founding documents or system of government. Any legislation which promotes a better understanding is not necessarily evil, leaving aside the argument of whether the government should be in the education business in the first place.
Down towards the end of Mr. Suprynowicz's article, he remarks:
It would be wonderful to see the U.S. Constitution taught in the public schools. I will believe such a course of education is underway when someone can show me a list of study questions being presented to today's students, including:
  • Article I Section 8 grants to Congress alone the power "to declare war." Did President Bush seek and declare a congressional "Declaration of War" against Iraq? If not, did he violate the Constitution when he sent troops to attack that nation?
  • Article I Section 8 says the Congress can exercise "exclusive Legislation in all cases" over the District of Columbia, and may "exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be ..." May it exercise such exclusive authority over Yucca Mountain -- building a nuclear waste dump there without state permission, for example -- even though it can show no bill of sale, nor written consent of the Nevada Legislature to allow it to purchase that land? Where in the Constitution does that authority arise?
  • Article I Section 10 says "No state shall ... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts." What was the founders' experience with fiat paper currency that led to the insertion of that clause? Does the widespread acceptance of "federal reserve notes," not convertible into gold and silver, violate this provision? Why or why not?
  • The Second Amendment says the right of the people to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed." Do background checks, waiting periods, $200 taxes, and requirements that a machine-gun purchase be approved by your local chief of police constitute "infringements" of these rights? Where in the Constitution are such restrictions authorized?
  • The Fourth Amendment says a house cannot be searched without a warrant "particularly describing ... the person or things to be seized." Yet police routinely seize firearms found during searches, even when no firearms are specifically listed on the search warrant. Is this constitutional? Can the courts waive such restrictions without going through the amendment process stipulated in Article V?
  • A constitutional amendment (the 18th, since repealed) was required to outlaw alcohol nationwide. When was the constitutional amendment ratified which authorizes the similar outlawing of marijuana, cocaine, and opium? What is its number?
  • The 13th amendment says "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Are compulsory schooling or military conscription consistent with this provision? 
One can easily conclude that what we have here are seven clear examples of where our government has exceeded it's constitutional authority. This begs the question: If government is free to ignore the Constitution, are we then free to ignore the government? At what point do we, as a society, decide that fixing this mess is no longer an option and that a complete scrapping is in order?

It's Constitution Day!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

You may or may not know what today is, so for those who don't, it's Constitution Day. Yes, that's right, today marks the completion of the drafting of the United States Constitution in 1787. To mark this event, I wanted to tell you about a web site resource I ran across a number of years ago that still serves as a major resource for me. As a matter of fact, this was one of the first sites I came to when I originally realized that something was terribly wrong with our government. Needless to say, after viewing the following segments I had no illusions as to what the problem was.
The following segments constitute a complete Constitution Class taught by Michael Badnarik, the former Libertarian Presidential Candidate, given in 2003. Quoting from the video host's page:
If you don't know the difference between a right and a privilege, this is a must see! If you think you know the difference, then answer this question: Is the US a democracy?
So, if you've got the time and a yearning to learn, click on the links below and enjoy!
Oh, you'll probably want a copy of the United States Constitution at hand while watching this video. Click here to get a copy.

The New Presidential Mood Advisory System

The blogosphere is alive with posts about President Bush's Rose Garden Temper Tantrum thrown on September 15. I posted a PSA on this yesterday, but after reading Mark's post at South Puget Sound Libertarian, I decided that one more comment was needed before moving on. But first, what brought this on? As Mark pointed out in his post, "key Republicans in Congress oppos[ed] Bush's plan to bypass the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners, to immunize himself and his CIA torturers from prosecution for war crimes, and to set up military tribunals with procedures stacked against accused terrorists."

It occurred to me that citizens were in need of, in addition to the terrorist threat level, an advisory as to the state of the Presidential Mood. Therefore (you guessed it), I created one.

I'd say that right now, the level we're at would be HIGH. Friday, I would have put it at SEVERE, but things have calmed a bit. This may change in the coming week, as Congress is expected to vote on the various terrorist-related bills.

Actions Speak Loudest

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I was reading Bush's Press Conference that he gave at the White House Rose Garden on September 15, 2006. After delivering his speech, he opened the floor up to questions. The first question for him wondered whether more and more Americans and the rest of the world were beginning to wonder whether the United States was following a flawed strategy, referencing a letter written by former Secretary of State Colin Powell which states the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. This set him off. In his animated response, I found the inspiration to create my next Public Service Announcement.

Fear and Intimidation

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Its funny how a sentence will jump off the page and set your mind to work. I was reading an article about this fellow, Andrei Kozlov, who was shot and killed by unidentified assailants. He was the top deputy chairman of Russia's Central Bank. It is suspected that he was killed for his efforts to clean up the banking system through an ambitious program to reduce criminality and money laundering.
But that's not what caught my eye.
The last paragraph of this article is a quote of Tim Ash, an analyst with the investment firm Bear Stearns. He posited the shooting of Mr. Kozlov constituted a direct affront to Putin's government. He went on to say:
"We would expect Putin to set the resolution of this case as an absolute priority for the country's security services. Failure to apprehend the killers would send a signal to others that intimidation of government officials is once again an option."
Interesting. Mr. Ash is saying--indirectly--that governments shouldn't fear their people; people should fear their governments. I've got news for Mr. Ash. Fear and intimidation are exactly what's prescribed to keep government officials in check. History books are replete with accounts of government officials oppressing their people because the "fear factor" has shifted away from the government and onto the people.
I'm not condoning murder, mind you. However, I do believe that retaliation--meted out by whatever necessary and appropriate means--is justified when faced with aggressive and oppressive force by government officials. As Edward R. Murrow once stated, "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." How true.

Accession to Wealth

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

In researching for an upcoming post on the Income Tax and a recent U.S. District Court ruling, I ran across the following from this web page:
The Supreme Court has therefore stated that the income tax applies to all "undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, and over which the taxpayers have complete dominion." Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Co., 348 U.S. 426, 431 (1955)). (The requirement that accessions to wealth be "realized" means that increases in the value of assets are not taxed to the owner as capital gains until the asset is sold.)
So, if I sell my own labor for $100, I must calculate the gain based on the difference between what I paid for my own labor (not what it is worth) and what I receive for it. Because I paid nothing for my own labor, everything I receive is income.
Looking at it another way, if I start the week with no money, am paid $100 for my labor, and end the week with $100, I am $100 richer than I was at the beginning of the month. That $100 gain is an "undeniable accession to wealth" (in the words of the Supreme Court), and therefore income.
This was found under the heading of, "Wages are not "income" because wages represent an equal exchange of labor (a form of "property") for money (another form of property), so there is no gain and no income." I tend to disagree with the author. Here's why:
If I sell my labor for $100 and put that money in a sock and bury it in my back yard, how long do you suppose it will be before I collapse from hunger, from being sick? If I don't take the money I was compensated for my labor and convert it into the needful things in life, I won't be around very long. To put it another way, while I'm laboring for another, I'm not laboring for myself. I'm sacrificing my efforts in the hope that I'll be able to exchange my effort exerted for another for the fruits of from other's who exert their energies. This is what is commonly called the division of labor.
Finally, he asserts that my labor is worth $0. I strongly disagree. Look at it this way. If a business sells blue widgets for $10 and pays $7 for their production, their taxable gain on their sale is $3. If the company quits spending the $7 on production, they'll be in business as long as they have blue widgets. Once their supply runs out, they will be out of business. The same is true of labor. My labor is not free. We all must spend money in the production and maintenance of it.
There's more to follow on this, but I wanted to throw this out there for comment.

Koppel on Discovery

Monday, September 11, 2006

Koppel on Discovery
Last night, The Discovery Channel aired a new series titled Koppel on Discovery. I want to take this opportunity to say, "Well done, Discovery. Well done, Mr. Koppel. It was an excellent program."

Patient Justice

Usama bin Laden's Wanted PosterOn this fifth anniversary marking the terrorist attacks on American landmarks, let us once again take a moment to remind ourselves why we have sent our soldiers into harm's way. The events of September 11th, 2001, can be summed up by saying that a heinous crime was committed against Americans by Islamist extremists. Those responsible, namely Usama bin Laden, need to be sought out, captured, and brought to justice. He and his supporters must answer for their crimes which they committed against the American people and especially those families who lost loved ones in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the embassy attacks in both Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, as well as the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers, and the failed attempt on the White House that ended in the downing of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
If you have seen the man pictured in this poster, please notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation, any member of the United States Armed Forces, or anyone at a U.S. Embassy. There's also a $25 million reward for information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Usama bin Laden. An additional $2 million is being offered through a program developed and funded by the Airline Pilots Association and the Air Transport Association.

More on Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion

Saturday, September 09, 2006

You may recall a post I put up about three weeks ago titled Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion. In that post I mentioned three Texas men who were arrested and charged with collecting or providing materials for terrorist acts and surveillance of a vulnerable target for terrorist purposes. More specifically, the men were buying up large quantities of prepaid cell phones from retailers in Michigan to resell them in Texas. A concerned clerk at a Wal-Mart store thought their actions were suspicious and decided to bring it to the attention of the authorities.
Suffice it to say, their story goes down hill from there. I won't rehash all this story's details in this post, but I wanted to let you know that this story does have a happy ending. carried an AP article that explains the three men were cleared of all terror-related crimes. From the article:
A federal judge threw out conspiracy and money laundering charges Tuesday against three Texas men once accused of plotting a terror attack on Michigan's iconic Mackinac Bridge.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Charles Binder in Bay City ruled that federal prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to justify bringing them to trial on charges involving the buying and resale of prepaid cell phones. They were cleared earlier of the terror charges.
If you'll recall from my earlier post, I stated:
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'.
Without a nexus to terrorist organizations, the FBI realized that their case fell on its face. They literally had no other choice but to concede to the court's findings.
Maruan Muhareb's (one of the accused men) defense attorney, Mona Fadlallah, said the case highlighted serious problems with the state of the U.S. justice system noting, "This should be frightening for everyone, and not just people of Middle Eastern descent."
What she's warning us of is that this type of charge could have just as easily be leveled at any U.S. citizen. The legal system has been shot so full of holes that law enforcement can now hold and charge Americans on 'reasonable suspicion' evidence instead of 'probable cause' evidence. She, of course, is right to be very concerned, as we all should be.

The Reason Why

Friday, September 08, 2006

Yesterday, I did a write-up review of Sen. Specter's bill titled, "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006." (S. 3001) While at work, I mentioned my post to a customer and invited him to read it. He's a Conservative and staunch Bush supporter. We have talked many times about various issues including warrantless wiretapping and the unitary executive doctrine (among other topics). He remarked that I seem to be "stuck" on what I perceive to be government violating my rights to privacy and property. He said that every time we discuss politics, it seems that our conversation ends up with us discussing the government's violation of our rights. He doesn't see the same problem that I do, and believes that I'm making mountains out of mole hills.
After we parted company, I reflected on his comments and wondered to myself why it is that I take such offense to what seems to be a direct attack by our government on the rights of American citizens. More specifically, why do I feel threatened by the government eavesdropping on my phone calls, or picking me up off the street and rendering me to some far-away prison outside the United States, or having all my banking transactions recorded, stored forever in some government-funded database.
Then it occurred to me that I had made a distinction that others had not. By others, I mean those who see no problem with sending alleged terrorists to Gitmo, and not affording them the same rights as the accused in the United States; the same people who don't have a problem with the U.S. military rounding up and carting off to prison male villagers in Afghanistan or Iraq with the hope that they netted a few terrorists in their sweeps. The distinction that I made is that some of those caught up in the net we cast may be innocent while others see everyone as guilty. They figure--without reason--that the justice system will eventually spit out the innocent among them. They have so much faith in our legal system that no innocent person could ever be held for very long before their identified and released.
I, on the other hand, understand that this line of reasoning is flawed from the start. The system that they rely on is so heavily distorted, that once you're caught up in that net, you have almost a zero chance of having your case brought before a court, let alone being charged with any crime. How can a man not charged with any crime start the process to defend himself? He can't. How can he file a writ of habeas corpus when his jailers won't even acknowledge that he's being held?
This is why I am so adamant about the protection of our most basic rights. I'm really not concerned with those that are guilty and are being held; its the ones who are innocent, who are being held against their will and can't get relief. Those are the ones I fear for. Those are the ones in the situation where the greatest harm is done by our government. They are the ones who truly understand what it means to be oppressed by a tyrannical government.
Further, I voice my opposition to government's infringement of our rights through this blog. I write about subjects most people deliberately avoid. I have friends that do the same, and I fear that either I or they will find themselves chained to the floor of some far off prison; held incommunicado. I fear a government that embraces and condones these types of actions as being necessary to protect its citizens from the nefarious acts of others. A government who's wretched actions are indistinguishable from those committed by it's enemy needs to be stopped.
For you nay-sayers in the crowd who say that innocent people cannot be caught up in this need to shut your mouths for a moment and listen up. Imagine for a moment that you're riding in a bus, headed for your vacation destination. You come to a roadblock where the bus is stopped by the authorities and all the passengers are questioned and searched. Now imagine that for some reason, you're singled out for extra questioning. They confiscate your luggage and take you to their headquarters. After the additional questioning, agents from the CIA arrive to take possession of you and your belongings. You're whisked away to a foreign land where you eventually end up in a prison camp. Months pass as you're repeatedly tortured. All the while, you plead with your captors to be brought before a judge so that you can plead your innocents. Every plea is met with the same response--denial. Let this sink in... you're an innocent man being held god-knows where by captors who couldn't care less if you live or die. This, dear reader, is what I fear for myself and my fellow citizens.
Sadly, this event actually happened. Though the details are slightly different, the plot of the story is still the same. Quoting from this CBS/AP article:
Khaled El-Masri, who is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said he was arrested while attempting to enter Macedonia for a holiday trip and flown to Afghanistan. During five months in captivity he was subjected to "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," says a lawsuit he filed in U.S. District Court in suburban Alexandria, Va.
"...Throughout my time in the prison, I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others."
Why do I write about abuses by my government? It's examples like Khaled El-Masri's. Events like his should never happen under our country's system of laws. This type of abuse only happens when the long-standing rule of law is short-circuited by allowing those who are too impatient for justice to run its course to have their way.
Who is to blame for this? Most assuredly, the blame lay with those who run our government; but, to some degree, the blame lay also with each of us for not stopping this.

S.3001 and Emergency Electronic Surveillance

Thursday, September 07, 2006

There exists in Congress four bills that I have been watching to see whether they mature into law or not. These particular bills, taken individually, are almost benign in what they allow government to do. Each bill addresses different aspects that could raise one's suspicions that they were attempting to build a police state--piece by piece. However, when you put them all together, there is no question that you have the makings for a total police state. From prisoner detention to total surveillance, it's all here... perhaps waiting for another 9/11 type event to get them passed into law. They are:

S. 2453 : National Security Surveillance Act of 2006

S. 2455 : Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006

S. 2468 : A bill to provide standing for civil actions for declaratory and injunctive relief to persons who refrain from electronic communications through fear of being subject to warrantless electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes, and for other purposes

S. 3001 : Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006

Today, I want to take a closer look at S. 3001. This bill is intended to make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) more user-friendly. The Bush Administration has repeatedly complained that the requirements that currently exist under FISA don't allow them the flexibility to eavesdrop on terror suspects. I strongly disagree, but we'll save that for another post. In an effort to appease the president, Sen. Specter drafted the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act of 2006'' to loosen the rules of surveillance on the executive branch.
In the original FISA, surveillance of "United States persons" was only allowed after the investigator went before the FISA court and presented his evidence showing that the target of surveillance was breaking the law. The judge, being a third party arbiter, would grant or deny the request based on the supporting evidence. If you know the language of, and the reasons for the inclusion of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, then you'll understand why FISA has to be structured after this fashion. For those who don't, I'll explain it.
First, lets review the language of the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
This sentence is a restriction placed on government telling it's agents that the people are not to have their privacy violated by government unless it can be demonstrated through probable cause (note that it does not say reasonable suspicion) that you're breaking the law. If that condition is met, then a warrant will be issued allowing government agents to suspend your right of privacy so that they can search and/or seize those things specifically enumerated in their warrant. Remember, the U.S. Constitution and the government it instituted were placed on this earth to protect the rights of the American people. The people are given the widest latitude when it comes to government violating their rights, especially when it comes to this issue. The government is forced to operate under a very strict set of rules to protect the people from over-zealous government agents.
When FISA was created, the drafters understood that any new legislation must comply with the Fourth Amendment when a nexus could be shown to U.S. persons. Therefore, it was hard-coded into FISA that when the possibility existed that surveillance may include U.S. persons, they had to get a warrant. Doing so kept them in good graces with the Constitution. Doing otherwise would have them violating the individual's god-given right to be left alone by their government. Hopefully my explanation is clear: You have the right to privacy, antecedent of government. If government wants to violate your right to privacy, it must demonstrate probable cause to do so.
Now, lets take a look at Specter's bill. Let me start by saying that I'm not going to review the whole bill, but rather I intend to focus on the more egregious parts where it can be plainly shown to violate the Fourth Amendment. The version of the bill that I will be referring to can be found here (.pdf). When I reference language, I'll give you the page number and line so that you can look it up yourself.
The first item I want to address is the expansion of authority. On page 7, line 10, we see that the Attorney General has been granted the authority to "appoint appropriate supervisory or executive personnel ... to authorize electronic surveillance on a United States person in the United States on an emergency basis pursuant to the provisions of this subsection." With the flick of a pen, judicial review has been decimated. I'll explain this comment later. For now, lets continue.
The next section of interest begins on the same page at line 19. This section explains that surveillance of U.S. persons may be conducted if the
"supervisor or executive reasonably determines that (i) an emergency situation exists with respect to the employment of electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information before an order authorizing such surveillance can with due diligence be obtained; and (ii) the factual basis exists for the issuance of an order approving such surveillance under this title."
This puts in place two conditions that allow warrantless surveillance. The first is a declaration of an emergency made by the president, the second is the existence of a "factual basis" for a warrant to be issued. This language effectively moves the whole matter of surveillance of U.S. persons out of the arena of probable cause and puts it in the arena of reasonable suspicion--a much less stringent interpretation of the facts. (For your information, the president just happened to re-declare a state of emergency for another year on September 5th... in case you're wondering.)
Continuing, page 8, line 15, indicates that a "supervisor or executive responsible for the emergency employment of electronic surveillance" has 24 hours from commencement of the surveillance to submit a request for approval of the surveillance stating the grounds (or evidence) for said surveillance. From there, the Attorney General (or, if authorized by the Attorney General, to the Deputy Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for National Security) has 72 hours to review the request. From this point, there are two avenues this request can take. The first states that (page 9, line 6):
(B)(i) If the official concerned determines that the electronic surveillance does not meet the requirements of paragraph (1), the surveillance shall terminate immediately and may not be recommenced by any supervisor or executive appointed under paragraph (1), or any agent or employee acting under the supervision of such supervisor or executive, absent additional facts or changes in circumstances that lead a supervisor or executive appointed under paragraph (1) to reasonably believe that the requirements of paragraph (1) are satisfied.
In other words, the evidence supporting the surveillance was crap and to remain in good graces with the law, they need to stop their surveillance. Let me point out at this point in the procedure, a FISA judge has no knowledge that any surveillance has taken place. He has not been asked to review any of the evidence supporting the request for surveillance, either. To make matters worse, the second half of this big oopsy-daisy states (page 9, line 16):
(ii) In the event of a determination under clause (i), the Attorney General shall not be required, under section 106(j), to notify any United States person of the fact that the electronic surveillance covered by such determination was conducted before the termination of the surveillance under that clause. However, the official making such determination shall notify the court established by section 103(a) of such determination, and shall also provide notice of such determination in the first report that is submitted under section 108(a) after such determination is made.
In other words, you'll never know that you were the target of surveillance. Checks and balances? How quaint! Or, if you prefer: down the "memory hole". I mentioned earlier that this section changed how surveillance was permitted. It has been a longstanding fact in law that judges--not sheriffs or deputies or policemen--issued warrants. This was to protect the people from law enforcement officers with an axe to grind from acting as judge, jury, and executioner. That's why it is so important for a third party to be involved in the process. Mr. Specter's bill removes that protection and allows the executive branch to covers their own tracks, too.
The second avenue given states (page 10, line 1):
(C) If the official concerned determines that the surveillance meets the requirements of subsection (f), the surveillance may continue, subject to the requirements of paragraph (5).

(5)(A) An application in accordance with this title shall be made to a judge having jurisdiction under section 103 as soon as practicable but not more than 168 hours after the commencement of electronic surveillance under paragraph (1).
(B) In the absence of a judicial order approving electronic surveillance commenced under paragraph (1), the surveillance shall terminate at the earlier of--(i) when the information sought is obtained; or (ii) when the application under subparagraph (A) for an order approving the surveillance is denied; or (iii) 168 hours after the commencement of the surveillance.
There are a couple of points of interest contained in this section. It is only after the request for surveillance meets the approval of the Attorney General (or, if authorized by the Attorney General, to the Deputy Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for National Security) that it finally comes before a FISA judge. Essentially, Mr. Specter's bill turns FISA and the Fourth Amendment on their heads because it allows the CIA, FBI, NSA and any other alphabet agency the ability to pick fruit from the forbidden tree before they get permission to do so. Where is the protection in that? Where is the check by the judiciary on the executive? How does the average U.S. person protect himself from oppressive government? He can't.
Furthermore, section (B)(iii) requires surveillance be stopped after 168 hours. As a co-worker pointed out, all they would need to do is slightly change the given reason for surveillance, and they'd be good to go for another seven days of eavesdropping. He further remarked that with a decent list of crimes (i.e. those that could be construed to meet the "factual basis" test found on page 8, line 4), surveillance could go on for months without ever being brought before the FISA court.
In conclusion, both the Fourth Amendment and the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act recognizes and protects an American's right to privacy by requiring any warrants to be issued by a judge based upon probable cause. The original FISA loosened the rules for when the warrant was to be obtained, allowing for unforeseen or emergency situations. What Mr. Specter's bill does is disembowels the protections of the Fourth Amendment and effectively neuters the original FISA by allowing the commencement of surveillance, only requiring a warrant almost as an after thought.
In a sense, Mr. Specter's bill asks Americans to "Trust us." Well, Mr. Specter, I don't. And its crap like this bill that gives me reason not to.

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