NSA

NSA Scandal Brings Opportunity for Constitutionalists

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During the commencement address last month at Ohio State University, President Barack Obama talked up what he views as the virtues of big government and told graduates that they should “reject” those who warn of tyranny.

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works,” President Obama told the students. “They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” he continued. “You should reject these voices.  Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Since that speech, four major scandals have emerged — the Benghazi cover-up, the Internal Revenue Service’s politically-charged targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, the Justice Department’s war on the First Amendment, and, now, the National Security Agency’s broad seizure of millions of phone records. Each of these scandals bring a unique dynamic to the political landscape, but the NSA scandal is one that the blame is equally spread between the Obama Administration and members of both parties in Congress.

The NSA’s complete disregard for the Fourth Amendment has drawn outrage from all sides. The New York Times notoriously Leftist editorial board wasted no time in condemning the Obama Administration for its secrecy.

Why Should We Care? We Have Nothing to Hide…

The consistently principled Glenn Greenwald recently broke the story that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting phone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers daily. Unsurprisingly, the usual Big Brother apologists chimed in with the rebuttal, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ah, yes. Civil libertarians are used to hearing the nothing-to-hide argument from people who are willing to trade privacy for security, or a false sense of it, anyway. When American citizens strongly opposed the Patriot Act that allows the government to wiretap phone lines without a warrant, we were told: “No secrets? No worries.” When we criticized the warrantless house-to-house raids in Boston following the Marathon bombing, we were told: “If you’re not housing the terrorists, what’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal: privacy isn’t simply the option to hide bad things. Privacy enables us to freely pursue the things that we enjoy, on our own terms. Maybe the Kardashian family enjoys putting their entire life out there for the world to see and harshly judge, but most of us like to keep some things to ourselves— and rightfully so!

Privacy is your right to control the flow of information about yourself. You choose what details to share, when, where, and with whom. There are likely parties from college that you do not want your employer to know about. You may not want your mother to know all the juicy details about your love life, or your friends to know the humiliating health questions you’ve searched on WebMD. When the government is snooping without your consent, they have taken away your right to a very important personal choice.

The Bigger Problem with Susan Rice

Much ado has been made over President Obama’s selection of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as the next National Secrutiy Advisor because of her role in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya. But Benghazi is only a symptom of a larger problem with Susan Rice: she’s a hardcore interventionist.

Rice

Since her involvement in the Clinton Administration’s response to the Rwanda Genocide - during which she served on the National Security Council - Rice has never objected to an American intervention.

Now seen as a “voice for intervention,” Rice was quoted in the aftermath of Rwanda::

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”

Eh, excuse me: Going down in flames?

What’s also concerning is that Susan Rice has viewed foreign policy as an extension of politics; in 1994, she is quoted as saying, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”

President Evolving Positions, Warrantless Wiretap Edition

Cross-posted from Friction Tape.

Shot:

For one thing, under an Obama presidency, Americans will be able to leave behind the era of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and “wiretaps without warrants,” he said. (He was referring to the lingering legal fallout over reports that the National Security Agency scooped up Americans’ phone and Internet activities without court orders, ostensibly to monitor terrorist plots, in the years after the September 11 attacks.)

It’s hardly a new stance for Obama, who has made similar statements in previous campaign speeches, but mention of the issue in a stump speech, alongside more frequently discussed topics like Iraq and education, may give some clue to his priorities.

Chaser:

Hey, Let’s Not Nationalize Facebook

Dislike (Radiant)

There are dumb ideas…and then there are really dumb ideas. And then there are, so to say, Congressional politicians. We’re not quite at that level yet, but it seems like it. I am of course, referring to a rather silly piece in Slate magazine titled “Let’s Nationalize Facebook,” written by one Phillip N. Howard, a professor of communications and information technology from the University of Washington. His reasons for doing so are:

Over the last several years, Facebook has become a public good and an important social resource. But as a company, it is behaving badly, and long term, that may cost it: A spring survey found that almost half of Americans believe that Facebook will eventually fade away. Even the business side has been a bit of a disaster lately, with earnings lower than expected and the news that a significant portion of Facebook profiles are fake. If neither users nor investors can be confident in the company, it’s time we start discussing an idea that might seem crazy: nationalizing Facebook.

Defeating Mark Udall in Colorado may yield one final victory for liberty

NSA Domestic Spying

When Republican challenger Cory Gardner defeated incument Democrat Mark Udall in Colorado, it was a huge victory for constitutional government and individual liberty. However, that victory might yield one final benefit even before Gardener takes office in January. Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is considering releasing all or part of a secret government report on the CIA’s torture program before he leaves office.

As a member of Congress, Udall has immunity from prosecution for releasing classified information as part of the “Speech or Debate Clause” if he does so on the floor of the Senate. He could read the entire unredacted report in a speech or filibuster and suffer no criminal consequence because of the congressional exception and no political consequence since he’s leaving office.

The report was compiled by the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009 to 2012 based on documents from the detention and interrogation program started after the September 11 attacks. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has no problem with the government’s wholesale violation of American privacy rights, summarizes the report as follows:

Stuck in the Senate: House-passed government funding measures stalled by Harry Reid

“One of my great frustrations with Congress is the chaos,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) before members of the Carrollton Rotary Club on August 27. “I think we need a change in Washington, D.C., but when you get there you realize why there is so much inertia and how hard it is to change things when you get there.”

During the speech, Rep. Massie highlighted his frustration with the Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for going over the appropriation bills the House has passed so they may pass it before Congress hits the September 30th deadline. According to Massie, the Senate won’t review any of the nine bills that have passed so far:

“They’re not planning on passing any of them in the Senate. They are planning on doing one bill continuing resolution.”

While the House has spent the summer ensuring the bills funding the government for the new fiscal year are passed, Senate members have been reluctant to go over the specifics. The difference between passing several bills and one major bill, Massie explained, is that a continuing resolution will be their last shot at keeping the government functioning once they run out of time, putting the decision in the hands of four people, instead of the whole congressional body.

Here’s your shock story of the day: ISIS fighter killed in Syria worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Since the disclosures last summer about the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus, Americans have been endlessly told that federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies need vast and wide-reaching abilities to monitor domestic and foreign terror threats.

Despite claims that these domestic surveillance programs, including the controversial bulk phone metadata collection program, have prevented acts of terrorism, there isn’t much, if any, evidence that backs that up.

In its December report on the NSA programs, the White House Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, for example, noted that bulk metadata program “was not essential to preventing attacks.” A separate report, published by the New American Foundation, explained that the most controversial NSA program had “no discernible impact” in preventing terrorist attacks.

Now, there’s a story from a Fox affiliate in Minnesota about an American supporter of ISIS, one who was killed last week in Syria while fighting for the Islamic militant organization, who worked at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and had access to airplanes:

Microsoft to the Obama administration: No, you can’t have access to users’ emails stored on servers overseas

A federal judge has ruled that Microsoft must turn over emails stored on a server in Ireland, but the software giant, in the face of a contempt charge, is so far refusing to comply with the order, according to Windows IT Pro, because it infringes on the sovereignty of a foreign country:

Judge Loretta Preska, the chief of the US District Court in Manhattan ruled on July 31 that Microsoft was required to hand over email messages stored in an Ireland data center to US prosecutors investigating a criminal case. But she suspended the order temporarily amid complaints from international companies—and tech companies in the US—that argued that allowing US authorities to search and seize data held internationally was illegal.

On Friday, however, she lifted that suspension after prosecutors successfully convinced her that her order was not appealable. The removal of the suspension legally requires Microsoft to hand over the email immediately.
[…]
In the view of Microsoft and many legal experts, federal authorities have no jurisdiction over data stored outside the country. It says that the court order violates Ireland’s sovereignty and that prosecutors need to seek a legal treaty with Ireland in order to obtain the data they want.

Ted Cruz says the new and improved USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s unconstitutional spying program

The new version of the USA FREEDOM Act rolled out on Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has picked up the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced the addition of his name a cosponsor.

The latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act, a compromise Leahy worked out with the White House, would end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add a civil liberties panel to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide some much-needed oversight.

Cruz hailed the measure a bipartisan approach to ending NSA spying.

“Republicans and Democrats are showing America that the government can respect the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens, while at the same time, giving law enforcement the tools needed to target terrorists,” said Cruz in a press release on Tuesday. “The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the government’s bulk record collection program and implements other necessary surveillance reforms.”

“Importantly, it also sends a strong signal that a bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to safeguard our privacy rights,” said Cruz. “I am honored to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward delivering this bill to the President’s desk for his signature. We need to protect the constitutional rights of every American.”


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