Sep 012008
 

Leading up to the Rethuglican National Convention in St. Paul, the federal government is leading local law enforcement in a disturbing number of high profile raids on homes and protesters. Most disturbing is the show of force involved in these raids, and the lack of evidence of any intent to commit any violence (other than protesting the state the Rethuglican have put the country in). Of course, trying to squelch these protests would be a violation of the Constitution. China has no Constitutional Protections, yet all the main stream media here in the U.S. was hand wringing over China’s efforts to quell protests during the Olympics…yet nary a peep from them about what’s going on in St. Paul.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article about all this on salon.com. Sadly, he makes the very valid point that we are basically getting what we deserve here, and that the great tradition on which this country was founded seems lost on us today. Notes Greenwald:

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Beyond that, there is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they’ve done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our “freedoms” in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic — but we’ve decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it’s therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

Greenwald links to a number of articles, many with videos, of these displays of force. If you care about America, I suggest you read the article, and contact your Congressional representatives and demand better. If you live in Ramsey County, MN, demand the removal from office of Judge Joanne M. Smith, if, as It appears from the video below, that she may be the person signing at least some of the illegal search warrants. This is what disturbs me the most…that the FBI is able to get these search warrants. Judges are supposed to hold a high standard, but look to be falling right in line, and not  requiring any real probable cause.

 

So, they can hold these people for 36 hours…starting after today’s holiday, and then manage to keep a little longer as they are processed for release, and by then the Rethuglican Convention is over. Then, the local prosecutors will drop all the charges, maybe issue some mild apology about inconveniencing people, and then say they’ll investigate what happened, and that will be the last you hear of it. The Administration knows this is how it will work, and are using the process to prevent protest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ougH8G6UnkI

The Anthrax Questions

 Congress, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society, War  Comments Off on The Anthrax Questions
Aug 032008
 

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article up at Salon.com discussing the unresolved issues around the 2001 anthrax incident. As everyone knows Bruce Ivins committed suicide earlier this week as a Grand Jury prepared to indict him in connection with the anthrax incident. Ivins had been a top anthrax researcher at a U.S. Government research facility for 18 years. So seven years after the incident, and after having to pay a settlement to one falsely accused researcher, we’re to believe the government had an airtight case against Ivins witnessed by his apparent suicide.

I’m sorry that the current government has brought me to the point that I can rarely believe the official version of events, but I am not buying that this is the end of the story.

Greenwald makes an excellent point about the importance of the anthrax attacks.

One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters — with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 — that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax — sent directly into the heart of the country’s elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets — that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

I have to agree with Greenwald that it was the anthrax letters that really cemented the whole idea that we were under siege right in heartland. This pushed it over the top for Americans, and began laying the groundwork for going into Iraq.

There are just way too many coincidences that played out in the wake of these attacks for me to believe that our friend Dick Cheney didn’t have something to do with hammering home the need for us to attack Iraq. I won’t get into a discussion of the official story of the 9/11 attacks here, but you have to remember that New York is viewed by most of America as a unique place. Certainly it would be a target, as would Washington. However, anthrax, sent in the mail, could go just anywhere…millions could be exposed for the cost of small mass mailing. Most Americans, while appalled, disgusted, and saddened to our core by the 9/11 attacks quickly began to feel like it was an isolated attack on high value targets, and most of us don’t live near high value targets. The attacks had to continue, and they had to strike at home.    

Continue reading »

Mar 142008
 

The AP reports that an audit by the inspector general last year found the FBI demanded personal records without official authorization or otherwise collected more data than allowed in dozens of cases between 2003 and 2005. Additionally, last year’s audit found that the FBI had underreported to Congress how many national security letters were requested by more than 4,600.

Testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Mueller raised the issue of the FBI’s controversial use of so-called national security letters in reference to an upcoming report on the topic by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

But not to worry, FBI Director Robert Mueller assures us that, “We are committed to ensuring that we not only get this right, but maintain the vital trust of the American people.” Nothing to see here folks…move along.

News for the Week Ending September 9, 2007

 Constitution, Crime, Gadgets, Humor, Places, Politics, Society, Technology  Comments Off on News for the Week Ending September 9, 2007
Sep 102007
 

Duke Lacrosse Case
There are several items to report related to the Duke Lacrosse rape case. Mike Nifong, the prosecutor in the case, spent 24 hours in jail for lying to the court. It seems like a small penalty, but at least he got something. Also, the New York Times is reporting that the players and their families are in negotiations with the City seeking $30 million, but more important, some obviously needed changes:

The changes requested by the students and their lawyers include oversight of the police department by an independent commission, stricter procedures and videotaping of witness identifications conducted by the police, and the passage of a City Council resolution calling on the state to establish ombudsmen for district attorney’s offices and require the transcription of grand jury proceedings.

They deserve every dime of the money, but I especially like it when people are about more than the money, and force needed changes on agencies and institutions like this.

St. Pete Council Chairman Commits Suicide
According to a story in St. Petersburg Times, City Council Chairman John Bryan walked into City Hall just after 1 p.m. Friday and handed in his resignation letter. Less than five hours later, he was slumped over in a golf cart in the garage of his Floral City house, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was 56.

Apparently he’d been to court the day before for the start of proceedings related to an accusation that he’d sexual abused his adopted daughters.

A Portion of the Patriot Act is Struck Down
Shining Celebi writes

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the ACLU and struck down a portion of the revised USA PATRIOT Act this morning, forcing investigators to go through the courts to obtain approval before ordering ISPs to give up information on customers, instead of just sending them a National Security Letter. In the words of Judge Marrero, this use of National Security Letters ‘offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.’

That can only be a good thing, and let’s hope this disgraceful attack on the Constitution is further taken apart.

Man Tracked with Cell phone Loses Job
By Charlie Sorrel, Wired Blogs

John Halpin, who had been working as a carpentry supervisor in New York for 21 years, was tracked by the GPS unit in the work provided phone he was given in 2005, and it turned out he was heading home early. His defense rested on the “I didn’t know I could be tracked” and “Sometimes I came to work early, too” arguments, but they didn’t wash.

That was certainly dumb enough, but according to Sorrel, the scariest thing to come out of the NY post story is that an employee can be tracked without his or her knowledge in every state except Connecticut and Delaware, where employers need to warn you before stalking you.

Shelby County Ohio Deputies Find 570 Pounds of Pot
Ben Sutherly, Dayton Daily News
Apparently during an accident investigation on I-75, a truck driver was arrested on “suspicion of drug trafficking,” when police found 570 pounds of pot in his truck.

Now I’m no legal expert, but that doesn’t sound much like “suspicion” to me.

Destroying Freedom

 Congress, Constitution, Corruption, Politics, Presidency, The Courts  Comments Off on Destroying Freedom
Apr 202007
 

From Stop Illegal Spying

Click to learn more about helping stop illegal spying in America.George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area, has, since 2005, been fighting a National Security letter request from the FBI for subscription information on patrons of the library system. Because of the way the PATRIOT Act is written, he was only recently, through a court order, un-gagged to be able to testify before Congress about the experience.

Said Christian, “Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free.” Christian said his experience “should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution” about the strain that the government’s pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties. He said the government uses the USA Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries.

A recent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI’s use of national security letters from 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.

” ‘Trust us’ doesn’t cut it when it comes to the government’s power to obtain Americans’ sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on civil rights.

Now the Bush administration wants even more power to secretly spy on Americans who have done nothing wrong, further destroying American liberty. This administration tells us that “terrorists hate our freedom.” Yet, it seems that this administration hates our freedom even more, for it’s hell bent on destroying it. Do we have to destroy freedom to save it from terrorists?

The truth is that U.S. government agencies had all the information they needed to detect and stop the September 11, 2001, attacks. That they failed to do so is not because they didn’t have the power to spy on ordinary Americans without warrants or reason that the administration demanded and received and now wants more of.

You should urge Congress to pass the Read the Bills Act, which would prevent Congress from passing bills it hasn’t actually read, the way the Patriot Act was passed.

FBI Not Following NSL Requirements – Are You Surprised?

 Constitution, Crime, Politics, Presidency, Society  Comments Off on FBI Not Following NSL Requirements – Are You Surprised?
Mar 092007
 

A new report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) “has found pervasive errors in the FBI’s use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail and financial records in national security cases.” “The inspector general’s audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations — some of which were potential violations of law — in a sampling of 293 ‘national security letters (NSLs).'” (The Patriot Act gave FBI agents the right to “demand telephone, bank, credit card and library records by issuing” NSLs, “bypassing the need to seek a warrant from a federal judge.”) “In nearly a quarter of the case files” IG Glenn Fine reviewed, “he found previously unreported potential violations.” The report also found that in 2005, the FBI issued over 19,000 NSLs, “amounting to 47,000 separate requests for information.” Some agents issued these letters “without citing an authorized investigation, claimed ‘exigent’ circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters.” “In an unknown number of other cases, third parties such as telephone companies, banks and Internet providers responded to national security letters with detailed personal information about customers that the letters do not permit to be released.” “Expect a weekend firestorm,” one Justice Department official said of the report. Ironically, on the same day of the report’s release, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will “deliver keynote remarks before the International Association of Privacy Professionals.”

Oops, Patriot Act Was Used to Access Library Records

 Constitution, Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on Oops, Patriot Act Was Used to Access Library Records
May 312006
 

Remember when John Ashcroft assured us that the Patriot Act wouldn’t be used to access library records? Raw Story has a nice piece that explains how the government kept the truth quiet until the Patriot Act was reauthorized.

[Connecticut] Librarians, members of Library Connection, a not-for profit cooperative organization for resource sharing across 26 Connecticut library branches sharing a centralized computer, were served with a National Security Letter (NSL) in August of last year as part of the FBIs attempt to attain access to patron’s records. …

On September 9 of last year, a federal judge lifted the gag order and rejected the government’s argument that identifying the plaintiff would pose a threat to national security.

Yet the government continued to appeal the case throughout the reauthorization debate, passionately arguing that not a single incident of civil liberties violations by the Patriot Act had occurred. By continuing the appeal, the government effectively silenced any evidence to counter their claims.

“This all happened during the reauthorization debate and the government was saying no one’s rights were being violated,” said George Christian, staff liaison for Library Connection and one of the plaintiffs in the case.

As the debate over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act heated up, the librarians and others gagged by the NSL had to watch in silence, intimately aware of dangers they believed were not being exposed.

“We could not speak to Congress until after the renewal of the Patriot Act,” Said Barbara Bailey, President of Library Connection and one of four plaintiffs in the case.

Although the ACLU, representing the librarians, filed the case on August 9 of last year, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales decried any civil liberties violations in a Washington Post op-ed in December, stating that “There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the [Patriot] act’s existence.”

Attorney General Gonzales may be incapable of recognizing a civil liberties abuse. The librarians understand that the government shouldn’t be snooping into library records without a warrant.

“People ask about private and confidential things in the library setting… like about their health, their family issues and related books they take out … these are confidential and we did this to protect our patrons from unauthorized snooping,” said Peter Chase, Vice President of Library Connection.