History lesson: The crucial differences between Bush and Obama’s NSA phone surveillance programs

June 6, 2013

Excellent column by Michelle Malkin on the differences between the Bush-era warrantless wiretap program and the Obama administration’s tracking of *all* domestic calls on the Verizon network. This should be read by everyone, especially knee-jerk civil liberties absolutists on the Left and reactionary Libertarians on the Right. I only differ with her in being a little more open to the idea that the Obama effort *may* be legal/justified/needed, etc., but we need much more information in order to judge. Also, she makes an excellent point about the administration’s loss of credibility with the public on national security and constitutional issues, compared to the wide public support for the Bush-era program.


#WarOnJournalism: Who’s been snooping in Sharyl Attkisson’s computers?

May 21, 2013

Hmmm… Maybe FOX’s James Rosen and the AP aren’t the only targets of the White House’s ire? Here’s a radio interview CBS’ Sharyl Attkisson did with WPHT’s Chris Stigall in which she mentions unknown parties have accessed her home and work computers since February, 2011:

You’ll recall that both my blog-buddy ST and I have mentioned Attkisson several times on our blogs for being one of the few remaining MSM reporters actually willing to hold the administration to account for their actions, Fast & Furious and Benghazi being the most notable. She so got under their skin that, as Allahpundit reminds us, a DoJ official screamed and cursed at her over the phone. Attkisson herself has recently said that she has been shut out by her White House sources. There have been rumors (1) that David Rhodes, president of CBS News  and brother of Ben Rhodes, a would-be fiction writer and now an Obama national security deeply involved in Benghazi, might fire Attkisson for being too aggressive in her coverage of the White House… where his brother works.

Keep in mind that the DoJ got access to James Rosen’s GMail account by affirming to a judge that they believed he was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, and then got a court order forbidding Google from telling Rosen of the access. And now we hear that somebody has been accessing Attkisson’s computers.

What was going on in February 2011? The Fast and Furious scandal, having been rumored for months, was finally breaking into the mainstream news, and Attkisson was filing stories that weren’t settling for administration spin.

And about that same time, she gets hacked.

What. A. Coincidence.

Footnote:
(1) Attkisson has said there has been no pressure from any CBS News executive regarding her Benghazi reporting.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Oh, no. This won’t set off conservative and libertarian alarm bells at all.

May 11, 2013

"The State watches over you"

“The State watches over you”

I mean, what’s so threatening about a biometric database of all adult Americans being in the immigration bill, citizen?

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

Emphasis added.

Nah, there are no 4th Amendment illegal search and privacy concerns here. Nothing to see, carry on. After all, wingnuts, you demanded greater security in the immigration bill and, well, here ya go! The government will make sure only bona fide Americans get jobs by keeping track of each and every one of us. And if they should find other uses for the information, well, that will be for the public good, too.

And you thought Person of Interest was just fiction.

If this Wired story is true, this provision is reason enough to kill the bill.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Survey says! Police oppose new #guncontrol regulations

April 10, 2013

Pretty significant, I’d say, since the cops have to deal regularly with violent criminals and the aftermath of violent crime. If a majority of them say new gun regulations won’t do any good and might do harm, then why pass them? (1)

An authoritative new poll of more than 15,000 cops released on the eve of this week’s Senate anti-gun debate shows that a sweeping majority of officers don’t believe gun control will work or keep them safer, and nearly nine in 10 believe having more armed citizens would curb gun violence.

According to the lengthy survey of law enforcement professionals, one of the largest ever of street cops, 85 percent believe that President Obama’s gun control plan to ban assault weapons, limit the size of ammo magazines and expand background checks won’t improve their safety, with just over 10 percent believing it will have a “positive effect.”

The poll from PoliceOne.com, a site dedicated to police policy and news, also found surprising support for arming citizens. The poll found that 86 percent of officers believe that casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of a shooting. Another 81 percent backed arming teachers, as the National Rifle Association has called for.

I’m willing to bet this doesn’t include LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

Read the rest for more intriguing results, including broad support for police organizations that have stated they will refuse to enforce new gun control legislation.

PS: This morning a “compromise” bill featuring increased background checks, sponsored by Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Toomey (R-PA) is being introduced. I’m withholding final judgement until more details are known, but my gut feeling is that this is a bill that will fail to prevent more mass shootings, but will further burden our Second and Fourth Amendment rights. In other words, a bill written to be seen to be “doing something, anything.” Very disappointed in Senator Toomey, if this is the case.

Footnote:
(1) But we know why, don’t we? So does Dan Bongino.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama Treasury Dept. to open bank records to US intelligence agencies?

March 13, 2013
"Watching you"

“Watching you”

Under things that make me a bit uncomfortable, we find:

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The FBI already has access to FinCEN, and intelligence agencies can make requests to get access on a case-by-case basis. There’s no doubt this kind of information is useful in our war with Islamic terrorists: they need money to carry out their operations, and suspicious transactions can be an early warning that something’s afoot, as well as revealing how they’re getting their funds. In fact, the US and its allies have had great success disrupting terrorist finance since 9/11 by data mining international bank records, at least until the operation was exposed by the press in 2006. (Don’t worry. The revelation came under a Republican president, so the press was only doing its duty.)

And the fact is we are still at war against an enemy who’d dearly love to give us another 9/11; in such times, the boundaries between liberty and security shift a bit toward security. Trust me, I’m a national security conservative, not a doctrinaire “Big L” libertarian on this issue. I remember how the failure to share information was one of the big weaknesses that let al-Qaeda’s plan work.

BUT…

More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

Emphases added. In other words, the financial institutions, to avoid trouble with Washington, shovel all they can at the Feds and tell them to sort it out.

I’m sure we can all imagine the problems arising from that, such as database errors leading to people being misidentified as possible terrorists or their bag-men. We’ve heard enough stories about “no fly” list mistakes to know it’s bound to happen. Imagine waking up one day to find all your accounts frozen while investigators paw through your life. And this is without even considering the broader Fourth Amendment implications inherent in intelligence agencies searching through all the information the financial institutions dump on them, in order to find the worthwhile material.

“Privacy? What’s that?”

So, like I said: “uncomfortable.” This is a case where Congress could very usefully fulfill its investigatory functions by hauling the relevant officials before a couple of committees and letting some skeptics of central government power (Hello, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul!) ask some pointed questions to make sure proper safeguards are in place.

via Bryan Preston

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#GunControl: More on State Senator Adam “Warrantless Search” Kline of Washington

February 21, 2013

Not only does he make a habit of trying to curb-stomp the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, but he is also violating his own state constitution’s guarantee of the right to bear arms. (See section 24)

Via Clayton Cramer, who has much more.

PS: And this is a guy described as a “lawyer hyper-attuned to civil rights issues?” Yeesh.


#GunControl: Washington State Democrats forget a little thing called the 4th amendment

February 19, 2013

Quick synopsis: Democrats in Olympia have heard their master’s voice from D.C. and have decided to “do something” about gun violence, even if that something does nothing but trample on the constitutional rights of Washington’s citizens. Hence a new gun-control measure was introduced in the legislature to “sensibly regulate” firearms and ban those assault weapons that aren’t really assault weapons but look scary. (1)

And it also gave local sheriffs the right to inspect your home without a warrant:

Forget police drones flying over your house. How about police coming inside, once a year, to have a look around?

As Orwellian as that sounds, it isn’t hypothetical. The notion of police home inspections was introduced in a bill last week in Olympia.

That it’s part of one of the major gun-control efforts pains me. It seemed in recent weeks lawmakers might be headed toward some common-sense regulation of gun sales. But then last week they went too far. By mistake, they claim. But still too far.

“They always say, we’ll never go house to house to take your guns away. But then you see this, and you have to wonder.”

That’s no gun-rights absolutist talking, but Lance Palmer, a Seattle trial lawyer and self-described liberal who brought the troubling Senate Bill 5737 to my attention. It’s the long-awaited assault-weapons ban, introduced last week by three Seattle Democrats.

Responding to the Newtown school massacre, the bill would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons that use detachable ammunition magazines. Clips that contain more than 10 rounds would be illegal.

But then, with respect to the thousands of weapons like that already owned by Washington residents, the bill says this:

“In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall … safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.”

In other words, come into homes without a warrant to poke around. Failure to comply could get you up to a year in jail.

The column’s author, Danny Westneat, points out that the offending section has been excised from the current version of the bill. And I’ll point out that a self-described liberal is the one who first spotted the worm in the apple.

But something smells about Democratic claims that they didn’t know the provision was in there, that it surely would have failed constitutional muster, and that it was the fault of an unnamed staffer. (2) More likely they knew very well that the bill included a warrantless search and thought they could slip it through. The fact is that progressives, going at least as far back as Wilson, and whether they know it or not, despise the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the theory of natural, unalienable rights on which they are based, because they stand in the way of progressives remaking society in their utopian vision.

This is also another example of the parallel track progressives are following on their anti-Second Amendment quest: Feinstein’s “assault weapon” ban is likely dead in D.C., but they’re trying to achieve much the same thing in as many state capitals as they can: New York, California, Minnesota, Washington, wherever Democrats are strong and there’s little chance of people paying much attention because the news is so D.C.-centric these days.

While I think the Washington provision would have been chucked out in court, it’s a reminder to us all that the price of liberty is unceasing vigilance — abroad and especially at home.

RELATED: I’ve been saying for a while that an assault weapons ban would be useless, and now it turns out a high-power sourced agrees with me — the US Department of Justice. Go ahead, call them bitter-clingers. Meanwhile, it yet another example that gun-free zones are a tragedy waiting to happen, Pirate’s Cove reports that Adam Lanza, the psycho who attacked the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, did so in part because it was an “easy target.” Res ipsa loquitur.

Footnotes:
(1) If you’re detecting a whiff or sarcasm and scorn in that passage, you’re not having hallucinations.
(2) They claim they just didn’t read the bill. Gee, where have I heard that before? If true, then they’re only incompetent, not malevolent.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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