Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Civil Liberties Boondoggle

The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking and writing.  John Adams
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.  Benjamin Franklin
Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom’.  Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), American author, philosopher

The Civil Liberties Boondoggle
Of all the horrors going on in America that attack liberty and prosperity, and there are many, by far one of the most egregious is that attack on civil liberties.  The very same liberals and Democrats who were so rightfully outraged over Bush and Republican assaults on civil liberties are now quiet.  However, even among liberals, Democrats and their traditional organizations, dissent is rapidly surfacing as they are forced to face the stone cold reality that Obama is worst than Bush on civil liberties and that his administration is just building on Bush era civil liberty infringements. 
The Patriot Act that was passed by Congress within weeks after 911 is a civil liberties slashing horror that effectively negated the 4th amendment by allowing warrantless searches.  The government now has the right to invade our privacy, e-mails, telecommunications, financial records, phone conservations and much more – all without obtaining a valid warrant from a judge and showing probable cause.  As far as the Constitution is concerned, knowledgeable observers understand full well that the Patriot Act violates the 1, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments known as the Bill of Rights. 
While Democrats and civil libertarians objected to the Patriot Act along political lines because it was a perceived as a Republican initiative, few are even willing to admit that the roots of the Patriot Act go all the way back to Bill Clinton’s 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, another civil liberty slashing piece of legislation that followed the Oklahoma City bombing. 
According to the website historycommons.org on April 25, 1996 “President Clinton signs the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which the New York Times calls “broad legislation that provides new tools and penalties for federal law-enforcement officials to use in fighting terrorism.” The Clinton administration proposed the bill in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing…. In many ways, the original bill will be mirrored by the USA Patriot Act six years later…. Civil libertarians on both the left and right opposed the legislation. Political analyst Michael Freeman called the proposal one of the “worst assaults on civil liberties in decades,” and the Houston Chronicle called it a “frightening” and “grievous” assault on domestic freedoms…”
Civil libertarians of all political stripes were totally horrified when Obama and the Dems renewed the expiring Bush era Patriot Act without even attempting to cure some of its numerous flaws.  Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional attorney who writes extensively about civil liberties and who is well respected by civil libertarians on the right and left, has been consistently critical of the Patriot Act as well as Obama continuing the policy of Bush to murder US citizens abroad without any evidence and just the mere suggesting that they are “terrorists”.  Greenwald said “Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests.”  They’re entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations.  Amazingly, the Bush administration’s policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges — based solely on the President’s claim that they were Terrorists — produced intense controversy for years.  That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution.  Shouldn’t Obama’s policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind — not imprisoned, but killed — produce at least as much controversy?.... As we well know from the last eight years, the authoritarians among us in both parties will, by definition, reflexively justify this conduct by insisting that the assassination targets are Terrorists and therefore deserve death.  What they actually mean, however, is that the U.S. Government has accused them of being Terrorists, which (except in the mind of an authoritarian) is not the same thing as being a Terrorist…Can anyone remotely reconcile that righteous proclamation with what the Obama administration is doing?  And more generally, what legal basis exists for the President to unilaterally compile hit lists of American citizens he wants to be killed?”
But Glenn Greenwald is far from the only person to chirp in on the government’s civil liberties abuses and advocacy for murder of anybody the government deems a terrorist.  The John Birch Society (JBS), a very conservative organization that advocates for constitutional rule, said “Surveillance, torture and detention without jury trials have long gone hand-in-hand throughout all of human history. The Soviet KGB reputedly had listening devices everywhere they could, brought people for beatings and torture to the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow and then “disappeared” its prisoners to the gulag. The Nazi Gestapo also had an all-pervasive intelligence network, engaged in torture, and sent millions of detainees to concentration camps without trial.
That's why constitutionalists have opposed the Patriot Act from the beginning. It is a stepping stone to a far more brutal form of government than Americans have historically known.”
The Washington Post is a notorious statist rag that is typically the cheerleader in chief for all the evil perpetrated by our government, Congress, the military industrial complex and the CIA.  But shockingly, WP’s Dana Priest and William M. Arkin did an outstanding piece of journalism titled “Monitoring America” that exposes the expansive size and scope of our national security state.  The piece states “the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators….The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington….This localized intelligence apparatus is part of a larger Top Secret America….Today's story, along with related material on The Post's Web site, examines how Top Secret America plays out at the local level. It describes a web of 4,058 federal, state and local organizations, each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions. At least 935 of these organizations have been created since the 2001 attacks or became involved in counterterrorism for the first time after 9/11.”
4,058 federal, state and local organizations all creating a centralized command and control police state is very disturbing indeed.  Even more surprising is that this stuff has been going on for years/decades and that only 935 of these organizations were created since 911. 
Folks tend to believe that ideological left and right groups are polar opposites on issues but this is far from true.  Many groups on the left and the right oppose a lot of the same things, especially the assault on civil liberties, the thieving Federal Reserve and the military industrial security complex that keeps us at war.
The John Birch Society has actually praised efforts by the left to question Obama’s civil liberties record “Some leftist civil rights organizations such as the ACLU and People for the American Way have petitioned Congress not to renew these provisions of the Patriot Act. But most of the political left have simply rolled over now that “their man” is in charge.”
And that’s precisely a huge part of the problem.  Everybody rolls over on big issues, issues that politicians campaign on and forget once they are elected. 
Libertarian organizations like Reason, Cato, Lew Rockwell and anti-war.com have been exposing the assaults on civil liberties for years. 
But apparently, Obama and his Gestapo styled goon machine is attempting to out-Bush Bush on civil liberty assaults. 
Obama Demands Access to Internet Records, in Secret, and Without Court Review
The Obama administration is seeking authority from Congress that would compel internet service providers (ISPs) to turn over records of an individual’s internet activity for use in secretive FBI probes….
Under cover of coughing-up information deemed relevant to espionage or terrorism investigations, proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) would greatly expand the volume of private records that can be seized through National Security Letters (NSLs).
Constitution-shredding lettres de cachet, NSLs are administrative subpoenas that can be executed by agencies such as the FBI, CIA or Defense Department, solely on the say so of supervisory agents.
The noxious warrants are not subject to court review, nor can a recipient even disclose they have received one. Because of their secretive nature, they are extremely difficult to challenge.
Issued by unaccountable Executive Branch agents hiding behind a fa├žade of top secret classifications and much-ballyhooed “sources and methods,” NSLs clearly violate our constitutional rights.
The fourth amendment unambiguously states: “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.”
Source:  http://inteldaily.com/2010/08/obama-demands-access-to-internet-records-in-secret-and-without-court-review/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+inteldaily%2Ffeeds+%28Inteldaily.com%29
So many Fedzilla power grabs are in the process of being legislated and/or implemented by our increasingly Nazified Police State that it’s difficult for Americans to even grasp what is being done to them, their liberty and their privacy. 
Another civil liberty slashing horror is the emergence of “Fusion Centers”, a Fedzilla initiative that merges local police departments with the military and the Feds, all in the name of national security of course.  Civil libertarians have been all over the fusion center issue and grassroots groups have been formed to fight them. 
One civil liberties information group dubbed them an “American Stasi” in an attempt to explain the fusion centers. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported on July 25 that "there are 72 fusion centers around the nation, analyzing and disseminating data and information of all kinds. That is one for every state and others for large urban cities."

What is a fusion center?

The answer depends on your perspective. If you work for the Department of Homeland Security, it is a federal, state, local, or regional data-coordination units, designed to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism and anti-crime data in order to make America safer. If you are privacy or civil-rights advocate, it is part of a powerful new domestic surveillance infrastructure that combines data from both the public and private sectors to track innocent people and so makes Americans less safe from their own government. In that respect, the fusion center is reminiscent of the East German
stasi, which used tens of thousands of state police and hundreds of thousands of informers to monitor an estimated one-third of the population.

The history of fusion centers provides insight into which answer is correct.

Fusion centers began in 2003 under the administration of George W. Bush as a joint project between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. The purposeis to coordinate federal and local law enforcement by using the "800,000 plus law enforcement officers across the country" whose intimate awareness of their own communities makes them "best placed to function as the 'eyes and ears' of an extended national security community." The fusion centers are hubs for the coordination. By April 2008 there were 58.

The growth has continued under the Obama administration. Indeed, Obama has also continued Bush's concealment of domestic intelligence activity by threatening to veto legislation that authorizes broader congressional oversight or review of intelligence agencies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). As a result of that threat, the GAO provision was removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act..”
The ACLU has expressed seriously valid concerns regarding the fusion centers, especially since they operate without any congressional oversight and/or accountability by an increasingly shadow government that operates in secret.  The ACLU said “New institutions like fusion centers must be planned in a public, open manner, and their implications for privacy and other key values carefully thought out and debated. And like any powerful institution in a democracy, they must be constructed in a carefully bounded and limited manner with sufficient checks and balances to prevent abuse.  Unfortunately, the new fusion centers have not conformed to these vital requirements.”, and went to highlight some specific concerns:
  • “Ambiguous Lines of Authority. The participation of agencies from multiple jurisdictions in fusion centers allows the authorities to manipulate differences in federal, state and local laws to maximize information collection while evading accountability and oversight through the practice of "policy shopping."
  • Private Sector Participation. Fusion centers are incorporating private-sector corporations into the intelligence process, breaking down the arm's length relationship that protects the privacy of innocent Americans who are employees or customers of these companies, and increasing the risk of a data breach.
  • Military Participation. Fusion centers are involving military personnel in law enforcement activities in troubling ways.
  • Data Fusion = Data Mining. Federal fusion center guidelines encourage whole sale data collection and manipulation processes that threaten privacy.
  • Excessive Secrecy. Fusion centers are hobbled by excessive secrecy, which limits public oversight, impairs their ability to acquire essential information and impedes their ability to fulfill their stated mission, bringing their ultimate value into doubt.
 The lack of proper legal limits on the new fusion centers not only threatens to undermine fundamental American values, but also threatens to turn them into wasteful and misdirected bureaucracies that, like our federal security agencies before 9/11, won't succeed in their ultimate mission of stopping terrorism and other crime.”
On a more frightful level, local police departments are beginning to resemble paramilitary organization complete with military grade weapons and equipment.  The use of heavily armed SWAT teams used to be very rare and were only utilized under extreme circumstances such as terrorism and hostage rescue.  But these days, SWAT teams are used as Nazi styled storm troopers for all kinds of police activities and with such regularity that Americans are becoming desensitized to living in a police state.  The federal government has been loading up local police departments with military grade weapons and equipment for decades.
A lot of civil liberty organizations on the left and the right have been documenting the growth and abuse of the emerging paramilitary state.  Cato.org actually keeps a data base on botched police raids and the casualties resulting from such violent incursions into the homes of ordinary American citizens; the data base is available at http://www.cato.org/raidmap/.  From 1985 to 2010, you can scroll through data state by state and year by year on: death of an innocent, raid on a non-violent offender, raid on an innocent suspect, other examples of paramilitary excess and even unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people. 
Radley Balko of Cato.org actually testified in 2007 before a House Subcommittee on Crime and his testimony was titled “Our Militarized Police Departments”. 
Balko said, in part, “I’m here to talk about police militarization, a troubling trend that’s been on the rise in America’s police departments over the last 25 years.  Militarization is a broad term that refers to using military-style weapons, tactics, training, uniforms, and even heavy equipment by civilian police departments.
It’s a troubling trend because the military has a very different and distinct role than our domestic peace officers. The military’s job is to annihilate a foreign enemy. The police are supposed to protect us while upholding our constitutional rights. It’s dangerous to conflate the two.
But that’s exactly what we’re doing. Since the late 1980s, Mr. Chairman, thanks to acts passed by the U.S. Congress, millions of pieces of surplus military equipment have been given to local police departments across the country.
We’re not talking just about computers and office equipment. Military-grade semi-automatic weapons, armored personnel vehicles, tanks, helicopters, airplanes, and all manner of other equipment designed for use on the battlefield is now being used on American streets, against American citizens.
Academic criminologists credit these transfers with the dramatic rise in paramilitary SWAT teams over the last quarter century.
SWAT teams were originally designed to be used in violent, emergency situations like hostage takings, acts of terrorism, or bank robberies….
These violent raids on American homes, when coupled with the imperfect, often ugly methods used in drug policing, have set the stage for disturbingly frequent cases of police raiding the homes not only of recreational, nonviolent drug users, but the homes of people completely innocent of any crime at all….
800 times per week in this country, a SWAT team breaks open an American’s door, and invades his home. Few turn up any weapons at all, much less high-power weapons. Less than half end with felony charges for the suspects. And only a small percentage end up doing significant time in prison.
Mr. Chairman, I ask that the Congress consider ending the federal incentives that are driving this trend, and that the Congress reign in the copious use of SWAT teams and among federal police agencies.”  Source:  http://reason.com/archives/2007/07/02/our-militarized-police-departm/1
Also, among these 800 times a week  SWAT team busts into somebody’s home in America, frequently the police have the wrong address and terrorize and/or kill innocent civilians. 
The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act was passed to ban the use of federal troops as civilian police.  However, Posse Comitatus has been much abused and some of Fedzilla’s brazen abuses of the law are well documented. 
The New American reported in July, 2010 some very disturbing actions by the federal government.    “Within one month of the November midterm elections, a specially tasked unit of the United States Army will be on alert and ready to deploy within the borders of the United States to quell “civil unrest”… The subordination of such an outfit, known as the Consequence Management Response Force (CCMRF), under the command of US Army Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was documented last year by this writer in The New American. Lest any suppose that such an overt act of tyranny be the product of our current President’s fertile fascist imagination, that account related how President Barack Obama was simply carrying out the historic reassignment implemented by President George W. Bush, who in 2008 claimed that as commander-in-chief, the President was authorized by the Constitution to use the armed forces as he saw fit, congressional opposition notwithstanding. 
In response to the Bush administration’s pronouncement, the Cato Institute published a warning of the dangers of using a brigade of the United States Army as a domestic police force. The Cato Institute article reported that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team would be brought home from Iraq and combined with 15,000–20,000 other soldiers to form the new unit. NORTHCOM’s website claimed the size of the unit composed of servicemen from all branches of the military would not exceed 4,700 personnel.” 
Source:  http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/politics/3415-american-military-unit-set-to-impose-order-in-american-towns-in-time-for-november-elections
Some civil liberties commentators have sarcastically noted that the US military is merely practicing on foreigners on foreign soil to sharpen their skills for implementing a militarized police state in America.
In the arena of civil liberties, America is definitely crossing the Rubicon and taking a flying leap in the direction of an authoritarian police state more reminiscent of the Nazi Gestapo, the East German Stasi and other equally horrifying police states.  The Feds won’t stop and they have plans on the drawing board so extensive, so pervasive and so utterly draconian in their application that only a revolution can halt their power mad dementia and quest for absolute power.
The only thing that can possibly stop what Fedzilla has planned for us is for nullification and 10th amendment movements to become powerful enough in the states to launch a successful challenge to federal powers.  Only the states can take back their constitutional sovereignty that truly holds the roots for the restoration of liberty.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Judy, I agree 100%. Thank you for writing this. Everyone needs to know what is happening to our liberties.

    ReplyDelete