Category Archives: Privacy

Your Ox Will Eventually Be Gored (Re-post)


It seems logical that every American, regardless of political affiliation/philosophy, race, religion or creed, would be concerned about the revelations concerning domestic spying on the part of the NSA. If the Obama administration can spy on and mistreat the Tea Party and other right wing causes, the next Republican administration could spy on and mistreat Occupy Wall Street and other left wing causes.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case. According to an article by David A. Love, the black community has largely greeted this news with a shrug and a yawn.

Is this lack of concern because many blacks do not want to be critical of the first black* president? This might account for some of this shrugging but Love suspects that there is something much deeper at work here:

The black community has decades of experience being monitored, so this type of surveillance is nothing new. Given the long history of being spied upon, many blacks already assume they are being monitored by the government […]
African-Americans are no strangers to surveillance, as their activities were highly regulated through the slave codes, laws which controlled both slaves and free blacks.

The mistreatment of blacks did not end when slavery was abolished, of course. Love goes on to describe several other atrocities such as the Tuskegee experiment, J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal spying on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others.

Tragic chapters such as Tuskegee have been cited as a reason why African-Americans distrust the medical establishment and are hesitant to participate in clinical research. One study found that 67 percent of black parents distrusted the medical profession, compared to half of white parents.

As I read this, I wondered why there isn’t a similar distrust of the government as the medical establishment by blacks in general. The Tuskegee experiments were done at the behest of the U.S. Public Health Service, after all!

After finishing the article, I decided to read through the comments section (this is a blog that is dedicated primarily with concerns of the black community; the comments can sometimes be very illuminating). The very first comment by a user with the handle “Blackheywood Heywood” did not disappoint:

The US government began spying on Black folks before this government was created, yet it was no outrage.Give me a break, it seems slowly mainstream America is discovering how it feels to be thought of as suspicious or guilty before being accused, never mind arrested. Welcome to the world of the American Black male.

Heywood has a valid point. The answer to the question why the lack of outrage by the black community concerning the NSA and IRS scandals could just as easily turned against what Heywood called “mainstream America.” Indeed, where was the right (for lack of a better term) on these outrages? Where has the Tea Party been on the question of “stop and frisk,” in New York in which minorities are especially targeted to be searched, supposedly at random? Is this simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind?”

I believe there’s also another phenomenon at work: the memory hole. Near the close of the article, Love mentioned an event that took place in Philadelphia in 1985 I was completely unaware of:

On May 13, 1985, following a standoff, a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped a bomb on the house on Osage Avenue occupied by the black “radical” group known as MOVE. Police reportedly fired on MOVE members as they escaped the burning home […]
The 1985 bombing—which killed 11 people, including 5 children and destroyed an entire neighborhood of 61 row homes in West Philadelphia—marked the first such attack on U.S. citizens by government authorities. The survivors and victims’ families received $5.5 million in compensation from the city of Philadelphia.

I try my best to be informed about historical events as well as current events. How is it that this is the first I had ever heard about the Philadelphia Police dropping a freaking bomb on a neighborhood in an American city?** I must have been sick that day in American History class (I also didn’t learn about the Tuskegee experiments until well into my twenties; maybe I was sick on that day as well).

Maybe MOVE was a radical organization maybe it wasn’t*** but nothing could justify the police dropping a bomb on a neighborhood. Perhaps this atrocity is well known by people in the black community, both young and old but not so much outside the black community (or maybe I’m one of the few Americans who never heard about this but I doubt it).

MOVE probably wasn’t the first group the government described as “extreme” to a point where government officials ordered and used military force against its members; it certainly wasn’t the last. How many people out of a hundred know about what happened at Ruby Ridge? The Weaver family, why they were “extremists” after all and therefore, why should anyone care about their rights? How many people out of a hundred know about the conflicting accounts of what really happened at assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas? (Here’s a hint: a great deal more than what the MSM reported at the time). I suppose because these people were part of some sort of cult, their rights didn’t matter either!

This is where the real problem of indifference lies. I’ve heard far too many people with the attitude “it’s not my problem” or “it doesn’t affect me”. Even more disturbing is the attitude some people have that they are happy when someone of an opposing view has his or her rights of life, liberty, and/or property trampled on (i.e. “Screw them, they are ‘extremists’”). Far too often, concerns about civil liberties depend on whose ox is being gored at that particular time.

I would like to humbly suggest that if you are not as upset when its someone else’s ox, even if it’s the ox of your opponent’s, one day it will be your ox that will be gored. Perhaps Martin Niemoller said it best in his very short work “First they Came” describing how the Nazis took freedom away from the whole population, one group at a time. By the time the Nazis got around to taking freedom from what remained of the population, Niemoller concluded “there was no one left to speak for me.”

To be clear, I am not comparing the U.S. government to the Nazis. Such hyperbolic comparisons are not constructive and minimize the very crimes against humanity the Nazis committed. I am making a comparison about how populations respond to encroachments on liberty, however. As demonstrated in Love’s article, there are plenty of examples of injustice from American history.

Here are just a handful more:

  • The Indian Removal Act
  • Slavery
  • The internment of Japanese Americans
  • Jim Crow
  • McCarthyism

And many, many more.

Each of these policies were permitted to happen because the majority apparently felt that curtailing freedoms of these minorities would somehow not affect their own freedoms. We should acknowledge that these injustices occurred and try to learn the right lessons (rather than pretend the U.S. government or the American people have committed no wrongs ever) and move on.

Every injustice and every violation of rights of life, liberty, and property must be answered by all of us as if it’s our own liberty that is at stake.

*Yes, I’m aware that Obama is actually half black. However, if a man of his description was accused of committing a crime and at large, he would be described as a black man.

**In light of this, Rand Paul’s questions about government using drones to attack Americans on American soil no longer seem so far fetched, unfortunately.

***All I know is what I read in the cited article.

Weakening Encryption: The China Problem

By now, you’ve heard that the FBI has asked Apple to help break into the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists. USA Today describes the specific request:

Right now, iPhone users have the option to set a security feature that only allows a certain number of tries to guess the correct passcode to unlock the phone before all the data on the iPhone is deleted. It’s a security measure Apple put in place to keep important data out of the wrong hands.

Federal prosecutors looking for more information behind the San Bernardino shootings don’t know the phone’s passcode. If they guess incorrectly too many times, the data they hope to find will be deleted.

That’s why the FBI wants Apple to disable the security feature. Once the security is crippled, agents would be able to guess as many combinations as possible.

Suppose Apple can do this. Suppose that the courts, up to and including the Supreme Court find that they must.

At that point, every device maker who wants to sell a device in the US would have to build this weakening capability into their products.

Putting aside the obvious fact that this capability will be reverse engineered by the wrong people, the impact of this decision on the rest of the world (and Americans abroad) has not received the attention it should.

Nothing stops other countries from presenting similar demands under their own laws. In the case of liberal democracies, the harm to the innocent would be limited. Repressive regimes, though, would quickly utilize this new capability.

Imagine a case in which China got hold of the iPhone of a US citizen at the border about whom it was suspicious. It could present the phone to Apple to decrypt under Chinese law.

Why pick China for this example? While a company might be able to tell of Iran, Venezuela, or even Russia, China is an integral part of the global technology supply chain. They are uniquely positioned to exert leverage in the technology sector where other repressive regimes are not.

The only thing preventing China from using its leverage today is the mathematical impossibility of cracking the encryption. Take that out of the picture, and things get interesting for device makers.

Why pick a US citizen? This one is more interesting. The US government (and states and localities) have multiple ways to digitally spy on their citizens. They can capture traffic on American internet connections. They can subpoena information from cell phone carries and ISPs under the third party doctrine.

Foreign governments don’t have access to any of these. While the US does share intelligence with friendly government, repressive regimes such as China are left out in the cold. Capturing the device of an American is one of the few possible ways for a repressive regime to get at the info.

By demanding that Apple weaken security around its encryption, the FBI will be handing China an entirely new ability to compromise the security of American citizens while only marginally increasing its own reach. Considering that China has been expanding its hunt for dissidents to other countries, the last thing that the US government should consider doing is making Americans with smartphones more attractive targets.

A Simple Question

mexico-drugs-sfSpanSo… hardcore drug warriors out there… I have a very simple question for you…


You can’t stop people from getting high. It’s NOT POSSIBLE.

It literally does not matter how far you go, you cannot stop it.

We can’t stop heroin from getting into supermax prisons, where there are no visitors allowed, and everyone is body searched in and out.

I just had a dedicated drug warrior fully sincerely advocate that we completely seal the border, and that every vehicle, container, and person should be fully cavity searched.

When I pointed out that cavity searches didn’t stop heroin from getting in to supermax prisons, he said that we need to have full walls on all the borders, and boats to patrol the coastlines to stop smugglers.

You can’t stop people from getting high. This is not an issue of sealing the borders.

Even if you actually sealed the borders successfully, then they would just grow it here.

How exactly would you stop that?

It would require constantly patrolling millions of acres of property, both public and private; searching all greenhouses, and all forests, and all fields of any kind, at least once every 90 days… in the entire country.

Doing so… aside from the massive violations of peoples rights, would require millions of law enforcement officers dedicated to it.

That would cost more than the entire budget of the United State by the way.

Even if you manage to completely eradicate all opium poppies, and all coca plants on the planet, they will just synthesize it in labs… and by labs, I mean, any quiet room with an electrical outlet, or anywhere you can run a generator, or a blow torch.

If you completely ban all substances that people could get high with, you ban thousands of legal products with legitimate and critical uses, including a huge number of critical medications.

You also have to ban all lab equipment, or closely license and track its sale. And all chemicals of all kind… and many kinds of foods. And most kinds of flowers.

And all machine tools, and glass blowing equipment… and blow torches, and pipes and tubes and sand…

And you’ll have to dig out and burn out millions and millions of acres of plants.

We have 7,500 miles of border. We have 13,000 miles of coastline.

You can make it a death penalty offense to posses, sell, or use drugs, or get high. Many countries do in fact… and people still get high.

This dedicated drug warrior said that it didn’t matter what it took, it didn’t matter what it cost… It didn’t matter if it wouldn’t work at all… That we had to do it anyway.

When I asked why, he said:

“Because to do otherwise would be to surrender”

Then I asked “Surrender what? To who?”

He said “Surrender to the junkies and the dealers”

I asked “Surrender what?”

He refused to answer.

And again I asked “Why”

He refused to answer.

I said “You’re advocating a police state, in order to stop people from getting high. Why?”

He refused to answer.

So… I have a very simple question for you…

You cannot possibly stop people who want to get high, from getting high.

You can’t make it illegal enough. You can’t ban or control enough. It’s not possible… you have to know that it isn’t possible..

Prohibition PROVED beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

The last 45 years of the “War on Drugs” have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

Maximum security prisons prove beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.

But you still think we have to do it… No matter what it takes… No matter the harm it causes… No matter what rights get violated…No matter how much power it gives the state. No matter how much it costs…


It’s a really simple question…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

One of the Original “Liberty Papers” Turns 800


A mere 572 years before the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, 561 years before the Declaration of Independence, and 465 years before John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government was a government-limiting charter which inspired the authors of each of these was the Magna Carta. In June of 1215, a full 800 years ago, a group of land barons had decided that they had enough of the tyrannical rule of King John. Rather than depose the king outright, the barons forced King John to surrender some of his powers, thus creating the concepts British Common Law and the Rule of Law.

The history of the Magna Carta and how it was almost quashed is quite interesting:

There are four copies of the charter still in existence – one each in Lincoln and Salisbury Cathedrals, and two in the British Library.
The curator of the Library’s exhibit, Dr Claire Breay, told Sky News: “The most important thing about Magna Carta is that it established the principle of the rule of law.

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights, or outlawed or exiled, except by the judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. And that clause is really at the heart of Magna Carta’s fame today.”

Those who negotiated the treaty would be astonished at how its reputation has survived eight centuries, because it was annulled after only 10 weeks.
The Pope ruled that King John had been forced to sign it under duress. Yet in the years afterwards, the language in the charter was revised and reintroduced and became part of the cornerstone of English law.

Vicor Hugo famously said “No army can stop an idea whose time has come.” Shortly after King John’s signing of the Magna Carta, the idea of the rule of law had come; the divine rights of kings was no longer universally accepted.

How Rand Paul’s Campaign Is Already Succeeding


Even if Rand Paul is not elected president, he has already performed the country a great service. No, I’m not talking about the pending expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It will likely be a temporary victory at best. What Rand Paul is accomplishing is that he’s exposing some of the contradictions of the Republican Party’s establishment wing.

Establishment Republicans are the ones who like to talk about reaching out to new voters. They point out, correctly, that Republicans cannot win if they stay the party of old, white guys.

What Paul is doing is exposing the same GOP establishsment types who support every shift to the left and support every big government program in the name of “moving to the center” as frauds and liars. All Paul is simply doing is letting them go hysterical.

Take for example former New Hampshire Governor and Chief of Staff to George H.W. Bush John Sununu comments:

Once the primary is over, Sununu said it’s “stupid” for Republican voters to not back whomever wins the primary, with one exception, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).



Sununu said while he is tired of “stupid conservatives giving Democrats the election,” After Paul’s comments blaming Republican hawks for creating ISIS this week he now believes Paul’s national security positions are too extreme “isolationist,” and “to the left of Barack Obama.”

He added, “Frankly, I can not imagine Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as commander in chief.”

Here’s Fox News’s Brit Hume:

Bill Kristol also joined the parade last week calling Rand Paul a “liberal Democrat.” Kristol actually knows a thing or two about siding with liberal Democrats.

If Rand Paul accomplishes nothing else this campaign cycle, he exposed the self-described “big tent” Republicans as nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. Most of these same guys are the ones who criticize conservatives who support primaring more moderate Republicans.

But when a Republican pushes back against issues the “big tent” crowd are passionate about, they must be driven out of the party. This is despite the fact that the American people want reforms to the Patriot Act to protect privacy and oppose giving arms to “moderate Syrian rebels.” If you’re going to take a stand and die on a hill, take a stand on issues that have popular support.

Rand Paul’s presidential campaign may yet crash and burn, but he has destroyed the credibility of “big tent” establishment Republicans.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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