Category Archives: The Surveillance State

Supreme Court One Step Closer To Allowing Strip Searches In Schools

I’ve written in the past about the case of Savanna Redding, a now 19 year-old woman who, when she was thirteen years old was strip-searched by officials at her Arizona school who were convinced that she was concealing a banned substance; Advil.

As it turned out, Savanna had no drugs on her, but the strip search is something she’ll never forget, and, yesterday, her case against the school officials who did this to her was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States:

An important case at the Supreme Court sometimes informs as much about the justices as the issue at hand, and yesterday’s animated hearing on whether school officials have the right to strip-search a 13-year-old female student seemed just such a case.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wondered if the incident was much different from the experience of disrobing for gym class. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy affirmed his deep concerns about illicit drugs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seemed at times on the edge of exasperation with her all-male colleagues. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. searched for a way to make the issue go away.

But it was Justice David H. Souter who seemed to sum up the dilemma for a majority of the court. He put himself in the place of a school official balancing the need for keeping his young charges safe from drugs while respecting the constitutional protections even middle school students should receive.

“My thought process is, I would rather have the kid embarrassed by a strip search, if we can’t find anything short of that, than to have some other kids dead because the stuff is distributed at lunchtime and things go awry,” Souter said.

As ScotusBlog’s Lyle Dennison notes, the Justice’s questioning seemed to indicate that their decision in this case will be motivated by fear more than anything else:

With an undercurrent of fear running across the Supreme Court bench about drug abuse among school students, and a perception that young people will try hard to avoid detection, the Justices searched anxiously on Tuesday for a way to clarify — and perhaps to enhance — public school principals’ authority to conduct personal searches of the youths in their charge.

(…)

No more telling illustration of the Court’s mood emerged than Justice David H. Souter — whose vote would almost have to be won for student privacy to prevail – expressing a preference for “a sliding scale of risk” that would add to search authority — including strip searching — based on how school officials assessed whether “sickness or death” was at stake.

“If the school official’s thought process,” Souter asked, “was ‘I’d rather have a kid embarrassed rather than some other kid dead,’ isn’t that reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?” Stated in that stark way almost compelled agreement, without regard to whether a student singled out for a strip search was actually adding to such a risk, but was only the target of a classmate’s unverified tip.

Along with Souter, two other Justices whose votes might turn out to be crucial — Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy — were plainly more concerned about the drug problem than with student privacy. Both of those Justices, in past cases involving students and suspected drug use, have suggested that students’ rights were not very sturdy.

You can read the full transcript of yesterday’s oral argument in the case here.

Given this, I find myself in agreement with Radley Balko, who says that the reports from yesterday’s oral argument are not encouraging at all for anyone who believes in civil liberties:

Can anyone think of a single incident in the last 30 years in which several children have died after ingesting drugs distributed by one of their classmates on school grounds? Before we let school principles go rummaging through the panties of underage girls, shouldn’t we be at least be able to cite a few examples?

It’s a little troubling to see how comfortable these old men (Ginsburg isn’t quoted in the article) seem to be with allowing school administrators access to the genitalia of school children based on nothing more than a hunch that they might be “crotching” some ibuprofen.

And Steve Verdon notes that the school officials could have exercised just a small degree of common sense:

The strip search was based on a snitch’s statements, something that should be taken with a shovel of salt. When you are down to the underwear and you haven’t found drugs on a student with no history of drug abuse, good grades, good attendance, and no other indicators of being a problem student maybe it is at that point that you should call the child’s parents and involve them.

I summed my own opinions about this story up last month:

I cannot imagine any circumstances where it should be acceptable for school officials to strip search a child. If there is some suspicion that a crime was committed, then the matter should be turned over the police — in which case she couldn’t have been strip-searched until she was actually placed under arrest.

It is, however, John Cole who comes away with the quote of the day on this story:

I can state that as someone with an IQ over room temperature, the fact that we are debating whether it is appropriate for school authorities to strip search kids is a sure sign that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with this country and our sense of perspective, and I blame the war on drugs.

The fact that Supreme Court Justices, and likely a large segment of the American public, can’t recognize that makes it all even more troubling.

C/P: Below The Beltway

RFID and Privacy

Yesterday morning I was sent an article written by Michigan House Representative Paul Opsommer regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s push to implement Enhanced Drivers’ Licenses:

The Department of Homeland Security is coming to Detroit to push their new “Enhanced Drivers License” (EDL) program on Tuesday as a way to make Michigan licenses compliant with the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). If you don’t pay to enhance your license, you’ll need a passport in order to continue going across the Canadian and Mexican borders in June (you’ll still need a passport to fly).

Opsommer argues that it would make better sense to lower the price of a passport instead of trying to graft the purpose of a passport on to a drivers’ license. Then, he gets to the heart of the DHS proposal:

Instead, they’re offering to “enhance” our license by having a security interview, paying more, and then getting a wireless RFID chip in your license. While the first two requirements seem reasonable, if the part about the wireless RFID chip has you scratching your head, you’re not the only one. We already wisely don’t issue licenses to illegal aliens, but with the enhanced license you have to be able to not just prove your citizenship, but prove it via a wireless chip. Everyone who applies will have a new unique federal ID number assigned to them in addition to their current Social Security Number. The wireless chip then carries that new number, which can be wirelessly scanned by common readers up to 30 feet away, even while it’s still in your wallet.

In theory this will get you through the border faster, but then you are left with an unencrypted chip in your license for the other 12 hours a day you carry it.

He says the following about the privacy implications:

There is currently nothing in the law prohibiting the government from using this to track people away from the border, and also nothing in the law that would prohibit banks, hospitals, hotels, or others from linking you with the number and using it for their own marketing purposes or selling it.

Technically, this technology never tracks people, it only tracks the license. The assumption is that the license is being carried by the license holder when out in public, thereby being a good proxy for tracking the person. However, wallets and purses can be left at home, lost, or stolen, at which point the assumption breaks down.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the RFID-chipped license will be carried by the owner 99% of time. This is the equivalent of forgetting one’s license three or four times a year, which is not uncommon for most of the folks I know.  In cases where identity verification is considered critical, such as at a border crossing, a 99% accuracy rate isn’t good enough.  Therefore, the system isn’t designed to operate by reading the license alone:

Enhanced drivers licenses will make it quicker and easier to cross the border back into the United States because they will contain

  • a vicinity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip that will signal a computer to pull up your biographic and biometric data for the CBP Officer as you pull up to the border, and
  • a Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) or barcode that the CBP officer can read electronically if RFID isn’t available.

If the system is working as designed, it will accurately identify the person carrying the chip only when a person (or computer) can compare the features of the holder with the features on file. In any other case, the identity of the holder cannot be known for sure. That, however, doesn’t prevent someone from relying on the assumption that a license is always carried by the license holder and not another person.

This is an important point to make before addressing Opsommer’s argument about a “more secure” form of RFID license. In his comment above, Opsommer uses the word unencrypted to imply “less secure”. This is not the case. To fulfill the identification role specified by DHS, the government reader would need to be able to decrypt the encrypted value returned by the chip with no other information. This requires the use of an encryption algorithm that produces a unique encrypted number for each unencrypted number submitted to it.

The tracking opportunity is the same in either case. People are running around with unique RFID signatures that can be read from up to 30 feet away. The first piece of information a would-be tracker would get is the RFID signature. Once the signature is encountered, the tracker can start gathering information about the holder of the RFID-chipped license.  The interesting thing to consider here is that a third-party tracker piggy-backing on the DHS-sponsored license system would not need to match the ID number to a pre-established identity, meaning the encrypted value is just as useful for third-party tracking as the unencrypted value.

Imagine that a supermarket chain wanted to track its customers using the RFID signature of a drivers’ license.  They set up a scanner to read in the area where a patron would stand to interact with the checker and read the license every time payment was accepted.  It would be possible to track a patrons buying habits by linking the data saved from the register to the RFID signature.  In the case a club card was used, the drivers’ license would be linked back to the name on that.  If a check or credit card was used to pay, that financial information could then be linked to the RFID signature.  The store would now have an entire identity built around the unique signature that has nothing to do with the DHS database.

Taking this hypothetical to the next level, imagine that a diverse array of businesses such as banks, hospitals, hotels, casinos, restaurants, and bookstores began employing similar tracking techniques.  Each would build an identity around the unique signature of the chip.  The bank would know one’s financial habits.  The hospital would know one’s health problems.  The hotel would know when one visited.  The casino would know when one gambled.  The restaurant would know what one ate.  The bookstore would know what one read.  And the supermarket from before would know what one bought.

At that point, there would be an opportunity for an information clearinghouse to buy tracking data keyed to the unique RFID signature from different sources and build an amazingly detailed profile of the license holder/carrier.  The clearinghouse would know everything from their name, telephone number, and address to the fact that they bought a box of 24 donuts on Tuesday despite having diabetes.

In the extreme, it would be possible for the government itself to leverage the work of the clearinghouse by purchasing the data and crossing it with the DHS database.  This scenario is both technically possible and consistent with previous DHS behavior.  Encryption would make no difference in this case because DHS can already decrypt the RFID signature.  Imagine what the government could do with all that information about how a citizen lives his life?

Remember that this detailed profile grew out of exposure to a single unique signature.  The businesses doing the tracking started knowing nothing about the person other than the unique number emitted by their RFID-chipped license.  The only measure of safety encrypting the number provides is that the RFID tag could not be used to query the DHS database.  Of course, since one’s name would be revealed in one of many transactions, even this layer of protection is transitory since the DHS database would contain both name and ID number.

Back to Rep. Opsommer’s article, he laments the situation by saying the following:

[A]t the very least they need to offer enhanced licenses in two varieties, one that has RFID and one that doesn’t, and then let taxpayers decide which they want to choose. DHS has instead chosen a take it or leave it approach that bullies taxpayers with fiscal coercion and a one-size-fits-all policy that doesn’t allow Michigan to use more secure forms of RFID or to skip the chips altogether. Since an EDL will also technically be a limited passport, how the biometric data on the computer system gets shared with the governments of Canada and Mexico is also important.

I would submit to Representative Opsommer that encryption simply doesn’t matter.  Any RFID license that can be read without the holder’s consent is a threat to privacy.  Metallic sleeves and other devices that shield the license are not good enough, since they can be lost or forgotten.  The Ontario government has found a good solution to this problem, though.  They are looking at an Enhanced Drivers’ License that can be read only when someone holds it a certain way:

Seattle-based RFID chip manufacturer Impinj Inc. has demonstrated a prototype vicinity RFID card with a switch.

The design activates the RFID chip when someone places their finger on the corner of the card.

A mechanical switch – with moving parts – would be too frail, says Kerry Krause, vice-president of marketing at Impinj. So they took a different approach.

“With our technology, all you have to do is touch it,” he says. “The tag is only readable when a person is holding the driver’s licence and pinching it in the right spot. Your fingers are completing a circuit and turning it on.”

Such a license offers true privacy, as the person holding it has to take an explicit action for it to be read.  Anything short of this is simply a privacy violation waiting to happen.

—————————————————————

Update – 4/22 @ 1:35 PDT – Thanks to Jeff Molby in the comments for pointing out that the government leveraging privately-collected tracking data is already happening.  Post updated with this information.

Update – 4/22 @ 6:21 PDT – Commenter “Encryption could matter” mentioned the use of push-button technology.  I’ve found info on this and it has been added.

» Read more

DHS Responds To Uproar Over Report On “Right Wing Extremism”

In light of the uproar that we’ve seen over the report that Stephen Gordon brought into the public light earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security has issued this press release:

Release Date: April 15, 2009

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

The primary mission of this department is to prevent terrorist attacks on our nation. The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and trends of violent radicalization in the United States. I was briefed on the general topic, which is one that struck a nerve as someone personally involved in the Timothy McVeigh prosecution.

Let me be very clear: we monitor the risks of violent extremism taking root here in the United States. We don’t have the luxury of focusing our efforts on one group; we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology that motivates its violence.

We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.

I am aware of the letter from American Legion National Commander Rehbein, and my staff has already contacted him to set up a meeting next week once I return from travel. I will tell him face-to-face that we honor veterans at DHS and employ thousands across the department, up to and including the Deputy Secretary.

As the department responsible for protecting the homeland, DHS will continue to work with its state and local partners to prevent and protect against the potential threat to the United States associated with any rise in violent extremist activity.

I’ll leave it to others to comment more fully, but I will say that it’s worth remembering that Timothy McVeigh got his start with the so-called militia movement, and he ended up killing hundreds of people.

H/T: Little Green Footballs

Hey IRS & DHS, Suck On This!

I’m not going to make it to any Tea Parties today, because frankly I think my personal time is far better spent earning money at my job than engaging in a bit of populism that will likely be forgotten and ignored by the mainstream media — at least those portions of the MSM that don’t actively deride the movement.

But in the wake of this, and of the recent DHS report, I thought a little picture was in order:

My office when I worked from home:

Don't Tread, Bitches!

Some might call it extremism. I call it inspiration. Does that mean my name will end up on a list somewhere (if it hasn’t already)?

The Trouble with Involuntary Collectivists

… and in fact leftists of any stripe (and some on the far right for that matter), is that everything they believe is wrong.

Yes, I mean that directly, literally, and completely. Everything they believe is wrong. Incorrect. False.

Everything they believe in is wrong, because it all flows from absolutely wrong first principles, which can best be summarized as:

  1. If it makes me feel good, it must be alright
  2. If it makes me feel bad it must be wrong
  3. If I can get enough people to go along with me, we can do whatever we want, because we say so
  4. If someone is very intelligent, and gets a lot of people to agree with him, I should agree with him too or there’s something wrong with me
  5. If we want something to be true bad enough, no matter what, it is true, because we say so
  6. Anyone who disagrees with any of this is wrong and bad
  7. Everything we do is right because we say so, and anyone who disagrees with is wrong and bad; therefore anyone who wants to stop us is stupid or evil
  8. Anything goes so long as we get what we want

These are not principles at all of course; merely an attempt to rationalize doing what they want to do.

This, fundamentally, is evil, because it abnegates human liberty and the human spirit; and because it recognizes neither morality, nor ethics (one cannot call such notions ethics). Not only does it allow for the tyranny of the majority, it requires it. The will of the collective outweighs all.

Oh and never mind the inherent contradictions there. They are obvious and irreconcilable to a non-collectivist; but somehow not to a collectivist (though at least some distinction has to be made here between involuntary collectivists, and voluntary. The voluntary are still incorrect, but they aren’t forcing anyone else into it, so that’s OK).

Simply put, the coercive restraint of human liberty is inherently evil. Control of ones person, property, and behavior should be the exclusive province of the sovereign man. The only legitimate limitation of liberty is that which prevents transgression on the liberty of others, or which compensates those transgressed upon.

Collectivism purports to advocate for human liberty; but it does so through restraining it for the good of the collective? Only by giving up your freedom to all can you be free?

Doublespeak, and nothing more.

All they are really saying is, “Give up all your freedom and liberty to us, and we’ll LET you do, what WE think you ought to do, when WE think you should do it”.

It is entirely about command and control; just as is fascism, or any other kind of totalitarianism. They believe that if you give the “right” people, total control, then all the “right” decisions will be made, and everyone will be better off and happier.

This, frankly, is evil.

Intelligent leftists then spend all their intellectual energy creating increasingly convoluted, twisted, circular, and inductive arguments… no, to call them arguments gives them too much credit, they are in the main, mere tautologies; to justify what they believe in, and why they believe in it; even though reality shows again and again that their ideas are incorrect.

Amazingly, they often reach the same point as non-leftists do, by twisting their reasoning enough to reconcile their false first principles with the way the world really works. After all, at some point you have to say that an orange is an orange, don’t you?

And that really is the proof of the thing. Leftists ideas simply do not work. They are not true. They are false. Reality disagrees with them.

When your theory does not match the facts, you must change the theory. Reality doesn’t give a damn about your feelings.

The collectivist theory fails utterly. It doesn’t match the facts at all. Twisting both the theory and the facts out of all semblance to reality to “prove” your pet theory, does not make it true.

Individualism in a relatively loose collective (a society, no matter the size), is the natural state of man. We are social individuals, but we are individuals.

We may band tighter together at time, when it is to our advantage to survive; but we do so out of enlightened self interest, not of a collective nature.

We may sacrifice, so that others might live, or live better lives; but we do this for the benefit of other individuals, and for that which we believe in; not for the collective.

In all things, we are individuals.

Capitalism is what naturally happens when people get together freely to exchange goods and services.

Private property and competition are what naturally happens when people seek to improve their lives, and their situations.

Unless people are artificially restrained from doing so, their natural condition is one of competition, and markets.

Yes, there are those who will seek to gain advantage by restraining competition, gaining monopolies, imposing laws and regulations… but those are not failures of liberty, failures of markets, failures of capitalism; they are the failures of command and control.

Command and control will always fail. It cannot succeed, because in order to work the commander and controller must have perfect information and perfect reason. Such a thing does not exist. There is no perfect man, nor any perfect collective of men, and there cannot be.

Not only that, but humans by nature are both rebellious beasts, and greedy beasts.

Yes, many are content to be… even crave to be… controlled. Many crave to control others (even if it si only as part of a collective). This is proven to us more and more every day. It was proven quite convincingly just a few months ago; when the great masses voted for a “perfect man”, “the one”; the man on a horse, coming to simply sweep in and “heal us all”.

There are always enough however who are willing to take advantage, or gain a little extra comfort, or just get a bit ahead, a bit more power, a bit more advantage… On the other side of things, there are always enough who chafe at the yoke, who jump the fence… There are always enough who refuse to be controlled, that the “perfect” system will be taken down from within.

Collectivists, your very foundational ideas are evil and wrong. They don’t work. They are proven false every moment by the reality we live in. imposing them on us inevitably fails, and causes incredible misery, death, and destruction along the way.

Of course, this only makes them all the more dangerous. A man who is proven wrong at every turn, but who simply WILL NOT give up… well that is man who will do ANYTHING.

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

If you are reading this, you may well be a terrorist

Last night, I uploaded a document I had received by e-mail and wrote the following:

According to this new Homeland Security report, all it takes to fit the terrorist profile is to have general anti-government feelings or prefer local/state government to federal control over everything.

The federal Homeland Security Department document entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Environment Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” contains the following definition:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.  It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Also targeted in the report are veterans, folks anticipating additional restrictions to their Second Amendment rights, and those concerned about the loss of U.S. sovereignty.

This report implies that one harboring these sorts of views is a racist as well as a potential terrorism suspect.

Michelle Malkin has followed through and verified that the Department of Homeland Security takes credit for the report:

The “report” was one of the most embarrassingly shoddy pieces of propaganda I’d ever read out of DHS. I couldn’t believe it was real.

I spent the day chasing down DHS spokespeople, who have been tied up preparing for a very important homeland security event later today: The First Lady is coming to visit their Washington office. Priorities, you know.

Well, the press office got back to me and verified that the document is indeed for real.

They were very defensive — preemptively so — in asserting that it was not a politicized document and that DHS had done reports on “leftwing extremism” in the past.

As Malkin suggests in her posting, it’s time to make a few last minute signs for April 15th Tea Parties.

UPDATE: The White House responds:

The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned.”

Homeland Security document targets most conservatives and libertarians in the country

Thousands of racists and terrorists rally at Cincinatti Tea Party

Thousands of racists and terrorists rally at Cincinnati Tea Party

Remember that now-retracted Missouri Information Analysis Center report which stated that small-government types (specifically Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin supporters) were potential terrorist threats? According to this new Homeland Security report, all it takes to fit the terrorist profile is to have general anti-government feelings or prefer local/state government to federal control over everything.

The federal Homeland Security Department document entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Environment Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” contains the following definition:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.  It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Also targeted in the report are veterans, folks anticipating additional restrictions to their Second Amendment rights, and those concerned about the loss of U.S. sovereignty.

This report implies that one harboring these sorts of views is a racist as well as a potential terrorism suspect.

UPDATE: Sorry for the delay in responding to questions about the authenticity of the DHS report.  We had a freakish storm last night which blew down a lot of very large oak trees in my neighborhood.  At the moment, we are cooking on propane and charcoal, are running a 3000 watt generator to keep food from spoiling, etc.  I just rerouted all of the home networking equipment and moved it so it can be powered by the generator, so I finally have Internet access again.

With respect to the report, I have no absolute proof it is legit, but I searched around the Internet and couldn’t find any site debunking it.  It came to me from a reasonably reliable source by e-mail.  It looks authentic and passes the sniff test of someone who has read far more than his share of government reports.

I figure that if this ends up being a hoax, it’s such a clever one that it is newsworthy in and of itself.  It’s probably legit, though.  Sometimes a blogger has to go out on a limb until such things can be absolutely verified.  That’s what’s so great about the Internet — we have an open source forum to investigate matters such as this.

If someone finds anything which verifies the authenticity of this document or indicates that it’s a clever hoax, please let me know.

UPDATE II: The AmSpecBlog has picked this up, as well as RedState, PoliGazette, Homeland Security Watch, The Other McCain, Independent Political Report, Moe Lane and Cold Fury.

UPDATE III: Michelle Malkin verifies the document here.  RedState’s Moe Lane writes in an e-mail: “Heh.  I figured that document was for real after I got shunted to the fourth office at DHS.  If it was fake they would have just said so.”

UPDATE IV: The White House responds:

The White House has distanced itself from the analysis. When asked for comment on its contents, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, “The President is focused not on politics but rather taking the steps necessary to protect all Americans from the threat of violence and terrorism regardless of its origins. He also believes those who serve represent the best of this country, and he will continue to ensure that our veterans receive the respect and benefits they have earned.”

UPDATE V: A similar report seems to have been distributed by the Maryland National Guard.  This one specifically mentions Tea Party participants.

UPDATE VI by Brad Warbiany: We were getting quite a bit of hotlinking of the original PDF report (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc), and I have redirected that link to the main post.

Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) in his recent article calling for a major reform of America’s prisons in Parade Magazine brought some very disturbing, eye opening, statistics about America’s prison system to light. In summary this is some of what he found:

-Since 1984, America’s prison population has quadrupled from 580,000 to 2.3 million

-Though the U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world’s reported prisoners

-Local, state, and federal spending on corrections costs the U.S. taxpayer about $68 billion annually* (California spent nearly $10 million on corrections last year by itself!)

-16% (350,000) adults in prison or jail are mentally ill

-3/4 of drug offenders in state prisons are non-violent offenders or in prison solely for drug offenses

-47.5% of all drug arrests in the U.S. were fore marijuana offenses

-Despite insignificant statistical differences regarding drug use among races, Blacks (accounting for 12% of the U.S. population) account for 37% of all drug arrests, 59% of which are convicted and account for 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison

Perhaps for the “tough on crime” types, this is all good news but for anyone else who thinks critically of these statistics, I would expect that most would be concerned if not horrified. In response to these statistics, Sen. Webb makes the following observation:

“With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different–and vastly counterproductive.”

For regular consumers of the evening news, it may seem that the first possibility could be true. Without fail, the evening news reports stories of violence, vandalism, kidnapping, rape, child molestation, and murder both locally and nationally. There is also no shortage of true crime programs** detailing the most heinous crimes one could imagine being committed against other human beings; it’s all very disturbing. Our jails and prisons surely must be overflowing from these creeps!

One would think that roving bands of murderous thugs are on every street in America, yet we each almost always make it to and from work, to and from running errands and eating out unmolested. Our odds of being killed in an auto accident*** are many times greater than being victim to this roving band of murderous thugs. How can this be?

While we should each be vigilant and aware of our surroundings and always use common sense, the perception that our prisoners are overflowing with mostly violent criminals just isn’t true. Figure 1 shows the U.S. prison population under the purview of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The BOP population accounts for 202,493 of America’s 2.3 million prisoners.

Figure 1

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009


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Meet The New Wiretapper, Same As The Old Wiretapper

The Obama Administration continues to defend the Bush Administration’s wiretapping policies:

(04-06) 15:26 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, this time against a lawsuit by AT&T customers who claim federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.

Disclosure of the information sought by the customers, “which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Friday in San Francisco.

Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign’s “unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency.”

(…)

The administration’s new filing asks Walker to dismiss a second suit filed in September by AT&T customers that sought to sidestep the telecommunications immunity law by naming only the government, Bush and other top officials as defendants.

Like the earlier suit, the September case relies on a former AT&T technician’s declaration that he saw equipment installed at the company’s San Francisco office to allow NSA agents to copy all incoming e-mails. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say the declaration, and public statements by government officials, revealed a “dragnet” surveillance program that indiscriminately scooped up messages and customer records.

The Justice Department said Friday that government agents monitored only communications in which “a participant was reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.” But proving that the surveillance program did not sweep in ordinary phone customers would require “disclosure of highly classified NSA intelligence sources and methods,” the department said.

Individual customers cannot show their messages were intercepted, and thus have no right to sue, because all such information is secret, government lawyers said. They also said disclosure of whether AT&T took part in the program would tell the nation’s enemies “which channels of communication may or may not be secure.”

In other words, just trust us.

Once again, it’s change we can believe in !

Government and Cyber-Security

News came out this week of a deeply troubling new bill from Sens. Jay Rockerfeller (D – WV) and Olympia Snowe (R – ME):

The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 introduced in the Senate would allow the president to shut down private Internet networks. The legislation also calls for the government to have the authority to demand security data from private networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule or policy restricting such access.

According to the bill’s language, the president would have broad authority to designate various private networks as a “critical infrastructure system or network” and, with no other review, “may declare a cyber-security emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from” the designated the private-sector system or network.

The 51-page bill does not define what private sector networks would be considered critical to the nation’s security, but the Center for Democracy and Technology fears it could include communications networks in addition to the more traditional security concerns over the financial and transportation networks and the electrical grid.

Maybe it’s not so bad. I mean, this could only be used in regards to our “critical security infrastructure” in a “state of emergency”, right? Yes, but (from Legal Insurrection):

The standards in the Act as to what constitutes an emergency, and what the President can do with the information, are unacceptably vague.

This is as bad as it looks. Once a president, whether it be Obama or a successor, wants to invoke these powers, a suitable emergency will be found. Any bets on what the first one will be? Obama is already using Chicago mob-like tactics to keep control over the banking system.

Actually, it’s worse. Not only does the bill grant the president dictatorial powers over the cyber-infrastructure of this nation, it weakens the security of that infrastructure:

The bill would also impose mandates for designated private networks and systems, including standardized security software, testing, licensing and certification of cyber-security professionals.

“Requiring firms to get government approval for new software would hamper innovation and would have a negative effect on security,” Nojeim said. “If everyone builds to the same standard and the bad guys know those standards it makes it easier for the bad guys.”

Maybe they won’t have to create an emergency. If they make the entire critical infrastructure open to the same exploit, a real one will come along in due time.

Also, notice our old friends licensing and certification. These practices are inherently slow and stifle innovation. To get a government-issued cyber-security license, one would have to toe the government line on what good security practices are. Cyber-security, though, is an ever-changing field, with the good guys and the bad guys locked in an eternal game of cat and mouse. Threats evolve in hours and days, while licensing can take weeks and months.

What happens in this new world of licensed and regulated security professionals when a self-taught hacker or college kid is playing around with some software and finds and exploit? Will it still be taken seriously, or will it be ignored because the discoverer doesn’t have the necessary license?

Finally, and perhaps worst of all, this bill assumes that the government is never a security threat. The US Government has already shown itself to be a threat to the security of private individuals with its insatiable need to snoop. Anyone remember warrantless wiretaps? Telco immunity for snooping on behalf of Washington? The PATRIOT Act? Carnivore?

For those who think that those were all abuses of past administrations, and that we now have a better man in power, think again. Obama and crew are currently negotiating the highly abusive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA, as it’s called, obligates the US Government to conduct searches for pirated music and movies with no warrants or probable cause and criminalize the infringement of copyright.

By crafting this agreement, the Obama Administration is granting to the Presidency the power to snoop on any citizens’ computer at any time simply to prevent people from copying music and movies. While this might seem almost farcical, it opens up the argument that if the “crime” of piracy of digital files requires such sweeping interventions, then so must more serious threats to national security.

It gets worse, though, because we have another slippery slope of government that will intersect this. At a point in the future, using the justification of cyber-security, the US Government will mandate that all citizens run government-approved security software. The Rockerfeller-Snowe Cyber-Security bill is the first step towards this, requiring approved security software on “critical infrastructure”. Soon enough, though, some congressman will realize that the attacks on our critical infrastructure are coming from virus-infected PCs and that the government must do something about this. Then, it will be a crime to run a machine that is not secured in a government-approved fashion.

At that point, the government will be securing itself while compromising the security of each of its citizens. The private lives of each person who installs the government-approved solution will be open to the inspection of looky-loos and busybodies in the bowels of the leviathan. Those who choose not to, or worse, choose to secure their systems against the government, will face reprisal and even arrest for endangering the cyber-security of the nation.

Cyber-criminals are smart, decentralized, innovative, and agile. Our cyber-security must continually match or exceed this. Our cyber-security, as a nation, a society, and as individuals, is too important to entrust to the government.

The Liberty Papers Welcomes Fellow “Militia Members” and Enemies of the State

Are you an enemy of the state? Chances are if you are reading The Liberty Papers, you are! According to a new report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center, “The Modern Militia Movement” authored by Governor Nixon and Attorney General Koster, signs that you may be a domestic terrorist or militia member include:

– You supported Ron Paul or 3rd party candidates such as Chuck Baldwin or Bob Barr in the 2008 election (Guilty!)

– You have “anti-government,” Campaign for Liberty, Gadsden Flag, and “libertarian” bumper stickers on his or her vehicle or possess other related literature (Guilty!)

-Anyone involved in The Campaign for Liberty (I’m sure that anyone associated with the Tea Parties or those in the “Going Galt” movement should also be considered a threat)

-People who frequently visit or participate in libertarian related blogs, discussion boards, or websites (Guilty!)

-Those who write about or talk about the coming economic collapse of the U.S. (Guilty!)

Basically, anyone who distrusts the state on any level could be profiled as a potential militia member, domestic terrorist, or enemy of the state.

I first learned of this report from the video clip below (Glenn Beck with Penn Jillete as his guest).

So what does Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, and Ron Paul think about being associated with domestic terrorism?

Chuck Baldwin’s response:

Can you imagine the fallout of this preposterous report had the names Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Maxine Waters been used instead of the names Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr?

Accordingly, Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and I wrote a formal letter to the above-named Missouri officials demanding “that the following-described document be immediately removed from any and all websites associated with or maintained by the state of Missouri or any agency thereof, including the MIAC; that the said document no longer be circulated by the state of Missouri or any agency thereof or associated therewith; and that the state of Missouri repudiate its references to the three of us contained therein.”

Bob Barr seems to be content with the response he co-wrote with Baldwin and Paul, at least for now (I haven’t found any response so far from Barr other than the aforementioned letter)

Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, however; is not taking this laying down and is circulating a Citizen’s Petition for Redress of Grievance

Both Ron Paul and Campaign for Liberty champion principles of freedom, peace, and prosperity. We believe that the Founder’s vision for America can be reclaimed through education and peaceful activism.

Simply supporting the Constitution does not make you worthy of a watch list; it makes you a Patriot.

I find it interesting that some (mostly Democrats) who when Bush was president said that dissent was patriotic now get nervous when anyone dares to question the policies of “The Messiah” a.k.a. “The Chosen One” a.k.a. President Obama. To be against this enlightened being is to commit heresy and obviously should be considered a wild-eyed, dangerous enemy of the state.

Well, believe it or not, not everyone believes that the direction Obama and the Democrat controlled federal government are in the best interest of those who value the rights of life, liberty, and property. The State has become an enemy to these very basic human rights.

Does this make me an enemy of the state? Well, I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a “friend of the state.”

To those of you who have my name on a watch list and reading this, you can take that statement however you like.

Don’t Tread on Me!

Obama’s Policy to Fight Mexican Drug Cartels is Doomed to Fail

The Obama administration, rather than dealing with the root cause of the violence along the Mexican border, has decided to adopt a policy to deal with the symptoms. The problem is that this policy will neither alleviate the symptoms nor come close to treating the problem.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration promised Tuesday to help Mexico fight its drug war by cutting off the cartels’ supply of guns and profits, while resisting the Texas governor’s call for a troop surge at the border to ward off spillover violence.

Let’s assume for a moment that Obama’s policy to prevent Mexico bound firearms from leaving the U.S. 100% successful. Given the fact that the drug cartels can acquire firearms from other sources (such as corrupt Mexican government agents with access to firearms among other sources) the only difference would be that the firearms are no longer coming from the U.S.

The Obama administration correctly identifies that the drug cartels are so powerful because of the profitability of the illicit drug trade. It’s this ability to make enormous profits, particularly in an impoverished country as Mexico, that attracts players into the business and makes corruption on the part of government officials almost irresistible. Unfortunately, though the Obama administration has identified the profitability of the drug trade as the source of the drug cartels’ power, there is clearly a profound misunderstanding of the way basic economics work (as if the bailouts, handouts, and myriad of other government programs were not proof enough).

The steps announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – 450 federal agents shifted to border duty, supplied with dogs trained to detect both drugs and cash, and scanners to check vehicles and railcars heading into Mexico – amount to a subtle but important shift:

The blockade of contraband will now be a two-way effort. The fence begun under the Bush administration will be completed, to deter smugglers of drugs and workers. But the new emphasis will be on disrupting the southbound flow of profits and weapons that fuel the cartels.

At his televised news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that for now, it’s more important to disrupt the cartels’ access to profits and weapons than to fortify the border with soldiers.

“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” he said. “The steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence. … If the steps that we’ve taken do not get the job done, then we will do more.”

So what’s wrong with this approach? The basic economic law of supply and demand tells us that whenever a product is in high demand (drugs in this case) and the supply is lower (in this case by successful drug interdiction by the U.S. governemnt), those who supply the given demand stand to profit more NOT LESS! Whether Obama’s policy results in a decrease in the supply of drugs of 1% or 99%, those drugs which do make it to the end customer will pay even more to get them.

I would even go as far as to say that the Mexican drug cartels would cheer this policy. Sure, the cartels might have more difficulty moving their product into the U.S. and their profit and firearms out of the U.S. but for the most clever smugglers, these enhanced drug interdiction efforts would filter out the competition! (And we know how black market operators hate competition).

On some level, I do believe that even the political class understand this but somewhere, there is a disconnect. Just yesterday in her visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the war on (some) drugs over the past 30+ years “has not worked.”

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.”

And now the disconnect:

“Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians…”

Mrs. Clinton apparently recognizes how the war on (some) drugs has been an abject failure fails to realize that the Chosen One’s policies will do little to reverse this trend. If she truly wants to do something productive, something has to be done about what she (correctly) describes as this “insatiable demand” for these drugs. She seems to understand that the “Just say No” campaign didn’t work but does she and others within the Obama administration really believe that more drug hysteria PSA’s will do anything to curb this demand?

Given how the Obama administration has decided to deal with the drug war related violence along the border, I’m not optimistic. If spending billions of dollars annually on this insane war on (some) drugs which has contributed to leading the world in the number of people in prison (imprisoning 1 out of every 100 adults; more than half of the U.S. prison population is there because of drug related offenses) has failed to curb the demand, then perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.

Nothing short of legalizing the drug trade will stop the violence, so why does the politicos, law enforcement, and government bureaucrats at almost every level continue the same “get tough” policy which clearly has not worked? The only conclusion I can come to: they must be high.

Meet The New Big Brother, Same As The Old Big Brother

If you thought that the Obama Administration would bring an end to the Bush Administration’s domestic surveillance programs, you were wrong:

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III urged lawmakers yesterday to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, calling them “exceptional” tools to help protect national security.

The law, passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, created divisions between proponents, who said it was necessary to deter terrorism, and privacy advocates warning that it tramples on Americans’ civil liberties. Portions of the law are up for reauthorization this year.

Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he hopes that the reauthorization of two provisions would be far less controversial than in previous years. One of those provisions, which helps authorities secure access to business records, “has been exceptionally helpful in our national security investigations,” he said.

In response to a question from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Mueller said that his agents had used the provision about 220 times between 2004 and 2007. Data for last year were not yet available, he said.

The measure allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect’s records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

Another provision, permitting roving wiretaps of terrorism suspects, was used 147 times and has helped eliminate “an awful lot of paperwork,” Mueller said. In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a cellphone and a BlackBerry to a home computer. But under the provision, one warrant can cover all of those machines.

So much for change we can believe in, huh ?

Meet The New Unitary Executive, Same As The Old Unitary Executive

The Obama Administration is adopting some of the same legal theories that President Bush used to enhance the powers of the Presidency:

A federal appeals court rejected the Obama administration’s attempt Friday to stop a judge in San Francisco from reviewing a challenge to the wiretapping program ordered by former President George W. Bush.

Hours later, President Obama’s Justice Department filed papers that appeared to defy the judge’s order to allow lawyers for an Islamic organization to see a classified surveillance document at the heart of the case. The department said the judge had no power to enforce such an order.

As Glenn Greenwald notes, in doing so the Obama Administration is adopting the same legal arguments that the Bush Administration was criticized for:

[The Obama Administration is arguing that] there is only one branch with the power to decide if these documents can be used in this Article III court proceeding: The Executive. What the President decides is final. His decision is unreviewable. It’s beyond the reach of the law. No court has the authority to second-guess it or to direct the President to comply with a disclosure order. That’s the mentality — and even the language — drawn directly from the earliest Yoo Memorandum that created the theoretical foundation for what would be the omnipotent presidency:

Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President’s determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

In the context in which Obama is now invoking this theory, think about what it means: if, as happened here, the President breaks the law, then he can just label the relevant evidence “classified” and refuse to turn it over to a court which is attempting to rule on the legality of the President’s actions. Once the President decrees that a court is barred from reviewing the relevant evidence because the President claims it is “classified,” that’s the end of that. It’s irrelevant that courts rule that the documents should be usable or even that Congress has created all sorts of mechanisms to enable federal courts to use classified information in judicial proceedings

Apparently, it’s okay now that a Democrat is doing it.

Change we can believe in !

H/T: The Crossed Pond

The Brady Bill Was Only Step 1

Remember the “good old days” of the Brady Bill and the instant background check? It turns out that the gun grabbers in the 111th Congress no longer believe these gun control measures go far enough. Introducing perhaps the gravest threat to date against the Second Amendment: H.R. 45 Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.

The primary goals of H.R. 45 are to license every firearm for every firearm a gun owner owns and regulate the buying and selling of firearms through licensed dealers. To apply for a firearms license, the applicant would have to provide the following:

SEC. 102. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS.
(a) In General- In order to be issued a firearm license under this title, an individual shall submit to the Attorney General (in accordance with the regulations promulgated under subsection (b)) an application, which shall include–
(1) a current, passport-sized photograph of the applicant that provides a clear, accurate likeness of the applicant;
(2) the name, address, and date and place of birth of the applicant;
(3) any other name that the applicant has ever used or by which the applicant has ever been known;
(4) a clear thumb print of the applicant, which shall be made when, and in the presence of the entity to whom, the application is submitted;
(5) with respect to each category of person prohibited by Federal law, or by the law of the State of residence of the applicant, from obtaining a firearm, a statement that the individual is not a person prohibited from obtaining a firearm;
(6) a certification by the applicant that the applicant will keep any firearm owned by the applicant safely stored and out of the possession of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(7) a certificate attesting to the completion at the time of application of a written firearms examination, which shall test the knowledge and ability of the applicant regarding–
(A) the safe storage of firearms, particularly in the vicinity of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(B) the safe handling of firearms;
(C) the use of firearms in the home and the risks associated with such use;
(D) the legal responsibilities of firearms owners, including Federal, State, and local laws relating to requirements for the possession and storage of firearms, and relating to reporting requirements with respect to firearms; and
(E) any other subjects, as the Attorney General determines to be appropriate;
(8) an authorization by the applicant to release to the Attorney General or an authorized representative of the Attorney General any mental health records pertaining to the applicant;
(9) the date on which the application was submitted; and
(10) the signature of the applicant.
(b) Regulations Governing Submission- The Attorney General shall promulgate regulations specifying procedures for the submission of applications to the Attorney General under this section, which regulations shall–
(1) provide for submission of the application through a licensed dealer or an office or agency of the Federal Government designated by the Attorney General;
(2) require the applicant to provide a valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d)(2) of title 18, United States Code) of the applicant, containing a photograph of the applicant, to the licensed dealer or to the office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable, at the time of submission of the application to that dealer, office, or agency; and
(3) require that a completed application be forwarded to the Attorney General not later than 48 hours after the application is submitted to the licensed dealer or office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable.
(c) Fees-
(1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General shall charge and collect from each applicant for a license under this title a fee in an amount determined in accordance with paragraph (2).
(2) FEE AMOUNT- The amount of the fee collected under this subsection shall be not less than the amount determined by the Attorney General to be necessary to ensure that the total amount of all fees collected under this subsection during a fiscal year is sufficient to cover the costs of carrying out this title during that fiscal year, except that such amount shall not exceed $25.

I haven’t had time to read the rest of the bill, but from this and the titles of the remaining subsections (i.e. Sec. 302 Failure to Maintain or Permit Inspection of Records, Sec. 304 Failure to Provide Notice of Change of Address, Sec. 405 Inspections, etc.) it’s probably much worse than I think. This is like a bad marriage between the Real I.D. Act and the Brady Bill.

If the Brady Bill was step 1 and H.R. 45 is step 2 what are we then left with for step 3 but the outright repeal of the Second Amendment and complete prohibition for individuals to own firearms?

A Few Thoughts About the Ryan Fredrick Case

The long and short of the case is that three days after his home was broken into, Fredrick fatally shot an intruder who turned out to be a police officer. Fredrick promptly surrendered to the police once he realized the intruders were in-fact a SWAT team serving a warrant (a very small amount of marijuana was found in Fredrick’s home). The jury considered several charges including capital murder but ultimately decided Fredrick’s actions amounted to voluntary manslaughter and recommended a 10 year sentence.

Rather than rehashing the Ryan Fredrick case here, I would encourage readers to read the coverage by Hamptonroads.com , Tidewater Liberty and Radley Balko .

The police department did not believe the sentence to be harsh enough:

For the Shivers family and the Police Department, the verdict did not provide closure.

“Closure?” said Jack Crimmins, president of the Chesapeake Coalition of Police. “There’s no closure.”

“Their verdict today has jeopardized the lives of police officers,” Crimmins said. “I think the jury failed. They failed the community. You’ve got a man involved in an illegal enterprise, the police come to his house, and he takes the matter into his own hands.”

Funny that Crimmins chose the term “illegal enterprise.” This description is more appropriate for the way this police department chose to circumvent the Fourth Amendment by allowing a known criminal to break into Fredrick’s home to obtain probable cause to search the home in the first place! Most of the case made against Fredrick was from testimony of jailhouse snitches and informants of very questionable character.

And this notion about a homeowner who “takes the matter into his own hands” when someone breaks into his home is especially infuriating. Mr. Crimmins, it’s called the castle doctrine , perhaps you’ve heard of this concept? It’s not exactly new.

When a civilian makes a mistake and kills a police officer, it’s almost always assumed that s/he must “pay the price” but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? When a police officer makes a mistake and kills a civilian, the badge worshipers and law enforcement boot lickers come up with a statement like this:

A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

[…]

During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

So when a civilian believes his or her life is in danger, he or she must be certain of who s/he is targeting but when a police officer believes s/he is in danger, s/he can “shoot now and ask questions later”? What’s particularly galling about this is that in statements in both cases, the lives of law enforcement are of paramount concern as the lives of civilians is of little or no concern.

This is but another illustration of how the government has the one power the rest of us don’t: the monopoly of the use of force to accomplish its goals. The War on (Some) Drugs is a means to an (impossible) end (eradication of banned drugs). If non-violent individuals are killed in the process, its considered collateral damage. The War on (Some) Drugs must be won at all costs!

With respect to Ryan Fredrick, his fate is in the hands of a judge (the judge will decide whether or not to impose the jury’s recommended sentence), but what now? How can we prevent these tragedies from happening? Tide Water Libertarian Party has offered some excellent suggestions:

In the months since the tragic death of Det. Jarrod Shivers in the course of serving a search warrant at the home of Ryan Frederick, many questions have arisen regarding procedures of the Chesapeake Police Department. These questions have gone unanswered by the department. The Tidewater Libertarian Party asserts that because all powers granted government to use force on the behalf of the people reside ultimately with the people, it is unacceptable for the agents of government force, the police, to deny the people explanations for their actions when there are legitimate questions as to whether that force has been used with due caution and within the powers granted by the people through our Constitution and law.

• The tragic and avoidable death of a law enforcement officer.

• The use of Confidential Informants is an unfortunate necessity in criminal investigations, and particularly so in drug cases, but we question whether it is good public policy to request or issue search warrants based on the unsupported and unsworn allegations of Confidential Informants without some corroboration through independent investigation.

• Forcible entries in serving search warrants are acceptable police practice only when there is evidence subject to rapid destruction, hostages are in peril, or known, armed, and dangerous criminals are judged to be most safely taken by surprise. The recent trial of Chesapeake resident Ryan Frederick has revealed such forced entries to be the standard practice in serving all drug search warrants in Chesapeake. The Chesapeake Police Department has provided no acceptable explanation for choosing an exceptionally dangerous method of serving a warrant on a citizen with no criminal record over numerous safer and more Constitutionally acceptable methods.

• We are further concerned by the lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the Chesapeake Police leadership regarding what policy changes might be made to avoid future tragedy. Because we believe the police have taken the position that they need not explain their actions to the public, we hold this that is unacceptable in a free society.

This is the City of Chesapeake, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. The police are answerable to the people, not only to themselves. Our military and our police are subject to civilian control and review. Citizens are owed the truth. The proper first level of that oversight is through our local elected representatives on city council.

We understand that it may be necessary to withhold some tactical policy from the public at large for the protection of police officers, but what information can and cannot be made public is properly the choice of civilian authority, with expert guidance, and not that of those being overseen.

The Tidewater Libertarian Party therefore requests the City of Chesapeake establish a citizen review board consisting of trustworthy citizens chosen by council, but with no connection to the Police Department or city government, to investigate this matter. This citizen review board should have full access to all evidence, record, reviews, and testimony, and report to the City Council, and ultimately, with council approval of sensitive content, to the public, in order to restore the lost trust of the citizens in our police department and to ensure that our police officers and citizens are no longer placed in unnecessary danger.

I would also like to offer at least one other suggestion: cameras. Each SWAT team member should have a camera attached to his/her helmet. This would provide invaluable insight to a sequence of events and would help ensure that the police follow procedures properly. Police vehicles have cameras installed on dashboards, there is no good reason why cameras should not be used for knock and no knock raids.

Unfortunately, I fully expect to learn of many more of these tragedies before any such reforms are made.

Utah To Replace Private Club Booze With Big Brother Booze?

After reason.tv’s first foray into the explanation of the idiocy of Utah’s blue laws, the Hit&Run blog has followed it up with Utah’s proposal to finally end the “Private Club” craziness that they put people through. But is the cure worse than the disease?

A plan to do away with Utah’s private club law and replace it with electronic identity checks has the backing of Utah bar owners.

But they’re troubled that the card scans could gather thousands of names and addresses of their patrons and dump them into a law-enforcement database.

Under his plan, everyone entering a club, whether they’re 21 or 101, would have to swipe their identification to verify it is genuine. The patron’s name, address, driver license number and date of birth would be logged into the database, along with the time and place they were drinking.

That information would be saved for somewhere between 10 days and 30 days — Valentine hasn’t decided yet — and then be purged.

Valentine said the scanning would help cut down on underage drinking and could give investigators a tool, if a patron leaves the bar and causes an accident, to show where and when the person was drinking.

It could also be used in traffic stops. If an officer suspected a driver might have been drinking, the officer could run the license and determine if the driver was coming from a bar.

Why stop at time and place they were drinking? Why not have it log each drink they buy? Perhaps those who drink “too much” can get be referred to the Mormon church — they’re undoubtedly in need of “saving”, are they not?

And how will this work for out-of-staters? Will these scanners be completely updated with all 50 states’ license barcodes (for those who have them)? Or is this just assuming that something like REAL ID will end up going through, and the figure they’ll have the data they need?

If this goes through, I might as well stop going to any bars with this requirement if I go to Utah. I’m just not willing to put myself through that. No Polygamy Porter for me, I guess…

Even worse? This proposed change hasn’t softened the anti-alcohol forces one bit:

Art Brown, president of the Salt Lake County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said he would like to see the card scans with the central database on top of the existing private club laws.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some of these folks simply came out and stated the true purpose? They want to bring back Prohibition.

Dumbass and Authoritarians Among Us

Here are a few choice comments in response to a recent post where I argued that Ramos and Compean should not receive presidential pardons. I was aware that this was a very unpopular position to take (even among libertarians) but I was stunned and disturbed by the tone of some of the comments. I’ll let these comments speak for themselves.

It is my hope, to all you ACLU types, that an illegal drug running pimp dosn’t stop at your place of residence. After all the drug lord was only looking to put food on his families table.

Who cares if he was shot in the A$$, once again what does that prove. It proves he was shot in the A$$. So what!!! You insane pot smokin, red diaper doper babies would take the illegals side. After all his culture is far superior to ours. Why wouldn’t we want him and his countries poverty, corruption, sewage fertalizer, rampid drunk driving, rapes, and MS 13 here. It would make things so much better here. We have gone from the melting pot to the chamber pot thanks to all you ilk.

Comment by Michael — January 8, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

oh..and…too bad they didn’t blow the slimeball’s brains out! The ONLY crime Ramos and Campeon are ‘guilty’ of is not being better shots! How about this: Give them raises, Give them promotions, and teach them to shoot STRAIGHTER!

Comment by Petra — January 17, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

WAAAAA Get over it, they should have killed the dam drug dealer, They did make a mistake but with the Green card the DEMOCRAPS gave to Davila to yet again bring drugs to the USA again, not as an illegal but as a resident alien, wich is worse? I dont get you guys. No drug dealer is ever without a weapon of some sort.

In cases where there are drugs in the quantities like this case, “judge, jury, and executioner” is fine with me.

Comment by John — January 19, 2009 @ 7:22 pm

Brian, I’m guessing you work in a very safe, predictable environment, free from any real dangers. I know I do. That is why I can’t imagine what these BP agents go through on a daily basis.

There are very real dangers they face every day, and that certainly colors their world and perception of interfacing with other people. I personally am relieved that Pres Bush has commuted their sentences, and like a previous poster, am saddened only that he did not fully pardon them. They ARE heroes. They protect our country daily from scum bag, law breaking thugs that don’t care one bit for a civilzed society complete with rules and humanity.

Against the law to shoot unarmed criminals?!? So every criminal out there that can outrun the police should be allowed to just “run away” from authority to freedom, just because he doesn’t carry a gun? Ridiculous. That’s ok though, because I know there are BP agents out there along with thousands of other brave soldiers of freedom protecting our borders who continue to do their jobs to keep us safe, despite whiny verbally abusive pansies like you sitting in your safe little world sipping your cosmopolitans and spewing liberal rhetoric around like so much poison.

By the way, if you want to call me to talk politics, you won’t need to “press 1? for English. This is America; English IS OUR LANGUAGE. If you want any other language, go the Hell back to your own country!

Comment by Dennis — January 19, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

I say shoot these lazy bastards [illegal immigrants] BEFORE they infect us. What’s the problem with that? I don’t see any. And YES, pot is illegal. I don’t care how innocuous you think it may be to smoke it – it’s ILLEGAL. And smuggling it into the country is illegal and needs to be answered with any force necessary to stop it. BTW, I think many drugs that are now illegal should be legal, but until they are anyone who knowingly is involved with ANY aspect of drug use or trafficking does not deserve any sympathy or benefit of the doubt. He drove a truck into our country with 750 lbs of marijuana in it. That’s a fact and he’s an idiot. I wish the BP agents would have been a better shot and made a fatal shot.

Comment by Dennis — January 20, 2009 @ 5:26 am

Here was another response, this time to the follow-up post I wrote after President Bush commuted Ramos and Compean’s sentences.

Yet another example of the idiotic media “journalists” who publish opinion as fact. You disgust me. Here’s hoping you also have a “close encounter” with the drug smuggling illegal MY U.S. border patrol agents shot.

Comment by Daphne — January 20, 2009 @ 7:06 am

Apparently I’m not the only one at The Liberty Papers who attracts authoritarian loons. Stephen* Gordon had one commenter who doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the possibility that average Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights were routinely violated during the Bush Administration:

I’m always amused by those who fret over privacy. Just exactly what are these people afraid of? What could the Feds possibly learn that they would even care about? Do people really believe that those overworked surveilance people have the slightest interest in what some yokel in Kansas is doing? Paranoia seems to almost a national disease in this country. No wonder we can’t compete in the world – we’re worried about meaningless crap and ignore what’s important.

Comment by kent beuchert — January 22, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

So you may ask: “So you have some nutty people posting nutty comments on your posts…what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that these people vote in elections and serve on juries! Is it really any wonder we find ourselves losing more and more of our liberties? This is the mentality we are fighting against.

On a more positive note, there were also some very well-reasoned arguments by others who responded to these posts. “Brian” (from the first post) was relentlessly attacked for defending the crazy notion that suspects should be considered “innocent until proven guilty.” It’s my hope that there are a few more Brians out there than this small sample of random, (mostly) anonymous, fools.

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