Archive for the ‘Fourth Amendment’ Category

Democrats stayed up all night fighting to expand unconstitutional Bush-era powers

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Originally published at Rare

I’m months from my thirtieth year on this earth, and starting to feel old.

Before you get offended by this, consider that when I was in college, Democrats were the anti-war party. I mean a let’s-reject-Hillary-for-Obama-because-he’s-anti-war kind of party. Code Pink was essentially mainstream on the left a decade ago. George W. Bush-era surveillance was markedly beyond the pale. The Patriot Act? Sedition? The TSA? Absurd.

Enter the left, circa 2016. What do today’s protests look like? A Civil Rights era-style sit-in. This is noteworthy given the historical implications of such an act. For a spectacle this extensive—in which Democrats have been literally sitting on the House floor holding up the works—the objective had to be worthy.

So what’s led Democrats to this extreme behavior? Their goal is to use Bush’s no-fly list as a means to deny you your basic constitutional rights.

It’s true: In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, Democrats are promoting a vast expansion of war on terror-era powers that strip innocent people of their second, fourth, and fifth amendment rights. They’re pushing the use of a secret government list, in which the people on it, often arbitrarily assigned as a terrorists, have no means to combat the designation.

Essentially, what Democrats spent hours demanding, into the thick of the night and into Thursday morning upending regular legislative order for, is the expansion of broadly defined national security powers not long ago opposed by their party and in most cases, them specifically.

Interestingly, House Democrats have both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on their side. And though they’ve dwindled in numbers, a few vestiges of the principled left remain in opposition to this attempt, in concert with libertarians and conservatives.

The ACLU, for example, opposes using the no fly list as a means to deny gun rights. And not because they’re particularly pro-second amendment, but due to an understanding that secret government lists aren’t a metric citizens should accept as a replacement for our traditional “innocent until proven guilty” standard.

Libertarian-leaning Republican Congressman Justin Amash summed the scene up well by tweeting a relevant family anecdote.

This is a matter our friends on the left ought to consider. Particularly those who crow about how Trump is “literally Hitler.” Do liberals really trust a man like him with the kind of power they’re seeking to expand? A man who suggested that putting Muslims in internment camps might not be such a bad idea since, after all, FDR did the same to the Japanese?

It’s easy to sit on the House floor and create a spectacle, demanding a vote on gun control legislation that wouldn’t have even prevented the terrorist attack they’re politicizing. It’s less easy to admit that the answer isn’t a new law made in haste, but a hard look at our national security and intelligence apparatuses.

After all, Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen was investigated by the FBI twice, reported again to the FBI for suspicious behavior just days prior to his attack, and no follow up was initiated.

There are unfortunately no easy answers to the question of how to prevent lone wolf terror attacks, no matter how understandably desperate many are to find them.

To the Democrats sitting on the House floor so they can feel good about “doing something,” I’d suggest that denying innocent Americans their basic due process rights is no solution.

Rand Paul is working to end the draft—among other things libertarians will love

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential race may be a historical footnote, but the senator libertarians know and love is back at it as Congress works through its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is passed yearly to allocate defense spending.

As civil liberties advocates will recall, the NDAA was controversially used in 2012 as a vehicle to allow the indefinite detention of American citizens on the mere suspicion of involvement with terrorism. This year however, Sen. Paul is harnessing the NDAA process to promote liberty-aligned priorities.

Sen. Paul has thus far introduced several amendments to the appropriations bill. The most exciting include ending the military draft, declassifying 9/11 documents that allegedly show Saudi involvement in the attacks, and forcing a new congressional vote to authorize Obama’s ongoing Middle Eastern wars.

Ceasing the use of military drafts has long been a libertarian priority, and Paul’s amendment is an exciting addition to the recent discussion about whether the U.S. should also draft women, or if this outdated practice of conscription is even necessary anymore.

And Paul’s move to declassify 28 pages worth of documents that allegedly implicate the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks comes on the heels of heated debate about this issue among lawmakers.

In the House, Reps Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), have been pressing this matter for months, with a major assist from former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Graham co-chaired the intelligence committee that wrote the classified pages in 2002.

This helped lead to the recent passage of a Senate bill that allows Americans whose family members were lost during 9/11 to sue the Saudi Arabian government. Sen. Paul and many others now believe it’s long past time to declassify the information that would apparently justify this legislation.

Sen. Paul is also using the NDAA debate to force a matter that has long been a pet issue of his: Acquiring congressional authorization for acts of war abroad.

Paul recently authored an op-ed at Time Magazine on this topic, writing: “One generation cannot bind another generation to perpetual war. Our Constitution mandates that war be authorized by Congress.”

Paul’s point of contention is that the Obama administration is still working off of two Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) measures passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002, even though many new fronts of war have been opened since.

In addition to his work on making the NDAA even the slightest bit more liberty friendly, Sen. Paul is a sponsor of other great standalone legislation. Paul’s most notable recent accomplishment is the passage through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act.

This bipartisan piece of legislation would empower federal workers to identify ways to save taxpayer money by giving them bonuses for helping to reduce spending; a seemingly commonsense measure that has evaded Congress so far.

It’s only been three months since Paul ended his presidential bid. Obviously, he’s been busy, pursuing these and other important measures, working across the aisle to achieve his goals when necessary.

Liberty-lovers can sleep a little easier knowing he’s there.

These are the only 3 Republicans in the House who voted to close Guantanamo Bay

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Most Republicans oppose President Obama’s plan to close the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, where terrorists are often held indefinitely and without trials. But in a recent House vote, three Republicans—congressmen Mark Sanford, Justin Amash, and John Duncan—broke ranks and supported an amendment that would have shuttered the controversial holding facility.

Sanford explained to McClatchy DC that his opposition to Guantánamo is consistent with his concerns about indefinite detention, a controversial provision that was added to the annual National Defense Authorization Act in 2012, under which those merely suspected of terrorism could be held without constitutionally required due process.

“Indefinite detention is not consistent with the values that America was based on,” said Sanford. “I think if you look at the military tribunals, there was finality to the process: ‘We find you guilty in military tribunal, we’ll take you out back and shoot you, or we’ll let you go.’ It was not, ‘We’re going to hold you for the next 40 years.’”

From a libertarian or constitutional conservative standpoint, Sanford’s outlook makes sense. It’s not that we aren’t going to punish terrorists—he mentioned military tribunals, after all. It’s that throwing someone into a prison like Guantánamo Bay on the mere suspicion of terrorism and holding them indefinitely without charge or trial is anti-American from a human rights and constitutional standpoint.

The issue of closing Guantánamo has resurfaced recently, as Obama struggles to fulfill a promise he first made over seven years ago.

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values,” said President Obama earlier this year. “It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”

That’s a nice statement, but civil liberties advocates on both the right and the left have reason to be skeptical. After all, Obama signed reauthorizations of the Patriot Act and new indefinite detention provisions into law, even after talking a big game about what a civil libertarian he was.

Nevertheless, the president does seem committed to at least attempting to move past the wartime abuses of his predecessor, while acknowledging the difficulty of the logistical challenges.

As Obama said: “The plan we’re putting forward … isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened. This is about closing a chapter in our history.”

Obama doesn’t have nearly the support he needs from Congress to close Guantánamo. The recent amendment, even with backing from the three Republicans, failed by a margin of 259-163.

Check out the strong bipartisan coalition supporting Rep. Justin Amash’s cybersecurity bill

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

In January, Rare interviewed Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) about his newly introduced cybersecurity bill, where he explained that anti-privacy language resembling the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA) was snuck into the end-of-year omnibus bill passed just before Christmas.

Amash’s bill, which has several bipartisan cosponsors, seeks to repeal the CISA provisions that he believes many of his colleagues unknowingly supported. The unrelated spying language was snuck into the 2,009 page spending bill, which was haphazardly cobbled together to avoid a government shutdown.

 On Monday, a strong coalition of eighteen groups from across the political spectrum came together in support of Amash’s legislation.Groups in favor of the bill include libertarian-leaning organizations such as FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, andCampaign For Liberty, along with their more liberal counterparts such as the ACLU, Demand Progress, and The Center for Democracy & Technology. Organizations focused highly on tech with less of an overt political streak such have also joined the cause.

The letter, which has been sent to members of Congress, states:

“As we and others have stated consistently, these [CISA] provisions are unlikely to increase the government’s ability to detect, intercept and thwart cyber attacks, yet they institute broad and undefined data-collection capabilities that are certain to undermine government accountability and further erode privacy protections.”

The coalition letter lists the top five provisions they take issue with in the cybersecurity bill that was folded into the omnibus. They explain that the language creates, “a new avenue through which the government will receive personally identifiable information and communications content, expanding surveillance on innocent Americans.”

They are also opposed to “the immunity from liability for companies that unnecessarily share private user information with the government and other companies,” along with the fact that “no reasonable limits” have been placed on “the type of information that can be shared, such as individuals’ personal online communications.”

Also troubling to coalition members is the fact that CISA authorizes law enforcement to use the information collected “for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity, including the investigation and prosecution of unrelated crimes.” These groups take issue with an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act the federal government would be provided, along with a “preemption of state and local laws on disclosure that seriously undermine government accountability and transparency.”

Ultimately, the coalition believes that daylight is the best disinfectant:

“Questions of cybersecurity and privacy should be debated openly in a manner that allows legislators and the public to criticize and participate. These questions should not be obscured by backroom deals that exclude critical perspectives and due process, and that many security experts have argued could result in worse security problems and worse privacy violations than before.”

The full coalition letter can be read below.

Rare Exclusive: Rep. Justin Amash talks about his anti-spying bill

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Last month, Congressman Justin Amash sounded the alarm on controversial spying language that was snuck into a 2,009-page omnibus bill. The massive budget legislation was, as is typical in Washington, haphazardly passed to avoid an end-of-year government shutdown.

This week, Amash introduced legislation to repeal these anti-privacy provisions.

When the omnibus passed, Amash said he didn’t think most of his colleagues realized a pre-existing bill called the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA) was folded into its pages. Amash describes CISA as “the worst anti-privacy law since the USA PATRIOT Act.”

As Amash told Rare in an exclusive interview, “Everyone understands why appropriations were rushed into an omnibus before the December fiscal deadline,” referring to the looming government shutdown. He added, “There’s no legitimate justification for sneaking a massive cyber surveillance measure into that omnibus.”

This is why, as Rare reported in December, Amash took time over Congress’ winter recess to draw attention to CISA and the fact that it was passed in a sneaky manner.

A statement from Amash’s office introducing his new bill describes CISA as, “[Allowing] unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance on law-abiding Americans.” It explains, “The law grants immunity from liability to companies that share employees’ or users’ private information with the government or other companies, as long as they do so under the guise of cybersecurity.”

Further: “It places no limits on the type of information that can be shared, which could include individuals’ personal online communications, and it allows the government to use the information it receives for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity, including the investigation and prosecution of unrelated crimes.”

Amash’s bill is bipartisan, and is co-sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.).

Rare asked Amash if he believes his legislation will get a fair hearing under the new Republican leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan. In the past, Amash and several of his “rebellious” colleagues clashed with former speaker John Boehner, and lost their committee assignments as a result. Amash was kicked off of the House Budget Committee.

“Speaker Ryan committed himself to a fair, open process, and I hope he’ll recognize he made a mistake here,” said Amash. “He can show a real difference from Speaker Boehner by bringing my repeal bill to the floor so we can have the necessary debate.”

Amash, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, supported Paul Ryan for speaker because Ryan promised Amash and other members that he would give a greater voice to the conservatives who were shut out of the governing process under Boehner. At the time of Boehner’s resignation,House conservatives lobbied for a speaker who would democratize legislative operations. The Republican Party eventually coalesced around Ryan.

Amash said he hopes to see Ryan keep the promises he made to secure his speakership. Bringing a bipartisan bill to the floor aimed at exposing the nefarious passage of CISA would certainly be a good start.