This is what people like me were warning of the early days of the GWOT:
Either Monday or Tuesday the Senate will vote on a bill that allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial.
The ACLU reports even US citizens wouldn’t be immune as the legislation aims to declare national territory part of the “battlefield” in the War on Terror.
In watching the coverage on this 10th Anniversary of 9/11 I am struck by one thing – the tone is all wrong.
10 years after WWII we certainly remembered the tragedy of the lives lost, but we also remembered that we kicked a lot of Axis ass.
Where is the acknowledgement that in the 10 years since that terrible day we have killed two important enemies (Hussein and Bin Laden), dismantled most of Al Queda’s leadership and sent terrorists around the world running for their lives.
10 years on we appear to be learning the wrong lessons. We still place outrageous burdens on our own citizens in the name of safety. We have ceded to our president the power to assassinate our own citizens. We are mired in foreign nation building exercises that do nothing to make us any safer.
Yes, remember the dead, but don’t forget to learn the right lesson.
Why does the NYPD have tanks? I can’t think of a law enforcement environment (urban) or mission (preventing terrorism) that is less suited to the use of tanks. I wouldn’t say it was appropriate for police to use tanks to serve warrants on dangerous felons in rural environments, but you can at least see the logic behind it.
Los Angeles policemen will soon drive patrol cars equipped with license plate scanners and infrared cameras, so they can better detect crime, and 355 horsepower V8s, so they can better chase down criminals. Who will then be released, because the state doesn’t have enough money to build enough prisons to house them.
The license plate readers may be legitimately useful, and the infrared cameras are creepy when deployed indiscriminately. But what gets me is the engine. If this is the engine I think it is (produced by GM’s Australian division, Holden), it’ll get highway mileage in the mid-20s and city mileage in the mid-teens. Which isn’t bad for 355 horsepower, but why on earth do city police need 355 horsepower cars? The only use for that would be to engage in high speed antics with other high powered cars.
This is starting to become one of my pet peeves. A Ford Fusion with a 4 cylinder engine has 175 horsepower and will get 23/33 miles per gallon, about 50% better than GM’s V8 will get (NB: I use the Fusion as an example, but basically every mid-sized sedan will perform about the same). Compared to 355, I guess 175 horsepower isn’t that much, but it’s still an awful lot of get-up-and-go to have such good mileage. I cannot imagine more than 1% of modern police work needing a faster car than that (here’s the old Fusion, which only had 160 horsepower, getting to 60 in about 11 seconds; 30 years ago, those were sports car numbers). Actually, I’d be surprised if .01% of police work needed more power than a modern 4 cylinder engine can provide.
Giving the police high performance V8s wastes gas, and it encourages them to use those high performance V8s to drive fast. I guess the occaisional police chase is necessary, but by and large policemen driving fast is nothing more than testosterone-fueled safety hazards that give officers an unhelpful (from a citizen’s perspective) sense of machismo.
I’m a wishy-washy supporter of concealed-carry on college campuses. I’m open to arguments against it, but where I don’t find either side of an argument persuasive, my default question is: “Which option increases freedom and individual responsibility?” Because I think the burden of proof, everywhere and always, should be on those who wish to restrict liberty.
With that being said, I’m really quite amazed at how weak the arguments against allow guns on campus are. I’m going to go through that story and look at what they’re saying. First, it starts off talking about how Utah’s policy of forcing all public universities to allow concealed carry is draining the U of U’s resources:
However, Utah’s website warns people on the campus that it is “very possible” that they will see someone with a weapon, and they are “encouraged” to call University Police and report the person, whom an officer would then locate to ensure that the gun was being carried legally.
That’s only one example of how concealed carry can drain colleges’ manpower and resources . .
Why would you encourage people to report such a thing? Driving a car requires a license, oodles of paperwork, and involves a deadly weapon, but we presume that people seen driving cars are doing so legally (a frighteningly large percentage are not – nationally 20% of people have no insurance). No one in their right mind would call the 5-0 to investigate whether a random guy seen driving a car was doing so legally. Utah could stop the drain on their resources by not responding to calls to investigate presumptively legal behavior. Guns aren’t draining their resources, their reflexive fear of guns is.
Among those problems: accounting for the presence of loaded weapons in an environment rife with alcohol, drugs and young people;
James Otis argued against general warrants and writs of assistance that were issued by British soldiers without judicial review and that did not name the subject or items to be searched.
He condemned these general warrants as “the worst instrument[s] of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever w[ere] found in an English law book.” Otis objected to these writs of assistance because they “placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.” The Fourth Amendment was intended to guarantee that only judges—not soldiers or policemen—would issue warrants. Otis’ battle against warrantless searches led to our Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable government intrusion.
My main objection to the PATRIOT Act is that searches that should require a judge’s warrant are performed with a letter from an FBI agent—a National Security Letter (“NSL”).
I object to these warrantless searches being performed on United States citizens. I object to the 200,000 NSL searches that have been performed without a judge’s warrant.
I object to over 2 million searches of bank records, called Suspicious Activity Reports, performed on U.S. citizens without a judge’s warrant.
As February 28th approaches, with three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act set to expire, it is time to re-consider this question: Do the many provisions of this bill, which were enacted in such haste after 9/11, have an actual basis in our Constitution, and are they even necessary to achieve valid law-enforcement goals?
The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history, is no doubt well-intentioned. However, rather than examine what went wrong, and fix the problems, Congress instead hastily passed a long-standing wish list of power grabs like warrantless searches and roving wiretaps. The government greatly expanded its own power, ignoring obvious answers in favor of the permanent expansion of a police state.
It is not acceptable to willfully ignore the most basic provisions of our Constitution—in this case—the Fourth and First Amendments—in the name of “security.”
For example, one of the three provisions set to expire on February 28th—the “library provision,” section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—allows the government to obtain records from a person or entity by making only the minimal showing of “relevance” to an international terrorism or espionage investigation. This provision also imposes a year-long nondisclosure, or “gag” order. “Relevance” is a far cry from the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause. Likewise, the “roving wiretap” provision, section 206 of the PATRIOT Act, which is also scheduled to expire on the 28th, does not comply with the Fourth Amendment. This provision makes possible “John Doe roving wiretaps,” which do not require the government to name the target of the wiretap, nor to identify the specific place or facility to be monitored. This bears an uncanny resemblance to the Writs of Assistance fought against by Otis and the American colonists.
Other provisions of the PATRIOT Act previously made permanent and not scheduled to expire present even greater concerns. These include the use and abuse by the FBI of so-called National Security Letters. These secret demand letters, which allow the government to obtain financial records and other sensitive information held by Internet Service Providers, banks, credit companies, and telephone carriers—all without appropriate judicial oversight—also impose a gag order on recipients.
NSL abuse has been and likely continues to be rampant. The widely-circulated 2007 report issued by the Inspector General from the Department of Justice documents “widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities. In many instances, the FBI’s misuse of national security letters violated NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, or the FBI’s own internal policies.” Another audit released in 2008 revealed similar abuses, including the fact that the FBI had issued inappropriate “blanket NSLs” that did not comply with FBI policy, and which allowed the FBI to obtain data on 3,860 telephone numbers by issuing only eleven “blanket NSLs.” The 2008 audit also confirmed that the FBI increasingly used NSLs to seek information on U.S. citizens. From 2003 to 2006, almost 200,000 NSL requests were issued. In 2006 alone, almost 60% of the 49,425 requests were issued specifically for investigations of U.S. citizens or legal aliens.
In addition, First Amendment advocates should be concerned about an especially troubling aspect of the 2008 audit, which documented a situation in which the FBI applied to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to obtain a section 215 order. The Court denied the order on First Amendment grounds. Not to be deterred, the FBI simply used an NSL to obtain the same information.
A recent report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) entitled, “Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008,” documents further NSL abuse. EFF estimates that, based on the proportion of violations reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the FBI’s own statements regarding NSL violations, the actual number of violations that may have occurred since 2001 could approach 40,000 violations of law, Executive Order, and other regulations.
Yet another troublesome (and now permanent) provision of the PATRIOT Act is the expansion of Suspicious Activity Reports. Sections 356 and 359 expanded the types of financial institutions required to file reports under the Bank Secrecy Act. The personal and account information required by the reports is turned over to the Treasury Department and the FBI. In 2000, there were only 163,184 reports filed. By 2007, this had increased to 1,250,439. Again, as with NSLs, there is a complete lack of judicial oversight for SARs.
Finally, I wish to remind my colleagues that one of the many ironies of the rush to advance the PATRIOT Act following 9/11 is the well-documented fact that FBI incompetence caused the failure to search the computer of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. As FBI agent Coleen Rowley stated, “the FBI headquarters supervisory special agent handling the Moussaoui case ‘seemed to have been consistently almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents’ efforts” to meet the FISA standard for a search warrant, and therefore no request was ever made for a warrant. Why, then, was the FBI rewarded with such expansive new powers in the aftermath of this institutional failure?
In the words of former Senator Russ Feingold, the only “no” vote against the original version of the PATRIOT Act,
“[T]here is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”
I call upon each of my Senate colleagues to seriously consider whether the time has come to re-evaluate many—if not all—provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Our oath to uphold the Constitution demands it.
In an interesting article, the WaPo crunches the numbers on post-Heller DC gun registrations. More specifically, on what kind of person has taken advantage of the new system. Their findings:
In all of the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River – a broad swath of the city with more than 52,000 households, many of them in areas beset by poverty and drug-related violence – about 240 guns have been registered…
In the 20016 Zip code, encompassing some of the District’s wealthiest enclaves in upper Northwest, 151 firearms have been registered. That is more than 10 percent of the citywide gun total in an area with about 14,000 households, according to U.S. Census data.
No other residential Zip code in Washington has seen as big an influx of legal guns since the ban was ruled unconstitutional…
In the District’s poorest, most crime-scarred precinct, Ward 8 in far Southeast, residents have registered about 140 guns. In Ward 3 in upper Northwest, where the violent-crime rate is nearly 10 times lower and the average family income is more than five times higher, about twice as many firearms have been registered.
It’s open to conjecture why residents in some of the District’s toughest neighborhoods have registered fewer guns than people in other parts of the city. D.C. police Lt. Jon Shelton, head of the firearms registration unit, said it could be simple economics.
“You have to figure, what are legitimate guns costing now?” he said. “A basic revolver is going for $350 or $400. And you’re talking about $650, $700 for a quality 9 millimeter. So who’s got that kind of money to just throw out there for a gun?
“Legitimate people I’m talking about now. A lot of them, these days, they’re having a hard enough time putting food on the table for their kids.”
Allow me to conjecture: the cost in time and money of getting licensed by the District is prohibitive to most working-class people; indeed prohibitive to anyone who doesn’t have hundreds of dollars and lots of time to spare.
I discovered this for myself I went through a similar process last year in Massachusetts. In order to get the standard Class-A License to Carry Firearms* and be able to take it to a gun range to shoot, one needs to:
Attend a state-approved Basic Firearms Safety course;
Attend an orientation at a gun club;
Be interviewed by the local police department during regular business hours, and;
If approved, pick up the license about five weeks later, again during regular business hours.
Putting aside the question of whether or not this is good policy, let me just relate how costly it was. The safety course took up an afternoon and cost $150. Attending my local gun club’s orientation and becoming a provisional member cost me another afternoon and an additional $175. The police interview and license application required me to take a few hours off of work and $100, and I then had to take more time off of work to retrieve my license in person after it was approved (the PD would not mail it to me). That’s $425, two afternoons, and two late-arrivals at work just to be able to purchase a handgun. That almost doubles the dollar cost of a cheap revolver and — factoring in time — probably doubles the cost of a semi-automatic.
Compared to DC, though, Massachusetts comes off looking like a bargain. As the Post’s own Christian Davenport discovered last year, the equivalent process in the District costs $830 and nearly two full working days. Again, this is simply to acquire a license from the District and does not include the cost of purchasing a firearm which — by the by — also cannot be done without traveling out of DC. When all is said and done, it’s impossible to legally purchase a handgun in DC without spending anything less than $1,100 and giving up about three days of one’s time.
As a non-married man with no kids, a middle-class, salaried job, and a boss willing to let me trade a late evening for a late morning, the Massachusetts process was more annoying than onerous; I was in no particular hurry, had few responsibilities to anyone beside myself, an accommodating employer, and I could afford it. I could have afforded the DC process as well, though not easily.
It takes little imagination to see how these requirements make gun ownership well beyond the means of anyone who works for a lower hourly wage, especially if he or she has dependents. So while everyone has the theoretical right to a constitutional right, the District has set up a system with such onerous rules and high costs that only the marginally well-off have any chance of actually exercising it.
Post-Reconstruction, that’s not how our Constitution works. Though Heller made it clear that regulations are perfectly compatible with the 2nd Amendment, there’s a certain level of difficulty and cost that makes a less about regulating a right for society’s benefit and more about doing everything legally permissible to stop them from exercising constitutionally protected rights. Unsurprisingly, the latter is exactly how DC Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray phrased the matter when he said that the District “going to have the strictest handgun laws the Constitution allows.”
If this is substantively different from the District creating a byzantine and expensive licensing process to attain a 1st Amendment permit — though car licensing makes for a better comparison in terms of potential for physical harm, necessity of skill, and cost, James Madison did not include it in his list of proposed amendments — I’m unable to see it.
* A somewhat misleading name. Basically, “carry” denotes everything from concealed carry to traveling to a gun range with the weapon locked, unloaded, and disassembled in the trunk of my car. Each of these licenses contains a list of restrictions, spelling out under what circumstances one may carry (e.g., to the gun range to target shoot); in practice, a “unrestricted” license is virtually identical from a conceal-and-carry license in other states. One’s restrictions are determined by the local police department, who are given wide discretion in these matters.
Exactly what sort of threat is this meant to stop. Has there been a serious problem with terrorists using mace? Has mace caused lots of problems at football games in the past? Is there a credible threat that a large army of mace-packing thugs is going to disrupt the Superbowl?
There’s got to be some point at which the damned patdowns stop. Getting groped by government agents ought to be an exceptional experience, not what happens every time you go to a public event. We’re not there quite yet, but the government seems to see no end to the areas of public life that require security checkpoints with quite elaborate security. At this point, a man who values his privacy needs to become a hermit.
Here is Rep. James Clyburn — the 3rd-ranking Democrat in the House — speaking on NPR yesterday about the Giffords’ shooting and freedom of speech. I’ve posted the entire interview:
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Gabrielle Giffords’ brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, said this from the International Space Station today.
Commander SCOTT KELLY (International Space Station): These days, we’re constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions but also with our irresponsible words.
SIEGEL: Our irresponsible words. As we’ve heard, there’s been much discussion of the tone of current political discourse and the relationship between fighting words and violence.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
During the last election, for instance, Sarah Palin’s political action committee posted an online map, locating 20 vulnerable House Democrats who voted for the health care overhaul. Each district, including that of Congresswoman Giffords, was denoted with a crosshairs symbol. Some say there is no causal relationship between campaign rhetoric like that and violence.
SIEGEL: Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, says there is. And he joins us now. Welcome to the program, Congressman.
Representative JAMES CLYBURN (Democrat, South Carolina): Thank you so much for having me.
SIEGEL: What do say to people who, based on what they know in this case of the man who’s been arrested and charged with a crime, say this isnt politics, it’s not about political discourse, this is about mental illness?
Rep. CLYBURN: Well, you know, I think that those of us who are armed with the gift of gab are responsible for what we say and how we say it. And when people hear things and feel that they can make a martyr out of themselves because of the discourse around the political arena, they sometimes react with ways that are socially unacceptable. But that does not absolve us.
SIEGEL: Beyond self-restraint and self-policing, if you will, would you support, say, a move that would extend the legal bar against threatening the president or the vice president, to any threats made against any member of Congress?
Rep. CLYBURN: Well, I think we reached the point where that may be necessary. And I understand such legislation is going to be introduced. And if it is, I will support it. I may also try to amend it, because I think we might look at whether or not we ought to make it a federal crime to carry a loaded gun within a certain distance of people who are participating in federal elections.
I thought it was very unseemly for President Obama to be appearing at events and I believe it was in Arizona and for people to go to the event with guns strapped to their sides. Whats that all about? These symbols influence people and those people who are not mentally together may take it to a level which we did not intend.
SIEGEL: But is there a danger of going too far, in that political language is filled with images of war? A campaign is called a campaign because there were military campaigns before there were political campaigns. Some people say if we do this, we’ll end up censoring people to an unfortunate degree.
Rep. CLYBURN: Well, I dont know that it’s necessarily to an unfortunate degree. Would you say it is unfortunate restraint or free speech when a justice said it does not give us the right to yell fire in a crowded theater? I dont think so. And I do believe that people can tell the difference between the sight of a gun and an asterisk. If you want a target a political district put an asterisk on it. The sight of a gun barrel, I think, carries a different connotation.
SIEGEL: Congressman Clyburn, I want to ask you to draw upon your own personal experience in your life. People are commonly saying that the political environment nationwide is today more vitriolic, more toxic than ever.
You’re an African-American from South Carolina, and you came up at a time when a black man who asserted himself could face really serious consequence. And there was nothing unusual about death threats at that time. Does this really compare to, say, the 1960s in South Carolina?
Rep. CLYBURN: Well, during the 1960s, we saw the cattle prods. We did see some murders and they were very, very unfortunate. But we didnt have the Internet back then. We had restraint on speech back then. I came up in a time that the Fairness Doctrine did not allow media outlets to say things about a candidate or a person in public office without giving that person equal time to respond.
And I really believe that everybody needs to take a look at where we are pushing things, and may need to take a serious step back and evaluate whats going on here.
SIEGEL: Well, Congressman Clyburn, thank you very much for talking to us.
Rep. CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
SIEGEL: Thats Congressman James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina.
This video’s commentary/narration is obviously one-sided, but it’s impossible to watch it without getting angry. If you don’t have the time to watch the full video, the TSA harasses a woman for 40 minutes because she asked that her breast milk not be xrayed. She had printed out instructions from the TSA’s website that basically back her up. They threatened to arrest her for her being uncooperative, refused to let her see her own items, forced her to go through the x-ray machine multiple times, and gave her the full pat-down.
The unforced insanity, heartless bureaucracy, and invasiveness are appalling for obvious reasons and thoroughly deserving of our outage (they actually suggested a woman throw her breast milk in the trash; who does that?). But I’d like to call attention to the glass-walled “Special Inspection” booth the passenger is forced to spend 40 minutes in while she pleads her case.
Putting this device where it is — right in the center of the screening area — is something a free people should never have to endure. I’m sure the TSA justifies it as some sort of modern-day Panopticon, but the better analogy is to a public stocks. Silently, and without having to say a single word, the TSA can intimidate dozens of other travelers into submission.
See that woman there? She caused us trouble. You don’t want to cause trouble do you? Have a nice day, sir. Hope you don’t miss your flight.
The TSA has almost certainly made us marginally safer through deterrence, despite the fact that they’ve never actually caught a terrorist in the act; at best, they’re only capable of catching the last unsuccessful bomber (God only knows what they’ll do when al-Qaeda uses a bomb hidden in a body cavity) . But this is madness. As can be said of so much of the security measures passed since 9/11 the costs vastly outweigh the benefits. We’re dealing with a bunch of losers who try to kill a few hundred people a couple of times a year and who haven’t been successful at it in over nine years.
This has got to stop. If you think visitors to the the Douglas County, Colorado courthouse should pass through a full-body scanner, you’re insane.
Angela Hellenbrand received a quick pat down Tuesday by security guard Mike Couts at the Castle Rock courthouse about 30 miles south of Denver. A guard in another room monitoring the full-body scans alerted Couts to an object in Hellenbrand’s left rear pocket. It was the paper backing of a “Junior Deputy Sheriff” sticker that one of the guards had given her two young boys.
Absolute insanity. The 4th Amendment allows for reasonable warrantless searches, but here we have a woman getting patted down because a nude image of her body revealed a piece of paper in her back pocket – that’s not reasonable. If this device is so wildly inaccurate (or if the security guards are so terribly trained) that it cannot tell the difference between something potentially dangerous and a Junior Deputy Sheriff sticker, then this is a goddamned sham. Phoney baloney nonsense designed to pat down everybody who gets summoned to jury duty or needs to register a corporation. This is insane. It’s a jawdroppingly stupid waste of security resources.
Somewhere in Douglas County, there’s an official who should be tarred and feathered, and have the cost of that infernal device deducted from his pension fund.
In the meantime, someone should sue. This is patently unreasonable. And to have it as a requirement before entering a courthouse – a building that people are legally obliged to enter – makes it doubly odious.
Jack Baruth, one of the internet’s more enthralling characters, does the math and determines that for the price of flying he can pay someone to drive him to and from his destination while he does productive work in the backseat, avoids potential airline delays, and does not get his junk touched by someone he doesn’t want touching it.
I particularly like Baruth’s analysis of TSA’s motives:
As far as I can tell, the purpose of the TSA is to address the inconvenient racial and religious aspects of modern terrorism by enraging white, Protestant Americans to the point that one of them blows up an airport, thus eliminating the proven advantage of Israeli-style profiling and returning us to the rainbow wonderland of imaginary political thought.
That sounds more plausible than the reasoning TSA is giving in public.
Following Apollo’s post, the difficulty in protesting airline security is that the cost of resistance is astronomically high. Even putting aside the legal fees*, air travel is expensive, time-sensitive, and emotionally important. Nobody wants to blow $400 and ruin his family’s Thanksgiving just to prove a point, especially when making that point may require Dad to post bail.
Suffice to say, organic civil disobedience is going to be very hard to do. What’s needed here is organized activism. Some organization — or perhaps some unholy alliance of the Reason Foundation and the ACLU — needs to purchase plane tickets for hardy volunteers and supply them with a generous defense fund, enterprising lawyers, and a powerful PR campaign on Youtube.
So, come on liberty-loving organizations: I’ve got $50 to donate to the cause. Any takers?
*And the fact that you were adopted. What? You didn’t know?
This gentleman is on the right track. TSA has gone off the rails in terms of the invasiveness and stupidity of its procedures, and if being noncooperative jerks and refusing to fly is the only way we can fight it, then we need to be noncooperative jerks and refuse to fly.
I was once on the team that wrote the training manuals for airport screeners (both baggage and passenger checkpoint). If my experience and knowledge is still accurate (and I’ve seen nothing to persuade me that there’s been a change at TSA), these new screening techniques are little more than a combination of petty bureaucrats on a power trip and political appointees attempting to create the appearance of security in lieu of actual security. I’m not an expert, just someone familiar with TSA’s SOP.
Conservatives often say that “freedom isn’t free,” in the context of honoring our veterans. But I think the phrase has much broader implications. Being a free people means that there’s a level of risk we must put up with on a daily basis that peons in totalitarian regimes might not be subjected to. We might get killed by a man who legally bought a gun, run over by a driver who legally bought alcohol, or blown out of the sky by terrorists who weren’t strip-searched before getting onto the plane.
Giving others the freedom to endanger us is the price each of us pays for our own freedom. Freedom isn’t free. We shouldn’t ban guns, we shouldn’t ban booze, and being sexually violated (either by being viewed in the buff or having one’s crotch groped) should not be a prerequisite for flying. Free people should avoid flying until the situation changes.