Monday, October 29, 2012

Canadian Association of Police Chiefs Calls on Government to Approve U.S.-Style Internet Surveillance

For those who think that certain countries are somehow immune to the sweeping cancer that is the total erosion of privacy and our most essential rights, that myth should be at least partially swept away by the fact that the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs is calling on the government there to pass a controversial internet surveillance bill.

Indeed, this trend very well could go global with the United Nations calling for worldwide internet surveillance and data retention laws, thus going far beyond the current system in place in the United States.

Unsurprisingly, the push is being carried out under the guise of fighting crime, evidenced by the arguments the president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs and Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu.

Chu says that if the bill, known as Bill C-30, fails to be passed, “officers investigating criminal activity on cellphones and the internet will still have to get a warrant every time they want to intercept communications by cybercriminals,” according to the CBC.

“Law enforcement continues to be handcuffed by legislation introduced in 1975, the days of the rotary telephone,” said Chu.
This argument is almost identical to that used across the United States. The typical claim is that warrants take too long to obtain and that law enforcement is held back by the Constitution.

Bill C-30 dates back to last winter when it was introduced by Vic Toews, the Canadian public safety minister.

As the CBC rightly points out, Bill C-30 immediately was questioned by groups concerned with the disturbing powers it would give the Canadian government “to track the ordinary activities of citizens online without judicial oversight.”

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Gary Johnson at America’s crossroads: Is government inherently evil

Nine days before Election Day, Americans are hunkering down into their traditional Republican/Democratic camps. Supposedly, the future of American society rests upon which corporate-backed candidate wins the presidency. Americans of the past would have regarded this as complete nonsense.

In late 1775, the shot heard ‘round the world had been fired and the American colonists had Boston under siege. Still, most Americans either favored reconciliation with Great Britain or were undecided.

Then, in January 1776, Thomas Paine released his instant bestseller, Common Sense. It is this pamphlet that is credited with persuading a critical mass of American colonists to support American independence from Great Britain. In it, Paine laid out his arguments about the role of government and why the British constitution failed in fulfilling this role for American colonists.

The very first plank he laid down in his argument was that government was evil.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil;”

Paine, Jefferson and other founding fathers recognized government for what it is: the pooled and organized capacity for violence of the whole society. This idea comes straight out of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government. There is no law, no matter how minor, that is not ultimately backed up by the threat of violence.

This is no less true today than it was in 1776. Despite “social contract” theories and other linguistic gymnastics that attempt to euphemize the nature of government, it remains merely organized violence. This is apparent to most people when the government wages war, but somehow it escapes them otherwise.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

NSA: We Will Illegally Spy on Citizens Only When Absolutely Necessary

The National Security Agency (NSA) says Americans should trust them to use their surveillance powers only for good. This from the group whose leader refused to say how many Americans they are spying on because it was “beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission.”

In other words, the NSA is too busy illegally recording our private emails, texts, Facebook posts, and phone calls to figure out how many of us are already caught in their net. And, furthermore, there is nothing Congress can do about it.

Apparently, NSA thinks it’s beyond the court’s oversight, as well.

In a motion to dismiss a class action suit challenging the nearly unlimited scope of the domestic surveillance agency’s monitoring of citizens’ electronic communication, attorneys for the Obama administration argued that it would use the authority granted it under the Terrorist Surveillance Program only when “absolutely necessary” and that disclosing the information requested would require it to reveal protected state secrets.

The plaintiffs in the case — Jewel v. NSA — are a group of AT&T customers who accuse the NSA, former President George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney among others of illegally using “a shadow network of surveillance devices … to acquire the content of a significant portion of phone calls, emails, instant messages, text messages, web communications, and other communications.”

Originally filed in 2008 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of the plaintiffs, the suit “is aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it.”

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Obama moves to make the War on Terror permanent

A primary reason for opposing the acquisition of abusive powers and civil liberties erosions is that they virtually always become permanent, vested not only in current leaders one may love and trust but also future officials who seem more menacing and less benign.

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States’ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

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Why Losing Indefinite Detention Powers Would Be A Disaster For Obama

There’s a big story by Greg Miller in the Washington Post on how the Obama administration has expanded its powers in the War on Terror.
Miller notes that the legal foundation for U.S. counterterrorism strategy is partially based on “the Congressional authorization to use military force” (AUMF) that was passed after 9/11.

Specifically it seems to be based on an interpretation of the AUMF that was “reaffirmed” by the indefinite detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

This explains why Obama is fighting so hard to keep the indefinite detention clause in effect.

In court the government argued that the indefinite detention clause is simply a “reaffirmation” of the Authorization Use Of Military Force (AUMF), which gives the president authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those … [who] aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons.” In the NDAA lawsuit, the government argued that the NDAA §1021 is simply an “affirmation” or “reaffirmation” of the AUMF.

But the NDAA adds language to the AUMF when it says “The President also has the authority to detain persons who were part of or substantially supported, Taliban or al-Qaida forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act, or has directly supported hostilities, in the aid of such enemy forces.”

That extra part is what Judge Katherine Forrest ruled unconstitutionally vague. And since Judge Forrest was careful to protect the AUMF in her permanent injunction, the government should be OK with that decision if the AUMF and NDAA indefinite detention powers are precisely the same.

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