Tag Archives: Patriot Act

Kavanaugh The Swamp Creature, by Luis P. Almeida

Kavanaugh, as his supporters endlessly point out, is well within the judicial mainstream. What that means is that he’s comfortable ensconced in the cohort that has read the Constitution out of the Constitution and has given carte blanche to the swamp dwellers. From Luis P. Almeida at lewrockwell.com:

Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice perhaps as soon as the end of this week. The Republicans have the votes and it is highly likely that at least two Democratic Senators from Red states will cross the aisle and vote in favor of confirming him. All of the antics we witnessed in Washington D.C. over the past few weeks have been nothing but political mise en scene, the Republicans always had the votes and it should have been evident to everyone that the Democrats were simply delaying the inevitable in an effort to rally their base.

It is quite a shame that the country was torn apart during the process around allegations that happened three decades ago when the nation could have been debating topics of real substance. Topics that actually reflect on how Kavanaugh will perform his duties on the nation’s highest court. Information such as the fact that he leaked information regarding Grand Jury proceedings during the Vince Foster investigation and that he in effect helped cover up Vince Foster’s murder. Leaking information on a secret judicial process or aiding and abetting criminals is infinitely more relevant than his high school drinking habits, yet we heard almost nothing about it over the past few weeks.

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The Real Reasons to Oppose Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, by Brittany Hunter

One can oppose the Brett Kavanaugh kangaroo court and dismiss the accusations against him, but still have serious misgivings about his confirmation. He’s got a record with some serious holes and he’s well within the judicial mainstream that has read the Constitution out of the Constitution. From Brittany Hunter at theantimedia.org:

This is not the constitutionalist you’re looking for.

After two days of political theater, the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to delay the vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court for a week. In that time, the FBI will conduct an investigation surrounding the allegations made against him by Christine Blasey Ford.

By now, no one is a stranger to the claims of sexual assault that have been levied against Judge Kavanaugh. In fact, the entire country has been so wrapped up in this case, it is hard to determine what is fact and what is simply partisan politics rearing its ugly head. And between Cory Booker’s lengthy monologue that sounded more like a campaign stump speech than anything else and Lindsey Graham’s unexpected passionate rant, it is clear that both sides are putting way too much stake on the outcome of these hearings. And the real losers, unfortunately, are the American people, who are being diligently distracted from Kavanaugh’s actual policy record.

To be sure, claims of sexual misconduct should certainly be brought to the public’s attention, especially when they involve a nominee for a position as powerful as a Supreme Court Justice. And in the #metoo era, failing to take these allegations seriously would be most unwise. But losing ourselves in this political circus and the subsequent media frenzy surrounding Kavanaugh’s sexual past glosses over another aspect of his profession.

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The Spies Who Ruin Us, by Andrew P. Napolitano

From Andrew P. Napolitano at antiwar.com:

In an effort to draw attention away from the intelligence failures that permitted the attacks of 9/11 and create the impression that it was doing something – anything – to avoid a repeat, the federal government tampered seriously with freedoms expressly guaranteed in the Constitution. Its principal target was the right to privacy, which is protected in the Fourth Amendment.

At President George W. Bush’s urging, Congress passed the Patriot Act in October 2001. This 315-page statute passed the House of Representatives with no debate, and there was very limited debate in the Senate. I have asked many members of Congress over the years whether they read this bill before they voted upon it, and I have yet to find a member who did. In the House, that would have been impossible; the bill was made available to representatives only 15 minutes prior to their vote.

This law permits FBI agents to write their own search warrants for business records, and it has been used to induce the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to issue warrants on a made-up basis to read emails and listen to telephone calls in real time. The members of Congress who voted for it were largely unaware of the liberties they were sacrificing.

The personal liberties that Congress surrendered have been a necessary bulwark against tyranny – the constitutional requirement of warrants as a precondition to searching homes and records, with warrants based on probable cause and specifically describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized.

When Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the domestic spying that the government unleashed upon us post-9/11 and made us all aware of its use of the Patriot Act to do so, the authors of the Patriot Act expressed outrage and anger.

What was the government doing?

The government was secretly gathering data on all of us and using warrants that were not based on probable cause and that did not specifically describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized. When members of Congress realized that they, too, were being spied upon, the outrage grew. That outrage and anger metastasized into a new law enacted earlier this year, called the USA Freedom Act, which took effect this week. That law, its supporters have argued, will tame the National Security Agency into constitutional compliance and keep its 60,000 agents and contractors out of our private affairs. In fact, it is now worse.

To continue reading: The Spies Who Ruin Us

For the State Blowback Is a Feature, Not a Bug, by Kevin Carson

From Kevin Carson, at antiwar.org:

Every year, we’re subjected to another round of mawkish, smarmy 9/11 memorial ceremonies whose main purpose is to maintain loyalty to the very national security state whose aggression brought the terror attacks of September 11 on us in the first place. It’s all part of an endless cycle, repeated over and over, dating back to the late ’70s. 1) Criminal, aggressive intervention overseas by the American national security state; 2) the ensuing destabilization from that intervention results in terrorist blowback to the people of the United States; 3) the leaders of the American state take advantage of the terrorist attack by waving the bloody shirt to manipulate the public into supporting a new wave of criminal aggression; which leads to 4) more blowback. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Al Qaeda came into existence in the first place because the United States, under President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, supported an Islamic fundamentalist uprising that destabilized the pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan, and the Reagan administration subsequently backed the Mujaheddin guerrillas against the Soviet invasion. All this was for the sake of bogging the Russians down in their own “Vietnam” – a move in the “Great Game” that Brzezinski, even after 9/11, said was worth it.

Another contributing factor to 9/11 was Operation Desert Shield/Storm – a war entirely engineered by the Bush’s quiet encouragements to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait – which outraged many in the Islamic world by bringing American troops on the soil of Saudi Arabia, home country of the holiest sites of Islam.

9/11 was, in turn, a bonanza for the U.S. national security state. Using the terror attacks as a pretext, the American leadership was able to stampede Congress into rubber stamping the USA PATRIOT Act (a grant of police state powers comparable to those granted Hitler under the Enabling Act passed after the Reichstag Fire) and two foreign wars, along with a blank check to initiate other wars at will (used to legitimize Obama’s interventions in Libya, Syria and Kurdistan, among others). Right up to the present, anyone opposing new military actions by the United States, or suggesting that terrorist attacks of the past were blowback from previous US interventions, is labeled a defeatist or worse. As antiwar blogger Jennifer Abel put it (“Your Annual 9/11 Memorial Riddle,” Ravings of a Feral Genius, Sept. 11): “Q: What’s the difference between 9/11 and a cow? A: The government can’t milk a cow for 14 years and counting.”

To continue reading: For the State Blowback Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Opposition To Spy State, First Step To ‘Least Popular’ in Washington, by John V. Walsh

Once in a great while a politician does or says something right. In contemporary politics, that someone is usually Rand or Ron Paul. John V. Walsh, from antiwar.com, with three things Rand Paul has done right:

“I am the least popular guy in Washington.” Thus spoke Rand Paul at a stopover rally in Massachusetts on his way to New Hampshire on June 7. Who can doubt that claim after the events of the last few weeks.

When you have Barack Obama, John McCain, Harry Reid, Lindsay Graham all arrayed against you, you are bound to get the award for least popular guy in Empire’s capital city. An accolade of this magnitude also means that you must be doing something right. And that something right was Paul’s filibuster against the PATRIOT Act in the Senate in defiance of his own Party, an act that killed the PATRIOT Act dead.

Now here is the strange thing about Senator Paul’s acts of courage and defiance. Those who wish to see respect for privacy and the Bill of Rights withhold their praise from Paul! Is that not strange on the face of it? It is great to have sympathizers who are also critical when the occasion demands it – and Paul has these in abundance. But when a political figure like Rand Paul does something right, he also deserves praise. To withhold such praise will in the end weaken an ally and perhaps lead to his political demise.

So let’s get to the overdue praise right now. One loud full-throated cheer for Rand Paul – for his courageous stance that killed the PATRIOT Act and also for opposing Obama’s fake reform USA Freedom Act which has replaced it.

(If you have any doubts that the USA Freedom Act is a sham reform, the PATRIOT Act in disguise, here is what the ACLU’s director Jameel Jaffer had to say about the “USA Freedom Act”:

“This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards. The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform.”

For more detail and a hint of how bad the USA Freedom Act really is, read what Jaffer said to Glenn Greenwald here.

If that does not convince you, think about this. Obama has been making love to the PATRIOT Act since he has been in office, advocating and winning its extension in 2011. But after Snowden’s revelations burst on the scene in 2013, the widespread anger made it impossible for PATRIOT to survive. So Obama offered a “reform.” It would have been very surprising, given Obama’s record, if that reform were anything other than a fig leaf. (And so it has turned out, and a pathetic fig leaf it is, incapable of providing adequate cover for our clothes-less spying Emperor.)

To continue reading: First Step To ‘Least Popular’ in Washington


The Redemption of Rand Paul, by Justin Raimondo

Has Rand Paul rediscovered his inner Libertarian? He tried to play footsie with the Republican party’s interventionists, moving their direction, but there are so many true blue interventionists in the party that Paul was never going to get their money or their votes. The flip side of foreign intervention, the external growth of the state, is domestic repression, the internal growth of the state. Paul made a lonely stand against renewal of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which supposedly authorizes the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records (except the 2nd US Circuit Court of appeals said that it doesn’t). Time ran out on Section 215, although civil liberties’ advocates shouldn’t get too overjoyed, because it looks like the misnamed USA Freedom Act may become law. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.org:

If one of the very worst provisions of the Patriot Act – which the government has erroneously and illegally interpreted to gather the phone records of each and every American – expires, we’ll have Senator Rand Paul to thank.

And the truth is, we can’t thank him enough.

Yes, I’ve been critical of the Senator in this space and elsewhere, and yet with this brave stance – and up against a veritable storm of disdain and contempt from the Washington cognoscenti – he has in large part redeemed himself.

With everyone from the President to John McCain and Lindsey Graham attacking Sen. Paul for supposedly “endangering” the national security, the Senator has not only stood his ground but he’s also articulated the libertarian position on the utter impermissibility of what our government is doing and its dire implications for the future of our republic:

“Forcing us to choose between our rights and our safety is a false choice and we are better than that as a nation and as a people,” Paul tweeted. “It’s why I have been seeking for months to have a full, open and honest debate on this issue – a debate that never came.

“Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies. But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them. In fact, we must not. There has to be another way. We must find it together. So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program.”

There is, of course, “another way,” as pointed out here. The government and its law enforcement agencies have plenty of legal alternatives to scooping up our communications indiscriminately, en masse: they’ll just have to put their lawyers on overtime and start obeying the law. This is the real essence of the fight Sen. Paul is making on our behalf: he’s fighting – almost alone – against the utter lawlessness of our rulers, who believe they can do anything to anyone and get away with it.


To continue reading: The Redemption of Rand Paul

Let The Clock Run Out On The Patriot Act, by Sheldon Richman

Here’s a good update on expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act (bulk collection of phone records) and the misnamed USA Freedom Act. From Sheldon Richman, at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Regarding the feverish effort either to reauthorize, “reform,” or abolish the National Security Agency’s collection of our phone and email data, two things need to be said:

First, thank you, Edward Snowden.

Second, isn’t it great to see the ruling elite panicking?

Of course, the discussion about NSA collection of our “metadata” wouldn’t be happening had Snowden not told us about this spying. Recall that before Snowden’s revelations, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied before a Senate committee about mass surveillance of Americans. Later he explained, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no.’” These are the kind of people we’re dealing with.

Keep that lie in mind whenever an official assures us that the government respects our privacy and other liberties. As they say in the law, falsus in unum falsus in omnibus — false in one thing, false in all things.

They’re panicking in Washington because the section of the USA PATRIOT Act (215) that is used to justify collection of phone data expires midnight Monday. True, a federal appeals court has ruled that warrentless bulk data collection exceeds the authority granted by Section 215, but that simply does not matter to some people. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to reauthorize that section and thereby (in his view) preserve NSA spying. Fortunately, enough senators, led by Sens. Rand Paul and Ron Wyden, have stopped him.

The House passed the USA FREEDOM Act (how about outlawing obnoxious acronyms as bill titles?), which may have started out as a sincere effort to limit the NSA but was amended, that is, watered down, into a form that kept some original backers from voting for it. Republican Reps. Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, who oppose unbridled government surveillance, voted no. That bill would prohibit the NSA itself from holding the phone data, but the agency could obtain the data from the telecom companies with approval of the rubber-stamp FISA court.

The Senate, however, couldn’t muster the votes to pass the House bill, which leaves us in our present favorable condition, namely: if nothing happens, the NSA program will die at midnight on Monday. Paul, Wyden, and their allies need only play stall-ball to prevail.

No doubt a last-ditch effort to save the spy program will take place Sunday night, when McConnell brings back the Senate. He is willing to extend Section 215 for just two days, but even this must not be allowed because it will give him more time to gather the votes for a permanent reauthorization of the odious provision. (It’s odious even if it does not actually authorize bulk data collection, which its author, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, says it does not.)


To continue reading: Let The Clock Run Out On The Patriot Act

Litmus Test: Will Patriot Act Spying Continue? by Justin Raimondo

The Patriot Act expires on June 1. Mr. Raimondo said it well: “The battle lines tell us everything we need to know about the state of the country and the prospects for liberty.” From Raimondo at antiwar.com:

With key provisions of the so-called Patriot Act set to expire on June 1, the fight to preserve the Constitution is heating up – and the battle lines tell us everything we need to know about the state of the country and the prospects for liberty.

On one side we have a grand alliance of authoritarians of the right and the left – the Know-Nothing wing of the Republican party and their neoconservative brain trust, the Obama administration, and present and former government officials with a financial interest in the Surveillance State. All these disparate elements are united around the alleged necessity of spying on innocent Americans without a warrant – a practice we once fought a revolution in order to end. Whatever their ideological differences, the Big Brother faction of the American polity can get behind the recent statement of Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who gave voice to the Washington mindset on this and every other issue under the sun:

“I think it’s clear to say that the program as designed is effective. Members [of Congress] are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion. And we’ve got a program that’s never had one breach of personal privacy.”

Public opinion? Who cares? Our Washington patricians don’t even care what the courts think: a recent appellate court decision declared the entire bulk domestic surveillance program illegal. Not that this counts in Burr-World, which is right next door to Bizarro World. In that alternate universe, a provision that enables the government to collect all the communications of each and every American citizen without an individual warrant isn’t a breach of personal privacy.

Writing in 1950, Garet Garrett, conservative Cassandra and onetime editorial writer for the Saturday Evening Post, couldn’t have imagined Sen. Marco Rubio when he described the propaganda of the national security state as “a complex of vaunting and fear,” but surely his phraseology prefigured Rubio’s comments on the Senate floor the other day:

“If there were another attack, ‘the first question out of everyone’s mouth is going to be, ‘why didn’t we know about it?’ And the answer better not be, ‘because this Congress failed to authorize a program that might have helped us know about it.’”

His Senate colleague and fellow presidential aspirant Lindsey Graham chimed in, averring:

“I’m open-minded to doing reforms. I just don’t want to diminish the capacity of the program to prevent another 9/11. I believe if the program were in operation before 9/11, we probably would have prevented 9/11.”

Graham and Rubio are pretending not to know that law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials had plenty of clues pointing to the existence of the 9/11 plotters, including two messages intercepted by the National Security Agency the day before: “Tomorrow is zero hour” and “The match begins tomorrow,” both coming from known terrorist sources.

The problem isn’t that the government has too little information – it’s that they have too much, and don’t know what to do with the information they have. The problem, in short, is incompetence. I mean, how many different ways can you interpret a terrorist declaring “Tomorrow is zero hour?” But in fact these messages didn’t even get translated until months after they were received – long after the World Trade Center was turned into a smoking ruin.

The American people overwhelmingly oppose government snooping on their private communications: that’s why a phony “reform” bill was just passed by the House of Representatives, which would permit domestic surveillance to continue unhampered. Naturally they named it the “USA Freedom Act,” in an unintended tribute to George Orwell. Most of the votes against it were on the grounds that it served merely to mask the same abuses the public opposes.


USA FREEDOM Act: Just Another Word for Lost Liberty, by Ron Paul

The Patriot Act expires at the end of this month, and its supporters are pushing the USA Freedom Act, which extends existing surveillance laws and leaves the government’s mass surveillance powers intact. From Ron Paul, on a guest post from theburningplatform.com:

Apologists for the National Security Agency (NSA) point to the arrest of David Coleman Headley as an example of how warrantless mass surveillance is necessary to catch terrorists. Headley played a major role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people.

While few would argue that bringing someone like Headley to justice is not a good thing, Headley’s case in no way justifies mass surveillance. For one thing, there is no “terrorist” exception in the Fourth Amendment. Saying a good end (capturing terrorists) justifies a bad means (mass surveillance) gives the government a blank check to violate our liberties.

Even if the Headley case somehow justified overturning the Fourth Amendment, it still would not justify mass surveillance and bulk data collection. This is because, according to an investigation by ProPublica, NSA surveillance played an insignificant role in catching Headley. One former counter-terrorism official said when he heard that NSA surveillance was responsible for Headley’s capture he “was trying to figure out how NSA played a role.”

The Headley case is not the only evidence that the PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 sacrifices of our liberty have not increased our security. For example, the NSA’s claim that its surveillance programs thwarted 54 terrorist attacks has been widely discredited. Even the president’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies found that mass surveillance and bulk data collection was “not essential to preventing attacks.”

According to the congressional Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 and the 9/11 Commission, the powers granted the NSA by the PATRIOT Act would not have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Many intelligence experts have pointed out that, by increasing the size of the haystack government agencies must look through, mass surveillance makes it harder to find the needle of legitimate threats.

Even though mass surveillance threatens our liberty, violates the Constitution, and does nothing to protect us from terrorism, many in Congress still cling to the fiction that the only way to ensure security is to give the government virtually unlimited spying powers. These supporters of the surveillance state are desperate to extend the provisions of the PATRIOT Act that are set to expire at the end of the month. They are particularly eager to preserve Section 215, which authorizes many of the most egregious violations of our liberties, including the NSA’s “metadata” program.

However, Edward Snowden’s revelations have galvanized opposition to the NSA’s ongoing violations of our liberties. This is why Congress will soon vote on the USA FREEDOM Act. This bill extends the expiring surveillance laws. It also contains some “reforms” that supposedly address all the legitimate concerns regarding mass surveillance.

However, a look at the USA FREEDOM Act’s details, as opposed to the press releases of its supporters, shows that the act leaves the government’s mass surveillance powers virtually untouched.

The USA FREEDOM Act has about as much to do with freedom as the PATRIOT Act had to do with patriotism. If Congress truly wanted to protect our liberties it would pass the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which repeals the PATRIOT Act. Congress should also reverse the interventionist foreign policy that increases the risk of terrorism by fostering resentment and hatred of Americans.

Fourteen years after the PATRIOT Act was rushed into law, it is clear that sacrificing liberty does little or nothing to preserve security. Instead of trying to fool the American people with phony reforms, Congress should repeal all laws that violate the Fourth Amendment, starting with the PATRIOT Act.