[The NSA Director is] flat out admitting — as many have noted — that his pet cybersecurity bills are dead right now because of all of the Snowden leaks, showing just how abusive the NSA has been. And his answer to that is not to fix the NSA, but to pass bills to stifle the free press from reporting on NSA efforts, which he then thinks will allow the government to pass legislation like CISPA.
Mike Masnik for Techdirt, on NSA Director Kieth Alexander’s argument that the government needs to figure out a way to “handle media leaks.” (via hipsterlibertarian)
These documents were some of the ones that I found most disturbing pretty early on, because they talk about how the British Government, and this is a presentation made to the NSA and three other allies about how the British government and its intelligence agency the GCHQ does things like “false flag operations” as they call it, where they post very incriminating things to the internet and then they attribute it falsely to someone whose reputation that they are trying to smear. Or they notify their friends or family or they disseminate the disruptive information about them.
They use “honey traps,” which is the use of sexually appealing women (whether fictionalized or real) to lure their targets into compromising situations. And it’s not just the normal spy craft. They’re [not just] doing it to the leaders of hostile countries, to the military or intelligence officials. It’s directed at people who are just dissidents. People with the group “Anonymous,” people they call “hacktivists,” and normal, criminal suspects that have been charged with no crimes.
They infiltrate online communities and intentionally disseminate deception throughout the internet, making the internet really an untrustworthy place to be. …
One of the things that the Obama administration and its apologists love to say in response to some of the NSA reporting that we are doing, is that there is no evidence of any sort of political targeting like there was in the 60s and 70s, and that is absolute false. Not only is the new story that I described an example of that, but so too is the one that you just referenced where they were monitoring people who visited the Wikileaks website which could be journalists, [this editor], supporters, people who are whistleblowers who wanted to give information. They used their access to fiber optic cables to collect very invasive information, including their IP address, which can enable the government to individually identify someone. You have groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous and hacktivists, and we published a story a couple months ago about using the porn habits of people that the government deems “radicals” to try and destroy their reputation.
In every era when the government targets dissidents, those dissidents are never popular. So a lot of people don’t like Wikileaks or hacktivists. Back in the 60s and 70s people didn’t like various civil rights leaders, they didn’t like anti-war groups. But the point is that you should not have the government being able to destroy people using covert means. That is why we have due process. There is a distinction, they are only able to punish people who they have charged and given a fair trial to and convicted.
Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments ask us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes. These officials often cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.
Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments ask us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes.
These officials often cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.
From January to June 2013, the search giant received 3,846 government requests to remove content from its search services, which represents a 68% increase over the second half of 2012. The United States made 545 requests detailing 3,887 items. Only Turkey has made more such requests.
It’s hardly news that the Obama administration is intensely and, in many respects, unprecedentedly hostile toward the news-gathering process. Even the most Obama-friendly journals have warned of what they call ”Obama’s war on whistleblowers”. James Goodale, the former general counsel of the New York Times during its epic fights with the Nixon administration, recently observed that “President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information” and added: “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”
Still, a new report released today by the highly respected Committee to Protect Journalists - its first-ever on press freedoms in the US - powerfully underscores just how extreme is the threat to press freedom posed by this administration. Written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., the report offers a comprehensive survey of the multiple ways that the Obama presidency has ushered in a paralyzing climate of fear for journalists and sources alike, one that severely threatens the news-gathering process.
The first sentence: “In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press.” Among the most shameful aspects of the Obama record:
Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being ‘an aider, abettor and/or conspirator’ of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.”
… The report ends by noting the glaring irony that Obama aggressively campaigned on a pledge to usher in The Most Transparent Administration Ever™. Instead, as the New Yorker’s investigative reporter Jane Mayer recently said about the Obama administration’s attacks: “It’s a huge impediment to reporting, and so chilling isn’t quite strong enough, it’s more like freezing the whole process into a standstill.”
Back in 2006, back when I was writing frequently about the Bush administration’s attacks on press freedom, the focus was on mere threats to take some of these actions, and that caused severe anger from vocal progressives. Now, as this new report documents, we have moved well beyond the realm of mere threats into undeniable reality, and the silence is as deafening as the danger is pronounced.
How can these Obama-supporters who hated Bush repeatedly excuse all the things they once abhorred? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what some of them will condone so long as it’s one of their own calling the shots.
Despite the fact that he’s a Gator and I’m a ‘Cane, I experience no Schadenfreude at the wanton abuse of power by the state.
His biggest mistake was not oinking.
It’s an open secret in Hollywood that before the MPAA reviews many movies, the Pentagon does. David Robb documents the practice in his book Operation Hollywood. Whenever movie producers want to use Pentagon equipment: helicopters, bases, submarines, etc. they send a request to the Pentagon, along with five copies of the script. The Pentagon replies with proposed changes to the script, which the producer must either accept, or forgo the equipment (which disinclines studios to finance the film, since it entails extra costs). Then, while the movie is shot, a “minder” hangs along, to ensure the director sticks to the script. Final approval comes from Pentagon brass who pre-screen and censor the film. …
Movies that garnered approval include Pearl Harbor, Top Gun and GoldenEye. Movies that had to due without include Forrest Gump, Platoon, Independence Day and Thin Red Line. Among the taboo subjects for the Pentagon: anything that will decrease recruiting, alcohol or drug use, aliens overpowering the military or any military personnel depicted in a negative light. Forrest Gump failed to procure funds for implying that the Army was staffed by “soldiers of limited intelligence” and for the scene in which Hanks moons the President. In the original GoldenEye script a Navy Admiral sells state secrets, the final version, it’s now a Frenchman. …
The Pentagon claims it aims to “portray the military as it actually is,” but don’t planes sometimes have technical difficulties? Doesn’t torture sometimes lead to bad information? Don’t soldiers come home with post-traumatic stress because the enemies are human, not vague abstractions? Does the Pentagon truly want to “accurately portray” history? Let’s examine two cases studies. The first is the 2000 movie, Thirteen Days, in which the military brass urges President Kennedy to engage Cuba militarily. David Robb recalls that Pentagon pushed the producers to tone down the implications, but they refused and went without military assistance – a risky move since, “most studio heads tell their producers, ‘We’re not going to make this film unless we get military assistance, because it would be too expensive. So you’d better make sure the script conforms to what they want.’” One such case is Charlie Wilson’s War, the movie about Charlie Wilson’s attempts to aid the Mujahedeen during our proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan. In the original script, says Matthew Alford, in an interview with Al Jazeera [30:00] “there is a very clear link between the U.S. arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the causes of 9/11. Now, we know from a CIA advisor who was on set, he says ‘we deliberately made sure we excised that film.’” I asked Alford, author of Reel Time: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, whether the Pentagon’s thumbs down had ever silenced a movie entirely. He cited Countermeasures, a 1994 movie that requested an aircraft carrier but was turned down because, “There’s no reason for us to denigrate the White House or remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair.” As to the “accurate portrayal” question, he replied, “Since when was it ‘realistic’ for the US military to go to war against Transformers?”
The CIA has recently gotten into the racket. The Los Angeles Times reports “The CIA has kept an entertainment liaison on staff only since 1996. At that point, the Cold War had ended, and the agency was fighting for its budget and its existence on Capitol Hill. The new mission was clear: to overcome the CIA’s image in popular entertainment as incompetent, evil or rife with rogue employees.” Bill Harlow, the CIA public affairs chief is quoted saying, “I made that a big priority, and we did a lot more with Hollywood than ever before.” Tricia Jenkins reports in her book The CIA in Hollywood that the CIA was “influenced” the production of Argo, which is why the movie is essentially an ad for the CIA. She reports that the underlying theme- that the public never finds about the CIA’s successes and only its failures- is one of the narratives that the CIA constantly encourages producers and directors to relate.
Every time I look at this young man’s photo, my heart breaks apart for him and his family:
Cameron D’Ambrosio should not be in handcuffs. He should not be in a court room. He should not have been arrested, and he damn well sure should not have been accused of Communicating a Terrorist Threat, or threatened with 20 years in prison for making what amounts to poor word choices.
This entire case is shot through with injustice:
Before charges were even formally filed, local newspapers were already posting pictures from Cam’s facebook and pointing to “disturbing” posts like “Fuck politics. Fuck Obama. Fuck the government!” and “satanic” imagery (like some image from a metal band’s poster.) All of this is free speech that is 100% protected by the 1st Amendment.
And then there’s this:
Fox News went so far as to say that Cam’s facebook profile had images that they “couldn’t show on TV.” They and other media outlets frequently and intentionally printed only a small section of the lyrics that Cam was arrested for allegedly writing, and took them out of context to make rap metaphors sound like a real threat.
The media printed:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous”
The actual line is:
“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous rapping”
Notice something? The context completely changes the meaning of the line. Suddenly something that sounds like a threat of violence is clearly just bragging about how good Cammy Dee is going to be in the rap game. Last we checked, teenage dreams of grandeur were not a crime.
Such omissions are scandalous. You can see one example here (they also incorrectly stated that Cameron pleaded “guilty.” He pled “not guilty.”). The source above also reported that Cameron was arrested on a previous assault and battery charge, but neglected to mention that those charges were later dismissed.
This case involves a number of horrifying breaches of journalistic ethics, paired with a complete, utter failure to exercise prosecutorial discretion. A young 18-year old man with his whole life ahead of him may spend the next 20 years of his life in prison for doing nothing more than posting uncouth status updates on his Facebook page. As Rob D’Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University, said recently:
When I was young, calling a bomb threat to your high school because you didn’t want to go to school that day was treated with a slap on the wrist. Try that nowadays and you’re going to prison, no question about it. They are taking it more seriously now[.]
And then there’s this gem from the local police chief:
“There are no more threats that are high school pranks,” said Joseph Solomon, police chief, during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “If they’re thinking that way, they need to get their heads into 2013.”
This is the incarceration nation in motion. The fear of legitimate threats is used to extend the scope of punitive executive scrutiny to cases that otherwise would’ve been dealt with outside the criminal justice system. Stupid mistakes and ill-timed remarks become serious felonies with decades in prison as the penalty.
Cases like this highlight the need for people to push back against the overcriminalization of America. We need to stop sending our kids to prison for dumb mistakes. We need to stop traumatizing 18-year olds by making them do the perp walk, and then telling them they’re facing 20 years in prison for being oafish online. None of this is necessary. All of it is unjust, improper, and counterproductive.
[I]t is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups. It demanded a reform-free renewal of the Patriot Act and the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, both of which codify immense powers of warrantless eavesdropping, including ones that can be used against journalists. It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that a formal UN investigation denounced his treatment as “cruel and inhuman”.
But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this, except in those cases when they supported it. It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to really get worked up, denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration’s true character. That is redolent of how the general public reacted with rage over privacy invasions only when new TSA airport searches targeted not just Muslims but themselves: what they perceive as “regular Americans”. Or how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman - once the most vocal defender of Bush’s vast warrantless eavesdropping programs - suddenly began sounding like a shrill and outraged privacy advocate once it was revealed that her own conversations with Aipac representatives were recorded by the government.
Leave to the side how morally grotesque it is to oppose rights assaults only when they affect you. The pragmatic point is that it is vital to oppose such assaults in the first instance no matter who is targeted because such assaults, when unopposed, become institutionalized. Once that happens, they are impossible to stop when - as inevitably occurs - they expand beyond the group originally targeted. We should have been seeing this type of media outrage over the last four years as the Obama administration targeted non-media groups with these kinds of abuses (to say nothing of the conduct of the Bush administration before that). It shouldn’t take an attack on media outlets for them to start caring this much.
In a free society, those who wield political power fear those over whom the power is wielded: specifically, they harbor a healthy fear of what will happen to them if they abuse that power. But the hallmark of tyranny is that the opposite dynamic prevails: the citizenry fears its government because citizens know that there are no actual, meaningful limits on how power can be exercised. A nation in which liberties are systematically abused - in which limitations on state power are ignored without consequence - is one which gives rise to a climate of fear.
This climate of fear, in turn, leads citizens to refrain from exercising their political rights, especially to refrain from posing meaningful challenges to government authority, because they know the government can act against them without real constraints. This is a more insidious and more effective form of tyranny than overt abridgment of rights: by inducing - intimidating - a citizenry into relinquishing their own rights out of fear, a state can maintain the illusion of freedom while barring any meaningful dissent from or challenge to its power. Here’s one four-minute video clipwhere I describe a personal example to illustrate how this pernicious fear climate operates; here’s another slightly longer video clip where I elaborate on this point more.
This morning, the New York Times reports on the US government’s practice of targeting US dissidents - or those whom it believes to be engaging in dissent - with extremely invasive border searches, including seizing (and sometimes keeping for months) their laptops and other electronic data, all without any warrants. …
Laptop seizures are far from the only tactic employed by the US government to put government opponents in a state of fear and thus deter others from engaging in similar dissident conduct. That is also the aim of measures such as the unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers; the prosecution of Muslim critics of US foreign policy for “material support of terrorism”, the targeted FBI entrapment and “preemptive prosecution" of US Muslims, NATO protesters, anarchist activists, and others with ideologies the US government dislikes; and - most of all - the ubiquitous surveillance state.
What makes this tactic particularly effective is that it will not affect those who have no interest in engaging in real dissent against the government. If you’re not a filmmaker who challenges the prevailing government narrative (Poitras), or a scholar trying to understand rather than demonize currents in the Muslim world (Abidor), or a lawyer involved in groups suing the US government for unconstitutional behavior (Wayne), or an activist advocating for WikiLeaks and working to protect online anonymity and thus thwart government spying and control of the internet (Jacob Appelbaum), or someone who supports Bradley Manning’s legal defense (David House), then you’re not going to be subjected to this sort of intimidation and rights-invasions, and it’s thus easy for you to simply assume that it does not exist.
In essence, the bargain offered by the state is as follows: if you meaningfully challenge what we’re doing, then we will subject you to harsh recriminations. But if you passively comply with what we want, refrain from challenging us, and acquiesce to our prevailing order, then you are “free” and will be left alone. The genius is that those who accept this bargain are easily convinced that repression does not exist in the US, that it only takes place in those Other Bad countries, because, as a reward for their compliant posture, they are not subjected to it.
But even in most of the worst tyrannies, those who are content with the status quo and who refrain from meaningfully challenging prevailing power systems are free of punishment. Rights exist to protect dissidents and those who challenge orthodoxies, not those who acquiesce to those orthodoxies or support state power; the latter group rarely needs any such protections. The effect, and intent, of this climate of fear is to force as many citizens as possible into the latter group.
The true measure of how free a society is how its dissidents are treated, not those who refrain from meaningful anti-government activism and dissent. To apply that metric to the US, just look at what the American citizens quoted in this Times article this morning are saying and doing.
I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker. I would be appalled, however, if the State were to exact from Hustler a tax that the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the ground that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently ‘cultural and artistic.’ That sort of discrimination on the basis of content would surely be unconstitutional.
Judge Robert Smith in his dissenting opinion in a New York State court case which determined that lap dances were not art, and therefore were subject to taxes that would not, for instance, apply to ballet. As Reason reported, “New York Court Determines When a Gyrating Ass May Be Taxed.”
Ah, content discrimination and government interference in the marketplace to promote a specific morality. So anti-liberty. So unconstitutional. So American.
Considering the discussions today on what limits there should be on speech, this excerpt from Murray Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty seemed relevant.
[T]he concept of “rights” only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard.
In the first place, there are two senses in which property rights are identical with human rights: one, that property can only accrue to humans, so that their rights to property are rights that belong to human beings; and two, that the person’s right to his own body, his personal liberty, is a property right in his own person as well as a “human right.” But more importantly for our discussion, human rights, when not put in terms of property rights, turn out to be vague and contradictory, causing liberals to weaken those rights on behalf of “public policy” or the “public good.” As I wrote in another work:
Take, for example, the “human right” of free speech. Freedom of speech is supposed to mean the right of everyone to say whatever he likes. But the neglected question is: Where? Where does a man have this right? He certainly does not have it on property on which he is trespassing. In short, he has this right only either on his own property or on the property of someone who has agreed, as a gift or in a rental contract, to allow him on the premises. In fact, then, there is no such thing as a separate “right to free speech”; there is only a man’s property right: the right to do as he wills with his own or to make voluntary agreements with other property owners.
In short, a person does not have a “right to freedom of speech”; what he does have is the right to hire a hall and address the people who enter the premises. He does not have a “right to freedom of the press”; what he does have is the right to write or publish a pamphlet, and to sell that pamphlet to those who are willing to buy it (or to give it away to those who are willing to accept it). Thus, what he has in each of these cases is property rights, including the right of free contract and transfer which form a part of such rights of ownership. There is no extra “right of free speech” or free press beyond the property rights that a person may have in any given case.
Furthermore, couching the analysis in terms of a “right to free speech” instead of property rights leads to confusion and the weakening of the very concept of rights. The most famous example is Justice Holmes’s contention that no one has the right to shout “Fire” falsely in a crowded theater, and therefore that the right to freedom of speech cannot be absolute, but must be weakened and tempered by considerations of “public policy.” And yet, if we analyze the problem in terms of property rights we will see that no weakening of the absoluteness of rights is necessary.
For, logically, the shouter is either a patron or the theater owner. If he is the theater owner, he is violating the property rights of the patrons in quiet enjoyment of the performance, for which he took their money in the first place. If he is another patron, then he is violating both the property right of the patrons to watching the performance and the property right of the owner, for he is violating the terms of his being there. For those terms surely include not violating the owner’s property by disrupting the performance he is putting on. In either case, he may be prosecuted as a violator of property rights; therefore, when we concentrate on the property rights involved, we see that the Holmes case implies no need for the law to weaken the absolute nature of rights.
You and I both know how hard it would have been for the incredible growth the liberty movement has seen in recent years to have taken place without the Internet.
So right now, the big government statists in Congress are scheming to suffocate the technological revolution in a ball of bureaucratic red tape.
Our well-meaning government overlords are going to “protect consumers” like you and me with “net neutrality,” “open access,” and, of course, their favorite – “cybersecurity.”
But dig a little deeper, and you will find all we’ll get is higher costs, new taxes, lost or slower access - and government snoops expanding their “data mining” capabilities to spy on our every move.
In fact, just recently, we’ve seen a torrent of massive new regulatory schemes rearing their ugly heads in Congress, including:
*** Internet Sales Taxes designed to hike the price of goods sold over the Internet;
*** The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would give the government the power to shut down any website simply because someone made the “allegation” there was a copyright violation;
*** The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which would gut privacy laws and allow Internet providers and websites to hand over personal data to ANY agency in the federal government;
*** The Internet “Kill Switch,” which would allow the President to shut down the entire Internet at a moment’s notice.
And this December, the United Nations is meeting to come up with even MORE recommendations for international Internet regulations!
The Wall Street Journal called it “a wake-up call for the world’s two billion web users, who take for granted the light regulation of the Internet.”
Please remind me, what exactly is it about the government that represents your views?
Sen. Rand Paul Introduces Amendment to Rein in FDA Abuse - 05/23/12
“Paul’s amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act has two parts: Part I would allow the makers of health products to advertise their benefits. “There’s no earthly reason why somebody who markets prune juice can’t advertise it helps with constipation,” Paul said. Part II of the amendment would prohibit FDA employees (as well as all other Health and Human Services employees) from carrying weapons and making arrests without warrants.”
“I think we have too many armed federal agencies, and that we need to put an end to this. Criminal law seems to be increasing, increasingly is using a tool of our government bureaucracy to punish and control honest businessmen for simply attempting to make a living.
Historically the criminal law was intended to punish only the most horrible offenses that everyone agreed were inherently wrong or evil, offenses like rape, murder, theft, arson – but now we’ve basically federalized thousands of activities and called them crimes.”
Update: The amendment failed 78-15
Any common sense legislation that restores liberty to individuals and/or strips some power from the state is likely to receive bi-partisan opposition.
This is good.
While Rep. Justin Amash Pushes His Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, A Judge Has Temporarily Blocked Portions of the NDAA on First and Fifth Amendment Grounds →
On Wednesday, a federal judged blocked Section 1021, (AKA the indefinite detainment provision) of the the highly controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed with journalist Chris Hedges, writer Noam Chomsky, Mr. Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg, and several other plaintiffs who argued in January that the NDAA might just have a chilling effect on free expression. Forrest also agreed that it violated the Fifth Amendment right to due process and that the thing just didn’t “pass Constitutional muster.” …
Meanwhile, scrappy young Congressman and advocate for actually reading bills before he votes on them, Justin Amash, is preparing to speak on the House floor about his (and Democrat Adam Smith’s) amendment to the NDAA. The amendment, which would explicitly say that the NDAA cannot apply to accused domestic terrorists, could potentially come up for a vote as early as Friday. Rep. Ron Paul is a fan, but the number of supporters are seemingly fairly small.