Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ongoing FISA Legislation

Senate has put off til January the re-authoauthorization on the so-called Protect America Act which basically opened up for the government virtually every international telephone call or email by anyone in this country to or from someone overseas (the PAA was signed last August 5th and expires the beginning of Febuary ’08). The administration and its supporters in the Senate also want to grant full retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that violated the old FISA law and gave government agents virtually unlimited access to subscriber phone data without any court orders or supervision.

Best thing that could happen would be for the PAA to simply expire, but the administration will do everything it can to avoid that. A handful of Senatorts – e.g., Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, et al. – are waging a courageous fight to limit government surveillance and telecom immunity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

A huge thumbs up to Ted Nugent and his recent article, “I Fell Like Writing Another Gun Celebration Column.”

In the town of Colorado Springs, CO, a young woman used her concealed weapon to protect herself, and the people around her during a church gathering this week. She used her gun to defend herself, her congregation, and her freedom. She should be commended for taking the high road of defense instead of cowering in the corner and taking what the gunman was giving to her and the congregation.

Ted Nugent should also be commended for taking the initiative of writing such a strong and moving article.

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

For more:


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Privacy Protection During the Holidays

With the holiday season upon us, with its attendant shopping, this is a good time to be aware of several small, but important steps we can take to help protect our privacy and avoid identity theft.

For example, many retailers ask for your zip code, telephone number, or address when making a purchase or exchange. It is never necessary to give out this information, and it is better if you don’t.

Also, when shopping, notice that the store keeps a copy of your receipt, and you are given a copy. While most stores comply with the law and do not print your full credit card number on the receipt, some still (and inappropriately) have the complete credit card number on the receipt. Make sure that only the last four digits are visible on their (and your) copy of the receipt.

Finally, when making internet purchases, only do so from a “secured” website. Such sites are considered more secure because they have specific firewalls installed that make it more difficult for hackers to access your information. While nothing is completely “hacker-proof,” this is at least one good way to ensure you have taken steps to protect yourself from having your information stolen.

For more information, see:


Friday, November 30, 2007

Facebook and its Lack of Privacy

In the world of high technology and convenience, we sometimes need to be reminded that there is a cost associated with having both. And companies need to be reminded to do their homework before putting things out into the public spectrum. The users and managers of Facebook are facing such difficulties.

Facebook is a free site that receives the majority of its funding through advertisers and contributions; most people would likely consider that this would extend to banner ads, side page ads, and the occasional pop-ups. However, internet advertising agencies are going beyond these reasonable efforts; and this is what is especially troubling. The program is called “Beacon” and the sole purpose is to memorize your purchases. While this may be considered an appropriate tool for internet stores to employ in order to track purchases and make suggestions to you based on your purchase upon checkout, it would seem highly problematic when employed in an endeavor such as Facebook. The version installed on Facebook essentially does the same thing, except this time, everyone one of your “friends” will also be allowed to view your purchase history.

Originally, the tracking part of the program would be able to be turned off by its users. The problem is that once implemented on Facebook, “Beacon” has no way of turning off - - and no option for users to have the ability to turn it off, with or without permission.

This might not seem like a big deal in hind sight, but it is a slippery slope, and may very well – if continued – raise serious privacy concerns; even perhaps involving Fourth Amendment issues. For Facebook and its creator, Matt Zuckerberg, this is not the first time they have been in the hot seat this year when it comes to privacy rights.

This brings us back to the Big Brother issue our country is facing today. How much imposition is too much imposition? What kind of rights are we going to have left if we allow the government, businesses, and other entities to continue to chip away at our privacy – something Ayn Rand correctly identified as the very foundation of civilization? It is important that we, as citizens, educate ourselves about the privacy underpinings in the Bill of Rights, and ensure that we promote and vote for leaders of this country who will also keep our rights in the highest regard – and support only those businesses that commit themselves to doing likewise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cry Me a River.

Last Sunday, in an interview with Chris Wallace, Senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson complained that Fox News was portraying him in a negative light and thereby hurting his campaign. Welcome to the real world, Senator!

Probably the best thing Senator Thompson could do would be to quit whining, start showing some fire in the belly, and put forward specific and comprehensive ideas for the presidency he covets. (Of course, any campaign that has to spend its time telling people “I’m not lazy,” is in trouble anyway.)


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Illegal Search & Seizure

The Bush Administration considers the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement a suggestion rather than a directive when it comes to electronically eavesdropping on citizens' phone calls or reading our e-mails. Now, the Boston Police Department is launching a program to rifle through citizens' homes in high-crime neighborhoods looking for firearms in kids' rooms, without first securing warrants.

The police, who will be operating in groups of three or four, promise to first ask the permission of adults before conducting their searches. They also promise not to charge anyone with offenses for anything they find (except "large" quantities of illegal drugs) unless they later link the firearm(s) to crimes.

People who consent to such searches, which will be carried out without any suspicion there are illegal firearms or anything else illegal in the houses, are either dangerously naïve or crazy. If people aren't wise enough to realize the police will - at a bare minimum - keep a record or write a report of what they find, then citizens have become even more gullible post-911 than I thought.

If parents are so intimidated by their kids that they cannot themselves know or find out if their kids have guns in the house, and have to permit a warrantless police search of their homes, then their fitness as parents is seriously in question.

Such actions as these in Boston further the false notion that the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed in the 2d Amendment are so unimportant that its protections is not worthy of Fourth Amendment consideraton.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Government as Gangsters...

In Hollywood gangster movies, the mob boss would pressure victims to do their bidding by letting them know 'there's an easy way and a hard way to do this, but either way you're going to do what we want.' In the real world of modern America, this is more often than not the preferred method employed not by gangsters but by the government. Rarely, however are government officials as blatant about it as State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey at a news conference yesterday in Upper Marlboro, MD: ‘We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but it’s got to get done. I’m willing to move forward with legal action.’

The state is demanding that each student in Prince George, BC has the state-required Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B vaccinations by the September 20th deadline. More than 2,300 students that have not been immunized have been banned from attending school, and parents of the students could face fine of up to $50 a day and up to 10 days in jail.

Some parents would like their children treated homeopathically and others do not believe in giving immunizations of any kind. While this might not be considered the “norm,” what happened to a parent’s right to choose?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Government's Version of Privacy

The government has now completely abandoned any pretense that we -- the citizens -- are entitled to even a semblance of privacy from the government. Just this past weekend, for example, the number two person at the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) wrote that privacy no longer means to be protected from government snooping. In the new, Alice-in-Wonderland post-911 world, according to the Principal Deputy of DNI, Donald Kerr, the “right to privacy” means nothing more than government and businesses safeguard our personal information. Of course, to “safeguard” it, they have to have access to it! So much for “privacy” in any meaningful, reasonable sense.

Welcome to the Bizzaro world of 2007, where “up” is “down,” “black” is “white,” and “privacy” is “government.”

All is not lost; at least not yet. Contact your Member of Congress and your Senators to demand they do something -- anything -- to reverse this trend toward total government control of all our most private information. And, support only candidates for top offices, like Representative Ron Paul, who actually understand what “privacy” is and who will fight to preserve it.

For more information:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ballot Access Issues for the LP Party

I recently traveled to Oklahoma City, to speak at a fundraiser and to participate in other activities in behalf of the Libertarian Party and a coalition supporting reform of the extremely restrictive ballot access process and laws in that state. While Oklahoma is the state most hostile to allowing or granting access to the ballot for third parties, third party candidates, and write-in candidates, the fact is that many states over the years have adopted measures clearly designed to make it as difficult as possible for third parties to gain access to the ballot. This is the result of the virtual monopoly enjoyed by the two traditional, status quo political parties – the Republican and Democratic parties – in our country.

While both major parties talk a good game of “openness” and “choice” in elections, the fact is that neither the Republican nor the Democrat Party practices this in fact. These parties define the terms of ballot access – who and which parties can field candidates to appear on the ballot and give voters true choice – and they control the legal mechanisms whereby the process can be changed to allow greater access. What this means in reality is that any third party seeking to obtain ballot access in many states has to spend a great deal of time and money just working to try and get its name and its candidates on the ballot each election cycle. In Oklahoma, the process is so closed and so restrictive that it is nearly impossible for third parties to succeed. Thus, for example, in the last presidential election in 2004, voters in Oklahoma had two and only two choices for president – George W. Bush or John Kerry. They could not even write in another candidate. This closed system is the antithesis of openness and freedom which should be the hallmark of American elections.

Oklahoma goes so far in its zeal to limit ballot access that those working to ease ballot access fear criminal prosecution for their efforts to simply open up the process. This fear is based on the myriad of rules and requirements petitioners have to comply with simply to reach voters and ask them to support opening up the process.

To find out more about such outrageous, anti-freedom efforts by states to deny voters choices in elections, click here to access the Libertarian Party’s list of states to see if the Libertarian Party has ballot access in your state, http://www.lp.org/index_ba08.html. To learn more about the effort in Oklahoma, check out this website: http://www.okvoterchoice.org/

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dodd and FISA

Hats off to Senator Chris Dodd for putting a hold on a Bill that makes sense. The public should write, e-mail and call to thank him.


Friday, October 19, 2007

FISA Reform Vote Postponed Until Next Week

The fight to revamp the invasive FISA bill passed on August 4, 2007 continues in the Congress. Current efforts to ensure the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens aren’t even being considered by the congress in this bill. Activists from both sides of the aisle continue to monitor the situation, but at this point, committee leaders seem to be in agreement on the bill, which would reform the issue of Fourth Amendment Rights, the issue of the warrantless wiretapping, and calls that are still deemed as subject to surveillance can be monitored, but the committee leaders are debating whether or how to protect telecommunications companies who have already cooperated with the governments NSA surveillance program.

The Senate appears to be supporting the administration's demands that the legislation grant retroactive immunity to those telecoms that released to the government private information on thousands of their customers' calls based on requests from the federal government for such information in violation of the FISA law. The House, at least for now, seems not to be inclined to give the companies such immunity, which would leave customers with no recourse for invasions of their privacy by the communications carriers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We rush to war in Iran at our own peril

The beat of war drums along the Potomac — from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., to Capitol Hill, and from Neo-Con Central at the headquarters of the Weekly Standard to the halls of the Pentagon — is growing in intensity just as it did five years ago in the months leading to the invasion of Iraq. This time, however, the target over which the war hawks are sharpening their spears is not a relatively small and ill-prepared country in the Middle East, but a country larger in land mass than the state of Alaska and with a population nearly four times as large as Iraq's.

Despite the fact that many Americans would probably confuse Iraq with Iran on a map, lumping both together as "Arab" countries, the two countries are more dissimilar than alike. For starters, only about 3 percent of Iran's population is Arab, compared to nearly 80 percent in Iraq. Historically, the predominantly Persian Iran and its Arab neighbor to the west have been at odds more than they've enjoyed cordial relations.

Geographically, Iran presents a much more complex set of logistical concerns than did Iraq. Iran has significantly longer land and maritime borders than does Iraq. Iran borders three bodies of water — the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; Iraq possesses but a tiny sliver of a sea coast. Iran's much larger land mass and population base, including potential armed forces strength of 15 million to 30 million, and its more homogenous citizenry, work to complicate military planning considerably — if properly done.

The economic muscle Iran wields, while weakened by corruption and inefficiency (as in Iraq), far exceeds that of its Arab neighbor — more than $600 billion compared to Iraq's anemic $88 billion. Iran's international trade, like Iraq's, is predominantly based on petroleum exports, and is about twice Iraq's. However, Iran's list of trading partners is much more diverse than Iraq's, which relies on exports to a single country — the United States — for nearly half its exports. Many U.S. allies, including Japan and Germany, are major trading partners with Iran. China figures just as significantly in Tehran's international trade. Further complicating the picture is the fact that recent intelligence establishes that China is supplying military arms and equipment to Iran.

By most other indices of economic development, Iran far outpaces Iraq (under either Saddam Hussein or the U.S.-backed Maliki government), including such indices as the numbers of telephones, radios and televisions, which provide the means by which the governing authority communicates with the population and its supporters.

While many in the United States delight in ridiculing Iran's president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad — a task made easy by some of the unusual positions espoused by the Iranian leader — such practice can beguile leaders into potentially serious miscalculations about the support the leadership in Tehran enjoys, and would enjoy, if the U.S. were to attack or to be perceived as attacking through surrogates.

Should Washington simply sit back and leave Iran alone — free to support terrorist groups and regimes in other countries, including Iraq, and to develop a nuclear capability? Of course not. Even considering that our lengthy and continuing occupation of Iraq has greatly strengthened Ahmadinejad, the United States has a clear and legitimate stake in what happens in Iran and with regard to matters in which that regime is involved elsewhere.

What is important, however, should be to quell the simplistic blustering by the White House and by many presidential candidates designed to prove each will be tougher on Iran than the others. Also helpful would be putting a lid on unnecessary and repetitive insults and threats directed at the Ahmadinejad administration — a pastime that simply strengthens the regime in Tehran and does nothing to build support for legitimate efforts to weaken the regime.

Positive steps could include strengthening economic and political pressure on Iran, and increased efforts to quietly but actively build on the deep base of political understanding that already exists among a large segment of the Iranian population (and including the more than one million Iranian-Americans).

Unlike the Iraqi population before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which had never enjoyed a participatory political system, millions of Iran's citizens have tasted and understand the benefits of such freedom. It would be a shame if, in a rush to prove something politically at home or abroad, the U.S. were to initiate a military confrontation that would not only destroy that base of support, but lead to a conflict vastly more costly and lengthy than the invasion of Iraq has turned out to be.— Former congressman and U.S. Attorney Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta.


For Added Information Visit : http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/2007/10/09/barred_1010.html

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

'Mission creep' hits airport security: People exhibiting "fear" or "stress" are now just the sort of individuals TSA is on the lookout for

Approach any major airport in the United States in this brave new, post-Sept. 11 world, and there is one message transmitted loud and clear to you — be afraid. Armed police are everywhere. You can't stop your car for more than a few seconds without being warned by an armed police officer that you'd better move on.

Detached voices over the public address system remind you constantly of the applicable "homeland security threat level" (perpetually stuck at orange), and recount what you can and cannot carry on the plane. Your "government-issued identification card" must always be at the ready to show on demand. You have to partially disrobe and traverse a security gauntlet before even getting to the gate area. The oppressive sense of fear fostered by the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration continues from curbside dropoff to exiting the airport in your destination city. Fear has become the currency of modern air travel.

Interestingly, however, people exhibiting "fear" or "stress" are now suspected of being just the sort of undesirable individuals the TSA is on the lookout for, and whom it will single out for special attention, including arrest. A cadre of undercover "Behavior Detection Officers," or BDOs, is roaming America's air terminals (and possibly some in other countries) on behalf of the TSA, peering into the faces of people to discern "slight facial movements" or other behavior characteristics indicating a possible lawbreaker or terrorist.

TSA's Web site proudly pats itself on the back for behaviorally detecting at least one lawbreaker at Baltimore-Washington International Airport — an unlucky man who appeared nervous near a ticket counter. His nervous demeanor led to his detention, search and subsequent arrest for carrying a concealed firearm without the requisite permit.

Many Americans — reflecting the post-Sept. 11 philosophy that whatever government decides to do or wants to do to make us "safe" is permissible, no matter how constitutionally questionable — might applaud the TSA for such actions. But this is the sort of problematic "mission creep" many warned about several years ago when the TSA was established.

Established to screen passengers and cargo for weapons and explosives prior to boarding or loading onto commercial air carriers, the TSA seems now to views its mission as being of a magnitude far in excess of people intending to hijack or destroy commercial aircraft. TSA personnel now believe it their bounden duty to watch for anybody at an airport who might be committing or contemplating committing any crime whatsoever, regardless of any link to a passenger plane.

News accounts, for example, chronicle TSA BDOs identifying persons who turn out simply to be in this country unlawfully, and others who possess illegal drugs. Of course, their zeal has also led BDOs to stopping, detaining and questioning people who are engaging in actions no more "criminal" than simply appearing nervous or "stressful" and who "avoid eye contact" with other people. The obvious question, with all this going on, is who wouldn't be nervous or stressful?

This is not the first time federal agents have attempted to use some form of "profiling" as the basis to detain, search and arrest suspects. For example, beginning in the late 1970s, federal drug agents conducted a series of searches of people at airports who fit a so-called "drug courier profile" — people who, among other things, appeared nervous, avoided eye contact and did not carry baggage. Many of the cases thus developed were declared unconstitutional, with judges correctly concluding that arresting people based on what is in essence a "hunch" that they are acting suspiciously violates the Bill of Rights' requirement that searches be "reasonable." Judges also were mindful of the potential for abuse if law enforcement was permitted to search anyone fitting a subjective "profile."

It will be interesting to see if the federal judges of 2007 handle these most recent "profiling" cases according to the same constitutional standard as their predecessors in the 1970s and 1980s.

While the language of the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against being searched (and arrested) based on suspect "behavior" remains the same in 2007 as 30 years ago, I and many others worry that the largely government-induced fear now pervading our society has created the perfect storm in which government agents will henceforth be able to stop anybody, anytime, anyplace for suspect activity based on a behavior "pattern," all in the name of "fighting terrorism."

And that, friends, ought truly to make you nervous and stressful.

— Former congressman and U.S. Attorney Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta.


For Added Information Visit : http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/2007/10/02/barred_1003.html

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Senate Refuses to Restore Habeas Corpus

The vote in the Senate on September 19, 2007, derailed an effort to restore the right of habeas corpus made clear that a near-majority of Senators, primarily Republicans, either do not understand the principle of habeas corpus, or are still gripped by the irrational fear that pervades our country since 9-11. The Senate is on record once again supporting the unbridled power of a President to declare any individual he wants as an “enemy combatant” and then detain that person indefinitely without even being able to go before a judge to have the government show it has at least some rational basis to hold the person in prison. I think this abdication of power to a President by Congress is unfortunate and extremely dangerous. This is a move the Republicans in the Senate will come to regret, if for no other reason than because future presidents, including those of the Democratic Party who the Republicans would not likely support, would be able to exercise this awesome power.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Craig Transcript Proves a Frail Case

The unfolding case involving the arrest of Idaho Senator Larry Craig at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport this summer as part of an apparent police sting operation against lewd behavior in men’s rooms, raises questions about our criminal justice system and how the police operate, that are deeply troubling and which ought to concern us all. It is clear that nothing Senator Craig did constituted criminal behavior, especially when the transcript (linked below) is reviewed. The blatant -- but temporarily successful -- effort to pressure Senator Craig into a preemptive plea by the arresting officer, and the unwise decision by the Senator to try to explain himself to the officer without the presence of legal counsel, also underscore the utter shallowness of the case against Senator Craig.

Link to the Transcript:


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Latest Administration Doublespeak on Surveillance

In an article from the Washington Post today, the director of National Intelligence was quoted today saying that less than 100 people in the United States were actually being targeted for secret- court-approved wiretaps aimed at disrupting terrorist networks. And that is exactly what they would like the citizens of the United States to believe.

The problem here is that it is not the ones that the Administration seeks warrants that are concerning – it is the many more citizens that are being monitored where warrants are not sought out. Also, the program is not focusing solely on one terrorist abroad speaking with another terrorist in the United States; the act is not limiting the monitoring to only those whom the government think are engaging in terrorist actions – it is a far wider spectrum than that. And finally, the new FISA amendment that President Bush has recently signed into law allows the government to intercept any and all calls or e-mail correspondence as long as the government has reason to believe that the party is overseas. What the government is doing here, and its disingenuous and misleading explanations, should worry every American citizen, and ought to be the subject of serious congressional oversight.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FISA Changes.....

The amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the Administration pressured Congress into passing over the weekend represents an outrageous expansion of government power to survey virtually every international telephone call or internet communication. The amendments go far beyond what the Administration indicated was necessary to listen into international communications involving suspected terrorists. This change vastly expended the authority of federal government to monitor international communication of American citizens, without any checks-and-balances from court supervision.

The Administration’s efforts were successful because it shamelessly mischaracterized the FISA law and exaggerated the so-called threat in order to play on the fears of members of Congress. The only saving grace is that the law is only valid for six months.

Newt Gingrich Speech at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Meeting

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who used to represent a district in Georgia adjacent to mine, spoke Monday, August 6th, to the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, in Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Newt's speech was one of the more interesting and entertaining I've heard him deliver in quite some time. He touched on many topics, primarily of a domestic nature, including poverty in America, taxes and government in general. What was truly appealing to the people in the audience was his idea of “FedEx Versus Government Bureaucracy” which discussed the ideas of a world that works versus a world that doesn’t. In a world that works, FedEx has no problem tracking packages, but in a world that doesn’t work, the government cannot track illegal immigrants. It was suggested that we should start sending packages to all of the illegal immigrants and track them that way. It also discussed how ATM’s can give you money from anywhere in the world in a world that works, but in California a company fired 13 employees because they did not have proper legal documentation stating that they were citizens. This is now in the courts and California law is stating that this is not a fireable offense. They found that one of the social security numbers used had been used 41 times before. Now why is it that an ATM can identify a pin number overseas but our government cannot track social security numbers? This fully describes a world that doesn’t work.

A link to this speech can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15D3ElV1Jzw

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Collapsed of the Bridge in Minneapolis

The collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, was the definition of tragedy; a tragedy that could have been easily avoided. In June 2006 a state inspection was done on the bridge that gave the bridge an overall rating of 50 out of 120 points – about 42%. According to the scale, this did not mean the bridge was necessarily considered “unsafe.” After the bridge collapsed on August 1st, maybe now would be a good time to rethink the rating scale and perhaps a score of 50 can now be considered “unsafe.” There are bridges that are even lower on the rating scale and have not been replaced or repaired. Hopefully, this incident will open the eyes of the Army Corps of Engineers and perhaps they will change the ratings on the scale for the bridges.

Did we learn nothing from Hurricane Katrina? The state officials were told time and time again that the barrier wall was too low and was not strong enough to handle anything that could be of hurricane caliber. No one wanted to spend the money to revamp and repair the barrier wall. It has taken more than two years to rebuild that great city in Louisiana, and it isn’t even close to what it once was.

Perhaps these will be lessons that will wake up officials. Maybe now is the time to create new rating scales. Maybe now is the time to pay attention to what experts say about structures that are keeping citizens safe. Hopefully, tragedies like these can and will be avoided in the near future. America certainly has had its share of tragedy and heartbreak in the last 6 years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Congress Considers Huge Tax on Cigars

The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars by as much as 20,000 percent! This could mean a single cigar could be taxed up to $10. I realize a good cigar when I smoke one, but I don't know of a cigar that deserves a ridiculous tax of $10 on it. Under a proposed bill, the Democrat controlled Congress has sought an extra $35-billion to $50-billion for the state children's health insurance program. In other words, the program would distribute payments to the states to help buy coverage for children not poor enough for Medicaid. This increase on tobacco sales would pay for children's health insurance. The legislation, which is mainly targeting cigarettes, has brought cigars into the mix, and would raise the tax on "large cigars" to 53% and the bill would set the maximum tax at $10.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senate Judiciary Committee Subpoenas White House, Cheney's Office

The Senate Judiciary Committee today issued subpoenas the White House and Vice President Cheney's office for documents about the administration's warrantless eavesdropping program. This is a welcomed move by the committee and is long overdue. The questionable program has been under fire for bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) and potentially violating Fourth Amendment rights.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Enemy Combatant Ruling

Ali al-Marri, a legal U-S resident, has been held as an enemy combatant since December 2001. In a 2-1 decision, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government cannot declare a US citizen an "enemy combatant," and then lock them up and deny them access to courts indefinitely.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Eyes in the Sky

In the latest attack on the privacy rights of inhabitants of or visitors to the Big Apple, New York City’s Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, is proposing to deploy a number of ‘airborne platforms’ or blimp-like devices, over the skies of the city through which the police could monitor, record and retain information about what is transpiring on city streets and rooftops. While the Commissioner says the ‘stationary airborne platforms’ would aid in fighting crime and terrorism – of course – the negative privacy implications are obvious and profound; not that any such concerns would enter into the city’s decision.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Border Agents to Iraq?

At a time when the U. S. Customs and Border Protection Commission is scrambling to hire, train and retain sufficient numbers of border patrol agents to protect our own borders, especially our border with Mexico, the head of that federal agency is asking for agents to volunteer to serve in Iraq to help secure that country's borders! Doesn't that make you feel secure?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Texas Town Moves to Ban Property Owners from Renting to Illegal Aliens

The citizens of Farmers Branch, Texas, approved a measure this past Saturday that prohibits landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. The ordinance will require that persons wishing to lease an apartment in that Dallas suburb to prove they are a U.S. citizen. While seemingly a good idea to combat illegal immigrants from setting down roots in our communities, at least for a true conservative property-rights perspective, it is not a good idea at all. The prohibition on renting property sets a terrible precedent for government control over the right of property owners to rent to whoever they choose (so long, obviously, as they do not unconstitutionally discriminate). The Texas proposal runs roughshod over property rights, and forces property owners to do what government has proved incapable of or unwilling to do – stop illegal immigration.

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Insurrection Act" renamed and expanded

The "Insurrection Act," dating back to 1807, and providing very limited authority for a president to invoke the armed forces to put down a domestic "insurrection," last fall was greatly expanded and renamed to make it appear benign if not beneficial. The Bush Administration sought the changes ostensibly to better respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, but the law provides vastly more power and leeway for the executive branch to order the armed forces and National Guard into domestic service in very vaguely defined circumstances, and regardless of whether a state governor agrees. The Congress ought quickly to repeal this dangerous and unnecessary power grab.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gonzales Testimony

Political oddsmakers in Washington are uniformly predicting that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will be leaving his post in the near future. The prevailing view is that too much damage to his credibility and leadership ability has been done, and that regardless of what he says during his April 17th appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his days at Justice are numbered. The real question floating around Washington, DC is who will the President nominate to succeed him, and that's proving a very difficult search for the Administration.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

GOP Presidential Field

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the latest entrant in the GOP presidential field, has proposed having a vote by the Iraqi people determine whether US troops will remain in Iraq. A more absurd proposal I've never heard. Putting US troops in foreign lands to fight based on whether the citizens of that foreign country - not the citizens of the US - want our troops there, is at least as troublesome as earlier proposals by some to place US troops under UN control.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Real ID Act

The Department of Homeland Security has issued proposed regulations to implement the Real ID Act, which will establish for the first time in our history a national identification card. Everyone who cares about privacy and government power should review and comment on these regulations. They can be found at The Homeland Security Department webpage

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Canada's Anti-terrorist Law

Canada has allowed a temporary anti-terrorist law that had given that country's federal government sweeping powers to detain suspects. Wouldn't it be refreshing if our government allowed a law that granted it extraordinary powers to expire? Unfortunately, Washington doesn't operate that way; it never voluntarily surrenders power.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scooter Libby Case

The Scooter Libby case is with the jury, now deliberating for its second day. This may be a bad sign for the prosecution, which attempted to present the case as a very simple one of lying or obstructing an investigation. The defense may have succeeded in sowing sufficient doubts to establish at least the possibility Libby was a scapegoat, or that the case was not as simple and clear cut as the government wanted the jury to believe. Scooter may scoot on this one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bush's North Korean Proposal

Before people criticize the Bush Administration's "deal" with North Korea, they might want to wait to see how the Administration proposes to monitor North Korea's compliance, which is key to the entire agreement. Conservative critics also might want to keep in mind that two important factors in President Reagan's success in directing a plan that led eventually to the demise of the Soviet Union were:

(1) opening the country to more western culture and information, and
(2) a verifiable compliance agreement.

Both of these figure in Bush's North Korean proposal.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood

U.S. Representative Charlie Norwood of Georgia passed away this afternoon. Charlie was an outstanding Congressman -- strongly and consistently conservative, loyal, honest and with a great sense of humor. Not only will all of us fortunate enough to call him friend and colleague miss him deeply, but his principled voice and actions will be sorely missed by all Americans who he represented so ably in the Congress.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Terrorist Surveillance Program"

The White House announced yesterday that the so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program," under which for some five years the Administration had been ordering the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance of American citizens in the United States without court orders as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, would now be conducted under the purview of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This reflects the reality that the White House can no longer rely on a compliant Congress to provide unquestioning support for its actions. However, the fact is that in the past the Administration -- when faced with criticism of its activities, or when Congress has moved to curtail them -- has simply changed the name of a program and then continued it. Therefore, the White House announcement should not halt or slow down congressional oversight of these activities by the Administration. The Congress must press for information so it discovers exactly what the Administration has been doing in this area, and ensure that the government does not in fact continue surveilling Americans in violation of laws or the Fourth Amendment.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Iraq "Jobs Program" is Nothing More than Attempted "Nation Building"

President Bush is now going to use our tax dollars to implement a jobs program in Iraq. That's really great - our tax dollars helping Iraqis find jobs. And still the Administration denies it is engaged in "nation building."