Thursday, July 4, 2013
How Free Are We On Independence Day, July 4, 2013
July 4 is our Independence Day. 59 representatives from the 13 Colonies adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence is one of the most revolutionary documents in human history – not because it called for independence from England, but because it did so in the name of the individual citizen. It was a declaration of the rights of man, not the state. A nation of independent farmers (95% of the population lived in rural areas) sought to throw off the yoke of the state, in this case a distant British government. The subsequent Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights reaffirmed the broad rights of the people and the limited rights of the state. The dilemma in today’s digital world is that our expectations of privacy are increasing colliding with reality, and a government intent on diminishing our personal rights. Griswold v. Connecticut recognized for the first time a Constitutional Right of privacy The normal test is fi we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, I have to assume that my employer, Chapman University, can read any email I send or receive through its servers, as well as any internet sites I search through the servers. Chapman probably wouldn’t, but I have no expectation of privacy from chapman when using its computers. That does not mean though the government has a right to search my files without a subpoena. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) One of the impeachment charges against President Nixon was that he attempted to use the IRS as a weapon against his political enemies. The Obama IRS has succeeded in doing so without anyone in a position of authority knowing anything about it. Extensive publicity has been given to the fact that the IRS discriminated against conservative organizations that sought a tax exemption. It actually issued a BOLO (“Be on the Lookout”) for conservative organizations. Douglas Shulman, the IRS Commissioner at the time, denied any knowledge of the acts, supposedly undertaken by a few rogue agents in the Cincinnati Office. He also could not explain his 157 visits to the Obama White House, and forgot to mention that his wife, Susan L. Anderson, tweeted in December 2011 that people should get to the Occupy Wall Street site. Shulman’s Chief of Staff, Jonathon McDavil, essentially a political aide, visited the White House 310 between 2009 and 2013. He has yet to be heard from. The IRS initially claimed that a backlog ensued when hundreds of applications were received while resources were short. The lack of resources did not stop the IRS from spending $4.1 million for a 2010 Conference next to Disneyland. Lost in the publicity over the singling out of conservatives is that the IRS started auditing conservative organizations that it previously found no fault with and that the confidential records of conservative organizations were leaked to their political opponents. ObamaCare The enactment of ObamaCare represents another large loss of freedom. For the first time Americans are forced to purchase something as a condition of living, or pay a tax for failure to do so. Chief Justice Roberts twisted the Constitution to limit the rights of the people. There’s still more to ObamaCare. The assumption is that we can create a more efficient healthcare system by requiring all medical records to be digitized. Thus, doctors in an ER in Manhattan could pull up the medical records of a patient from Manhattan Beach. So too can anyone who wants to hack in to obtain the medical records of a politician or celebrity, or bribe an employee, as have occurred too many times not only with medical records but also emails and passport files. The worse aspect though is that ObamaCare will go through the IRS. All of our significant information, financial and medical, will be available in an agency which has shown it will abuse its powers. Remember the First Amendment Freedom of Religion? President Obama and Secretary Sibelius are trying to force most Catholic organizations to offer free contraception. The latest ploy is to require insurance companies that cover the religious organizations to offer a separate policy to the employees offering free contraception. Anyone with a basic understanding of economics will realize that the cost has to be built into the premiums charged the religious institution. First Amendment Freedom of the Press Ironically, the Obama Administration, which had been given a free pass by the Mainstream Media, turned on the Media by issuing subpoenas against the AP and James Rosen and Fox News. The effect of such acts is to chill the press. In the case of James Rosen the affidavit issued by the Justice Department for the warrants of his phone records and family members stated that Rosen was a “co-conspirator” and a flight risk. It stated the Justice Department had probable cause to believe the reporter violated the Espionage Act by “aiding and abetting” or as a “co-conspirator” the disclosure of national security secrets. Attorney General Eric Holder testified to Congress on May 15, 2013 that prosecuting reporter was not something he had veer been “involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.” It was discovered after his testimony that he had signed the 2010 affidavit seeking the warrant for Rosen’s phones. He subsequently explained that the allegation against Rosen was the only way they could get a judge to issue he warrant. A charitable interpretation is that the Justice Department at the minimum engaged in misrepresentations to get the warrant. Eric Holder also claimed ignorance of the botched Fast and Furious operation and that as Associate Attorney General in the Clinton Administration he had not looked thoroughly at the Marc Rich pardon application. The Attorney General is either the most forgetful, ignorant or duplicitous attorney general in recent history. Of course, he had condemned Arizona’s short S.B. 1070 as unconstitutional eventhough he had not read it. The National Security Agency Senator Ron Wyden (D. Ore.) asked James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence at a March Senate meeting if the NSA gathers “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” The answer was “No,” followed by “Not willingly …. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps collect, but nor willingly.” That statement, as we now know from Snowden’s disclosure, was absolutely false. Clapper explained that he had to answer in public a question that should have been presented in a closed session. He also explained in those situations he tried to answer with the truth, or the least untrue statement he could make. The Agency claims that its operations are legal, being authorized by an act of Congress with periodic reporting to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. That doesn’t make them constitutional. The NSA is using general three months warrants to obtain the phone logs of every American phone call to store hold them forever in computer data banks. The 4th Amendment normally requires individual warrants that are specific in their particulars. The NSA claims that this data searching is essential to national security. General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA, testified on Tuesday June 18 that these data searches helped prevent “potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11,” including at least 10 homeland terrorist threats. The media picked up on this statement and reported that the NSA program prevented 50 attacks. That’s not what the general said. Indeed, when the FBI representative was asked the follow-up question as to whether the Program was responsible for initiating an investigation, he responded that he could not think of one. In short, the program helps fill in the blanks, or connects the dots, once a lead is received from elsewhere. A disingenuous statement was made to Congress. We do not that the NSA Surveillance Program did not detect Major Nidal Hassan, the Tsarnaev Brothers, The Underwear Bomber, or the Times Square Bomber. One defense of the NSA is that it has not abused its powers. How do we know? Even if it has not yet abused its powers yet, what prevents an administration, as with the IRS, from using it for political purposes? The potential fro abuse is too great. President Obama’s response to the Snowden NSA disclosures was unwittingly prophetic: “We’ve got Congressional oversight and judicial oversight. And if people can’t trust not only the executive Branch, but also don’t trust Congress and doesn’t trust federal judges to make sure we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process, and the rule of law, then we’ll going to have some problems here.” Post Office The Post Office may be losing billions of dollars, but the new York Times reported today that it photographs the cover envelope of every mail piece it processes. The Local Level We know that street and private surveillance cameras have become very critical to law enforcement. Since these cameras record public actions, their constitutionality is presumed. An annoying camera is the red light or speed camera, which the public is resisting in many communities. Summary The rise of a strong central government in the digital age inevitably results in a diminution of personal freedom. The risks to our freedoms are magnified n the hands of an administration which is deceiving the Public and the Congress in increasing intrusions into our daily lives. We are not as free as we were.