This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right. (This is an updated version of an essay we wrote in February. Unfortunately, a lot of information has come out since then.)
HSLDA Founder and Chairman Mike Farris meets with the Wunderlich family during the Global Home Education Conference held in Berlin, Germany in October 2012. Farris is asking homeschoolers to contact German officials on behalf of the Wunderlichs.
At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.
The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”
HSLDA obtained and translated the court documents that authorized this use of force to seize the children. The only legal grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Moreover, Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education. The law ignores the educational progress of the child; attendance—and not learning—is the object of the German law.
In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.
This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.
(June 10, 2013) – Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul appeared on CNN tonight to tell Piers Morgan why he objects to the NSA surveillance program.
Morgan directly asked Paul if he would have actually ended surveillance programs if he were president.
Paul said he would still want intelligence gathering, but it would be done in a more transparent way, maintaining that the current surveillance program are unquestionably unconstitutional.
He directly told NSA defenders that they are simply “justifying dictatorship.”
Paul dismissed the use of a FISA court as a significant enough of a check on the executive branch. He said this program is undeniably “destroying the Constitution,”, and posed a question to anyone who defends the widespread surveillance.
“So my question should be, to all of you who defend this nonsense is, what should the penalty be for the people who destroy the constitution. They’re always worrying about how they’re going to destroy the American citizens who tell the truth to let us know what’s going on. We ask the question, what is the penalty for the people who deliberately destroy the constitution and rationalize and say, ‘we have to do it for security.’
Well, you know what Franklin said about that, you end up losing your security and you lose your freedoms too. So I think we’ve embarked on a very, very dangerous course. The American people are with us on this, it’s totally out of control, and I would say if you’re confused about what we should do, just read the constitution. What’s wrong with that? If you don’t like it, get people to repeal it and change the constitution, but not just to deny it.
We go to war without a declaration. We totally ignore the constitution. That is what our problem is today — we have no rule of law, and people say, ‘well, just let secret Courts do this,; and the governments to know everything, and the American people have no privacy. I mean you’re — that reflects intimidation, people are insecure, and think that we’ll need more authoritarianism. You’re justifying dictatorship, is what you’re doing.“
Do you intrinsically possess individual privacy rights, based upon natural law authority, or are your civil liberties arbitrarily defined by the current whims of government?
How you answer, this question speaks loudly about your understanding of the nature of your very being. Those who deem that natural law is a myth or a superstition are poised for voluntary surrender of their vital identity. The cataloging of individual essence is aberrant.
Your deoxyribonucleic acid is the core element of personal uniqueness and human dignity. If your DNA is subject to government collection and storage, the right of personal privacy is destroyed.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has claimed that agents do not need warrants to read people’s emails, text messages and other private electronic communications, according to internal agency documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request, released the information on Wednesday.
In a 2009 handbook, the IRS said the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users “do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” A 2010 presentation by the IRS Office of General Counsel reiterated the policy. Continue reading »
The Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights watchdog has concluded that travelers along the nation’s borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security.
The DHS, which secures the nation’s border, in 2009 announced that it would conduct a “Civil Liberties Impact Assessment” of its suspicionless search-and-seizure policy pertaining to electronic devices “within 120 days.” More than three years later, the DHS office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties published a two-page executive summary of its findings.
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits,” the executive summary said.
The memo highlights the friction between today’s reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government’s stated quest for national security.
The President George W. Bush administration first announced the suspicionless, electronics search rules in 2008. The President Barack Obama administration followed up with virtually the same rules a year later. Between 2008 and 2010, 6,500 persons had their electronic devices searched along the U.S. border, according to DHS data.
According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation’s actual border.
This simple piece of legislation proves that you can make a difference at the local level. We need a lot more of this type of thing all over these United States. As I have said many times, it’s not that I am against drones in all capacities; however, we must be vigilant about how these things are used and must have serious safeguards in place to protect civil liberties. Kudos to the Rutherford Institute for leading the charge here.
From US News:
Charlottesville, Va., has become the first city in the United States to formally pass an anti-drone resolution.
Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano joined Studio B to discuss Gen. David Petraeus’ resignation as CIA Director and pointedly asked, “What were FBI agents doing monitoring the secret emails of the director of the CIA? And, how is it the CIA didn’t know about it?”
According to Napolitano, in order for the FBI to be reading Petraeus’ emails, they would either need a search warrant from a federal judge or they’d have to write their own search warrant under the Patriot Act providing sufficient reason to believe the general was involved in terrorist activities. The only other way that they could have been monitoring his emails is by hacking into his computer, which would be a crime.
Napolitano argued, “General Petraeus just because he’s an adulterer doesn’t lose his constitutional rights. And he has the right to be protected from an unwarranted, unjustified investigation by the FBI or anyone.”
In another blow to human rights, freedom, the law, and morality, the 7th Circuit Court has exonerated Donald Rumsfeld from prosecution for allegations of being a primary architect of U.S. torture policy.
At issue are two Americans, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, who worked for a private Iraqi security firm named Shield Group Security. Courthouse News reports the harrowing experience the two men encountered after attempting to blow the whistle to the U.S. government about their employer potentially being involved in illegal arms trades and bribery: Continue reading »
Of all the hollow and uninspired elections that this country has suffered through over the past several decades, one might think that at some point long ago the American public would have finally struck a plateau of disenfranchisement; that we could sink no further into despondency, that there is a saturation limit to the corruption of our voting process. Unfortunately, there has been no such luck. I have to say that in all honesty I have never seen more people gut jumbled and disgusted with our electoral system than I have in 2012. Sure, there is still a hyper-gullible segment of the populous that continues to play the game, but even those idiots are beginning to admit that the choices offered are dismal at best, catastrophic at worst. The fog of the false Left/Right paradigm is starting to lift, and all that lay in its wake is a hoard of lost wide-eyed flabbergasted followers without a coattail or a talking point to cling to. Sudanese refugees have a better chance of survival than these people do…
Even in the more obvious of fraudulent past elections there was at least an attempt by the establishment to present a pageant of conflicting ideologies (George W. Bush vs. John Kerry comes to mind). There has always been the Democrat who pretends to be anti-war, or the Republican who pretends to be small government, or the Democrat who pretends to defend our right to privacy, and the Republican who pretends to be pro-2nd Amendment. But in 2012, even the theater of rhetoric has disappeared. Both primary party candidates seem to be sharing the same intestinal tract and the same teleprompter, and now, the average American is asking a new set of questions. They do not wonder how these men will change things for the better. Not at all. Instead, they wonder which one will do LESS DAMAGE while in office. This is the terrible reality we have come to understand in our society today. It is a sad awakening, but a necessary one.
As you read this now, the new President of the United States is being “chosen” or has been chosen. Whoever the “winner” happens to be is ultimately irrelevant. They do not count. They are mascots. Middle management cronies running through the motions to distract the masses while enacting the policies of their superiors. They are fry cooks serving greasy overpriced democracy with no real sustenance. What does matter, though, is what comes next. I’m sorry to say that the idea that one man will do less damage than the other is a naïve sentiment. Democrat? Republican? Obama? Romney? The crimes and calamities wrought will be exactly the same. Take a look into my crystal ball and see the future. Here is how the winner will destroy America… Continue reading »
Birthmarks, be damned: the FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has reached a milestone in the development of their Next Generation Identification (NGI) program and is now implementing the intelligence database in unidentified locales across the country, New Scientist reports in an article this week. The FBI first outlined the project back in 2005, explaining to the Justice Department in an August 2006 document (.pdf) that their new system will eventually serve as an upgrade to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America .
“The NGI Program is a compilation of initiatives that will either improve or expand existing biometric identification services,” its administrator explained to the Department of Justice at the time, adding that the project, “will accommodate increased information processing and sharing demands in support of anti-terrorism.”
“The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.”
The agency insists, “As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners.” In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids’ stuff.
The federal government may spy on Americans’ communications without warrants and without fear of being sued, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a decision reversing the first and only case that successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s once-secret Terrorist Surveillance Program.
“This case effectively brings to an end the plaintiffs’ ongoing attempts to hold the executive branch responsible for intercepting telephone conversations without judicial authorization,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote. (.pdf)
Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, “The Police State” Conspiracy”
Season 2, Episode 4
It’s been said the government has a plan to declare martial law and round up millions of United State citizens into concentration camps. Jesse may have found a conspiracy in plain sight as he investigates the proliferation of law enforcement Fusion Centers around the country. And they may be connected to hundreds of detention centers ready to accept prisoners at the stroke of a Presidential pen. TV-PG-L
Attacking the TSA for its privacy-invasive screening procedures has become a favorite activity for many journalists, especially Matt Drudge. TSA horror stories are often featured prominently on The Drudge Report and he has taken to calling Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (of which the TSA is a part) “Big Sis.”
Napolitano, who doesn’t think Drudge “means [the nickname] kindly” said at a recent Politico event that Drudge is wrong in describing DHS programs as Orwellian and that “the privacy impact of new airport screening technology and similar programs are thoroughly vetted before they are implemented,” in Josh Gerstein’s words.
“We want to be conscious of civil liberties and civil rights protections—and we are,” Napolitano said, as reported by Politico.
On the same day as this piece came out, TechDirt reports on a passenger who would likely disagree with the Secretary. After a particularly aggressive patdown in March that might be better termed a feel-up, advice blogger Amy Alkon graphically described how she sobbed loudly while a TSA agent put her hands “into” her — four times. She screamed “You raped me” after the LAX patdown and took the agent’s name with plans to file charges of sexual assault. Those plans fell through after consulting an attorney, but she did blog about it and included the agent’s name, thereby inflicting her own assault — on the agent’s Google search results.
The TSA agent then hired a lawyer who contacted Alkon asking her to remove the post, threatening her with a defamation lawsuit, and asking for a settlement of $500,000. “Rape is a very serious charge,” writes lawyer Vicki Roberts on Thedala Magee’s behalf. She also says that Alkon, on a return trip to the airport in May called her client “a bad person” who had “sexually molested” her.
Free speech lawyer Marc Randazza has stepped in to assert Alkon’s right to post about her patdown experience, and to defend both her definition of the patdown as rape and, regardless of that, her right to rhetorical hyperbole. Techdirt has a copy of the letter Randazza drafted in response to the defamation threat.
“After [the agent Thedala] Magee’s assault on Ms. Alkon’s vagina and dignity, Ms. Alkon exercised her First Amendment right to recount this incident to others in person and through her blog,” writes Randazza. “This was not only her right — it was her responsibility.”
BEIJING (Reuters) – China wants to cement in law police powers to hold dissidents and other suspects of state security crimes in secret locations without telling their families, under draft legislation released on Tuesday that has been decried by rights advocates.
The critics said the proposed amendments to China’s Criminal Procedure Code could embolden authorities to go further with the kind of shadowy detentions that swept up human rights lawyers, veteran protesters and the prominent artist-dissident, Ai Weiwei, earlier this year.
“If this was already law, then people like me, Ai Weiwei and many others could have been detained with even fewer problems and obstacles and with a firmer legal basis,” said Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer in Beijing.
Jiang was detained for two months without any contact with his family earlier this year, when the government cracked down on dissent over fears that unrest in the Arab world could spill into China.
“This would be a big step backwards, but I wouldn’t discount the strong possibility of it becoming law,” added Jiang. “More people would face the risk of being disappeared.”