EFF Outlines Three Illusory “Investigations” Of The NSA Spying That Will Never Succeed

This article, written by policy analyst Mark M. Jaycox, was originally published on August 23, 2013 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Since the revelations of confirmed National Security Agency spying in June, three different “investigations” have been announced. One by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), another by the Director of National Intelligence, Gen. James Clapper, and the third by the Senate Intelligence Committee, formally called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

All three investigations are insufficient, because they are unable to find out the full details needed to stop the government’s abuse of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The PCLOB can only request—not require—documents from the NSA and must rely on its goodwill, while the investigation led by Gen. Clapper is led by a man who not only lied to Congress, but also oversees the spying. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which was originally designed to effectively oversee the intelligence community—has failed time and time again. What’s needed is a new, independent, Congressional committee to fully delve into the spying.

The PCLOB: Powerless to Obtain Documents

The PCLOB was created after a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to ensure civil liberties and privacy were included in the government’s surveillance and spying policies and practices.

But it languished. From 2008 until May of this year, the board was without a Chair and unable to hire staff or perform any work. It was only after the June revelations that the President asked the board to begin an investigation into the unconstituional NSA spying. Yet even with the full board constituted, it is unable to fulfill its mission as it has no choice but to base its analysis on a steady diet of carefully crafted statements from the intelligence community.

As we explained, the board must rely on the goodwill of the NSA’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, and Gen. Clapper—two men who have repeatedly said the NSA doesn’t collect information on Americans.

In order to conduct a full investigation, the PCLOB will need access to all relevant NSA, FBI, and DOJ files. But the PCLOB is unable to compel testimony or documents because Congress did not give it the same powers as a Congressional committee or independent agency. This is a major problem. If the NSA won’t hand over documents to Congress, then it will certainly not give them to the PCLOB.

The Clapper Investigation: Overseen by a Man Accused of Lying to Congress

The second investigation was announced by President Obama in a Friday afternoon news conference. The President called for the creation of an “independent” task force with “outside experts” to make sure “there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used.” Less than two days later, the White House followed up with a press release announcing the task force would be led by Gen. Clapper and would also report to him. What’s even worse: the task force was not tasked with looking at any abuse. It was told to focus on how to “protect our national security and advance our foreign policy.” And just this week, ABC News reported the task force will be full of thorough Washington insiders–not “outside experts.” For instance, one has advocated the Department of Homeland Security be allowed to scan all Internet traffic going in and out of the US. And another, while a noted legal scholar on regulatory issues, has written a paper about government campaigns to infiltrate online groups and activists. In one good act, the White House selected Peter Swire to be on the task force. Swire is a professor at Georgia Tech and has served as the White House’s first ever Chief Privacy Officer. Recently, he signed an amicus brief in a case against the NSA spying by the Electronic Privacy Information Center arguing that the NSA’s telephony metadata program is illegal under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Despite this, and at the end of a day, a task force led by General Clapper full of insiders,—and not directed to look at the extensive abuse—will never get at the bottom of the unconstitutional spying.

The Senate Intelligence Committee Has Already Failed

The last “investigation” occurring is a “review” led by the Senate Intelligence Committee overseeing the intelligence community. But time and time again the committee has failed at providing any semblance of oversight. First, the chair and ranking member of the committee, Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Saxby Chambliss (GA), respectively, are stalwart defenders of the NSA and its spying activities. They have both justified the spying, brushed aside any complaints, and denied any ideas of abuse by the NSA.

Besides defending the intelligence community, the committee leadership have utterly failed in oversight—the reason why the Senate Intelligence Committee was originally created by the Church Committee. As was revealed last week, Senator Feinstein was not shown or even told about the thousands of violations of the spying programs in NSA audits of the programs. This is in direct contradiction to her statements louting the “robust” oversight of the Intelligence Committee. Lastly, the committee is prone to secrets and hiding behind closed doors: this year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has met publicly only twice. What’s clear is that the Intelligence Committee has been unable to carry out its oversight role and fresh eyes are needed to protect the American people from the abuses of the NSA.

A New Church Committee

All three of these investigations are destined to fail. What’s needed is a new, special, investigatory committee to look into the abuses of by the NSA, its use of spying powers, its legal justifications, and why the intelligence committees were unable to rein in the spying. In short, we need a contemporary Church Committee. It’s time for Congress to reassert its oversight capacity. The American public must be provided more information about the NSA’s unconstitutional actions and the NSA must be held accountable. Tell your Congressmen now to join the effort.

‘A Lot More’ Needs Doing On Racial Equality, Poll Finds

WASHINGTON (UPI) — About half of Americans say not enough progress has been made toward racial equality, a poll by the Pew Research Center found.

The poll, conducted Aug. 1-11, indicated while 45 percent of respondents said they think a lot of progress toward racial equality had been made, a combined 51 percent said “some” or “little to no” progress had been made, the Pew Research Center said Thursday.

When asked how much work still needed to be done to reach racial equality, 49 percent of respondents said “a lot more” while 16 percent said a little or none and 31 percent said some.

Most poll respondents said racial and ethnic groups get along either “very well” or “pretty well.”

Pew surveyed 2,231 adults living in the continental United States. The poll has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

President Interrupts High School Soccer Practice

TULLY, N.Y., (UPI) —  Practice hub-bub was a bit more hectic Friday for soccer teams at Tully Central High school in Tully, N.Y, when President Obama stopped by.

“I was driving by and I thought, you know, I need to kick around a ball a little bit,” Obama told the girls’ team after he emerged from his bus.

Obama was on the second day of his two-day bus tour of New York and Pennsylvania to tout his new plan to make a college education more affordable for more students.

“Part of what I’m doing is I’m traveling around the area talking about college, making sure that young people can pay for it,” Obama told the girls. “I’m assuming everybody here’s gonna want to go to college? So part of what we want to do is make sure that whatever school you decide to go to that you can afford to do it, get grants, loans, and don’t end up having too much debt.”

The president then turned to the smallest girl on the team, saying, “You don’t look like a junior.”

One of the other girls said she was the team manager.

The coach urged the girl to tell Obama what she’d said earlier: Meeting the president was on her bucket list.

“How old are you?” Obama asked.

Nine years old, she replied.

“Here’s the general rule: When you’re 9, you don’t need a bucket list,” Obama said. “When you get to be 52 [his age] then you might start wanting to draw one up. But you’ve got a lot of stuff going on ahead of you.”

Military Panel Finds Hasan Guilty Of Murder In Fort Hood Shooting

FORT HOOD, Texas, (UPI) —  A military jury Friday convicted Army Maj. Nidal Hasan of premeditated murder and premeditated attempted murder in the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas, massacre.

The jury of 13 officers found Hasan guilty during the second day of deliberations.

Hasan was found guilty of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Nov. 5, 2009, rampage, making him eligible for the death penalty, CNN reported.

Before the verdict Col. Tara Osborn, the military judge, ordered those in the courtroom to remain calm, CNN said.

The panel ended deliberations Thursday after asking the presiding judge two questions. They requested a read-back of testimony from Mark Todd, a police officer who responded to the shootings, and asked to see a map of buildings at Fort Hood, the network said.

Hasan, who acted as his own attorney but did not offer a defense, was left paralyzed from the waist down when wounded during the attack.

Hasan also declined to make a statement during closing arguments.

Prosecutors told the panel the evidence showed Hasan intended to kill as many soldiers as possible as part of a jihadist attack.

“There is no doubt, as I said in the beginning, the accused is the shooter,” Col. Steven Henricks told the panel.

“The only question for you is … is this a premeditated design to kill?”

Osborn barred Hasan from putting on the defense he wanted — that he acted to prevent more killing in an illegal war in Afghanistan.

Man Stands On Philadelphia Street To Beg For Jobs

PHILADELPHIA, (UPI) —  A man who stands on a Philadelphia financial district street wearing a suit and holding a job-wanted sign says he’s had six job interviews on the sidewalk.

Mark Mercer, 54, said he started standing on the street corner with his sign reading, “I Don’t Want Your Change. I NEED A JOB” in June, and has handed out more than 100 resumes, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Thursday.

Mercer said he was fired from his customer service job in 2011 for refusing to yell at a technician and he lost his job at a car dealership last winter because of his impaired hearing.

Mercer, who wears his only black suit while standing on the street, said he and his two St. Bernard dogs, Stanley and Oliver, are now sleeping in his 1994 Ford Tempo.

However, Mercer said he is optimistic about the future.

“My life is in God’s hands,” he said. “I’m going to be fine. I believe something good is going to happen.”

Woman Settles $105,000 Parking Ticket Bill

CHICAGO, (UPI) —  A Chicago woman who racked up more than $105,000 in parking ticket fines has reached a settlement with the city, officials said.

Jennifer Fitzgerald’s lawsuit against the city alleged her ex-boyfriend registered the offending vehicle in her name without permission before abandoning it at an O’Hare International Airport parking lot, where it received 678 parking tickets in two years, WBBM-AM, Chicago, reported Thursday.

Fitzgerald’s attorney said the car was not towed for 2 1/2 years and should have been removed far earlier.

A judge tossed out Fitzgerald’s lawsuit in April and urged the two sides to reach a settlement.

Fitzgerald has now agreed to pay a reduced bill of $4,470, officials said.

Fitzgerald’s suspended driver’s license will be returned to her when she pays off the fine. Her ex-boyfriend has agreed to contribute $1,600 toward the sum.

Kentucky Theater Owner Won’t Show ‘The Butler’ With Jane Fonda

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky., (UPI) —  A Kentucky movie theater owner who trained pilots during the Vietnam War says he will not show “The Butler” because Jane Fonda plays Nancy Reagan.

Ike Boutwell owns the two movie theaters in Hardin County. He said Thursday he considers Fonda a traitor for her anti-war activities and especially her 1972 visit to Hanoi, WDRB-TV, Louisville, reports.

“Jane Fonda in my opinion is a treasonist person,” Boutwell said. “Jane Fonda had a wonderful opportunity to show the world how horrible our prisoners were being treated, yet she decided to call them baby killers and support our enemy.”

“The Butler” stars Forest Whitaker as a longtime White House butler with Oprah Winfrey as his wife and a bevy of well-known actors as various presidents and their wives. Fonda is paired with Alan Rickman, best-known as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies, who plays Ronald Reagan.

Boutwell said the response was generally positive in 2005 when he refused to show Fonda’s “Monster-in-Law.” He is even angrier about “The Butler” because of Fonda’s part.

“That is a slap in the face,” Boutwell said. “For a treasonous person to play a patriotic person, it is just terrible.”

Boutwell served in the Korean War and trained pilots in Vietnam.

‘Dead’ Woman Turns Up Alive Almost Two Weeks After Funeral

PHILADELPHIA, (UPI) —  A body found on a Philadelphia street was wrongly identified as a woman who had been reported missing but who has since turned up alive, officials said.

Sharolyn Jackson’s family mourned her at a funeral Aug. 3, KYW-TV in Philadelphia reported. Then last week, they learned the 50-year-old woman was at a psychiatric facility in the city.

Officials do not know whose body was interred at Colonial Memorial Park in Trenton, N.J. They plan to apply for an exhumation order.

A Philadelphia Health Department official said the body, found July 20, was released for burial after a social worker and Jackson’s son identified her. But Jackson’s father told KYW his grandson said he was given a black-and-white photo for the identification.

All that is known of the unidentified woman is that she died of natural causes.

Impeachment Chatter; Gore Don’t Need A Weatherman; NM Court Says Businesses Can’t Choose Their Customers; Greenwald’s Government Persecution Starts; Black Dahlia Solved? – TGIF Friday Morning News Roundup 8-23-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) joined with a handful of other Republican politicians Wednesday, warning the President that his impeachment could be near. According to Tulsa World, at a convention in Muskogee, Okla., Coburn said Wednesday that the president was “getting perilously close” to the Constitutional standard for impeachment. He also called the Obama administration lawless and incompetent, the news site reported, although he acknowledged the president as a “personal friend.” Source: POLITICO…

 

  • A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) expert says Al Gore goofed during his widely circulated Washington Post interview on global warming. Gore, noting stronger storms fueled by climate change, told the paper “the hurricane scale used to be 1-5, and now they’re adding a 6.” But in fact, there’s no new scale, the Union of Concerned Scientists representative said on Thursday. Source: The Hill…

 

  • The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that, by refusing to photograph a gay wedding, a photography studio violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA). Source: National Review… 

 

  • British counter-terrorism police say they have opened a criminal inquiry against David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald. The two men have been instrumental in publishing and investigating the data released by the fugitive former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Source: Euronews…

 

  • A former LAPD homicide detective unveiled new evidence Thursday that he says reveals it was his own father who killed the Black Dahlia. George Hodel, a doctor, was booked in 1949 for incest and child molestation. He was also a prime suspect for the 1947 never-solved Black Dahlia murder. Authorities long believed someone with medical knowledge committed the gruesome torture and slaying. Elizabeth Short, an aspiring actress, was cut in half with medical precision in January 1947. Source: CBS Los Angeles…   

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

 

Nasty Spying Agency Lacks Sense (And Sense Of Humor)

The Nasty Spying Agency, aka the National Security Agency, has ordered an online retailer peddling a NSA-parody T-shirt to cease and desist, citing copyright infringement.

Online freedom-product marketer Libertymaniacs.com designed a shirt with a modified NSA logo with the bottom words “United States of America” replaced by “Peeping While You’re Sleeping.” Beneath the logo was printed the words, “The NSA The only part of government that actually listens.”

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Nasty Spying Agency spooks weren’t amused. So their lawyers, schooled in convincing judges to void the Constitution so they can illegally spy on Americans but clueless about public relations, crafted an ominous-sounding “cease and desist” letter and mailed it to Libertymaniac’s online sales site Zazzle.com. Zazzle caved and pulled it from its site, explaining:

Unfortunately, it appears that your product, The NSA, contains content that is in conflict with one or more of our acceptable content guidelines. We will be removing this product from the Zazzle Marketplace shortly.

Policy Notes: Design contains an image or text that may infringe on intellectual property rights. We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and we will be removing your product from Zazzle’s Marketplace due to infringement claims.

As the T-shirt is clearly a parody it is not a copyright infringement and is free speech protected under the 1st Amendment, according to the American Bar Association. In Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, “parody is the ‘use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works.’  Id.  at 580. Like other forms of comment or criticism, parody can provide social benefit, ‘by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one.’  Id. In other words, parodies can be considered ‘transformative’ works, as opposed to merely ‘superseding’ works. Since  transformative works ‘lie at the heart  of the fair use doctrine’s guarantee of  breathing space within the confines of copyright,’ the more transformative the  parody, the less will be the importance of other § 107 factors that may weigh  against a finding of fair use.  Id. at 579.”

Libertymaniacs owner Dan McCall told journalist Ben Swann,“I tried to visually take the most obvious direction at pointing at them that I could. It was their logo. I just tried to adulterate it a little bit and put a few jabs in there and that will be it. So it wasn’t a huge design coup and it did the job basically.

“Well, on the positive side,” McCall said, “I could get the unenviable honorific of being ‘the 1st man to receive a cease and desist from the National Security Agency for telling a joke.”

McCall has proven undeterred by this egregious attack on free speech. He found another online sales site, Cafepress.com, to sell his NSA-parody shirts.

Before the NSA crackdown the NSA shirts would likely have passed along largely unnoticed in the 29 web pages of shirts McCall was selling. By bringing attention to it, criminal NSA lawyers have ensured McCall will see a spike in sales.

Get yours while they’re hot.

Hat tip: WND.com

Driver Sues For Towns To End Secrecy Surrounding Speed Camera Data; Private Contractor

The leader of a motorist advocacy group in Maryland is suing two municipalities for failing to provide information about how they authorized a speed limit change on a local road, and then hired a private company to operate a speed camera and collect ticket revenue from drivers.

“An agency which places cameras on every street corner shouldn’t be allowed to break the law in order to keep secrets,” Ron Ely, the head of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, told automotive policy website TheNewspaper. “However, this really isn’t about speed cameras. If local governments can conceal potentially embarrassing information from the public on this issue, then what else will they be allowed to hide?”

Ely filed the lawsuit in Prince George’s County, Md. Circuit Court last week, asking the court only to declare that the speed cam data falls within the realm of municipal documents that must be kept on file as a matter of public record, as established by the Maryland Public Information Act. The suit also seeks a $1,000 fine for Brentwood officials who have so far stonewalled Ely’s original request, which originally was filed in October of 2010.

From the report:

The town [of Brentwood] eventually responded in June 2012, demanding that Ely pay a schedule of fees for the involvement of various town employees, including $200 an hour for the town attorney. The total cost to access the documents was left open-ended. Ely considered this response a constructive denial of his request.

…In Morningside, Ely is not seeking obscure or difficult to obtain records. Instead, he wants the calibration certificates and daily setup logs that must be “kept on file” under the state’s speed camera authorization statute. Already, two localities have been caught violating state law in allowing a private company to operate cameras without documenting the calibrations, as required.

Ely filed the request on June 5, but it failed to respond within thirty days, as required under the public records statute. After calling the town, Ely finally received an email from the town attorney on July 25 neither granting nor denying the request.

“Please be advised that the town of Morningside is not the speed monitoring system operator as that term is defined in the Maryland Annotated Code, and therefore, the town of Morningside does not maintain the records and documents pursuant to your request,” Morningside town attorney Todd K. Pounds wrote on August 5.

What Pounds means by that last statement is that the town of Morningside has handed enforcement, along with revenue collections, over to a private company that operates the speed camera. Brekford, the company that installs and maintains the equipment, gets 40 percent of every speeding ticket fine.

 

Boy, Did I Get That One Wrong

In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I have never had readers jump all over me like they did last week. Some of them were even polite about it! Here are just a few of the nearly 500 comments I received:

“The first thing I did after I read the article … checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day,” said Average _Joe56. “Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t.”

GQ4U had the same reaction: “An anti-liberty article in Personal Liberty Digest? Am I on Candid Camera?”

TheOriginalDaveH, one of our most frequent posters, asked, “What? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Is Chip really arguing against the 4th Amendment?”

GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMe Death (don’t you love his pen name?) was more emphatic: “Chip, have you lost your ever-loving MIND????? Seriously, you claim to be a conservative and you think stop-and-frisk is okay????? What the heck, dude, that is just wrong.”

Karolyn, another frequent correspondent, summed up her disappointment in just 10 words: “So now Chip is an advocate for the police state!”

A lot of folks were less kind than these examples. The cause of their ire was my defense of the stop-and-frisk program by the cops in New York City and my criticism of a Federal judge who found much of it unConstitutional.

You know what? I was wrong. My readers, bless their libertarian sentiments and uncompromising principles, are right.

I got blinded by two things. The first was the distorted logic the judge in this case exhibited. The second was the undisputed fact that major crime in New York City has plummeted.

Here’s one example of the kind of tortured thinking U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin showed in her ruling. She said that the police were justified in stopping and questioning David Floyd, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. And it was even okay when they searched the pockets of his outer garments.

But they went too far, she ruled, when they also frisked his pants pockets. Searching his jacket was okay, but not his pants? Give me a break.

So let’s go back to the basics: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Yes, in answer to one reader’s rhetorical question, I have heard of them. In fact, I keep a well-thumbed copy of both in my top desk drawer.)

Here’s what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s as clear as our Founding Fathers could make it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear enough to keep the courts from permitting some incredible abuses. So today, 80-year-old grandmothers can be groped at an airport in the name of security. The NSA can collect information on the emails and phone calls of virtually every American in the name of combating terrorism. And the police can stop, question and frisk anyone they want in the name of fighting crime. All they need to do is claim to have reasonable grounds for their suspicions. They don’t even have to believe that a crime has been permitted by the suspect – merely that some sort of criminal behavior may be going to take place.

All of this is perfectly okay with the Federal courts, which have repeatedly sided with the authorities in permitting stop-and-frisk programs. Even Judge Scheindlin, whose ruling led to last Friday’s column, found the basic premise of stop-and-frisk to be acceptable.

But the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled in favor of many things that we Constitutionalists know are flat-out wrong. For most of the past century, the Federal government has acted as though the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution simply don’t exist. Time after time, the Supreme Court has supported massive expansion of Federal programs and power, no matter how much they have to twist and distort the Constitution to allow it.

And let’s not even get into the 2nd Amendment, which promises all of us that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Of course it is infringed all of the time. And nowhere are there more restrictions on our Constitutional right to bear arms than in New York City.

The most recent example of the Supreme Court’s tortuous logic in justifying yet another expansion of Federal power is when Chief Justice John Roberts said that the abomination known as Obamacare is Constitutional because it is a tax. So what if President Barack Obama and it supporters in Congress repeatedly denied that this was the case?

What about the claim that stop-and-frisk helps reduce crime? That’s the argument favored by its supporters, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (As one critic pointed out, “The first clue is that if you agree with Bloomberg on ANYTHING, you must immediately check yourself. The next thing you know, you’ll be agreeing with [Jesse] Jackson and [Al] Sharpton.” Ain’t gonna happen, medbob.)

Best-selling author Ann Coulter is one of many conservative commentators who support stop-and-frisk programs. In her syndicated column, “Stop and Frisk Policies Are Saving Lives,” she said that murders in the Big Apple were averaging about 2,000 a year when Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994. There were 714 – a decline of almost two-thirds – by the time he left office seven years later. And the number of murders has continued to fall, dropping to 419 murders last year.

That’s a big improvement. So it should come as no surprise that many of the citizens of New York City approve of stop-and-frisk. They think it makes them safer. And it probably does – at least from hoodlums and street criminals.

But remember what Benjamin Franklin, that very wise Founding Father, said. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

How many Americans are willing to exchange some essential liberty for a little temporary safety? Or to ask it another way, how many will exchange much of their independence for security? I’m afraid the answer is a whole bunch of them.

But not among the readers of Personal Liberty Digest™. You are a proud, feisty and independent crowd, and I’m grateful for it… and for you.

So thank you, DavidForward, for saying, “It takes an honest man (or woman) to admit they may have made a mistake and reevaluate their position. Congratulations on proving you are such [an] individual! Personal integrity and common sense are sorely missed in our devolving police state; keep up the good work, honest thoughts, and evaluations.”

Thanks, too, to TheOriginalDave, who wrote, “Wow. I’m impressed. Not many people will own up to their errors. Thanks, Chip.”

And to frequent commentator Vicki, who wrote, “Thank you, Chip. We were wondering ‘cause you have always been a staunch supporter of individual liberty for all.”

I still am and always will be, Vicki. But I’ve got to admit, I blew it this time. Thanks to everyone who made sure I didn’t get away with it.

Next week we’ll be back taking aim at the enemies of liberty. I hope you’ll join us.

Until then, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

 

Commemoration Of A Canard

“I have directed Secretary Connelly to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold.” — Richard M. Nixon, Aug. 15, 1971

In the spirit of commemoration, we cannot allow the 42nd anniversary of Nixon’s speech go without comment. Addressing the Nation to “outline a new economic policy,” he failed to disappoint: Wage and price controls were instituted, the automobile industry was browbeaten into reducing prices and a 10 percent tariff was assessed on all imports. All this occurred before Nixon announced his grandest exploit: the termination of U.S. commitments to exchange gold for dollars with foreign governments.

nixon

Previously, the Federal Reserve’s ability to issue new money was limited by the threat of depleting the government’s gold reserves. Printing too many dollars led foreign governments to start favoring gold over holding depreciating U.S. dollars. Nixon’s actions (which proved not to be temporary) ended the last vestige of a gold standard, erased all limits on the unchecked printing of money and effectively ended the world’s currency system (known as Bretton Woods) in place since World War II.

Whether Nixon was sincere in his belief that these actions would truly, to use his terms, “nurture and stimulate” the economy or if, perchance, he knew better and deceived the American people, we have no comment. We reserve our commentary not to purpose, but to effect.

And the effect was an unmitigated disaster. Nixon promised Americans that any talk of inflation with an unconstrained Federal Reserve was a “bugaboo” and that his actions would actually “stabilize the dollar.” (If you wish to listen to Nixon in his own words, the latter part of his speech can be viewed here.) According to him, the risk of Americans paying higher prices was extremely limited:

If you want to buy a foreign car or take a trip abroad, market conditions may cause your dollar to buy slightly less. But if you are among the overwhelming majority of Americans who buy American-made products in America, your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today.

Despite these assurances, inflation became a hallmark of the 1970s as the unimpeded Federal Reserve zealously increased the money supply. The year 1973 experienced inflation of 9 percent, 1974 brought 12 percent, and the decade was closed out with a peak inflation rate of 14 percent in 1979. Since the date of Nixon’s speech, the dollar has lost 83 percent of its value. One dollar then is worth 17 cents today. What will it be worth tomorrow?

We cannot say with certainty, for while the creation of money causes inflation, the effect does not correspond fully in magnitude. Nor is it immediate. In fact, the lag between the expansion of the money supply and the onset of inflation could be years. If so, what expectations are reasonable based upon the Federal Reserve’s actions since 2008? The scary answer can be found in this chart depicting U.S. monetary growth.

[Editor’s Note: If inflation’s effects were immediate, people would catch on pretty quickly and they wouldn’t stand for it. The average American is a little too dim on real economics to understand why creating new money from nothing is a horrible idea, and the political class is far too evil not to exploit this ignorance so they can rip off dollar holders. The dollar will continue on its accelerated slide to zero while gold will go up. So keep trading those Federal Reserve Notes for gold, but be sure to internationalize your gold holdings. Click here to learn more about how TDV can help.]

To tweak a famous quote by Winston Churchill, wiping away the last traces of the gold standard was not a new beginning for U.S. monetary policy. It was not even the end of the beginning. But it was, perhaps, the beginning of the end.

-Christopher P. Casey

Christopher P. Casey, CFA®, CPA is a Managing Director at WindRock Wealth Management (www.windrockwealth.com).  Using Austrian economic theory, Mr. Casey advises wealthy individuals on their investment portfolios to maximize their returns and minimize risk in today’s world of significant government intervention.  Mr. Casey can be reached at 312-650-9602 or at chris.casey@windrockwealth.com.

House Democrats Call For Congressional Action To Stop NSA

House Democrats are demanding that the government’s ability to spy on American citizens be immediately throttled in the wake of ongoing reports of the National Security Agency’s unConstitutional collection of thousands of electronic communications between innocent Americans.

Representatives Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), all members of the House Judiciary Committee, say there is compelling evidence that the executive branch is guilty of vast abuses of the surveillance power granted in the name of fighting terror.

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“We are gravely concerned with recent revelations of the government’s misuse of its surveillance authorities. Earlier this week, we learned of an internal review that shows the NSA routinely oversteps its own privacy rules,” the trio said in a statement. “Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government has the capability to reach nearly three-quarters of all internet traffic in the United States.  Just moments ago, the government declassified court documents that show the NSA collected Americans’ electronic communication with no connection to terrorism—and did not learn of the problem for nearly three years.  These revelations, and others over the past weeks, demand that we act immediately.”

The lawmakers are calling on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to re-evaluate the government’s ability to spy on Americans.

“Although we have repeatedly been assured that the government’s surveillance programs are subject to robust internal and external oversight, the burden remains on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to ensure that government acts in a manner that is consistent with our civil liberties,” the statement continued.

Specifically, the Democrats want Congress to take up legislation (H.R. 2399 a.k.a. “LIBERT-E Act”) to rein in the Administration’s spying powers granted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. They also want the White House to provide Congress with more information about the decisions passed down by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees NSA surveillance.

“Meaningful Congressional oversight of these matters also depends on reporting by the executive branch. We must take appropriate legislative action to ensure that the government may not take advantage of existing authorities,” the lawmakers said.

Nadler, Conyers and Scott also said that that would like to see more NSA oversight from outside the intelligence community.

“Given recent disclosures, we also believe it is imperative that we enact legislation to declassify certain reports, introduce a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and change the manner in which FISC judges are selected,” said the statement.

This week, Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced that he will be introducing more legislation to take away some of the NSA’s surveillance powers because he believed that many lawmakers regret not supporting his narrowly defeated effort to do so last month. The lawmaker introduced several anti-NSA amendments in July, such as one to Defense Appropriations Bill that would have ended bulk phone record collection, but his proposals were defeated each time.

The onslaught of new damning headlines about the NSA, however, appears to have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle clamoring to limit the government’s surveillance power.

Obama’s Buffalo Stance On New College Rating Scheme: It’s About Opportunity, Not Academics

President Barack Obama announced a plan Thursday to deploy a program that rewards or punishes American colleges and universities based on how they’re rated under a new Federal assessment system his Administration is devising.

The ambitious plan, which is founded on metrics that will rate colleges based not on academic merit but on the degree to which they extend financial incentives to needy applicants, is supposed to go online in time for the start of the 2015-2016 academic year. The President called on Congress to support him in crafting legislation to implement his plan, which will require tying Federal student aid to colleges’ compliance under the new rating scheme.

The new plan will monitor graduation rates, postgraduate employment, and admissions practices that ensure the poor can get into school and receive a degree – or, as the President said, “how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants.”

Critics are already warning that the scheme appears to reward colleges that intentionally weight their admissions processes toward low-income students, regardless of their academic potential, while punishing those that selectively admit students based chiefly on their capacity to succeed at rigorous academic work.

From Obama’s speech, given Thursday at the University of Buffalo (H/T: ShallowNation):

My plan comes down to three main goals.

First, we are going to start rating colleges, not just by which college is the most selective, not just by which college is the most expensive, not by which college has the nicest facilities. You can get all that on the existing rating systems. What we want to do is rate them on who is offering the best value so that students and taxpayers get a better bang for their buck.

Number two, we’re going to jump start new competition between colleges, not just on the field or on the court, but in terms of innovation that encourages affordability and encourages student success and doesn’t sacrifice educational quality.

And the third is we are going to make sure if you have to take on debt to earn your college degree that you have ways to manage and afford it.

…I am directing Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, to lead an effort to develop a new rating system for America’s colleges before the 2015 college year. Right now, private rankings, like the U.S. News and World Report, puts out each year their rankings — and it encourages a lot of colleges to focus on ways to… “How do we game the numbers?” and you know it actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs. I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity. Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed? And on outcomes – on their value to students and parents.

So that means metrics like: how much debt does the average student leave with? How easy is it to pay off? How many students graduate on time? How well do those graduates do in the work force? Because the answers will help parents and students figure out how much value a college truly offers.

And our ratings will also measure how successful colleges are at enrolling and graduating students who are on Pell Grants. And, it will be my firm principle that our ratings have to be carefully designed to increase, not decrease, the opportunities for higher education for students who face economic or other disadvantages.

The President also said that State legislatures “are going to have to step up” to support their public universities.

“They can’t just keep cutting support for public colleges and universities. That’s just the truth. Colleges are not going to be able to just keep on increasing tuition year after year, and then passing it on to students and families and taxpayers. Our economy can’t afford the trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, much of which may not get repaid because students don’t have the capacity to pay it.”

If the State schools cooperate, while simultaneously accepting the new yoke of a Federal “opportunity” ratings metric, Obama promised to reward them.

“We are going to deliver on a promise we made last year, which is colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer funding go up,” he said. “And we’re also going to encourage states to follow the same principle.”

Motive And Intent Irrelevant: State Of Oregon Attacks 


(US~Observer) Linn County, Oregon — In 2007, when the stock market was going south on investors, registered investment adviser (RIA) Randy Gray and his partner, Scott Whitney, ran a successful business named ZurCrowner. Gray mainly handled investors, while Whitney conducted certified public accounting (CPA) for the partnership.

Whitney was also the CPA for Albany, Ore., general contractor Derek Dunmyer of Absolute General Contracting, Inc. (Absolute). Unbeknownst to Gray, Whitney was conducting business (loans, etc.) outside of ZurCrowner with Dunmyer and needed financial reprieve. Because of the miserable stock market performance, Gray knew several ZurCrowner clients wanted to diversify their portfolios.

In 2008, Whitney presented Gray with the idea of having ZurCrowner clients lend money to Dunmyer that would be collateralized with land Dunmyer owned. Absolute was in the middle of a huge development project; and as banking funds had dried up, Dunmyer promoted the idea he needed cash flow to continue building out the Somerset Meadows subdivision. Whitney and Dunmyer spent much time convincing Gray that the project would be profitable. They had to gain Gray’s trust and stamp of approval because ZurCrowner clients trusted Gray, since he was the partner handling the investment and customer side of the business.

Gray was told that Dunmyer had prior debt that needed to be cleared up as part of the business transaction. After many hours of calculating cash flow models and listening to Whitney, Dunmyer and others, Gray felt convinced the project could be successful – even in light of Dunmyer’s disclosed debt.

Whitney was to handle all the legalities of the loans. Whitney started by going to Albany attorney Cordell Post to form a company called MTC, Inc. and have a legal agreement drawn up between MTC, Inc. and Absolute to make sure that every business aspect was handled according to law. Post was also hired to examine the promissory notes and deed of trust to see that they were of the proper and legal form to protect the lenders.

During June and July 2008, Gray spoke to ZurCrowner clients about them lending money to Dunmyer so that Dunmyer and Absolute could complete the Somerset Meadows subdivision. The original plan was to use one half of the lent money toward Dunmyer’s land debt and creditors; the other half of the lent money was to develop the subdivision infrastructure and build homes to sell and repay the lenders. Nineteen people agreed to privately lend money through self-directed IRAs to Dunmyer and Absolute.

In August 2008, 19 lenders signed paperwork agreeing to lend money from their self-directed IRAs at 12 percent interest over five years. Some lenders chose to defer the interest until their loans came due, and other lenders needed monthly interest payments. One lender was Gray’s father. First Regional Bank (FRB) in California administered the self-directed IRAs. Each and every lender directed FRB to lend his money to Dunmyer and Absolute.

Dunmyer collateralized the loans totaling $3,345,500 with a trust deed and promissory note finalized by First American Title Company (FATCo) on “Phase 5 and 6” of the Somerset Meadows subdivision, and Dunmyer included his own personal residence as additional collateral valued at $4.4 million. Somerset Meadows subdivision sat next to a brand-new Greater Albany Public Schools site specifically placed by the district because of the 600 homes in the area and the potential increase of 600 new homes in the area. The city had platted more than 125 buildable lots in that portion of the Somerset Meadows subdivision once it was developed. In the summer of 2008, developed city lots were selling for $50,000, and new homes were selling rapidly for as much as $200,000 through Hayden Homes and Absolute.

Instead of using the lent money as he said he would, Dunmyer used some of the lent money to pay off undisclosed debt, leaving very little money from the loans to develop the Somerset Meadows subdivision and build homes. He redirected and kept money that he had promised to spend developing Somerset Meadows subdivision.

Gray — a highly ethical businessman, husband and father of six — was totally unaware that he was being scammed from day one. Gray didn’t know Dunmyer, but he thought he knew his trusted partner, Whitney. Gray had no idea that Dunmyer was a con artist who reportedly had a gambling problem, who wasted money on Rolex watches, who wasted money on numerous expensive vehicles and who had allegedly cheated car dealers, his employees, vendors, subcontractors and people who had lent him money.

Gray also had no clue that $200,000 described to him as a pay-off of Absolute’s debt was actually a pay-off of a loan owed by Whitney. Whitney did know this, but he conveniently failed to inform his business partner, Gray. According to witnesses, Gray was shocked to learn he had been defrauded by Dunmyer and his own partner, Whitney. Gray is actually a victim in this case and not a perpetrator.

Even after Dunmyer cheated Gray, Gray still believed he could help the lenders complete the Somerset Meadows subdivision and receive payments in full on their loans. Dunmyer disappeared, planning to simply file bankruptcy, Whitney decided he couldn’t do anything, and the honorable and ethical Gray worked his tail off day and night for two and a half years making interest payments to the lenders. He also became a contractor and started building homes in an effort to see that the lenders were made whole, until a grand jury indictment and his arrest occurred. A condition of release order from the State of Oregon prohibited Gray from making any contact with the lenders.

During the investigation, Oregon State investigator Ruth Johnson and her cohorts relentlessly questioned the 19 lenders. The investigators coached the lenders during questioning; they inflamed the lenders; they planted false ideas in the lenders’ minds. And the State of Oregon factually ruined any chance that the lenders would ever get the bulk of their money returned. In the end, after foreclosing on their loans and selling their collateral, the lenders received only pennies on their dollars.

On Aug. 18, 2011, just before the case went to the grand jury in Linn County and when the statute of limitations was just about to expire, special prosecutor Jason Weber presented Gray, Whitney and Dunmyer with a pre-indictment plea offer. The offer specifically sent to Gray threatened more than 28 years in prison if convicted at trial. The rubber-stamping grand jury subsequently indicted Gray and Whitney on one count of racketeering, 16 counts of aggregated theft and 16 counts of unregistered sale of securities. Dunmyer was indicted on only a single count of racketeering because of his acceptance of the State’s plea agreement.

Dunmyer signed a plea offer with the State on Aug. 22, 2011, testifying that at the time of the 2008 loans, Gray and Whitney had assumed control over Absolute General Contracting, implying Dunmyer didn’t have control over where the money went. Dunmyer absolutely lied to prosecutor Weber about this. Dunmyer is expecting to receive probation for his scam(s), and he is currently enjoying the good life by, believe it or not, selling real estate in Salem, Ore. Shockingly, his Oregon real estate broker’s license, scheduled to expire on Aug. 31, may be renewed by the Oregon Real Estate Agency. Whitney took a separate plea agreement, received three years of prison and is sitting in a prison cell.

Gray is fighting for his innocence, while supporting his wife and six children. The US~Observer fully intends to fight right alongside of this honest and ethical man.

–Edward Snook

 

Editor’s note: Gray is currently represented by Lake Oswego attorney James Leuenberger and he is being prosecuted by Oregon Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Wendel and Andrew Campbell. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is the responsible elected public official who is authorizing the prosecution of Gray. The US~Observer prompts the attorney general to have one of her staff take another look at this unjust prosecution. If Rosenblum is concerned with justice, she will find, as we have, that Gray had absolutely no intent whatsoever to commit a crime of any nature. We also prompt Rosenblum to tell the Oregon Real Estate Agency that Dunmyer has admitted he committed the crime of racketeering. We hope the Oregon Real Estate Agency will realize that it should not renew Dunmyer’s broker license.

Chomsky Laments Hopey, Changey Stuff; NSA Review To Be Carried Out By NSA Friends; Anti-Gun Crowd Mad At Starbucks; Zimmerman Acquittal Cost Public Nearly $1 Million; Al Gore Invents New Hurricane Category— Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 8-22-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

You Know Things Are Bad When Chomsky Says Palin Was Right

In a recent interview with Democracy Now, influential polemicist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky said Sarah Palin was right about Barack Obama: There was no substance to his Presidential campaign. Read More… 

Obama Administration Selects Washington Insiders For NSA Review

On Thursday, ABC News revealed some of the names of the people chosen for a NSA review panel by White House officials. Unsurprisingly, those charged with reviewing the NSA’s practices aren’t exactly outsiders. Read More… 

Guess Who The Left Hates Now? Starbucks

Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America – the same group that ran a series of irresponsible 2nd Amendment attack ads featuring photos combining children, classrooms and firearms earlier this year – is organizing a Nationwide boycott of everyone’s favorite coffee stop this Saturday. Read More… 

AlGore: ‘They’ Are Adding A Category Six For Climate Change-Enraged Mega ‘Canes

Former Vice President and Earth Defender Al Gore already invented the Internet. Now he’s inventing a whole new category of megastorm. Gore told The Washington Post Wednesday that “they” – whoever they are – are about to institute a sixth category to accommodate the rogue, steroidal class of apocalyptic hurricanes coming in the future. Read More… 

Zimmerman Trial Costs Public $902,000

The five-week trial of George Zimmerman that ended in his acquittal in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin cost the public $902,000, officials said. Read More… 

AlGore: ‘They’ Are Adding A Category Six For Climate Change-Enraged Mega ‘Canes

Former Vice President and Earth Defender Al Gore already invented the Internet.

Now he’s inventing a whole new category of megastorm. Gore told The Washington Post Wednesday that “they” – whoever they are – are about to institute a sixth category to accommodate the rogue, steroidal class of apocalyptic hurricanes coming in the future to a shoreline near you.

Blame man-made global warming:

The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.

Eschatology is the enthralling religious preoccupation of the blame-mankind-for-the-apocalypse set, so Gore is simply hewing close to form. But, as the Post’s Jason Samenow notes, Gore’s climate change sermons have always borne an air of hyperbole.

“Generally, Gore’s characterization of the links between global warming and hurricane intensity is a bit fast and loose,” he wrote Thursday. “…[W]ith his penchant for overstatement, Gore will continue to be a divisive and less than credible voice in climate change discourse.”

Still, Samenow checked with the National Weather Service to be sure Gore’s “Category 6” prophecy had some basis in fact. But, like man-made climate change itself, the answer was disappointing.

“No, we’re not pursuing any such change,” responded NWS public affairs director Chris Vaccaro. “I’m also not sure who VP Gore means by ‘they.’ I’d also point out that the top rating, Category 5, has no ceiling: it includes hurricanes with top sustained winds of 157mph and higher.”

Talk about Inconvenient Truths.

You Know Things Are Bad When Chomsky Says Palin Was Right

“This was all part of that hope and change and transparency. Now, a year later, I gotta ask the supporters of all that, ‘How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?’ ”  –Sarah Palin 2010

In a recent interview with Democracy Now, influential polemicist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky  said Sarah Palin was right about Barack Obama: There was no substance to his Presidential campaign.

“I don’t usually admire Sarah Palin, but when she was making fun of this ‘hopey changey stuff,’ she was right; there was nothing there,” Chomsky said. “And it was understood by the people who run the political system, and so it’s no great secret that the US electoral system is mainly a public relations extravaganza… it’s sort of a marketing affair.”

Watch:

Obama Administration Selects Washington Insiders For NSA Review

President Barack Obama said two weeks ago that he would assemble a panel of intelligence outsiders to evaluate the National Security Agency and “consider how we can maintain the trust of the people [and] how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.”

On Thursday, ABC News revealed some of the names of the people chosen for the panel by White House officials. Unsurprisingly, those charged with reviewing the NSA’s practices aren’t exactly outsiders.

Via ABC:

The identities of the panelists have been a topic of speculation online, raising questions over whether the group would truly be independent in its review. The White House has insisted the group has full independence.

The president made clear that — in addition to looking at potential abuses by the program — the group will also assess whether the U.S. government “appropriately” accounts for “insider threats” and unauthorized disclosures.

“[Recent] technological advances have brought with them both great opportunities and significant risks for our intelligence community,” President Obama said.

In 60 days, the review panel will provide an interim report to the director of national intelligence, who will then brief the president on the panel’s findings.

A final report and subsequent recommendations will then be provided by the end of the year “so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy and our foreign policy,” President Obama said two weeks ago.

Among those chosen for the panel are:

  • Michael Morell— former acting head of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Richard Clarke— served the last three Presidents as a senior White House adviser, including as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism
  • Cass Sunstein— Obama’s former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
  • Peter Swire— early in the Obama Administration, served as a special assistant to the President for economic policy and, during the Clinton administration, served as the chief counselor for privacy