Bulldog Benghazi Reporter’s Computer Was Hacked At Height Of Libya Scandal – Was It The Government?

CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson, one of the only mainstream media reporters who has relentlessly pursued the Administration of President Barack Obama for the truth behind its handling of the Benghazi, Libya, embassy attack, was spied on via her own computer before and during the period when the scandal (which is still a scandal) was at its height.

CBS News confirmed Friday that Attkisson’s computer was hacked, by “an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.” The Benghazi attack, which claimed the life of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, occurred on Sept. 11.

Attkisson was already on the government’s radar for her dogged coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal, and has since found herself fighting an uphill battle to get the Obama Administration to respond to her questions, even as other reporters’ access to the White House remains unchanged. She told POLITICO last month that she already knew that someone was doing a sophisticated hack on her computers as early as February 2011, but CBS News didn’t confirm that assertion until revealing the results of a forensic investigation by an independent cybersecurity firm on Friday.

Neither Attkisson nor CBS News has yet put forward any speculation about what persons or agencies might be behind the spying. But the investigation found the third-party surveillance to be sophisticated:

Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data. This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion. CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.

In its story, CBS News also mentioned last month’s scandal involving seizure of an ABC News reporter’s emails and phone records by the U.S. Department of Justice — and then said this:

To be clear, the federal government has not been accused in the intrusion of Attkisson’s computer; CBS News is continuing to work to identify the responsible party.

The FBI Can Pull Back Your Curtain, But Mosques Are Off-Limits

Ever since Islamic groups cried out against the FBI’s semi-successful surveillance into terrorist plots that emanated from mosques, the agency has been forced to turn its attention elsewhere in the ongoing campaign to uncover domestic terrorism.

In February 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined the Council for American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles in filing a Federal class-action lawsuit against the FBI for infiltrating mosques in Southern California and allegedly gathering general information without probable cause.

Regardless of the merits of that suit, the backlash over the Southern California case had a subversive effect on Federal domestic surveillance policy. Later that same year, the Administration of President Barack Obama established a review panel within the Department of Justice called the Sensitive Operations Review Committee, effectively carving out special treatment for the religious, political, journalistic and academic spheres:

A sensitive investigative matter (SIM) is defined as an investigative matter involving the activities of a domestic public official or domestic political candidate (involving corruption or a threat to the national security), a religious or domestic political organization or individual prominent in such an organization, or the news media; an investigative matter having an academic nexus; or any other matter which, in the judgment of the official authorizing the investigation, should be brought to the attention of FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ) and other DOJ officials. (Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations (AGG-I Dom), Part VILN.) As a matter of FBI policy, “judgment” means that the decision of the authorizing official is discretionary.

Whether the FBI should be indiscriminately watching any individual or affiliated group is a matter for a separate article (indeed, we’ve written several of them), and recent scandals showing that the Nation’s vast enforcement empire is doing just that are both loathsome and alarming. But if Obama is going to watch most of us, it’s only fair (and makes a fair amount of sense) that he watch all of us.

The Tsarnaev brothers had ties to a Boston-area mosque that itself was linked to an assassination plot against a Saudi prince, teaches jihad against Zionists and Jews, and encourages the upheaval of Western values and institutions.

Even so, it was the mosque, and not the FBI, that revealed what it knew about the Tsarnaevs four days after the marathon bombing. Under the new Sensitive Operations Review guidelines, the FBI had been looking everywhere but mosques for Islamic terrorists. Regardless of whether this particular mosque did or didn’t help “radicalize” the Boston bombers, law enforcement would have had no way to investigate — until after innocent people were already dead.

University Asks: Who Need Guns On Campus When You Can Nod Your Way To Safety?

When the Arkansas Legislature passed a concealed carry law in April, it exempted schools from having to comply. That left university officials throughout the State in charge of deciding whether conceal carry is legal on campus, and many of them — including Arkansas State and the University of Arkansas — quickly banned it.

A lot of students and faculty are upset. “We just don’t understand how someone trusted to teach in a university and has also gone through the additional rigor to obtain a concealed handgun carry license environment cannot be trusted with their self-defense,” Mike Newbern, assistant director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry, told Campus Reform.

One UA biology professor stressed the need for effective personal protection near and on campus by relating an anecdote that appeared in the Daily Caller:

I had not gone very far before I was attacked from behind by two of them and received a number of blows to the back of my head. Given the proximity to this campus and the fact that a number of our students, faculty and staff walk through this very same area on both a daily and nightly basis I felt it prudent to share this info with you and to advise you to be on your guard while in the vicinity.

An expert with the university’s Department of Public Safety offered an obvious solution for such scenarios: glance and nod at the thugs. “A glance or a nod will help you show anyone who might think that you are not paying attention, and you are aware of their presence,” wrote detective Sharon Houlette.

Obviously, the only way a glance will be effective is if you summon laser beams to shoot from your eyes. One commenter reading a report at The Arkansas Project urging students not to follow such stupid advice said this:

Are you out of your flippin’ mind? Who makes this stuff up. I have been in law enforcement for 30 years and it astounds me how some people make a living telling others to just be a victim.

If this were my daughter and someone told her to “nod” I’d tell her to file a formal complaint alleging “stupid in a public place.”

But if unarmed UALR students follow Houlette’s advice, at least they can die with dignity. The same can’t be said of students who matriculate in Colorado — who’ve been advised to greet attackers by convulsing, puking, peeing themselves and just generally acting like damn fools.

Bank Robbing Suspect Asks For NSA Record Of His Own Cell Data To Prove Innocence

It was just a matter of time before an enterprising defense lawyer would sink his teeth into the trove of private data the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting on Americans.

Marshall Dore Louis, an attorney representing a Florida man accused of attempting to rob several banks, is calling B.S. on the prosecution’s claim that it can’t get hold of suspect Terrence Brown’s cellphone records because the company that provided the cell service had discarded them.

Louis argued Wednesday in a Ft. Lauderdale Federal court that the government must hand over its record of Brown’s phone metadata, since the information it contains could prove his innocence (since, apparently, the burden of proof is now falling on the defendant instead of the State) by placing him away from the crime scene.

“The president of the United States has recognized this program has been ongoing since 2006… to gather the phone numbers [and related information] of everybody including my client in 2010,” Louis argued, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum, accepted the argument, but gave the State additional time to come up with a response.

Regardless of this case’s outcome, the precedent it sets could have immense nationwide significance.

“If the government is spying on our phone calls, it can’t then claim in the same breath that it won’t provide those calls when it helps the defense. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said David Oscar Markus, an area defense attorney and legal blogger.

Washington, D.C., Cop Board Admits: We Need Retraining In 4th Amendment

The Washington D.C. Police Department’s board of police complaints issued a report Wednesday that recommends the city’s beat officers be retrained on when it’s legal to enter someone’s home without a warrant.

The report comes in response to a recent surge in the number of complaints the department’s received concerning officers illegally gaining entrance to residents’ homes without warrants or permission — a violation of 4th amendment limits on State searches and seizures.

According to The Washington Times, reports of illegal searches and entries make up 14 percent of the hundreds of complaints the D.C. police complaint board has received since 2009. It received 574 complaints in 2012 alone.

Sadly, though, the board doesn’t think the problem is systemic, saying only 12 of those complaints “raise valid concerns about unlawful entries into private homes.” Worse, Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the board’s findings, however meager, still aren’t lenient enough.

“The MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] most certainly supports all efforts to reduce incidences of police misconduct; however MPD believes the OPC [Office of Police Complaints] report inaccurately depicts a systemic problem, and that current policy and procedures are sufficient to prevent warrantless entries into private homes,” wrote Lanier in a response to the report.

More Americans See Snowden As Whistle-Blowing Patriot Than Traitor

A Reuters poll released Wednesday reveals more Americans look upon Edward Snowden, the former security contractor who leaked information about the National Security Administration’s PRISM Internet spying program to a British newspaper, as a patriot who did the right thing than as a traitor who deserves arrest.

The online survey asked 645 Americans three questions, with two pertaining to Snowden’s actions. One asked whether Snowden is a traitor or a patriot; the other whether he deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for leaking classified information he believed endangers Americans’ freedoms. A third question sought Americans’ opinion about the PRISM program itself.

According to the poll, 31 percent of Americans say Snowden’s a patriot, with 35 percent feeling he doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted for sharing information about PRISM and other government surveillance dragnets with The Guardian. Only 23 percent said he’s a traitor, with 25 percent saying he should be prosecuted. Another 46 percent reserved judgment on the matter of whether he’s a traitor, with 40 percent saying they didn’t know whether prosecution is in order.

When it comes to PRISM, 37 percent said it’s completely unacceptable to indiscriminately and secretly spy on Americans’ online activities by tapping in to major Internet service providers’ servers without probable cause. Another 45 percent said such surveillance is warranted under certain circumstances. But only 6 percent said they didn’t object to the program at all.

Huckabee: Time For Churches To Give Up Tax-Exempt Status, Embrace Freedom

On Monday, former Arkansas Governor and Presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee brought a huge white elephant to the Southern Baptist Convention. When he got up to address the pastors who’d converged on Houston for the annual event, he forced everyone’s attention on it, telling the group of conservative religious leaders that churches should unilaterally agree to start paying taxes — and stop letting the Federal government tell them what to do.

Then Huckabee got on Twitter the next day and offered a powerfully distilled version of his argument:

Huckabee, himself the President of the Arkansas State Baptist Convention, explained in Houston that churches are easy fodder for the same kind of scrutiny the Federal government, using the enforcement and bureaucratic power of the Internal Revenue Service, wielded against conservative and Tea Party nonprofit groups.

“You may not clap real loud for this, but at least hear me out and think about it and pray about it,” he told the Baptist ministers:

I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so much about the tax code and start thinking more about the truth of the living God, and if it means that we give up tax-exempt status and tax deductions for charitable contributions, I choose freedom more than I choose a deduction that the government gives me permission to say what God wants me to say.

…The recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting people of faith — people who are conservative, people who are pro-Israel – and have been picking out the parts of belief and speech and faith that government seems to approve and that which it doesn’t approve has brought up a very important reality that I think, sooner or later, as believers, we need to confront.

Back in 2007, when Huckabee was still in the hunt for the Republican Presidential nomination, he garnered a lot of Christian support. The IRS was all over it, making sure that no church-affiliated nonprofit organization of any kind was endangering its nonprofit status by officially endorsing him.

So far, there hasn’t been enough reaction to measure how Huckabee’s message will be received. Twitter has lit up with mostly positive endorsements of the idea from private individuals, but it’s tough to envision some religious leaders — who often work for organizations that have massive real estate holdings, service programs, schools and medical facilities — embracing either the messenger or the message.

The FISA Court Exists To Give The Government What It Wants

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) was born from Watergate. It was designed to place the government’s targeted surveillance of any “U.S. person” suspected of involvement with international terror organizations under Congressional and judicial oversight.

Under FISA, there were limits on how government could deploy surveillance against suspects inside the United States. Warrantless surveillance of a suspected terrorist in the U.S. who’s not an American citizen could go on for a year before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and related watchdog agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA) and FBI were forced to obtain judicial authorization. If the suspect was an American citizen, the DOJ had to get a court order within three days after the government began spying on him.

In 1978, the court that began giving out those permission slips was consolidated into a single, purpose-made entity: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Ever since, in order for the DOJ to obtain a FISA warrant, it has to submit a request to a FISC judge. Except when a third party files an amicus curiae brief objecting to, or supporting, the DOJ’s request, the Federal government is the only party before the judge. There are 11 FISC judges, but only one presides over each individual DOJ surveillance request. The public doesn’t see what goes on in the FISC deliberations. It’s a secret court. By law, its records and opinions can be kept secret.

FISA has become a rubber stamp for secret government surveillance of regular Americans, and the FISC has become a permission-slip clearinghouse. Since Sept. 11, 2001, “judicial oversight” has really meant “judicial blessing.”

The Administration of President George W. Bush had some rocky encounters with the FISC, largely because of media reports that outed the extent of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s surveillance ambitions. But Bush’s expansion of FISA powers with the Patriot Act, which amended the FISA Act to break down the standing distinction between “terrorist” and “criminal,” as well as the Republican-backed Protect America Act of 2007, which opened overseas communications to FISA’s spy scrutiny, gave the Federal government everything it needed to get away with indiscriminate, secret surveillance of just about everyone living in the United States.

The door was standing ajar, and Bush threw it wide open. Now, his successor, President Barack Obama, has blasted through it like the Kool-Aid man smashing through a brick wall.

Oh, yeah.

Ever since FISA was passed, the Feds have made 33,900 surveillance requests. They’ve walked away with nothing 11 times. They’ve succeeded 99.97 percent of the time in getting what they wanted. Said differently, the DOJ had all its ducks in a row 33,889 times in making a case for spying on someone — or on millions of people (what’s the difference anymore?) — before it approached FISC with a surveillance plan. That represents a sterling commitment to due diligence and development of probable cause on the part of the DOJ before submitting to the keen blade of judicial oversight. Right?

So said a former security lawyer under the Bush Administration, who told The Wall Street Journal that the DOJ rigorously vets its applications (like the one that created the PRISM program and secretly plugged into nearly every major online service provider in the country) before approaching FISC, hat in hand.

“We’ve got Congressional oversight and judicial oversight,” Obama said last week. “And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

If you believe that the Obama Administration — or that of his predecessor — has consistently been making sound Constitutional arguments that, on the merits, have persuaded one FISC judge after another to authorize PRISM, or the mass mining of cellphone metadata, or the DOJ surveillance of people before it even has a suspect (or a crime), well… you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.

Special Counsel Investigation Doesn’t Deter Obama From Nominating ATF Director; Senate GOP Outraged

President Barack Obama has nominated B. Todd Jones to fill a seven-year vacancy to direct the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), even though Jones is currently being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over allegations he retaliated against a whistle-blower when he was a U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

Needless to say, Republicans in the Senate are angry. Senate Democrats are wanting to move ahead with Jones’ confirmation hearings — but GOP Senators are threatening to block the nomination.

“We’re left today to take Mr. Jones’s word,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We have no way of independently verifying what he says or ascertain the truth of the matter. It is unfortunate that we go ahead with this hearing before an open complaint is resolved.”

Grassley followed that up by calling on the committee to launch an investigation of its own into Jones’ alleged harassment of a Minnesota whistle-blower. Details about that case are scarce while the DOJ’s investigation is active.

Obama nominated Jones to head the ATF as part of his 23-item list of proposals to toughen gun laws after last year’s Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.

Obama Administration Sneaks 60 Percent Hike In ‘Social Cost’ Regulation Of Carbon Emissions

The Administration of President Barack Obama, acting through the U.S. Department of Energy, has just raised the so-called “social cost” of carbon emissions by 60 percent — and it did so by quietly piggybacking the change on a routine update to energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens.

Before the Obama-backed rate jump, the government had worked with a dollar value, pegged at $23.80 per metric ton of carbon emissions, to assess the relative costs associated with pollution and benefits of regulations to curb it. Under the new guideline, it’s now $38 per metric ton — a 59.67 percent increase.

The premise of even assigning a dollar value to the effects of carbon emissions’ “social cost” is founded on the theory of global warming, that floods and famines that damage property and disrupt markets are caused by man-made climate change. In other words, it’s government policy to regulate carbon emissions based on the idea that people are heating up the environment — and to exact a price from companies and people for contributing to climate change.

The furtive hike in the theoretical number, according to the Washington Post, “is more than an accounting change”:

Without much fanfare, the Obama administration has increased its estimate of the “social cost of carbon” — its tally of how much harm carbon emissions will cause. In essence, the White House is now saying that global warming will be more damaging than previously estimated, mainly because of new data on the effects of the rise in sea level.

…[T]he actual number used makes a big difference when administration officials tally up the costs and benefits of various regulations.

The Energy Department’s microwave rule offered the first glimpse of this. Under the old social cost of carbon, the microwave standards had an estimated $4.2 billion in benefits over the next 30 years. Under the new carbon numbers, the microwave rule has an estimated $4.6 billion in benefits.

This might sound like nitpicking. But many observers expect the Obama administration to propose a variety of new efficiency standards and pollution rules in the years ahead. So a small tweak could make a big difference.

By driving the “social cost” up, the Obama Administration is essentially stacking the deck in favor of more aggressive Federal laws regulating carbon emissions, while making it much harder for projects like the Keystone pipeline to receive Federal approval.

Buffalo Police To Army Vet: Oops, Wrong Apartment… Sorry We Killed Your Dog (Not)

An Army veteran who’d been living at the same Buffalo, N.Y., address for three years got home Monday afternoon to discover that someone had torn down the door, shot up the apartment, ransacked the place and killed his dog, Cindy, who was leashed in the kitchen.

Breaking and entering in broad daylight. Animal cruelty. Adam Arroyo appeared to have been the victim of big-city crime.

But wait — whoever it was had left a piece of paper behind, a note. Not a note, a warrant. It wasn’t robbers after all; this was all police work.

 

Army vet says police killed his dog

 

The guy the cops were looking for evidently lived around the building’s corner. He was being sought on suspicion of dealing crack cocaine. The two apartments are completely separate and have separate entrances. All the cops had to do before indulging their trigger fingers was double-check the clearly marked mailbox.

According to WKBW in Buffalo, Arroyo is an Iraq combat veteran who plans to become a member of the National Guard. He told the ABC affiliate he isn’t a drug user or a drug pusher.

“Never. Never. I don’t do drugs. I’m a United States veteran. I work every day. I’m just trying to live my life… For police to wrongfully come into my house and murder my dog… It wasn’t that they felt threatened. No. They murdered my dog. That was my dog, man. That was my dog. They didn’t have to do that, you know. They didn’t have to do that.”

Arroyo now has to pay to have his pet cremated. The door repair will come out of his own pocket. He’s also had to miss work.

The Buffalo P.D. suit who talks to the media trotted out the same stale, self-justifying nonsense you always seem to hear whenever police unload on dogs that aren’t a threat.

Spokesperson Michael DeGeorge said the police “don’t believe the dog was chained or leashed” at the time they burst through the door — even though that’s how Arroyo left his pet in the morning, and how he found her when he got home.

DeGeorge also said the department’s Internal Affairs division will investigate, but that the police (somehow) believe they got the address right.

Arroyo said he plans to press charges against the city.

Party Affiliation Taints Americans’ Views On Privacy, Civil Liberty

A poll released Monday shows more than half of all Americans think it’s acceptable for the government to secretly track their phone calls, if doing so keeps them safe from terrorism.

The poll, done by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, also shows that nearly half believe it’s also acceptable for the National Security Administration (NSA) to indiscriminately spy on citizens’ online activities using secret dragnets like PRISM — so long as it stands a chance of preventing domestic terrorist attacks.

Most Back NSA
Interestingly, the poll also showed that opinions about the President’s role in orchestrating warrantless spying on American citizens vary among Democrats and Republicans to favor whichever party holds power in the executive branch.

Partisan Shifts

In other words, more Democrats think the NSA’s doing the Lord’s work right now, because a Democrat is in the White House. Back in 2006, when the President was a Republican, Democrats hated NSA surveillance. The reverse, of course, holds true for Republicans, more of whom are now outraged by the PRISM scandal than by any NSA revelations or expansion that occurred during the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Youth apathy over the government’s sophisticated surveillance of the very technologies that young people consume en masse is, perhaps, the poll’s most jarring find. While a greater number of young people (though still fewer than half) take a principled stand in support of privacy than do the other age groups surveyed, they aren’t that interested in following specific news about PRISM, the NSA’s secret data mining of Verizon customers or the draconian Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.

“As with most news stories, interest is far higher among older Americans than the young: one-in-three (33%) Americans ages 50-and-older are following news about the government tracking phone records very closely,” the poll states. “Among those ages 18-29, just 12% are following very closely, while 56% say they are not following closely at all.”

Taken together, the poll means that more than half of Americans are fine with Verizon’s setting up of a secret, dedicated fiber-optic line — one that runs from New Jersey straight to a military base at Quantico, Va., and allows the government access “to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations center,” according to The New York Times.

So long as their party’s in control of the White House, Republicans or Democrats mostly view the President as a trustworthy custodian of such extraConstitutional powers.

And if those Americans are under the age of 30, most of them just don’t care.

Eluding Government’s Prying Eyes Isn’t Convenient, But Here Are Some Options

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit advocacy group that battles expanded government surveillance and technological infringements on civil liberties, has compiled a list of operating systems, applications and online services for computers and mobile devices. Many of the products listed aren’t exactly household names — but that’s kind of the point.

The EFF has the list up at prism-break.org — a site intended to steer computer users and owners of mobile devices (in other words, everyone) away from the major online providers whose servers the National Security Administration (NSA) has surreptitiously been monitoring, and toward alternatives that, so far as can be known, haven’t been subjected to any secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) orders.

To embrace all the alternative applications on the list will strike many as inconvenient. It’s not practical for many people to switch to the open-source GNU/Linux operating system platform from Apple OS or Windows. Similarly, using and understanding the Tor Web browser comes with a bit of a learning curve for those accustomed to Google Chrome or Apple Safari.

And it’s important to remember that, while embracing the listed applications and services will help to disengage you from the direct access the NSA has to servers at Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Skype, PayPal, AOL and more, it’s not taking you off the communications grid. You’re still using an Internet or cellular service provider, and your device still has a unique identifier that a dedicated techie might be able to decrypt.

But it can make snooping into your online life just a little more inconvenient for the NSA.

Speaking Spanish On The Senate Floor To Urge ‘Commonsense’ Immigration Reform

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) spoke Tuesday for nearly 15 minutes on the Senate floor in Spanish, applauding the Gang of Eight bipartisan coalition that’s pushing for a sweeping set of immigration reforms and supporting the start of the debate process that could see an immigration reform bill move out of the Senate.

Kaine planned the stunt, for which fellow Democratic Virginia Senator Mark Warner called him a “show-off.” In the hours before he took the Senate floor, Kaine had been promoting his speech with bilingual tweets calling for “commonsense” reform to fix “our broken immigration system.”

“Thought it was important to spend a few mins explaining bill in Spanish — a language spoken by almost 40M in US w/a lot at stake in outcome” he tweeted.

The Senate went ahead and voted 82-15 to begin debate on the controversial 1,000-page bill, which President Barack Obama is urging Congress to approve without playing “procedural games.”

The United States has no “official” language, and there’s likewise no official language provision requiring government officials to speak English. The rules of procedure do require that a Senator receive unanimous consent of the full Senate before speaking in another language from the floor, as Kaine himself did.

Rand Paul Threatens To Sue The Feds For Using The NSA To Watch Citizens

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is planning a class action suit against the Federal government to end the National Security Administration’s (NSA) broad surveillance of citizens’ phone metadata and computer habits via compulsory, court-ordered secret “agreements” with phone and computer companies.

Speaking on FOX News Sunday, Paul told Chris Wallace that he plans to enlist the Nation’s major telecommunications companies as plaintiffs, as well as millions of Americans angry at the Administration of President Barack Obama for lying about his campaign promise to end the George W. Bush White House’s expansion of big-government secrecy and intrusiveness.

 

“I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” said Paul. “If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington….[It] doesn’t look like a modest invasion of privacy… I have no problem if you have probable cause … but we’re talking about trolling through a billion phone records a day.”

Late last week, Paul also introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013 before Congress, a piece of legislation that declaring that “the Fourth Amendment shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause.”

Although Paul did not go into much detail on TV about the possible lawsuit, the plaintiff class would presumably consist of phone customers whose cellular service is handled by Verizon and other major carriers that the government has been monitoring.

It would likely also include an enormous number of Americans whose online privacy has been violated through PRISM, the NSA’s carte-blanche, secret surveillance program The Guardian exposed on Friday, after a whistle-blower shared classified documents revealing its existence, as well as the scope of its ambition.

‘We Need Whistle-Blowers’

The United States is trying to extradite Edward Snowden, the former CIA assistant-turned-whistle-blower who outed the National Security Agency’s incredible, Orwellian surveillance dragnets of phone and computing data, from Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, the disgraced Army private who handed WikiLeaks a trove of military communication data in the hope of exposing the hypocrisy of American war-making, is in court-martial proceedings. The government alleges Manning aided terrorists by making classified military information public.

Whatever their stated reasons for taking on the Feds, these two figures operated out of their own inscrutable motives; and we’ll never know the extent of their nobility or guile. The media, and those who consume media, will form widely divergent opinions about whistle-blowers like these two men.

Some will see them as abject criminals who knowingly committed treason against the United States by usurping its laws, even if their goals were honorable. Others will see them as heroes, men who realized that citizens have to act to “prune the tree” of government and that waiting for someone else to act is to grow ever more numb inside the slow boil toward tyranny.

But whoever the whistle-blowers are, and whatever their motives as individuals, consider the words of computer security guru Bruce Schneier: “We need whistle-blowers.”

Writing early Monday, just before Snowden’s identity became known, Schneier said the U.S. government:

…is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state…

…Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and William Binney have all been persecuted for exposing technical details of our surveillance state. Bradley Manning has been treated cruelly and inhumanly — and possibly tortured — for his more-indiscriminate leaking of State Department secrets.

The Obama Administration’s actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of “aiding the enemy” demonstrate how far it’s willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers — as well as the journalists who talk to them.

But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It’s necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power… Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power.

In the end, government whistle-blowing isn’t about the person blowing the whistle; it’s about shining light on the government.

If that light turns out to reveal unConstitutional and extraConstitutional powers and abuses, along with a necessary system of secrets, distortions and lies to cover it up, then be grateful for those courageous enough — or crazy enough — to haul the truth into the public square.

Farm Bill Pays Ag Subsidies To Rock Stars, Rockefellers

As Congress takes up a renewal of the massive, omnibus five-year entitlement plan known as the U.S. Farm Bill, don’t hold your breath for massive reforms.

So far, it appears a decision to do away with direct payments of taxpayer funds to farm aid recipients — many of them very, very wealthy corporations — has been reached.

But that’s likely the biggest change in a nearly $1 trillion package that will see more than $760 billion go to food stamp subsidies over the next 10 years, as the number of Americans on the program swells to more than 15 percent (as opposed to 2 percent 40 years ago) under President Barack Obama.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch excoriated Congress and the Obama Administration for their mutual adoration of the Farm Bill, citing both the “demosclerosis” that has the bill’s supportive lobby entrenched in the Washington, D.C., chain of power, as well as the perverse city-country gravy train that pays farmers for not producing (and pays urban people — including destitute farmers like Jon Bon Jovi and the Rockefeller family — through contrived entitlements).

“Anyone starting from scratch would not design a farm policy like the one America has. At least not anyone with a lick of common sense,” notes columnist Bart Hinkle. “But since common sense is as common on Capitol Hill as a unicorn stampede, we have…[a] confusing clutter of programs that pay farmers not to farm, reward them for undue risk, write checks to rock stars and Rockefellers, give special treatment to certain crops without rationale, and ladle out welfare to the wealthy while ignoring those on the margins.”

Read Hinkle’s full column here.

Sales Surge For Orwell’s 1984 As Big Brother Spy Scandals Mount

Interest in revisiting George Orwell’s classic portrayal of a totalitarian surveillance state has almost doubled at Amazon.com.

As of 4 p.m. CST Monday, the mammoth online bookseller listed Orwell’s 1984 at No. 17 among the day’s “Movers & Shakers” page, which tracks publications whose popularity is on the rise. Sales of 1984 had increased by 91 percent over the same period a day earlier. The book also jumped from 205th in the retailer’s book sales ranking to 107th — in a single day.

Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949, but the dystopian concepts he introduced have been prophetic — never more so than now in the U.S., where concern over authoritarian government masquerading as benevolent protector has compounded in only a few short days.

Friday’s revelation of the National Security Administration’s secret PRISM program, coupled with a Thursday scandal uncovering the agency’s phone metadata-mining scandal, has galvanized citizens already weary of President Barack Obama’s scandal-rocked second term against the intrusiveness of a government that, as Obama said Friday, has “struck the right balance” in trading privacy for safety.

“You can’t have 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We are going to have make some choices as a society, and what I can say is that [PRISM] makes a difference in … anticipating and preventing attacks.”

Florida Governor Suspends Sheriff For Standing Up For 2nd Amendment

Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has suspended the sheriff of the State’s least-populous county after he allegedly set free a man who’d been arrested for possessing a weapon without a permit.

Nick Finch, sheriff of Liberty County near the State’s Alabama-Georgia border, faces a 3rd-degree felony charge for official misconduct after evidently destroying or altering the paper trail that began when one of his deputies brought in a motorist who had two handguns in his car.

The motorist, Floyd Parrish, didn’t have a concealed-carry permit and was subsequently charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Car carry is legal in Florida for those without a conceal-carry permit, but the law stipulates such firearms must be securely encased or  not readily accessible for immediate use – two stipulations which Parrish allegedly didn’t meet when he was pulled over in Liberty County.

Parrish stayed in jail until Sheriff Finch arrived, accompanied by the suspect’s brother. Finch allegedly spoke to both men about the incident before ordering that the charges be dropped and Parrish be released.

According to the JCFloridian, Finch allegedly told the deputy who’d arrested Parrish that he “believed in 2nd Amendment rights” and instructed jail staff to return his confiscated firearms.

But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement learned of the incident, which occurred in March, and obtained an arrest warrant for Finch. He was arrested and booked into the Liberty County jail last week before being released on his own recognizance. Gov. Scott has since suspended Finch and temporarily installed a regional agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as acting sheriff.

Finch’s arrest for exercising his judgment in protecting another citizen’s Constitutional freedom has drawn anger from both locals and 2nd Amendment advocates throughout the U.S.

One Liberty County man said Finch may have been a sitting duck among longtime power brokers in a good old boy network,“[s]ince he’s considered what people consider an outsider and not from Liberty County, that they finally railroaded him out. In my personal opinion he was doing his job and people didn’t like it.”

Though Finch has not commented on his arrest, his attorney has said it’s ridiculous to construe the sheriff’s actions as anything but proper defense of his constituents’ Constitutional rights.

“The records at the jail show exactly what happened in this case and the records speak the truth. The sheriff looked at the facts and said ‘I believe in the second amendment and we’re not going to charge him.’ That is not misconduct at all. That is within the Sheriff’s prerogative whether to charge someone or not,” said attorney Jimmy Judkins.

Dean Garrison of DC Clothesline agrees:

With so many Sheriff’s offices making strong pro-2nd Amendment stands in 2013 this is a situation that was bound to happen. The Sheriff had every right not to charge this man. The 2nd Amendment of the constitution should supercede any Florida law. “Shall Not Be Infringed” still means something to men like Nick Finch.

The whole case will surely become about the documents. If Nick Finch destroyed the documents they will make an example of him for all of us to see. They have been waiting for this opportunity. This case will not be prosecuted to the extent that Nick Finch did not understand the 2nd Amendment. They will try to get him on a technicality.

Pro-2nd Amendment law enforcement officials all over the country need to take note. They are looking for any backdoor they can to try to shut you down. This story should be national news soon. My hope is that Finch did not destroy the documents and this case can be heard on its real merits.

Nick Finch was elected sheriff of Liberty, a county of only 8,400 people, in November of last year.

Cincinnati IRS Workers Reveal What Really Happened – And Yes, It’s What You Think

A pair of IRS agents who worked out of the Cincinnati office at the center of the widening Tea Party discrimination scandal told Congressional investigators that they were ordered by “higher-ups” in Washington, D.C. to target conservative political groups applying for tax-exempt status.

That’s a contention, notes CBS-D.C., that “directly contradicts claims made by the agency since the scandal erupted last month.”

One Cincinnati agent, Gary Muthert, said he was instructed by a local, unnamed supervisor to go through tax-exempt applications to see if they had “Tea Party” in their titles. But that local supervisor was acting, said Muthert, on order from on high: “He told me that Washington, D.C., wanted some cases.”

Using the “Tea Party” criteria yielded a small handful of applications, but, when Muthert widened his search to include phrases like “patriots’ or “9-12 project,” he hit upon close to 40 more applications.

“I used ‘patriots’ because some of the tea partiers wouldn’t, they would shorten their name to TP Patriots,” Muthert said. “I thought, OK, I will use ‘patriot.’”

From there, Muthert’s supervisor told him that “someone in Washington” had requested to see seven of those applications, but he told investigators he never knew who that “someone” was.

Another Cincinnati IRS agent, Elizabeth Hofacre, was responsible for processing Tea Party applications that had already been flagged in 2010. Her local supervisor, also unnamed, assigned those applications to her. But an IRS attorney in Washington, D.C. named Carter Hull – who worked in the tax-exempt division – allegedly “micromanaged” Hofacre’s work and contributed to the groups’ delay in receiving tax-exempt status.

Hofacre said she thought Hull’s interest in the cases was both unusual and “demeaning.”

“It was demeaning. One of the criteria is to work independently and do research and make decisions based on your experience and education, whereas on this case, I had no autonomy at all through the process,” she told investigators.

Hull also allegedly took his time signing off on letters Hofacre sent asking the flagged groups for extra documentation. “All I remember saying and thinking is, ‘This is ridiculous.’ Because at the same time, you are getting calls from irate taxpayers. And I see their point,” she said.

If the testimony is true and leads to the uncovering of additional evidence, it will further refute the many assertions made by IRS officials and the Administration of President Barack Obama that “rogue” agents acting independently in Cincinnati were solely responsible for the election-season targeting of conservative nonprofits.

Tracking The NSA’s Spy Career; PRISM Reveals All; Obama Says We’ve All Got Trust Issues; TGIF! – Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-7-2013

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

The NSA’s Secret PRISM Program Uncovered – And It Shatters The Myth Of Internet Anonymity

British newspaper The Guardian introduced the world to the U.S. government’s secret program of direct data mining Friday, and the scope of its operation is mind blowing. Read more…

A Handy Timeline Of NSA’s Encroachment Into Americans’ Private Lives

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has compiled an extensive timeline of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) progressive intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, dating back to the agency’s creation in 1952. Read more…

Obama: Trust The Government

During a speech Friday President Barack Obama attempted to justify the government’s massive collection of American phone records. His message: Trust us, we’re from the government. Read more…

TGIF: 3 Obama Scandal Memes To Kick Off The Weekend On A Lighter Note

The headline says it all. Read more…