Wednesday Morning News Roundup 1-23-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Get ready to see what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has to say about the terror attacks last September in Benghazi, Libya. She will deliver a long-awaited testimony to Congress today.
  • More Presidential fiat is likely on the way as talk increases about the possibility of President Barack Obama bypassing Congress and implementing much of his environmental agenda unilaterally through regulations and executive action.
  • The “most transparent Administration in history” is not very transparent at all, say journalists and watchdogs. Are we supposed to act surprised?
  • The House Republican plan to ignore the debt ceiling for four months has full Presidential approval. Bipartisanship at its finest, screwing the American taxpayer.
  • Police in Florida have been accused of misusing a driver database to look up private information about relatives, celebrities and romantic interests. Who’s watching the watchers?

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Gun Control In Senate Likely A Tough Sell

Legislators with gun grabbing ambition and with the full backing of President Barack Obama are set to push the Senate to pass draconian gun control legislation in coming weeks. But the news isn’t all bad for 2nd Amendment advocates.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on supporters to help him fight expanded gun control laws in a frantic email sent by his campaign manager, Jesse Benton, early this week.

“You and I are literally surrounded,” said the email. “The gun-grabbers in the Senate are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom.”

The email said the White House proposals on gun control essentially set the groundwork for an all-out gun grab that:

  • “[W]ill criminalize firearms by how they look.”
  • Includes a “thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme hidden under the guise of ‘background checks.’”
  • And will ban large ammunition magazines.

“It is almost hard to believe the sheer breadth and brazenness of this attempt to gut our Constitution,” the email goes on.

McConnell has pledged to do everything he can to oppose increased gun control throughout the Nation.

Meanwhile, Senator John Barasso (R-Wyo.) told CNN’s Candy Crowley in an interview this week that the threat to the 2nd Amendment from Democrats may not be as menacing as it appears. This, he contends, is because new gun control legislation puts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a tight spot in the lead up to key Senate elections.

“He has six Democrats up for election in two years in States where the President received fewer than 42 percent of the votes. And he doesn’t want his Democrats to have to choose between their own constituents and the president’s positions,” Barrasso said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is planning to introduce a ban on so-called assault weapons on Thursday. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he is ready to introduce a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and that he has 16 Senate co-sponsors.

Prince Harry Says Taking Lives Is Like Playing Video Games

While guns continue to be vilified by the Presidential Administration and some lawmakers as the sole benefactor in killings, Prince Harry of Wales said something in a BBC interview that should give pause to those who claim violent video games do not affect a person’s psychological state.

There has been little focus by lawmakers or the mainstream media on the possibility that the rash of mass killings carried out by males in their 20s in recent years could be a byproduct of recreational activities. But in a recent interview, the British prince unwittingly offered a shining example of why a look beyond the guns involved in gun violence is needed as he compared the horrors of war to playing video games.

Harry, who co-piloted an Apache helicopter during a 20-week tour in Afghanistan, told the BBC that taking the lives of insurgents was no different than kicking back on the couch and playing video games.

“It’s a joy for me because I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox,” the 28-year-old said. “So with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid responded to the Prince’s comparing killing in war to playing games: “To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone–especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things.”

Mujahid continued: “It shows the lack of understanding, of knowledge. It shows they are unfamiliar with the situation and shows why they are losing. … It’s not a game. It’s very, very real.”

Clinton Finally Testifies On Benghazi Today

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver a long-awaited testimony on the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that occurred last year. Fireworks are expected, especially as the Secretary of State faces Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

As lawmakers grill Clinton today about how much information the Presidential Administration knew about the attacks, she is expected to answer specific questions including:

  • Did Clinton know about the messages sent to the State Department by Ambassador Chris Stevens expressing security concerns?
  • What were the State Department’s actions before, during and after the attacks?
  • Did Clinton know about reports of growing al-Qaida influence in the region?
  • Why did U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice claim to the public that the attack was the result of a film?
  • Why was only one suspect apprehended in relation to the attack and already released?

Paul surmised that the Barack Obama Administration’s cover-up of the Benghazi incident could be related to an “international Fast and Furious” situation during an interview on New York’s WABC Radio.

“There is also some concern about whether or not Libyan arms are being ferried through Turkey into Syrian rebels and whether or not that had something to do with the cover-up that came out of the Administration when the Administration was saying that, ‘Oh, this attack in Benghazi had something to do with a film,’” Paul said.

“Maybe that was to cover up that there was some kind of gun smuggling going on over there, some kind of international fast and furious was going on in Libya and that this was a cover-up,” Paul continued. “These are some of the questions that we are going to have for Hillary Clinton when she comes before our committee.

“I am very concerned about the President giving arms to Syrian rebels,” the Senator said.

Tuesday Morning News Roundup 1-22-2013

Tuesday Morning News Roundup 1-22-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

 

  • President Barack Obama has claimed that a decade of war is coming to an end and economic recovery is on the way.

 

  • Global political and business leaders have called for an unprecedented $14 trillion “greening” of the global economy to address environmental concerns.

 

 

 

  • Also from France: Former French President Nicholas Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni have reportedly been making plans to move to London to escape the Socialist government’s 75 percent tax rate on the rich.

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Another Orwell Prophecy Nearing Fulfillment

There were no telescreens, of course, but there was always the danger of concealed microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized; besides, it was not easy to make a journey by yourself without attracting attention. For distances of less than 100 kilometres it was not necessary to get your passport endorsed, but sometimes there were patrols hanging about the railway stations, who examined the papers of any Party member they found there and asked awkward questions. — George Orwell, 1984

Orwell’s grim depiction of a dystopian futuristic society in which the every movement of every person is meticulously scrutinized by the power of the state sometimes appears to have been used by American officials as an instruction manual over the past decade. More often than not, an idea similar to whatever the Department of Homeland Security has most recently proposed can be found within the pages of Orwell’s prescient novel.

Late last week, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service issued a request for information for microphones that are being considered for placement around Washington, D.C., to detect gunshots.

From the request:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / United States Secret Service (USSS) is seeking information on commercially available gunshot detection technologies for fixed site surveillance applications. Typical coverage areas are expected to be from 10s to 100s of acres per site, located within urban areas. Due to the secure nature of these sites, a high gunshot detection rate (>95%) is strongly desired while daily, operational monitoring of the system by external parties is undesirable.

But, as Infowars pointed out in a recent report, similar sensors installed in cities throughout the Nation have been used not only to locate gunshots but also to record conversations.

The New York Times pointed out in May that gunshot sensors were actually used to listen to a loud street argument that resulted in a fatal shooting in New Bedford, Mass. While even the staunchest privacy advocates have had little problem with law enforcement using systems like these to pinpoint the location of urban gun violence, law enforcement did generally did not inform the public of the ability of the sensors to record conversations.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Jay Stanley began asking questions about the gunshot locators: “If the courts start allowing recordings of conversations picked up by these devices to be admitted as evidence, then it will provide an additional incentive to the police to install microphones in our public spaces, over and above what is justified by the level of effectiveness the technology proves to have in pinpointing gun shots.”

It is often noted that the United States is usually not far behind the United Kingdom in terms of police state surveillance measures, raising the prospect that the audio recording infrastructure being implemented now could give way to more blatantly Orwellian developments in the near future.

According to a report from Homeland Security News Wire in June 2010, some English cities already have installed devices that pick up suspicious sounds and conversations.

From the report:

Microphones that can detect aggression by the tone of someone’s voice were installed in Coventry, England, where they will cover an area blighted by drunken violence. The Coventry decision has raised the prospect of microphones coming to other cities in the United Kingdom.

The system, called Sigard, is able to direct CCTV cameras toward suspicious sounds, which can also be gunshots or the smashing of glass. Operators can then direct police straight to a confrontation, in the hope they can stop violence before it erupts.

The system was designed by mimicking the hearing processes of the human ear. It can filter out background noise. The microphones detect suspect sounds, including trigger words spoken at normal volumes as well as angry or panicked exchanges before they become violent.

For now, the 4th Amendment generally protects American citizens from being secretly recorded by law enforcement in conversations in which the officials are not involved. But the Constitution has been little more than a speed bump for legislators, law enforcement and busybodies promising ultimate security to Americans in return for privacy in America since 9/11.

In the quote at the beginning of this article, Orwell was writing about microphones hidden in rural areas. For now, Americans most likely only have to worry about them in urban city centers. But, as with other state surveillance measures, it’s likely only a matter of time until they are universally present.

Republicans Can Win By Being More Libertarian

On Sunday, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that if the Republican Party wants to remain competitive in the American political system, members will have to agree to take a more libertarian approach to policy.

The Senator also told WABC Radio that within the next two years he will have decided whether he wants to take a shot at running for President of the United States.

“Whether or not I am going to run for President, that decision will come probably in two years, and [we] will in the meantime try to be part of the national debate,” Paul said. “We think the Republican Party needs to evolve and adapt, or we are going to become a permanent minority party.”

Paul noted that Republicans remain unpopular in areas with larger numbers of libertarian-leaning voters.

“We are not popular, and we have not been competitive out in California, on the West Coast or in New England,” Paul said.

“So we think a little more of a libertarian Republican, someone who is a strict constitutionalist but also believes in a strong, defensive military but not necessarily in an overly aggressive or bellicose let’s get involved in everybody’s civil war military, I think that has more appeal to independents and some people who have given up in the Republican Party,” he continued.

The Senator’s remarks echo calls from other conservatives for the GOP to lighten up on many of its moralistic political platforms and focus on a more Constitution-based policy approach.

In a recent column published on Breitbart.com, Elena Lathrop suggests that the GOP could draw more youth support if it would “make individualism, self-reliance, and liberty, rather than identity politics, cool again.”

Lathrop writes of the current problem Republicans have relating to younger voters (many of whom have libertarian political leanings):

Where does the GOP’s message fit in here? It doesn’t. It comes through in the real world when college grads have a job to work, taxes to pay, etc. – in other words, when fiscal policy becomes more relevant and in-your-face than ever. We lose the youth vote because we focus too much on politics, which flies over their heads, stresses them out, or bores them…

…Purify the conservative message and let the youth see that there is more to politics than gay marriage, abortion, free birth control, or whatever the cause du jour on campus may be at a given time. When those hot topics are swept aside, Left versus Right essentially becomes big versus small government, and the latter must become the hero of the story.

Despite the message from the likes of Paul and Lathrop, if the events that occurred around the Republican primary last year are any indicator, the GOP has a long way to go if the party elite are to accept outside ideas that don’t toe the big-war and moral-crusade party line.

TSA Peep Show To End Summer 2013, Grabbing Of Junk To Continue

The Transportation Security Administration has been a bane to privacy advocates since its post-9/11 implementation. But increased calls for government to limit the intrusiveness of TSA searches have yielded some small victories for privacy advocates, though there is still much work to be done.

The TSA recently announced that it will discontinue use of so-called “backscatter” machines, which were manufactured by OSI Systems under the name Rapiscan to provide transportation security agents with a detailed naked-body image of travelers to scan for possible weapon threats. The agency says the machines will be replaced by June with new ones that provide only a generic outline of the human body.

The move comes after Rapiscan failed to comply with a Congressional mandate to create security software for the existing machines to obscure images of human genitals during pre-flight screenings.

The TSA first dismissed privacy concerns over the scanners, but after years of complaints about the TSA having a creepy, voyeuristic power to take nude photographs of travelers (which can be turned to detailed photographs with common computer software that inverts negatives) , the agency made some policy chances around 2005. First, TSA officials simply opted to move the screeners viewing the naked body images to a remote location away from the actual screening area. With that came stories of TSA agents working together to single out passengers who they deemed attractive for “random” naked scans.

According to reports, more than 500 complaints were logged against TSA agents by women who felt they were singled out for “additional screening” by the naked-body machines.

The TSA later moved to give passengers the option to opt out of the naked-body scan, whether for reasons of modesty or because of worries over the high amounts of radiation emitted from the machines. But the alternative, an aggressive pat-down which has been reported to have an unusually thorough focus on genitals in some cases, has not been a favorite of Americans concerned with privacy and personal dignity.

The TSA currently operates 174 backscatter machines in 30 airports, and it has another 76 units in storage. The agency says that while it will discontinue use of the machines by summer, they could be put back to use pending software upgrades. For the time being, however, TSA says it is working on outfitting American airports with millimeter wave machines that use radio waves — reducing radiation concerns — and provide only a generic sick figure image of the human outline (hopefully making it much harder for any potential TSA perverts to get their rocks off).

“By June 2013 travelers will only see machines which have ATR that allow for faster throughput. This means faster lanes for the traveler and enhanced security,” the TSA said in a statement.

The action is a result of a suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and a coalition of privacy advocates against the Department of Homeland Security.

“It is big news,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CNN. “It removes the concern that people are being viewed naked by the TSA screener.”

Monday Morning News Roundup 1-21-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Rapper Lupe Fiasco got thrown off the stage at a pre-inauguration concert late Sunday for criticizing the President. Fiasco told attendees that he didn’t vote for the President and criticized the ongoing Mideast wars before being escorted off stage by security.

 

  • President Barack Obama, whose second inauguration is today, is reported to have had one of the lowest approval ratings of any post-World War II President. Only Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford fared worse than the President’s 49.1 percent job approval.

 

  • A Harvard Medical School professor believes he can clone a Neanderthal, the early human ancestor that became extinct 33,000 years ago. But he says he needs “an adventurous human female” to carry the science experiment.

 

  • The Obama Administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

 

 

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

Friday Morning News Roundup 1-18-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • This week, President Barack Obama’s jobs council hit a milestone: It has gone a full year without having a single official meeting.
  • New York’s new gun law is so strict that even cops are violating it.
  • One lawmaker thinks it is a good idea to equip every gun in America with a GPS tracker. Welcome to 1984.
  • The demand for gold and silver is so high that the U.S. Mint is out of silver coins.
  • A man in California used a wheelbarrow to carry $14,000 in coins and dollar bills to a bank to pay his taxes.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.