Amid Scandals, Busy Congressional Schedule Biden Vows Renewed Gun Control Push

Buried in the headlines about the Barack Obama Administration’s numerous scandals are reports that Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are gearing up for a revitalized push for more gun-control measures.

Biden was queried by Capitol Hill reporters Monday following the swearing in of interim Republican Senator Jeff Chiesa, who will represent New Jersey, when the topic of the Obama Administration’s gun control ambitions came up.

“I’ve got to talk to Harry [Reid] and see what the game plan here is,” Biden told reporters, continuing, “I personally haven’t given up, nor has the President.”

Reports indicate that Reid and Biden are scheduled to spend time later in the week discussing possible options for the reintroduction of gun-control measures in the Senate, even as previous efforts were handily defeated and the Congressional schedule for much of June is dedicated to immigration-reform debate.

As recently as Friday, Biden declared of the Administration’s gun-control efforts in an email to supporters, “This fight is far from over.”

ACLU Sues Obama Over NSA Spying

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday against the Administration of Barack Obama, challenging the National Security Agency’s Constitutional authority to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans’ communications.

The suit alleges that the Administration is violating citizens’ 1st and 4th Amendment protections.

ACLU said in a statement:

Last week, The Guardian released an order issued by the FISC that compelled a Verizon subsidiary—Verizon Business Network Services (VBNS)—to hand over, on an “ongoing, daily basis,” details for every phone call placed on its network for a prospective three-month period. Collecting those details—”metadata” that reveals who people talk to, for how long, how often, and possibly from where—allows the government to paint an alarmingly detailed picture of Americans’ private lives. The FISC order cited Section 215 as its legal basis, yet the breadth of the authority it granted to the government is simply incompatible with the text of the statute.

As an organization that advocates for and litigates to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone—a lot—to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers, and ACLU members. And since the ACLU is a VBNS customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work. So we’re acting quickly to get into court to challenge the government’s abuse of Section 215…

…With today’s lawsuit, the ACLU is now attacking Section 215 on three legal fronts: in our ongoing FOIA litigation seeking the government’s secret interpretation of the law; in the FISA Court through yesterday’s public-access motion; and now, in a constitutional lawsuit in federal court. When the government is claiming such chillingly expansive surveillance powers, it’s all hands on deck.

Find a copy of the complaint below:
 
The Constitutionality of the NSA spy program was previously challenged in a lawsuit by Larry Klayman, the former chairman of Judicial Watch, and two other plaintiffs who say the government spied on their Verizon accounts. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims the tactic “violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens.”

Menendez Diagnoses Cruz With ‘Obamaphobia’

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) put on his pseudo-psychiatry pants Tuesday and claimed that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been afflicted by a severe case of “Obamaphobia,” which is inhibiting his ability to go along with immigration-reform efforts.

On Monday, Cruz said during an interview on ABC that the White House’s insistence that Congressional immigration-reform efforts include a path to citizenship makes President Barack Obama the single “biggest obstacle to passing common sense immigration reform.”

During an interview on MSNBC, Menendez refuted the lawmaker’s claim, saying that the bipartisan Gang of Eight was actually responsible for pushing path to citizenship measures.

“Well, I think he has Obamaphobia,” Menendez said of Cruz. “The reality is that it is the Gang of Eight that came together — four Democrats, four Republicans — and said that we need a path to citizenship.”

Cruz’s spokesperson promptly responded, though without denying the diagnoses, in an email statement, “If Obamaphobia means fear of government tyranny and the willingness to stand against it, I wouldn’t say that’s inaccurate.”

Currently, Cruz and a handful of other conservative lawmakers are trying to block Senate consideration of the 867-page bipartisan immigration overhaul while they work to introduce an onslaught of amendments that would render the legislation ineffectual or garner support to defeat the bill altogether.

NRA Gets Blamed For More Shootings; Ron Paul Wants Obama To Thank Leaker; Congress Hearts The NSA; Go Go Gadget IRS Spycam!; Senate Staffers Waste Your Money; And More: Tuesday Morning News Roundup 6-11-2013

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.

 

 

  • Iran is enlarging its nuclear infrastructure with the eventual aim of developing an industry capable of building up to 30 bombs a year, an Israeli minister shrieked on Monday.

 

  • A senior U.S. intelligence official says there are no plans to dial back the National Security Administration’s wide-scale surveillance program. One reason: Most of the Congress still cautiously supports it, despite public outrage.

 

  • Your tax dollars are hard at work in Congress: The Senate Office of Education and Training offers many classes to workers in the Senate, including classes on sleeping, forgiveness, grammar, making small talk, sitting and time management.

 

  • The Internal Revenue Service is soliciting vendors for Inspector Gadget-style surveillance equipment, including “Covert Coffee tray(s) with Camera concealment” and cameras that can be hidden in plants. They need it quick, though; the bidding ends in four days.

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

PRISM Raises The Question: Can You Become Invisible To Government Spies?

In light of the recent news reports about the government’s massive surveillance dragnet and penchant for mining data from private companies to spy on American citizens, you may wonder if there is any way to avoid unwittingly losing any semblance of 4th Amendment protections.

The short answer in terms of convenience and practicality is probably not. But if you want to work to minimize the amount of data the government stores on you without your permission, there are a few steps you can take to thwart snoops.

A key factor of how the government collects so much of the data it does is tied directly to the relationship customers have with service providers and, furthermore, the relationship those service providers have with the Federal government. Consider that just about any service you sign up for — including social networks, email accounts, public Wi-Fi, bank accounts, credit cards and more — involves a customer/provider relationship wherein you borrow a service for a small fee or for free. In the latter case, free is usually not really free, as you agree — in fine print — to relinquish data about your spending, travel, Internet surfing or social circles for the benefit of the service.

A combination of legal requirements and economic incentives drives companies offering the aforementioned services to collect massive amounts of data on you and all of their other users. You ought to go ahead and assume that the Federal government, through coercion or the threat of reprisal, can get companies to hand over that information any time it wishes.

The only real way to avoid prying eyes 100 percent of the time is to give up a hefty amount of the convenience that technology affords. That means axing your social networks and email accounts and taking on a cash-only policy in your financial dealings.

The latest explosive revelations about the government’s phone records spying leave the impression that Federal agents have access to a treasure trove of communication data for American citizens. Tied in with reports of phone data logging and mining are reports of the same processes being used for online activities.

Here is a shortlist of tips to protect yourself if you are concerned about the government sifting through information about you:

  • Encrypt Phone calls, or scrap your wireless plan for a prepaid phone. This recent article in PC Magazine provides excellent information about protecting your phone conversations.
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  • When surfing the Internet, protect yourself by using a pseudonym and proxy or VPN. This walkthrough from Extreme Tech can show you how.
  •  

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation also offers a simple Internet add-on which allows you to encrypt your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure. The HTTPS Everywhere extension, available for Firefox and Chrome users, can be downloaded here.

The government isn’t the only threat to your privacy. In his aptly timed new book, The Ultimate Privacy Guide, Bob Livingston provides a number of warnings about your privacy in the digital age.

On Facebook:

First, Facebook knows where you are. Every time you log on, the company knows the location of your computer because of the Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is the numerical code that the Internet uses to route information to the proper place. In most cases, an IP address tells Facebook where you are. It doesn’t give an exact location, but it’s close enough to know what city you’re in and even what part of a city, in many cases.

But it’s not just your posts you need to be concerned about. The company has created scanning software that monitors chats for words or phrases that signal possible wrongdoing including discussions about criminal behavior, exchange of personal information or vulgar language. It then turns these suspect conversations over to law enforcement for evaluation.

He also warns of the permanent nature of everything you do online:

Be careful about what you post about yourself online. If it’s something that could damage you if someone else saw it, don’t post it. Don’t assume you can delete it later and no one will see. In many cases, the things you post are there forever for all the world to see—and you’ll have absolutely no control of those things once someone else has made a copy…

…In some cases, such information might only be held for 90 days or so after you’ve deleted it. In other cases, the information might remain on some backup drive buried in the archives of a company’s data center. The point is that if you don’t have real control over your data after you’ve posted it.

On government monitoring of online speech:

In late 2011, the Department of Homeland Security was forced to admit in court that the agency has contracted with General Dynamics to monitor online speech. The contract requires the company to identify “media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities.” The contract also requires General Dynamics to generate reports on what is being said online about “DHS, Component, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.”

Livingston also offers a number of tips for protecting your anonymity online, detailing for readers more ways to surf the Internet anonymously and to completely secure connections to protect them from hackers and government snoops alike.

Livingston’s privacy book is available for purchase in the Personal Liberty Digest™ online store.

Sources: The Ultimate Privacy Guide, Extreme Tech, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Motherboard    

Buy Your Child A Toy Gun, And You Can Guarantee He’s Going To Kill Someone

If you had a Lone Ranger cap pistol, a dart gun or a firearm-shaped space blaster — or perhaps even the fabled stick shaped perfectly like a gun — to liven up your games of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers as a child, chances are you grew up to be a pistol-packing maniac awaiting the opportunity to open fire on innocent civilians in a public square.

At least that’s the logic of school officials who felt the need to hold a toy gun buyback at a California elementary school on Saturday.

Bay News 9 in Hayward, Calif., reports that Principal Charles Hill of Stonebridge Elementary decided to hold a toy gun buyback at his school, giving children the opportunity to turn over their plastic-tipped peacemakers, water pistols and photon ray blasters in return for books and the chance to win a more Democrat-affable bicycle.

Explaining his logic, Hill said, “Playing with toy guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes them, so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun.”

While it may just seem like someone is still a little upset that Santa forgot his Johnny Seven One Man Army Gun, anti-gun sentiment throughout the United States has actually made Hill’s style of educator pants-wetting over children’s toys bearing any resemblance to guns quite common.

Late last month, the principal at Dowell Elementary School in Lusby, Md., carried out a hot lamp-style interrogation on a 5-year-old boy who brought a cowboy-style cap gun to school.

The following is an account of the insanity, via The Washington Post (emphasis added):

The mother was called by the principal at 10:50 a.m. and was told that her son had the cap gun and pretended to shoot someone on the bus. She said that both the kindergartner and his first-grade sister, sitting nearby on the bus, disputed that account.

The mother said the principal told her that if the cap gun had been loaded with caps, it would have been deemed an explosive and police would have been called in.

The child’s disciplinary referral said he was being suspended for possession of a look-alike gun.

The boy, described by his mother as “all bugs and frogs and cowboys,” was apparently questioned so rigorously by the principal that he “uncharacteristically” wet his pants. Reports indicate that the youngster has been allowed back at school, but that the incident will remain on his permanent record.

And there was the case of a 10-year-old boy in New York suggesting that a bully ought to be shot with a water pistol; the cops came to his house and confiscated his father’s concealed carry permit. John Mayer, the boy’s father, was told that his 2nd Amendment rights would be restored when his son turned 18 and moved out of the house.

These reports are just a few of the many extreme cases of toy guns being treated like deadly weapons by adults.

If the argument is that playing with toy guns increases the chances that a child will grow up to shoot people with real guns, does it apply to other children’s toys? Do youngsters who play with remote-control cars have a higher chance of being reckless drivers? If your child is allowed to play Monopoly, what are the chances of his running a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scam when he grows up, or perhaps even orchestrating the next sub-prime mortgage crises? Or if he watches liberally acclaimed cartoons about pint-sized transsexual superheroes, is little Johnny more likely to be found answering to “Jenny” on a sidewalk dressed in drag and looking for a good time?

Probably not. As an aside, however, people like Hill probably would encourage Johnny’s transformation to Jenny.

McCain Attacks Paul… Again; White House Backtracks On ‘Every Member’ Claim; Obamacare Tanning Tax Goes Permanent; 1984 Sales Nearly Double; And Farm Bill’s Unworthy Recipients: Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-10-2013

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

RINO McCain: Boston Bombing Is Proof, The Battlefield Is Here, Spying Is Good, Paul Is Wrong

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) continued what is seemingly an unending mission to discredit any member of the GOP more conservative than himself — a very low threshold by most accounts — on Sunday, saying that his least favorite wackobird, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has lost his credibility in fighting global terrorism. Read More…

Carney Backtracks After Congress Refutes Presidential Claim: Not All Lawmakers Briefed On Spy Programs

Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to soften the impact of revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on Americans by collecting massive amounts of metadata from private communications companies by claiming that every member of Congress knew it was going on. Members of Congress promptly refuted the President’s claim and the White House is backtracking. Read More…

At Least They Haven’t Figured Out How To Tax Sunlight… Yet: Tanning Bed Tax Now A Permanent Fixture

House Speaker John Boehner, “Tanning Mom,” bodybuilders and teenage girls throughout the Nation, be advised: The “temporary” tax levied against indoor tanning services in 2010 as a part of Obamacare will be made permanent on Tuesday. Read More…

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 citizens already weary of President Barack Obama’s scandal-rocked second term galvanize against the intrusiveness of Big Government surveillance. Read More…

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. Read more…

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Carney Backtracks After Congress Refutes Presidential Claim: Not All Lawmakers Briefed On Spy Programs

Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to soften the impact of revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on Americans by collecting massive amounts of metadata from private communications companies by claiming that every member of Congress knew it was going on.

“Now, the programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama said.

Members of Congress promptly refuted the President’s claim.

There was Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who said of the NSA spying, “I had no idea.”

And Representative Tim Griffen (R-Ark.) said the President was mistaken via Twitter.

POLITICO, following Obama’s claim, published a piece revealing that several other lawmakers — the list continues to grow — have publicly said they were never briefed about the NSA spying. A list of those lawmakers includes: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Representative Billy Long (R-La.).

Public announcements from lawmakers that they were not indeed briefed on the spying programs elicited a response from the Obama Administration on Monday: Oh, yeah; many rank-and-file lawmakers were actually not briefed, but they probably could have dug up the classified information if they had really tried to.

Or if you prefer, here’s White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s version of the backtrack:

 

And, to save face, all House members will reportedly be briefed on the government’s spy tactics on Tuesday.

At Least They Haven’t Figured Out How To Tax Sunlight… Yet: Tanning Bed Tax Now A Permanent Fixture

House Speaker John Boehner, “Tanning Mom,” bodybuilders and teenage girls throughout the Nation, be advised: The “temporary” tax levied against indoor tanning services in 2010 as a part of Obamacare will be made permanent on Tuesday.

The tax — which until now was considered temporary while the Internal Revenue Service “collected feedback” on how it should be applied — was designed to help offset Obamacare costs. Proponents of the measure estimated that it would raise $2.7 billion in revenue to help soften the economic impact of the President’s healthcare overhaul.

“After considering the written comments and comments made at the public hearing, the proposed regulations are adopted as final regulations by this Treasury decision and the corresponding temporary regulations are removed,” says a notice to be filed in the Federal Register.

Lawmakers opposed to the measure have argued that the 10 percent tanning tax unfairly penalizes 18,000 American small-business owners offering tanning services, but efforts to repeal the measure have been unsuccessful.

RINO McCain: Boston Bombing Is Proof, The Battlefield Is Here, Spying Is Good, Paul Is Wrong

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) continued what is seemingly an unending mission to discredit any member of the GOP more conservative than himself — a very low threshold by most accounts — on Sunday, saying that his least favorite wackobird, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has lost his credibility in fighting global terrorism.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain made the case that overreaching government surveillance in the vein of the National Security Agency’s PRISM initiative is not “necessarily wrong” because it operates under court oversight. That’s contrary to Paul’s continuing claims that the government’s spy program is an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

“Just prior to the Boston bombing, he said the battlefield was no longer in America,” McCain told CNN host Candy Crowley of Paul’s position.

The elder Senator was referring to remarks Paul made in April.

“It’s different overseas than it will be here,” Paul said two months ago. “Which gets precisely to the argument I have with some other Republicans who say, ‘Well, the battlefield is everywhere, there is no limitation.’ President Obama says this. Some members of my party say the battle has no geographic limitations and the laws of war apply. It’s important to know that the law of war that they’re talking about means no due process.”