Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Prevent Future Government Spying

On the heels of the Associated Press hacking scandal, wherein the Justice Department revealed its utter lack of regard for the 1st and 4th Amendments and justified its actions through post-9/11 “national security” policies, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers has introduced legislation to prevent the government from engaging in secret warrantless phone hacking in the future.

Representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) presented the Telephone Records Protection Act, HR 2014, in the lower Congressional chamber last week. The bill would require government investigators to attain the approval of a court any time they demand telephone records from service providers.

Current law dictates that the government can subpoena communication records unilaterally by way of what is known as an administrative subpoena, which is how the Justice Department seized the private information of dozens of AP reporters while investigating leaks from the CIA.

The Justice Department’s seizure of the AP’s phone records — likely without the sign-off of a single judge — raises serious 1st and 4th Amendment concerns.

“Regardless of whether DOJ violates the legitimate privacy expectations of reporters or ordinary Americans, we deserve to know that the Federal government can’t seize our records without judicial review,” Amash said.

Further vexing privacy advocates, it has also been reported that Justice Investigators not only pulled information from communication devices directly tied to AP, but also from cellphones — personal and work-related — belonging to the reporters it was investigating.

“I was honestly surprised to learn that the government could get this sort of private, personal information without a court order. If that is indeed the law, as the Department of Justice insists that it is, then the law needs to change,” Mulvaney said. “I am more than willing to acknowledge that there may be times that the government needs access to this sort of information. That being said, if the case in favor of acquiring this information is so compelling, it seems a requirement that the government get a court order should be no impediment to the conduct of a valid government investigation.”

The Telephone Records Protection Act would require the government to state “specific and articulable facts” to prove before a court that the information sought is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”

For now, Verizon, the telecom company that provided the government with much of the information it requested in the AP hacking case, has not commented on whether the current controversy will encourage a change in its policy with regard to how much information it is willing to provide government investigators without a court order.

The lawmakers’ bill would address a sobering reality that journalists are being forced to face as the hacking scandal remains in the spotlight. With developments in government “national security” policy in the years since 9/11, including language in the National Defense Authorization Act promising indefinite detention of citizens who associate with people the government deems terrorists, there no longer remains a way for journalists to provide the public with a complete story about individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of government without fearing for their own well-being.

Fed Crackdown On Bitcoin To Protect Monopoly On Economic Power

When governments center a great portion of their focus around controlling and manipulating economic affairs, they become very nervous at the utterance of the words “alternative currency.” And in the case of Bitcoin, in seems that U.S. officials have heard enough about the currency alternative to become worried that its growing popularity might affect the government’s economically enabled monopoly on power.

Bitcoin has been getting flogged by politicians who have little interest in understanding how the alternative currency works, who uses it and why those tired of government manipulated currency may opt to use it for certain transactions.

Two years ago, when online currency first started to get a little media attention outside of tight-knit Internet cliques, Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) breathlessly exclaimed at a news conference: “Literally, it allows buyers and users to sell illegal drugs online, including heroin, cocaine, and meth, and users do sell by hiding their identities through a program that makes them virtually untraceable. It’s a certifiable one-stop shop for illegal drugs that represents the most brazen attempt to peddle drugs online that we have ever seen. It’s more brazen than anything else by light-years.”

Of course, Bitcoin is not — as Schumer seemed to be convinced — an online currency specifically designed for the buying and selling of illicit drugs. And since his hissy fit, the virtual currency has become more popular as online companies and even some brick-and-mortar small businesses throughout the Nation have begun accepting Bitcoins.

Even though Bitcoin is proving a viable vehicle for legitimate financial business, the Federal government has doubled down on attempts to highlight the fact that it can be used for illicit means. (Of course, drug dealers, prostitutes, terrorists and mobsters haven’t stopped accepting cash, have they?)

Last week, the Feds initiated actions that prompted the online payment service Dwolla to stop processing Bitcoin transactions. The Des Moines, Iowa-based startup had raised $16.5 million in funding two weeks ago to further initiatives to mainstream Bitcoins. It blamed the decision to stop processing transactions involving the currency on “recent court orders” crippling its ability to send money through MtGox, the largest Bitcoin exchange.

MtGox issued the following statement:

Statement Regarding Dwolla:

Like many who have contacted us, MtGox has read on the Internet that the United States Department of Homeland Security had a court order and/or warrant issued from the United States District Court in Maryland which it served upon the Dwolla mobile payment service with respect to accounts used for trading with MtGox. We take this information seriously. However, as of this time we have not been provided with a copy of the court order and/or warrant, and do not know its scope and/or the reasons for its issuance. MtGox is investigating and will provide further reports when additional information becomes known.

A Department of Homeland Security seizure warrant to Dwolla for the MtGox’s account with the online processing company says that Dwolla, a Japanese startup, failed to register in the United States as a money-transmitting company. That matters, because supposed “anti-terror” financial rules from recent years require online transfer systems to identify users. Dwolla president and CEO Mark Karpeles now faces up to five years in prison.

“The shutdown of MtGox is a little bit worrying, it looks as if the US government wants to put a stranglehold on the kind of business that’s popping up around Bitcoin, but, crucially, it doesn’t affect much the currency itself.” Arwa Mahdawi, a consultant, journalist and Bitcoin employee, told RT. “It’s just the exchanges around it and the U.S. exchanges. And by the nature of it, Bitcoin being an international currency, shutting down an exchange like MtGox, even if it affects the liquidity of Bitcoin, can’t kill Bitcoin.”

Many people watching the Federal case against Bitcoin surmise that the government is simply grasping at straws to make it as difficult as possible for virtual currencies to gain more mainstream acceptance, because the proliferation of a de-centralized, apolitical currency network presents a massive threat to the lucrative symbiotic relationship between government and traditional “private” banks.

Worst Since Watergate, Unrecognizable America, Medieval Mayor, 2nd Amendment Protects Homeowner…Yet Again, IRS Questioned Over Private Biz Abuse: Friday P.M. Edition News Links 5-17-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. update.

‘This Is No Ordinary Scandal’ – WSJ Says IRS Debacle ‘Worst Washington Scandal Since Watergate’

Peggy Noonan, who’s written speeches for two Republican Presidents and served as a consultant on NBC’s ‘The West Wing,’ penned a column in the Wall Street Journal Thursday that bypasses the partisan indictments of the Administration of President Barack Obama over the IRS’ political discrimination scandal, focusing instead on the issue’s threat to the fundamental integrity of government, regardless of the party that’s in charge. Read More…

Texas Rep To IRS: Is This Still America?

During Congressional questioning of Steven Miller, the former Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner, Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas) had a simple question for the taxman: Is this still America? Read More…

Mayor Gets Medieval In Plea To Residents To ‘Fight For Stockton’

Seeing the mayor of a California city of nearly 300,000 people don a studded warrior’s helmet and brandish a medieval-looking mace in order to make a point might have been bizarre for residents of beleaguered Stockton. Read More…

Feel Good Story: Robbers Shove Victim Into Gun Closet, He Comes Out Shooting

Earlier this week, three attackers kicked in the front door to a home in southwest Houston and proceeded to whoop up on a resident of the home before stuffing him into an upstairs closet. He came out with a gun. Read More… 

Did Treasury Department Target Conservative-Owned GM Dealers In 2009 Auto Bailout?

Two Republican Congressmen are inquiring whether the U.S. Treasury Department went after auto dealerships owned by conservatives after the Federal government, in 2009, became majority owner of General Motors as part of a $50 billion Congressional bailout. Read More…

Feel Good Story: Robbers Shove Victim Into Gun Closet, He Comes Out Shooting

Earlier this week, three attackers kicked in the front door to a home in southwest Houston and proceeded to whoop up on a resident of the home before stuffing him into an upstairs closet.

Lucky for him it’s where a gun was stored.

According to KHOU, the man reportedly waited until it sounded quiet downstairs before exiting the closet with a gun in hand. When he came face to face with the intruders a gun battle between he and the armed robbers ensued, during which one of the assailants was shot and the two others fled the scene.

The wounded robber ran to a nearby home where he collapsed; he was later taken into police custody and given medical treatment.

“The owner, thank God for rights, he shot one of ‘em. And that’s as far as the guy got, collapsed on the concrete there,” a neighbor said. “You know, amen, we got one of them.”

 

Texas Rep To IRS: Is This Still America?

During Congressional questioning of Steven Miller, the former Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner, Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas) had a simple question for the taxman: Is this still America?

“Is this still America?” asked Brady. “Is this government so drunk on power that it would turn its full force, full might, to harm, intimidate, and threat an average American that only wants her voice and their voices heard?”

Here’s the video:


 

The IRS hearings took a similar direction as hearings earlier in the week with high ranking officials involved in the scandals that have come to light deflecting blame and uttering “I don’t know” a number of times in response to lawmaker questions.

For his part, Miller denied any partisan motivation in the IRS actions on Friday.

“I do not believe that partisanship motivated the people who engaged in the practices described in the treasury inspector general’s report,” Miller said. “I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection. The listing described in the report, while intolerable was a mistake and not an act of partisanship.”

More Money For IRS, Carney Loves Getting Flogged, More Scandals To Come, Culture Of Cover-ups: TGIF Morning News Roundup 5-17-2013

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.

  • Asked what the IRS needs to prevent future abuse, outgoing commissioner Steve Miller said…more money.
  • Topping off the insincerity: Jay Carney had this to say about responding to scandals, “I would say that it’s been a challenging week, but in many ways a week that I’ve enjoyed.”
  • The House Ways and Means Committee drilled the IRS at its much-anticipated hearing Friday morning, with Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) saying the agency has become too powerful and has demonstrated a “culture of cover-ups” under the Obama Administration.
  • A new poll out from Reason finds that only six percent of Americans think minor marijuana possession should be punishable by jail time.
  • Over in the Senate, senior Democrat Max Baucus is saying that the IRS scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. “I have a hunch that a lot more is going to come out, frankly,” he told Bloomberg News.

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

Racist Conservative Dolts, Not Obama, Responsible For Onslaught Of Scandals

Democratic apologists have had a busy few days as the Barack Obama Administration’s lack of competence has taken center stage in the American psyche with story upon story of scandal and screwup.

Those who feel the need to defend the President and his wayward Administration have used a variety of tactics, including: race baiting, claiming the President has supernatural power over Republicans, outright lying, and picking and choosing facts. The tactics are nothing new coming from people on the left, but the growing divide between Obama supporters waking up and those doubling down on ignorance is making the attempts more laughable — and frightening — than ever before.

Lefty talking head Chris Matthews has already noted that the tingly feeling in his leg has begun to lead to a bit more of a burning sensation, but he still can’t resist labeling as racists conservatives who are pointing out Obama’s debauchery. Full disclosure: President Barack Obama is sort of black.

During a recent interview, Matthews said he believes conservatives feel they are racially superior to the President:

But the problem is there are people in this country, maybe 10 percent — I don’t know the number is, maybe 20 percent on a bad day, who want this president to have an asterisk next to his name in the history books, that he really wasn’t president… He really wasn’t really the first African-American president. He really didn’t do healthcare. He really didn’t kill bin Laden. There’s an asterisk.

And they have been fighting like that, people like Donald Trump, since day one. They can’t stand the idea that he is president. And a piece of it is racism. Not that somebody in one racial group doesn’t like somebody in another racial group, so what. It is the sense the white race must rule. That’s what racism is. And they can’t stand the idea that a man who is not white is president. That is real.

That sense of racial superiority and rule is in the hearts of some people in this country. Not all conservatives. Not even all right-wingers. But it always come through with this birther crap and the other references and somehow trying to erase Obamacare, erase his record in history…

That’s the same sentiment that has been offered by Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Montana Democrat, who bizarrely claimed that conservatives feel like the President has “taken control” of conservatives’ souls and that his “pigmentation” is responsible for the scrutiny.

“These people are obsessed with the president, he has taken control of their soul,” Cleaver said on MSNBC.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult for us to erase some of the things they’ve embraced,” he added. “They simply want this to be a figment of his pigmentation.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) somehow, remarkably, refrained from attempting to make conservative backlash a racial issue. Instead, she said conservatives are upset because Obama is just so damn smart and eloquent.

“This president — they make so much of these issues because this president is such a great president,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press briefing. “They will use talking points on Benghazi, they will use the IRS, they will use AP, as, I think, subterfuges — evasions — of what the American people want us to do.”

Pelosi went on to assert that conservatives need scandals because Obama, the “visionary,” has greatly outmatched them.

“He has a knowledge of our country and the concerns of the American people as of what plan we should go forward with to strengthen the middle class, and he has an eloquence to communicate that message,” she said.  “They fear that.”

And then there are those who don’t even believe anything has happened, like MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell. He said, during a segment of his show, that the Internal Revenue Service is essentially supposed to single out conservative groups.

“I do not believe what the IRS was reported to have been doing is an outrage. I believe that the IRS agents in this case did nothing wrong,” O’Donnell opined. “Let me say it again, you won’t hear it anywhere else: the IRS agents did nothing wrong. They were simply trying to enforce the law as the IRS has understood it since 1959.”

David Axelrod, a former top political adviser to Obama, absolved the President of responsibility in the IRS scandal by co-opting an argument that conservatives have been shouting for years: Government is way too big.

“Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast,” he said. “You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it and it’s a difficult situation.”

It’s not like Obama is the Commander in Chief or anything.

Eric Holder Doesn’t Know Anything, But He Knows More Than You… And He Wants Respect

When Eric Holder visited Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers’ questions on Wednesday, he made a few things clear: There are many things related to recent Barack Obama Administration scandals that the Attorney General claims not to know. There are also some things that he knows that no one else can know. And he thinks the executive branch of government is more powerful and, therefore, deserves respect from members of the legislative branch.

The video below, courtesy of Washington Free Beacon, sums up what Americans learned from Holder’s testimony:

 


 
Of course, for all of the things that the Attorney General claims not to know, he made it very clear to Representative Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) that there are some things he isn’t ignorant about with regard to the Boston bombing… but he can’t tell anyone what they are.

“Because of political correctness there was not a thorough enough examination of Tamerlan [Tsarnaev] to determine if this kid had been radicalized,” Gohmert told Holder. “That is the concern I have. On the one hand, we go after Christian groups like Billy Graham’s group, we go after Franklin Graham’s group, but then we’re hands off when it comes to possibly offending someone who has been radicalized as a terrorist.”

“You’ve made statements as matters of fact–,” Holder began in response.

“You point out one thing that I said that was not true,” Gohmert said.

“The only observation I was going to make is that you state as a matter of fact what the FBI did and did not do. Unless somebody has done something inappropriate, you don’t have access to the FBI files,” Holder said later. “I know what the FBI did. You cannot know what I know. That’s all.”

Watch the full exchange:
 

 
Holder’s remark “You cannot know what I know” is revelatory of where he sees the Justice Department and other executive offices fitting in to the grand scheme of American government. He removes any doubt that he believes the executive branch should have unfettered ability to operate secretly and with impunity by informing lawmakers that he felt their questions had disrespected him.

“I respect the oversight role that Congress plays. This isn’t always a pleasant experience; it’s one that I recognize that you go through as an executive branch officer. The one thing I’ve tried to do is always be respectful of the people who’ve asked me questions,” he said to Representative Doug Collins (R-Ga.). “I don’t frankly think I’ve always been treated with a great deal of respect, and it’s not even a personal thing. If you don’t like me, that’s one thing, but I am the Attorney General of the United States.”

Here’s the exchange:
 

 
Holder is seemingly following a similar plan to the one he used to avoid taking any responsibility for the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal; he is stalling by playing dumb and accusing Congress of overstepping its authority for asking questions about the few things he does claim to know — which, incidentally, are classified. The only thing that is left is for him and the President to get together and let the American people know that they will be covering their asses and making scandals disappear by exerting “executive privilege.”

Owner Only Guns, Obama Calls In The Marines, Taking A Leak On The IRS, Emails Reveal Benghazi Lies, States To Tax No-Tobacco Smokes: Thursday Afternoon News Links 5-16-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s afternoon update.

Democrat Rep Wants Guns With Electronics Making Them Inoperable To All But Owner… Says He Got The Idea From James Bond

Representative John Tierney (D-Mass.) recently watched the latest James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” and came up with what he thought was a great idea: handguns with “personalization technology.” Read More…

Watch: Obama Doesn’t Want His Hair Wet, So He Calls In The Marines… To Hold Umbrellas

Just another example of the imperial President acting imperially: President Barack Obama called over Marines to shield himself and the Turkish prime minister from the rain during an outdoor press conference. Watch…

‘Audit This’ — Philadelphia Eagles’ OL Evan Mathis Literally Pees On The IRS

What a relief! It’s finally OK to publicly ridicule the Internal Revenue Service, now that the scandal-plagued agency has made a parody of itself through its discriminatory, election-season stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s political enemies. Read More…

Released Benghazi Emails ‘Directly Contradict’ White House Narrative Of Events

According to Weekly Standard blogger Stephen F. Hayes, who’s perused all 94 pages of post-Benghazi internal email communications the White House finally released on Wednesday, the Barack Obama Administration’s official, public narrative immediately following the Benghazi, Libya, attacks has zilch in common with what Administration and intelligence officials were saying among themselves as they came up with talking points to frame the President’s immediate response. Read More…

South Carolina Wants A Piece Of Growing E-Cig Market With Proposed Tax

Legislators in South Carolina, along with lawmakers in several other States, are proposing what would amount to a “sin” tax on electronic cigarettes, which are growing in popularity as traditional smokers turn to alternatives perceived as healthier. Read More…