Laws Were Broken, Consequences Were Non-Existent

Yesterday The Hill posted an article about violations of the civil liberties of Americans under the Obama Administration. I will try to highlight the article here, but I strongly suggest following the link above to read the full article. It is chilling in the fact that it illustrates how people in high office can use their position to violate the rights of other Americans. It is a very unusual day when I am in agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union, but they are right in this case.

The article reports:

The National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama years by improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies’ ability to obey their own rules.

The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The article reminds us:

“Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant,” said Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation. “The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again.”

Section 702 empowers the NSA to spy on foreign powers and to retain and use certain intercepted data that was incidentally collected on Americans under strict privacy protections. Wrongly collected information is supposed to be immediately destroyed.

The Hill reviewed the new ACLU documents as well as compliance memos released by the NSA inspector general and identified more than 90 incidents where violations specifically cited an impact on Americans. Many incidents involved multiple persons, multiple violations or extended periods of time.

The NSA’s chief spokesman, Michael T. Halbig, stated, “Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program.” The NSA has also stated that the violations amount to a small percentage when compared to the hundreds of thousands of specific phone numbers and email addresses the agencies intercepted through the so-called Section 702 warrantless spying program created by Congress in late 2008. In my opinion that doesn’t help the NSA’s case–a violation is still a violation.

The article further states:

CIA and FBI received unminimized data from many Section 702-tasked facilities and at times are thus required to conduct similar purges,” one report noted.

“NSA issued a report which included the name of a United States person whose identity was not foreign intelligence,” said one typical incident report from 2015, which said the NSA eventually discovered the error and “recalled” the information.

Likewise, the FBI disclosed three instances between December 2013 and February 2014 of “improper disseminations of U.S. persons identities.”

Some of our government officials need to be held accountable for this violation of the civil rights of Americans. The people in leadership in the NSA and the FBI during the time of these violations need to be removed from office if they are still there. Jail time would be appropriate. I would like to remind everyone that spying on American citizens is not an authorized government activity. Whether it was for political reasons or other purposes, there need to be consequences.

Attacking Religious Freedom In Massachusetts

CBN News posted an article today about the battle for religious freedom in Massachusetts.

The article explains the timeline of the events:

Four churches in Massachusetts are suing the state over a new anti-discrimination law that provides no exemption for churches.

Instead, the statute restricts speech that might conflict with government views on gender identity and forces churches to open their bathrooms and locker rooms to people based on their perceived gender identity.

…The state legislature added gender identity as a protected class to the state’s public accommodation law in July 2016. On Sept. 1, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issued a “Gender Identity Guidance,” which determined that a church would be considered as a place of public accommodation “if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is handling the case for the four churches. The four churches are Horizon Christian Fellowship in Fitchburg, Abundant Life Church in Swansea, House of Destiny Ministries in Southbridge, and Faith Christian Fellowship in Haverhill.

The article reports:

“All events held at a church on its property have a religious purpose and the government has no authority to violate the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion and speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said.

The law went into effect Oct. 1.  But opponents of the law celebrated a major win late Tuesday in their efforts to repeal it.  The Massachusetts secretary of state has certified the required number of signatures needed to put a repeal measure on the 2018 ballot.

It will be interesting to see if the issue makes it on to the 2018 ballot, even though it has the necessary signatures. A number of years ago, the voters of Massachusetts collected enough signatures to put gay marriage on the ballot, but somehow that never happened. The gay marriage law that took effect in Massachusetts was the result of a court decision–not a vote of the people. Unfortunately, I think this issue may be resolved the same way.