Losing Our Constitutional Rights One At A Time

Lately the First Amendment has been under attack at our colleges and universities. Speakers who do not hold views considered ‘acceptable’ are either disinvited or violently protested. However, there is another constitutional right that is also under attack–the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Yesterday a website called Circa posted an article about CIA Director John Brennan’s expected testimony before Congress today.

The article reminds us:

As former CIA Director John Brennan faces Congress anew on Tuesday, there is growing evidence the Agency he oversaw has become one of the largest consumers of unmasked intelligence about Americans even though its charter prohibits it from spying on U.S. citizens.

The CIA routinely searches data collected overseas on Americans by the National Security Agency, and frequently requests the names of intercepted U.S. persons to be unmasked, once-secret government documents reviewed by Circa show.

…Brennan himself was required last September to submit an affidavit to a court declaring he would keep his agency from abusing such expanded access to Americans’ private information.

Despite the declaration, there also is evidence that the CIA has broken its rules from time to time, a potential slight to Americans’ privacy protections, the documents show.

Last year, before leaving office, former President Obama relaxed the privacy rules protecting the privacy of Americans accidentally caught up in wiretaps of phone calls. Unfortunately, that policy change has been responsible for some of the leaks coming out of the Trump Administration. The unmasking of the names associated with those leaks was a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

The article explains:

But Circa reported earlier this spring that former President Barack Obama, Brennan’s boss, substantially loosened those privacy rules in 2011 allowing agencies like the CIA and FBI to more easily access unredacted intelligence on Americans. That led to a massive increase in both searches inside the NSAdatabase and the actual unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, and increased fears that such requests could be abused for political espionage.

Making a request can be as easy as saying a name is needed to understand a report.

In 2016, the NSA unmasked Americans‘ names in intelligence reports more than 1,900 times and was asked to do more than 35,000 searches of intercepted data for information on U.S. persons or their actual  intercepted conversations, according to data released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence

The searches for Americans’ names in the NSA database last year amounted to a three-fold increase over 2013. Officials note that their procedures for making such requests have undergone repeated court approvals.

I don’t believe that the fact that the unmasking of Americans’ names increased dramatically during an election year is a coincidence. This is exactly what the people who opposed the Patriot Act feared. Although we need to be able to protect ourselves from attacks by terrorists, we also need to protect the rights of Americans. We have to remember what the Founding Fathers knew–not everyone elected to pubic office is an honest upstanding citizen who will abide by his or her oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. That is the reason we need to make sure our Constitutional protections remain in place.

 

The Nightmare The Opponents Of The Patriot Act Saw Coming

It would be nice to believe that we are a nation led by honorable men. In the past that has occasionally been true and I am sure that it will occasionally be true in the future. I am hoping it is true in the present. However, our Founding Fathers understood that we would not always be led by honorable men and set up the U.S. Constitution accordingly. The power was supposed to rest with the people–not with the government. The government was supposed to be responsive to the wishes of the people and accountable to the people. The framework was beautiful. Had we paid closer attention to following it, we would be in a very different place. I am particularly concerned about recent violations of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Patriot Act allowed for the collection of electronic data unprecedented in American history. The idea behind it was to prevent terrorist attacks. Some Congressmen warned that the act could be used to violate the rights of average Americans. Evidently they were right.

Yesterday The Gateway Pundit posted a story about electronic surveillance under the Obama Administration. Evidently that surveillance went far beyond what was necessary or legitimate.

The article reports:

Barack Obama‘s CIA Director John O. Brennan targeted Trump supporters for enhanced surveillance, intelligence sources confirm to GotNews’ Charles C. Johnson.

The surveillance took place between Trump’s election on November 8 and the inauguration in January, according to White House and House intelligence sources.

The focus was on General Mike Flynn, billionaire Erik Prince, and Fox News host Sean Hannity — all of whom had close ties to Trump before and after the November election and had helped the future president with managing his new diplomatic responsibilities.

Hannity was targeted because of his perceived ties to Julian Assange, say our intelligence sources. Hannity was reportedly unmasked by Susan Rice at Brennan’s behest thanks to his close relationship with Trump and Julian Assange.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a former CIA covert asset, has long criticized the CIA’s bloat and incompetence, including the Brennan-run CIA drone program’s failure to properly target terrorists rather than Afghan civilians. Prince has repeatedly called for restructuring the CIA and argued against Brennan’s tenure.

This is a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of these citizens. At the very least, lawsuits are in order. More appropriately, people who authorized or participated in this need to lose their jobs and possible go to prison. In the Watergate Scandal, which is peanuts compared to this, people went to prison. That would also be appropriate here.

 

 

Eternal Vigilance Is The Cost Of Freedom

While we were waiting for Donald Trump to become President, there were some things going on in Washington that we need to look at. At the time these things may not have seemed important, but in view of recent events, they need to be re-examined.

Yesterday PJ Media reported on a New York Times story from January 12, 2017,.

The New York Times reported:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

PJ Media states:

Let’s call the roster of the bad guys:

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, permitting the N.S.A. to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information,” on Jan. 3, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., signed them on Dec. 15, according to a 23-page, largely declassified copy of the procedures.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

This is essentially a land mine placed in the path of the Trump Administration by the Obama Administration. If I told you how angry I was about this, this blog would no longer be family-friendly.  I hope Americans can put partisan politics aside and realize how damaging this is to the country and to the Fourth Amendment rights of all Americans. Former President Obama has gone out of his way to make things difficult for President Trump. This is not appropriate. It is petty, vindictive and unpatriotic. If laws were not broken, there cannot be a legal penalty, but there should be a public censure of some sort. I have always felt that former President Obama did not understand America. His actions in the last months of his presidency and his actions since leaving office have convinced me that is true.

Quietly Taking Away The Rights Of American Citizens

There was much discussion about the Second Amendment during the presidency of Barack Obama. President Obama was the most successful gun salesman of all time. That became obvious at local gun shows when sales dropped precipitously after November. However, President Obama left a legacy in the courts that may not protect the rights of gun owners.

A website called cheaperthandirt posted a story on January 29th about a decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The article reports:

The case, United States v. Robinson, has been a roller coaster of conflicting opinions ever since Mr. Robinson first moved to have the evidence in the case against him suppressed for violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. The issue presented by the case is whether police officers, having reason to believe a person is in possession of a firearm, can legally treat the individual as dangerous, even if they have no reason to believe the possession is illegal and even if the person’s behavior is not overtly threatening.

On March 24, 2014, an anonymous tipster called the Ranson, W. Va. police department claiming to have seen an African-American male in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven load a handgun, conceal it in his pocket, and leave the lot as a passenger in bluish-green Toyota Camry driven by a white female.

Within minutes, a police officer responded to the location and observed a vehicle less than a mile away from the 7-Eleven matching the description provided by the caller. The officer observed that the occupants of the car were not wearing seatbelts, which allowed him to execute a lawful traffic stop under West Virginia law. Mindful of the anonymous tip, the officer ordered Robinson, who was in the passenger seat, out of the car.

Meanwhile, back-up had arrived. The second officer approached the car, opened the passenger side door, and asked Robinson if he had any weapons. He would later testify that Robinson’s only reply was to give him a “weird look.” The officers then had Robinson place his hands on top of the car and frisked him for weapons, finding a firearm in his pants pocket.

Both officers testified that Robinson was cooperative throughout the encounter and that they never observed any gestures indicating he intended to use any weapons against them.

After the frisk, one of the officers realized that he recognized Robinson from prior criminal proceedings. Confirming that Robinson had a felony record, the officer arrested him for felon in possession of a firearm. The case was then tried in federal court.

Under Supreme Court precedent from 1968 (Terry v. Ohio), police officers who believe a suspect they have detained for investigation but have not arrested can conduct a limited “pat down” of the suspect’s outer clothing when they have reasonable suspicion that the suspect is “armed and dangerous.” This was the basis for the search the officers used to find the incriminating firearm in Robinson’s pocket.

But Robinson claimed that the officers had no reason to believe that he posed any danger to them and therefore that they had no legal authority to frisk him. He noted that people may lawfully carry firearms in West Virginia, that the police had no information at the time of the frisk that his carrying was unlawful, and that he did not act aggressively or uncooperatively toward the officers.

The article goes on to explain that when the case was originally heard by a magistrate judge, the judge agreed with Mr. Robinson and asked that the evidence of the firearm be disallowed. The district court judge rejected the recommendation. Mr. Robinson then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The article reports the majority opinion from the three-judge panel:

Judge Pamela Harris’s majority opinion stated:

[I]n states like West Virginia, which broadly allow public possession of firearms, reasonable suspicion that a person is armed does not by itself give rise to reasonable suspicion that the person is dangerous for Terry purposes. Where the state legislature has decided that its citizens may be entrusted to carry firearms on public streets, we may not make the contrary assumption that those firearms inherently pose a danger justifying their seizure by law enforcement officers without consent. … Nor will we adopt a rule that would effectively eliminate Fourth Amendment protections for lawfully armed persons … authorizing a personally intrusive frisk whenever a citizen stopped by the police is exercising the constitutional right to bear arms. [Quotation marks and citations omitted].

President Obama’s Justice Department then asked the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the decision. The decision was then reversed.

The article further explains:

The majority insisted that the “armed and dangerous” language in Terry really meant “armed and therefore dangerous” (emphasis in original). In other words, “the risk of danger is created simply because the person, who was forcibly stopped, is armed.”

The court also asserted the same “logic” applies, even if possession of the weapon is legal. “The presumptive lawfulness of an individual’s gun possession in a particular State does next to nothing to negate the reasonable concern an officer has for his own safety when forcing an encounter with an individual who is armed with a gun and whose propensities are unknown,” the majority opinion concludes.

Thus, because Robinson was lawfully stopped, and the police officers had reasonable suspicion to believe he was armed, “the officers were, as a matter of law, justified in frisking him and, in doing so, did not violate Robinson’s Fourth Amendment right.”

Incredibly, though the court resolved the case on the broadest constitutional proposition possible, the majority opinion then went on to describe all the circumstances known to the officers that would have allowed them to make an individual “dangerousness” determination under the facts of the case. Thus, the majority essentially admitted that the patently anti-gun holding of the case–that all persons armed with a gun are a per se lethal threat to police officers–wasn’t even necessary to its resolution.

If the majority opinion were not bad enough, Judge James A. Wynn wrote an incendiary concurrence berating the majority for focusing broadly on “weapons” rather than on firearms specifically. Wynn’s opinion argued that the majority’s reasoning also necessitated recognition of two other “key issues.” The first, Wynn wrote, is that “individuals who carry firearms—lawfully or unlawfully—pose a categorical risk of danger to others and police officers, in particular.” The second is that “individuals who choose to carry firearms [therefore] forego certain constitutional protections afforded to individuals who elect not to carry firearms.”

Judge Wynn went on to explain how he believes the law of the Fourth Circuit—which includes Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia—is now that lawful gun owners are second class citizens.

“[T]he majority decision today necessarily leads to the conclusion that individuals who elect to carry firearms forego other constitutional rights,” Wynn wrote, “like the Fourth Amendment right to have law enforcement officers ‘knock-and-announce’ before forcibly entering homes.” He continued, “Likewise, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that individuals who choose to carry firearms necessarily face greater restriction on their concurrent exercise of other constitutional rights, like those protected by the First Amendment.”

Mr. Robinson’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure was violated. I understand the feeling the police may have had that they wanted to prevent a crime, but the frisking of a passenger in a car that was stopped because people were not wearing seat belts is over the top. A man carrying a gun in West Virginia is not all that unusual. I hope Mr. Robinson takes his case to the Supreme Court. A person with a gun does not automatically need to give up his Fourth Amendment rights. Admittedly, the case is muddied by the fact that Mr. Robinson should not have had the gun, but that is a separate issue. The police had no reason to frisk a passenger in a car just because the passengers were not wearing seat belts.

 

 

It Scares Me When I Agree With The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

This is a map from the ACLU:

The map describes the shaded area as the Constitution-Free Zone in the United States. So what is this about?

The ACLU Website posted a fact sheet on these zones which states:

  • Normally under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the American people are not generally subject to random and arbitrary stops and searches. 
  • The border, however, has always been an exception.  There, the longstanding view is that the normal rules do not apply.  For example the authorities do not need a warrant or probable cause to conduct a “routine search.” 
  • But what is “the border”?  According to the government, it  is a 100-mile wide strip that wraps around the “external boundary” of the United States. 
  • As a result of this claimed authority, individuals who are far away from the border, American citizens traveling from one place in America to another, are being stopped and harassed in ways that our Constitution does not permit.
  • Border Patrol has been setting up checkpoints inland — on highways in states such as California, Texas and Arizona, and at ferry terminals in Washington State. Typically, the agents ask drivers and passengers about their citizenship.  Unfortunately, our courts so far have permitted these kinds of checkpoints – legally speaking, they are “administrative” stops that are permitted only for the specific purpose of protecting the nation’s borders.  They cannot become general drug-search or other law enforcement efforts. 
  • However, these stops by Border Patrol agents are not remaining confined to that border security purpose.  On the roads of California and elsewhere in the nation – places far removed from the actual border – agents are stopping, interrogating, and searching Americans on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.
  • The bottom line is that the extraordinary authorities that the government possesses at the border are spilling into regular American streets.

This is disturbing.

The article also states:

This trend is also typical of the Bush Administration’s dragnet approach to law enforcement and national security.  Instead of intelligent, competent, targeted efforts to stop terrorism, illegal immigration, and other crimes, what we have been seeing in area after area is an approach that turns us all into suspects. This approach seeks to sift through the entire U.S. population in the hopes of encountering the rare individual whom the authorities have a legitimate interest in.

The article concludes:

If the current generation of Americans does not challenge this creeping (and sometimes galloping) expansion of federal powers over the individual through the rationale of “border protection,” we are not doing our part to keep alive the rights and freedoms that we inherited, and will soon find that we have lost some or all of their right to go about their business, and travel around inside their own country, without interference from the authorities.

Notice that the date on this is 2008. As far as I know, the Obama Administration has continued the policies of the Bush Administration in this area and added other forms of surveillance as well. Where is the update on this concern?

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Why We Need To Drastically Shrink The Internal Revenue Service–Not Expand It

Yesterday the Washington Times reported that someone is actually suing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Turn about is fair play! So what did the IRS do that resulted in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit charges that the IRS violated the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The article explains:

…(IRS) agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee – and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges.

The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said, as reported by UPI.

“Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over,” the complaint states, UPI reported.

The article reports that the records taken could impact up to one in 25 Americans.

Meanwhile, Forbes Magazine posted an article on Friday noting:

…Obamacare dramatically expands the authority and the scope of the Internal Revenue Service. Two provisions in particular will require thousands of new IRS agents, and billions in funding, to enforce: the law’s individual mandate, forcing most Americans to buy government-approved health insurance; and its employer mandate, forcing most employers to take money out of workers’ paychecks to purchase costly health insurance on their behalf.

The IRS will be enforcing the individual mandate. We knew that. What you may not be aware of is that there are a number of exceptions to the individual mandate, and the IRS has to have a good deal of information about you to see if you are eligible for one of those exceptions–they are only collecting all of this personal information for your own good!

The law is also written in a way that forces employers with 50 or more “full-time employees” offer “minimum essential coverage” in an “affordable” manner. There are all sorts of rules and regulations surrounding this that also require the IRS to collect more information on all of us.

The article in Forbes suggests a solution:

Others are suggesting that the duty to enforce the individual and employer mandates be taken out of IRS’ hands and moved into another agency. But, to me, this doesn’t make much sense. Do we really want another government agency to have sensitive information about our incomes and our insurance policies?

The only viable solution to this problem is to repeal the employer mandate altogether, and to replace the individual mandate with something else, like a limited open enrollment period, that does not require expanding the power and the authority of the IRS.

ObamaCare will not be repealed unless it becomes an obstacle for Democrats running for office. Until the American people make it clear that they will not vote for anyone who does not support the repeal of ObamaCare, we will be stuck with it. Even then, it may take a little time for politicians to get the message. The thing to remember is that there will be a point of no return–a place where ObamaCare has so totally impacted health care in America that it cannot be repealed. Hopefully we get repeal it before we reach that point.

 

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The Double Standard At Work

The Boston Globe is reporting today that Boston will ban smoking in public housing, beginning in September 2012.

The article reports:

The policy is aimed at protecting nonsmokers, especially children, from breathing in secondhand cigarette smoke from neighboring units, which can cause asthma attacks, respiratory infections, lung cancer, and heart disease.

“We feel this is in the best interests of our residents,’’ said the Boston Housing Authority’s spokeswoman, Lydia Agro. “When you have buildings with multiple apartments next to each other, there is no way to contain the smoke.’’

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… WTSP Channel 10 in Tampa Bay, Florida, reports that the Florida law requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test is a violation of the 4th Amendment.

The article reports:

In 2003, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from Michigan backed that up saying, “Michigan law authorizing suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients was unconstitutional.”

…As we 10News reported Wednesday, attorneys from the ACLU are already working on a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of these drug tests.

First of all, I would like to state that as someone who has never smoked or used illegal drugs, I don’t have a horse in this race. I do, however, possess a rather ironic sense of humor, and I think looking at these two stories together is very interesting. Which is more harmful to a child–a parent who smokes or a parent who uses illegal drugs? Before you answer than, consider the people the parent comes in contact with in obtaining illegal drugs. Smoking is legal; illegal drugs are illegal. Why is the ACLU fighting the drug test and not the smoking ban? This seems a little odd to me.

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