24 January 2006

The Brownshirts are now arming themselves with a Gestapo

A provision in the PATRIOT act will establish a federal police force with the power to violate the Bill of Rights.
Go to House Report 109-333 USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and check it out for yourself. Sec. 605 reads:

"There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division.'"

This new federal police force is "subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security."

The new police are empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."

Indeed, freedom and liberty are under assault.

18 January 2006

The President cannot simply violate criminal laws behind closed doors because he deems them obsolete or impracticable

I really was stunned to hear a radio talk host defend the practice of illegal wiretapping based on the notion that the U.S. has not been attacked in the same fashion that occurred on 9/11/01. Pushing aside, for a moment, distressing concerns of accountability — without public record of who/what was being tracked, secret electronic eavesdropping serves as a powerful device to tarnish agents of political opposition, curtail any criticism of unjust executive branch actions, stifle whisteblowers and wickedly twists justice to suit purely partisan goals — I find the sentiment that safety should nullify constitutional freedoms extremely troublesome.

It would be akin to arguing for a complete ban of any firearms, as the statistics are clear that in nations where such stricter gun control is in effect, the homicide rate is significantly lower than in the U.S.. Along the same line, supporting a comprehensive implementation of an all inclusive Orwellian style surveillence program to ensure nobody would ever be subjected to violent assaults wouldn't require much of a logical leap. We do possess the technology to accomplish such a program, even if it would be an expensive implementation. Now, I am not arguing for either of these proposals, and in fact, abhor the sacrifice of freedom for the sake of safety.

Regarding the Bush adminstration's usurpation of the Constitution, here are some thoughts from a real conservative and reaction to a recent speech by Al Gore on the matter.

The New York Times ownership suppressed for one year the leaked information in the paper's possession that the Bush administration was violating the Foreign Intelligence Services Act and was spying on Americans without court warrants. Had the New York Times not placed a gag in its reporter's mouth and suppressed the story, Bush may have gone down in defeat as the new Richard M. Nixon. Clearly, the New York Times is failing the obligations of a free press.

Bush is angry at the New York Times and at the government officials who leaked the story that Bush illegally spied on American citizens. Both may be prosecuted for making Bush's illegal behavior public. By ignoring Gore's speech, is the New York Times signaling to Bush that the newspaper is willing to be a lap dog in exchange for not being prosecuted?

With the US media now highly concentrated in a few corporate hands, has the Democratic Party reached the conclusion that opposition is no longer possible?

Once Bush places Sam Alito on the Supreme Court, he will have a high court majority friendly to his claims that his executive powers are not constrained by congressional statutes or judicial rulings. Once a president is held to be above the law, whether for reasons of his role as commander-in-chief or any other, he can no longer be held accountable.

Conservatives should fear this more than anyone. The separation of powers and our civil liberties are our most precious property rights. They are our patrimony from the Founding Fathers. We are stewards of these rights, which we hold in trust for our descendants. How can any conservative fail to realize that Bush's attack on these rights is the ultimate attack on property? It is astonishing to watch conservatives wave the flag while they are transformed into subjects to be dealt with as presidential authority decides.

Nothing is going to be done done about it by Congress, because, we are now in the grip of a one party state, where allegiance to an imperial presidency is a bigger priority than adhering to the supreme law of the land.

It's also alluded in neoconservative circles all about the New York Times liberal bent, but yet the Times sat on this story for over a year, and as Mr. Roberts noted, did not devote any coverage to a challenging speech from a presidential candidate with the most votes in the 2000 election (and also the candidate, if a full recount would have been conducted, that would have tallied the most votes in Florida too).

13 January 2006

Who you call, when you call and for how long — it's all for sale

AMERICAblog: All you need is the cell phone number you wish to track and a valid credit card.
I reported the other day that your cell phone records are on sale online for anyone to buy, without your permission. Well, this morning AMERICAblog bought former presidential candidate, and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (SACEUR), General Wesley Clark's cell phone records for one hundred calls made over three days in November 2005, no questions asked. (Clark's cell phone provider is Omnipoint Communications, which seems to be related to T-Mobile.)

All we needed was General Clark's cell phone number and our credit card, and 24 hours later we had one hundred calls the general made on his cell phone in November. The calls included a number of calls to Arkansas, to foreign countries, and at least one call to a prominent reporter at the Washington Post. To ensure that we actually had General Clark's correct cell phone number, we called the number this morning and the voice mail recording that answered said:

"Hi, this is Wes Clark, leave a message [unintelligible]."

News that cell phone records could be easily obtained is not a new revealation, but now with the disclosure that such a prominent citizen could also be affected has caused quite a mainstream media stir. Of course, the mainstream media is still in a slumber, not asking the appropriate questions and accepting at face value ludicrous explanations like someone can get records by contacting a cell phone company and pretending to be somebody else. Not that that can't and doesn't happen, but the mechanics of such a operation would not allow these services to offer fullscale availability of any cell phone customer's call data.

A Fox News report on Israeli spying in and on the U.S. lends claim that the culprit could be an Israel telecom.

Most directory assistance calls, and virtually all call records and billing in the U.S. are done for the phone companies by Amdocs Ltd., an Israeli-based private telecommunications company.

Amdocs has contracts with the 25 biggest phone companies in America, and more worldwide. The White House and other secure government phone lines are protected, but it is virtually impossible to make a call on normal phones without generating an Amdocs record of it.

In recent years, the FBI and other government agencies have investigated Amdocs more than once. The firm has repeatedly and adamantly denied any security breaches or wrongdoing. But sources tell Fox News that in 1999, the super secret national security agency, headquartered in northern Maryland, issued what's called a Top Secret sensitive compartmentalized information report, TS/SCI, warning that records of calls in the United States were getting into foreign hands – in Israel, in particular.

10 January 2006

Bringing Freedom to Iraq

US troops blast their way with bullets into the bedroom of an Iraqi journalist, cover his face with a hood, and take him away for questioning.
A prize-winning Iraqi journalist, working for the Guardian, was investigating claims that the US and Britain misused and misappropriated tens of millions of dollars belonging to Iraq. (I assume that's on top of the $9 billion in Iraqi money an audit last year said we "lost.")

A few days ago, the director of his film informed US authorities about what he had learned, and asked for an interview.

Yesterday, American troops stormed into his home, firing into the room where he, his wife, and children were sleeping, and took videotape that he shot for the film.

If that isn't an attempt to intimidate a journalist asking dangerous questions, I can't imagine what it is. But American journalists ought to demand some answers.

I reckon Mr. Fadhil's investigation uncovered some truths that "American authorities" were not interested in being exposed.

Just another consequence of an illegal, immoral invasion of a country that had nothing to do with defending America…

6 January 2006

Millions now share the knowledge that laws were intentionally passed to prevent the manual verification of electronic vote tabulation.

Ernie Hancock, Charles Goyette show producer, and Arizona Secretary of State candidate sounds off on the fraud in voting.
Millions now share the knowledge that laws were intentionally passed to prevent the manual verification of electronic vote tabulation.

The simple attempt to quickly hand-count a few hundred easily read and randomly selected ballots and comparing them to the computer vote totals has generated forceful opposition that exposes a very serious flaw: that votes counted by computer give the results they were programmed to produce.

And we have no way to verify the source code of the programming. Yet across the country, government representatives still advocate for the elimination of paper records so "messy recounts" can be replaced with a second push of a button.