Bills that would raise that grade languish in legislature

The national grassroots group FreedomWorks, which has 6.9 million members and supports limited government, gives Michigan a “D” in a new report about civil asset forfeiture.

The report card, “Civil Asset Forfeiture: Grading the States,” bases their ratings on the standard of proof the government must meet to forfeit property, who has the burden of proof (the state or the individual), and what percentage of forfeiture funds go to law enforcement.

In explaining the grade for Michigan, the report says, “The standard of proof is too low; the government may forfeit property by showing a preponderance of the evidence. The government must prove the property owner was not an innocent owner, if the owner claims this defense. Law enforcement receives 100 percent of forfeiture funds. A package of eight separate reform bills has passed the Michigan House with strong bipartisan support.”

The bills raising the standard of proof (although not as high as what is needed for a criminal conviction) and establishing strong transparency laws passed overwhelmingly in the state House. They are now sitting in the state Senate where they have not been taken up.

Personal Libert Digest New


FBI colludes with local police to hide cell phone snooping devices from the public

Local police agencies have been able to gain use of cell phone tracking devices by agreeing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation not to disclose the fact that they’re using them, according to a recently-released, heavily redacted document made public last week.

The Tacoma, Wash. police department released a six-page “unclassified” agreement between the FBI and the Tacoma police dating from January of 2013. Four pages are completely blacked out, leaving only a small paragraph written by FBI special agent Laura M. Laughlin.

The Harris Corporation sells the devices, called StingRays, here in the U.S. StingRays deceive cell phones into picking up the signal the StingRays are sending out by parroting a nearby cellular tower. That accomplished, individuals’ cell phones then begin sending the StingRay their location data, along with pretty much every other piece of metadata that is normally transmitted to a carrier’s tower.

Laughlin laid out the arrangement between the FBI and the local cops:

We have been advised by Harris Corporation of the Tacoma Police Department’s request for acquisition of certain wireless collection equipment/technology manufactured by Harris Corporation. Consistent with the conditions on the equipment authorization granted to Harris Corporation by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), state and local law enforcement agencies must coordinate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to complete this non-disclosure agreement prior to the acquisition and use of the equipment/technology authorized by the FCC authorization.

And that’s all we get.

But it admits that the FBI is using the devices; that it is allowing local cops to piggyback off their agreement with the U.S. distributor of those devices (Harris Corp.) and that the Feds are using NDAs to ensure the company (not the public) gets due diligence from all the law enforcement agencies involved.

“Many [local police departments] chose to read the restrictive non-disclosure agreements Harris includes as meaning they should withhold this information from local courts – rather than simply seal the documents or redact them,” wrote TechDirt’s Tim Cushing on Tuesday.

The Department of Justice maintains that, as long as the devices aren’t picking up actual conversations, the cops don’t need a warrant to scoop up cell phone data.

“[R]esponding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and the First Amendment Coalition, the Justice Department argued that no warrant was needed to use StingRay technology,” wrote the Centre for Research on Globalization last year.

The FBI, which allegedly plays on different turf than the DOJ, agrees that warrants aren’t necessary for federal officers to scoop up metadata – or for local police departments to do the same.

The Wikipedia entry on the StingRay phone tracker is pretty informative, if you’re interested in learning more.

Ayn Rand

The Only Path To Tomorrow

By Ayn Rand

Readers Digest, January 1944, pp. 88-90

The greatest threat to mankind and civilization is the spread of the totalitarian philosophy. Its best ally is not the devotion of its followers but the confusion of its enemies. To fight it, we must understand it.

Totalitarianism is collectivism. Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group — whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called “the common good.´´

Throughout history, no tyrant ever rose to power except on the claim of representing “the common good.´´ Napoleon “served the common good´´ of France. Hitler is “serving the common good´´ of Germany. Horrors which no man would dare consider for his own selfish sake are perpetrated with a clear conscience by “altruists´´ who justify themselves by-the common good.

No tyrant has ever lasted long by force of arms alone. Men have been enslaved primarily by spiritual weapons. And the greatest of these is the collectivist doctrine that the supremacy of the state over the individual constitutes the common good. No dictator could rise if men held as a sacred faith the conviction that they have inalienable rights of which they cannot be deprived for any cause whatsoever, by any man whatsoever, neither by evildoer nor supposed benefactor.

This is the basic tenet of individualism, as opposed to collectivism. Individualism holds that man is an independent entity with an inalienable right to the pursuit of his own happiness in a society where men deal with one another as equals.

The American system is founded on individualism. If it is to survive, we must understand the principles of individualism and hold them as our standard in any public question, in every issue we face. We must have a positive credo, a clear consistent faith.

We must learn to reject as total evil the conception that the common good is served by the abolition of individual rights. General happiness cannot be created out of general suffering and self-immolation. The only happy society is one of happy individuals. One cannot have a healthy forest made up of rotten trees.

The power of society must always be limited by the basic, inalienable rights of the individual.

The right of liberty means man’s right to individual action, individual choice, individual initiative and individual property. Without the right to private property no independent action is possible.

The right to the pursuit of happiness means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own, private, personal happiness and to work for its achievement. Each individual is the sole and final judge in this choice. A man’s happiness cannot be prescribed to him by another man or by any number of other men.

These rights are the unconditional, personal, private, individual possession of every man, granted to him by the fact of his birth and requiring no other sanction. Such was the conception of the founders of our country, who placed individual rights above any and all collective claims. Society can only be a traffic policeman in the intercourse of men with one another.

From the beginning of history, two antagonists have stood face to face, two opposite types of men: the Active and the Passive. The Active Man is the producer, the creator, the originator, the individualist. His basic need is independence — in order to think and work. He neither needs nor seeks power over other men — nor can he be made to work under any form of compulsion. Every type of good work — from laying bricks to writing a symphony — is done by the Active Man. Degrees of human ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man’s independence and initiative determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man.

The Passive Man is found on every level of society, in mansions and in slums, and his identification mark is his dread of independence. He is a parasite who expects to be taken care of by others, who wishes to be given directives, to obey, to submit, to be regulated, to be told. He welcomes collectivism, which eliminates any chance that he might have to think or act on his own initiative.

When a society is based on the needs of the Passive Man it destroys the Active; but when the Active is destroyed, the Passive can no longer be cared for. When a society is based on the needs of the Active Man, he carries the Passive ones along on his energy and raises them as he rises, as the whole society rises. This has been the pattern of all human progress.

Some humanitarians demand a collective state because of their pity for the incompetent or Passive Man. For his sake they wish to harness the Active. But the Active Man cannot function in harness. And once he is destroyed, the destruction of the Passive Man follows automatically. So if pity is the humanitarians’ first consideration, then in the name of pity, if nothing else, they should leave the Active Man free to function, in order to help the Passive. There is no other way to help him in the long run.

The history of mankind is the history of the struggle between the Active Man and the Passive, between the individual and the collective. The countries which have produced the happiest men, the highest standards of living and the greatest cultural advances have been the countries where the power of the collective — of the government, of the state — was limited and the individual was given freedom of independent action. As examples: The rise of Rome, with its conception of law based on a citizen’s rights, over the collectivist barbarism of its time. The rise of England, with a system of government based on the Magna Carta, over collectivist, totalitarian Spain. The rise of the United States to a degree of achievement unequaled in history — by grace of the individual freedom and independence which our Constitution gave each citizen against the collective.

While men are still pondering upon the causes of the rise and fall of civilizations, every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action. Collectivism is the ancient principle of savagery. A savage’s whole existence is ruled by the leaders of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

We are now facing a choice: to go forward or to go back.

Collectivism is not the “New Order of Tomorrow.´´ It is the order of a very dark yesterday. But there is a New Order of Tomorrow. It belongs to Individual Man — the only creator of any tomorrows humanity has ever been granted.


Personal Libert Digest New

Patriot Act Author Sponsors Bill To Rein In Patriot Act

Patriot Act Author Sponsors Bill To Rein In Patriot Act


Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the man who helped usher in the Patriot Act era as a co-author of the post-Sept. 11 bill, has turned against the broad surveillance powers, loophole abuses and 4th Amendment-shredding licentiousness the law introduced under President George W. Bush and the expansion of Federal police powers under Barack Obama.

Sensenbrenner is working on a new bill — the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection and Online Monitoring Act — that purports to outlaw the Patriot Act’s unConstitutional unleashing of police powers against citizens who aren’t specific targets of terror investigations.

The new bill, also called the U.S.A. Freedom Act, arose from Sensenbrenner’s confessed dismay over how far afield the Patriot Act led the Nation’s law enforcement effort from the Act’s intent.

In a synopsis of the U.S.A. Freedom Act published by The Guardian, which previewed a draft of the bill, Sensenbrenner has targeted four key areas of the Patriot Act for abolition or reform:

[The U.S.A. Freedom Act] seeks to limit the collection of phone records to known terrorist suspects; to end “secret laws” by making courts disclose surveillance policies; to create a special court advocate to represent privacy interests; and to allow companies to disclose how many requests for users’ information they receive from the USA. The bill also tightens up language governing overseas surveillance to remove a loophole which it has been abused to target internet and email activities of Americans.

Despite the narrow defeat of a House measure over the summer that sought to defund the National Security Agency (NSA), Sensenbrenner told the newspaper he believes public opinion, coupled with the manifest NSA abuses brought to light by Edward Snowden, have put Congress on the spot to reverse the government’s usurpation of citizens’ Constitutional powers.

“Opinions have hardened with the revelations over the summer, particularly the inspector general’s report that there were thousands of violations of regulations, and the disclosure that NSA employees were spying on their spouses or significant others, which was very chilling,” he said.

Sensenbrenner has bipartisan support from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. But he also expects strong opposition from Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is floating a bill that tweaks the Patriot Act instead of banning the warrantless bulk collection of electronic data from American citizens. Sensenbrenner even went so far as to condemn Feinstein’s leadership, as well as that of disgraced (but not disciplined) National Intelligence director James Clapper, who lied to Congress about how far the NSA dragnet had cast its net.

“I do not want to see Congress pass a fig leaf because that would allow the NSA to say ‘Well, we’ve cleaned up our act’ until the next scandal breaks. [Party leaders] are going to have to review what kind of people they put on the intelligence committee. Oversight is as good as the desire of the chairman to do it,” said Sensenbrenner. “… If they use a law like Senator Feinstein is proposing, it will just allow them to do business as usual with a little bit of a change in the optics.”

As for Clapper?

“Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr. Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution.”

Read The Guardian’s assessment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act here. Anything can happen, and talk among Congressmen has never been cheaper. But if this bill survives intact to become law, it at least promises to make the NSA, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and a host of other Federal agencies subject to prosecution if they continue to perpetrate the unConstitutional surveillance methods Snowden laid bare earlier this year.


Judge’s ruling in student privacy case will impact school data sharing and Common Core


By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A month after appearing in a federal district court, privacy advocates are still awaiting a judge’s ruling as to whether or not the U.S. Department of Education overstepped its bounds in late 2011 by unilaterally altering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), leaving parents and students with fewer privacy protections.
 On July 24, attorneys for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) argued before Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Education Department officials kicked the legs out from underneath the 1974 privacy law when they decided schools can release student information for non-academic purposes.EPIC attorneys also argued that federal officials went too far when they decided schools can release student records to non-governmental organizations without first getting parental consent, reports the Washington Post.Department of Education officials want schools to have the power to collect and share more student data to assist with implementation of new national Common Core learning standards.In their lawsuit, EPIC attorneys say the federal bureaucrats accomplished these monumental changes by re-defining key terms in the FERPA law, namely “authorized representative,” “education program,” and “directory information.”They contend the new, expansive definitions will ultimately lead to “troves of sensitive, nonacademic” student data getting passed around to various “third parties,” including for-profit educational technology companies that could use the information to create learning software.U.S. Department of Education officials say their FERPA changes are allowed under the language contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – commonly known as the “stimulus” bill – and the America COMPETES Act of 2007.

However, the department’s attorney primarily used the July hearing to argue that EPIC lacks the standing to sue over the privacy act changes.



Washington, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, and Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to address National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.
H.R. 2399, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act), restricts the federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public.
A coalition of 32 Members of Congress joined Conyers and Amash in introducing the bill late Monday. After introduction, Conyers and Amash issued the following statement:
“The recent NSA leaks indicate that the federal government collects phone records and intercepts electronic communications on a scale previously unknown to most Americans.
“The LIBERT-E Act imposes reasonable limits on the federal government’s surveillance. The bill puts some teeth into the FISA court’s determination of whether records the government wants are actually relevant to an investigation. It also makes sure that innocent Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database. LIBERT-E prohibits the type of government dragnet that the leaked Verizon order revealed.
“We accept that free countries must engage in secret operations from time to time to protect their citizens. Free countries must not, however, operate under secret laws. Secret court opinions obscure the law. They prevent public debate on critical policy issues and they stop Congress from fulfilling its duty to enact sound laws and fix broken ones.
“LIBERT-E lets every congressman have access to FISA court opinions so that Congress can have a more informed debate about security and privacy. And the bill requires that unclassified summaries of the opinions be available to the public so that Americans can judge for themselves the merit of their government’s actions.
“We are proud to lead a broad, bipartisan coalition that’s working to protect privacy. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Defending the Constitution and protecting Americans’ rights should be an effort we all can support.”
A list of cosponsors of H.R. 2399 is available here.

 personal Liberty

FBI Director: Yes, We Use Drones Domestically… No, We Can’t Say How, When Or Why

June 19, 2013 by  

Wackobirds, you are officially vindicated in your worries over domestic drone use: FBI Director Robert Mueller told Senate lawmakers Wednesday that the agency has several drones and has yet to adopt strict policies and guidelines for use of the aircraft.

But according to Mueller’s testimony, the lack of policies to protect American citizens’ privacy has not deterred the FBI’s use of drones for domestic surveillance operations.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Mueller, “Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on U.S. soil?”

FBI Director Mueller testifies on extending his term in Washington

Mueller’s answer was a straightforward affirmative, though he added that the FBI only “very seldom” conducted surveillance of American citizens on American soil with the unmanned aircraft.

“It’s very seldom used and generally used in a particular incident where you need the capability,” Mueller responded when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) prodded him on the matter. “It is very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs.’’

The director said that he wasn’t sure if the FBI had any “official” agreements with agencies like the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Defense to receive assistance and share information collected in the agency’s use of drones.

“To the extent that it relates to the air space there would be some communication back and forth [between agencies],” Mueller provided as a vague answer to a question about interagency drone activity over U.S. soil.

With regard to providing the public any further information regarding FBI justification for drone use and other domestic spy tactics, Mueller gave the impression that transparency is not high on the government’s list of priorities.

“There is a price to be paid for that transparency,” Mueller said. “I certainly think it would be educating our adversaries as to what our capabilities are.”


TED Cruz 2

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz issued a strong rebuke of Monday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding a Maryland law that allows law enforcement to collect DNA samples from arrested suspects without a warrant.

“Today’s unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Maryland v. King, by a vote of 5-4, expands government power, invades our liberty, and undermines our constitutional rights,” Cruz said in a Monday evening statement. “The Court held that the police can forcibly take DNA samples from people who have been arrested — but have not been tried or convicted — of a serious offense. So now the government can capture, without a search warrant, the most personal information about an individual, and use it to search vast databases for unrelated offenses.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion calling DNA swabbing a “legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment” and comparable to fingerprinting and photographing.

Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito.

An unusual coalition of Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor voted for a broader interpretation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Scalia, a noted conservative, wrote the dissent in which the liberals Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor.

“As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Scalia wrote in his dissent and Cruz quoted in his statement.

Cruz, who clerked for Justice William Rehnquist, noted that all 50 states already collect the DNA of convicted felons, and that the “intrusion of liberty will matter only for those not convicted.”

“All of us should be alarmed by this significant step towards government as Big Brother. The excessive concentration of power in government is always inimical to liberty, and a national database of our DNA cannot be reconciled with the Fourth Amendment,” Cruz continued.

Read more:

Morning Bell

Guns, Background Checks, and Your Rights

Harry Reid has a doozy of a gun plan, but President Obama wants to reassure you that it’s just “common sense.”

In a speech Wednesday, Obama said that “opponents of some of these common-sense laws have ginned up fears among responsible gun owners that have nothing to do with what’s being proposed and nothing to do with the facts, but feeds into this suspicion about government.”

As Heritage’s David Addington reminds us, America’s founders were the first to have this suspicion of government, and that’s part of the reason why they made certain that the Second Amendment protected our right to keep and bear arms. And as for the facts, the proposals from Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) have major problems.

Addington, head of Heritage’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, lays out some of the dangers in Reid’s proposal:

    • It effectively puts a new tax on selling or giving away a firearm.


    • It could help criminals figure out where it is easiest to buy guns.



Background checks have become the focus of the new wave of gun control laws. Obama insists that “We’re not proposing a gun registration system; we’re proposing background checks for criminals.”

It’s worth noting that criminals wouldn’t bother themselves with going through America’s existing background check system—and pointing out that there is a background check system in place. The new laws Reid is proposing would capitalize on fears of “loopholes” to create intrusive records of gun transfers.

Addington warns:

the loose language could be construed to allow the Department of Justice itself (or another agency specified by the Attorney General) to keep centralized records of who received what guns and where, by sale or gift from one individual to another.

Even the ACLU is worried, according to an exclusive Daily Caller report. The ACLU’s Chris Calabrese said that Reid’s legislation fails to include “privacy best practices.”

“We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database,” Calabrese said.

The Daily Caller reports that “The ACLU’s second ‘significant concern’ with Reid’s legislation is that it too broadly defines the term ‘transfer,’ creating complicated criminal law that law-abiding Americans may unwittingly break.”

Heritage’s Addington agreed, explaining that Reid’s legislation would treat anyone as a felon “who misplaces a firearm and does not report it to the police and the federal government fast enough.” He said:

Under no circumstances should Congress make it a federal crime to fail to report a missing firearm within 24 hours to local authorities and the Attorney General. It is an unreasonable use of power to define as a federal crime conduct that no reasonable person would know was a federal crime.

But President Obama insists that “suspicion about government” is unfounded.


Loose Language in Reid’s Gun Control Bill Allows the Beginnings of a National Gun Registry

The So-Called Gun Show Loophole: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day atHeritage Libertad.