FBI v. The First Amendment: The US Government’s Investigation of Antiwar.com

Federal Bureau of Investigation documents released last week reveal the FBI investigated Antiwar.com, a website regularly publishing content critical of US foreign policy, for at least six years based on the content and audience of the antiwar.com website, as well as an asinine mistake by the FBI.

According to Julia Harumi Mass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing Antiwar.com in a lawsuit against the FBI, the FBI produced in response to a document request in the lawsuit documents confirming “that the FBI targeted and spied on Antiwar.com [and the website’s founding editors Eric] Garris and [Justin] Raimondo based on their First Amendment protected activity and kept records about that activity in violation of federal law.” Mass elaborates on the anti-press freedom justifications for the investigation:

One of the factors that prompted the FBI to investigate the editors of the online magazine was that Justin Raimondo writes under this pseudonym. The content of a writer’s published opinions and whether they write under a pseduonym [sic] should never be used to characterize someone as a potential threat to national security, or justify an FBI investigation. The First Amendment protects anonymous speech too. News articles and the comments of the public should not be included in FBI intelligence files unless they’re necessary to a real criminal investigation.

The second flawed factor that prompted the FBI investivgation [sic] is that “many individuals worldwide…including individuals who are currently under investigation” view the website. Presumably people around the world, “including individuals who are currently under [FBI] investigation” view all kinds of websites and news sources. Being part of a successful media outlet should not make a journalist suspicious and should not be the basis for government surveillance.

In addition, Mass points to a mistake as a third factor prompting the investigation:

The third flawed and incorrect factor was the FBI’s mistaken conclusion that Eric Garris had threatened to hack the FBI website. In fact, Garris reported to the FBI that he was the recipient of a hacking threat to Antiwar.com. After reporting this threat, he was instructed to forward the email to the FBI, which he did. The FBI later concluded that Garris had threatened to hack the FBI website and placed him under suspicion.

It is an odd mistake for the FBI to interpret Garris’s reporting of a hacking threat against the Antiwar.com website as a threat by Garris against the FBI’s website. The flub up could have been rectified and an illegitimate investigation potentially prevented by just double-checking Garris’s communication with the FBI. Instead, the asinine mistake remained uncorrected, allowing the investigation to proceed with a justification not rooted in concern about First Amendment-protected expression.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Whistle-blower Cop Describes Stop-and-Frisk, Corruption at NYPD

New York City Police Department policeman Adhyl Polanco describes in a Democracy Now report and interview the corrupting and rights abusing quota system for stop-and-frisk, summons, and arrests in the largest local police department in the United States. Among other revelations, Polanco estimates that, but for the improper encouragement of stop-and-frisk by the city government, police department, and police union, about 600,000 of the around 700,000 police initiated stop-and-frisk incidents last year would not have occurred. Polanco adds that some police will arrest “whoever’s at the corner” near the end of a work shift to meet the quota plus receive overtime pay.

Polanco proceeds to explain that police are forced to understate actual, reported crimes to ensure the city’s crime statistics improve. Proponents of stop-and-frisk can then point to the manipulated crime statistics to support the claim that the stop-and-frisk policy is reducing crime.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Widespread Hostility Toward TSA is Justified

Journalist extraordinaire James Bovard explains in a Washington Times editorial Tuesday why, even though many in the media do not want to admit it, there is widespread and justified hostility toward the Transportation Security Administration. Bovard writes:

In the wake of last Friday’s shootings at Los Angeles International Airport, some politicians and media commentators are feigning shock at the widespread hostility toward the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There was no justification for the shooting suspect, Paul Ciancia, to gun down three TSA agents on the job, killing one. Ciancia’s brutal rampage, though, should not obscure the fact that the TSA has perennially pushed many Americans to the breaking point.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

City Voters Legalize Liquor Stores and Marijuana

Eighty years after the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution ended the US government’s prohibition on alcohol, Jeff Mosier reports in the Dallas Morning News that in elections Tuesday residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex cities of Arlington and Lewisville voted to legalize liquor stores in their cities. Mosier explains that the election results in these cities with respective populations of around 365,000 and 100,000 are part of a trend over the last decade of Texans voting to ease local legal restrictions related to alcohol:

From 2004 to 2013, Texans voted in 665 elections seeking to ease alcohol restrictions, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Nearly 80 percent passed.

Only two jurisdictions voted during that same time to restrict alcohol sales.

Also in elections Tuesday, Reason writer Ed Krayewski relates that voters in cities in Maine and Michigan, where recreational marijuana use has not been legalized statewide, voted for recreational marijuana legalization.

Since Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, referenda and bills passed by legislative bodies have liberalized many local and state government marijuana laws. Laws concerning marijuana in the US have thus increasingly resembled the patchwork quilt of differing, though not outright prohibitionary, state and local laws concerning alcohol.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Rep. Walter Jones: Stop Wasting American Money and Lives in Afghanistan

Rep. Walter Jones, an RPI Advisory Board member, presented last week on the House floor a short, powerful speech calling for ending US military action in, and the flow of Americans’ tax money to, Afghanistan. Jones’s speech focuses on continued US government spending in Afghanistan “at a time when America is drowning in debt” as well as recent killings of Americans in Afghanistan, including a father of two who had been stationed at a US Marines base in Jones’s North Carolina district. Jones concluded his speech with the following appeal:

It is time for the Congress of the United States to face the fact that we have our own problems here in America. To send money—over $600 billion—to Afghanistan to build roads, schools, utility plants so the Taliban can blow them up makes no sense. It is time for little girls like these two to have their daddies at home and not have their daddies in a coffin.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Ron Paul’s Push to End War on Pain Doctors — Fresh Attacks!

The US Food and Drug Administration’s announcement Thursday that it supports adding more pain medications to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act is a critical step in expanding through regulatory fiat the US government’s war on pain doctors and their patients that RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul fought to end in the US House of Representatives.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

House Republicans’ Hollow ‘Local Control of Education’ Rhetoric

By guiding HR 2083, the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, to the Floor Tuesday for passage by a voice vote, the House Republican leadership demonstrated the hollowness of the praise it heaped on local control of education when HR 5, the Student Success Act, passed in the House three months earlier.

The nice sounding but ominous in consequences Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act presents serious federalism, constitutional, and individual liberty concerns. The legislation standardizes nationwide — and expands — school-related background check policies that states have implemented. In particular, HR 2083 mandates fingerprinting, as well as state and FBI criminal background checking, of millions of school and local or state educational agency employees. The requirements also apply to all persons who, because they work for private entities or public agencies with a school contract or agreement, have “unsupervised access” to students.

HR 2083 provides no opt-out provision for states, school districts, or any current or potential employees. Refusal to submit to any of the fingerprinting or background checks will result in being fired or refused employment. The legislation also disqualifies people who have been convicted for any of a list of crimes from the opportunity to work in any of the covered jobs despite the fact that they have served their entire court imposed punishments. This effectively creates an ex post facto punishment prohibited under the US Constitution.

Funneling all these fingerprints and background checks to the US government also helps build the databases supporting the US government’s mass spying program.

HR 2083 passed by voice vote after a chorus of praise from several Representatives, and some moderated concern expressed by Rep. Keith Ellison in the House floor debate. Indeed, the Hill writer Pete Kasperowics identified HR 2083 as part of a package of legislation “just about everyone agrees on” that House Republican leadership had scheduled for consideration after “weeks of bitter partisan fighting about spending and the debt ceiling.”

As with the PATRIOT Act and other legislation designed to expand police powers in the US and suppress local political control, HR 2083 is cleverly named to put any legislator who opposes it immediately on the defensive. “Why don’t you want to protect the children from murderers and sexual predators,” media and constituents would ask any legislator who dares to oppose the bill.

On July 19, when HR 5, the Student Success Act, passed in the House, many Republicans were singing the praise of local control of schools. Yet the Republican leadership, with the consent of the Democrat leadership, this week put HR 2083, with its one-size-fits-all US government mandates, on the House floor for passage by voice vote.

To understand the apparent shift in the Republican House leadership’s education policy goals over the last three months, it is helpful to consider what Republicans responsible for moving education legislation in the House said when HR 5 passed on July 19.

Here is what Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a press release regarding the Student Success Act the day that legislation passed in the House:

[The Student Success Act] protects local schools from new requirements and red tape, and lets school districts identify, recruit, and keep the best teachers possible.

Similarly, the Republican House leadership’s number two, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, issued a statement that day praising the Student Success Act for removing “mandates on our local schools.”

Boehner and Cantor were outdone by their fellow Republican House members Reps. John Kline and Todd Rokita, chairmen respectively of the Education and the Workforce Committee and that committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. Both HR 2083 and HR 5 proceeded to the House floor via the committee. Kline (the sponsor of HR 5) and Rokita said, also on July 19, the following in their press release trumpeting the passage of the Student Success Act:

“For the first time in more than a decade, the House has approved legislation to revamp K-12 education law. This is a monumental step forward in the fight to improve the nation’s education system and ensure a brighter future for our children,” Chairman Kline said. “The Student Success Act will tear down barriers to progress and grant states and districts the freedom and flexibility they need to think bigger, innovate, and take whatever steps are necessary to raise the bar in our schools.”

“No Washington bureaucrat cares more about a child than a parent does. And no one in Washington knows what is better for an Indiana school than Indiana families do.  That is why the Student Success Act puts an end to the administration’s National School Board by putting state and local school districts back in charge of their own schools,” said Rep. Rokita. “Many Hoosiers will also be pleased to know that the Student Success Act prohibits the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core, again returning accountability and standards to state and local school districts, where it belongs.”

This praise for local control in education is in sharp contrast to the talking points repeated by Republican and Democrat representatives on the House floor on Tuesday — they said HR 2083 is needed to make employee hiring and retention decisions uniform nationwide. Yet, Subcommittee Chairman Rokita made the motion to suspend the rules that began debate on HR 2083. Then, in his House floor speech during the debate, Rokita praised HR 2083 for moving education decisions from local school districts and private employers to the US government — the exact opposite of what he praised HR 5 for doing:

Despite the fact that States have varying policies intended to protect children from sexual predators in schools, the GAO determined the policies were largely inconsistent and insufficient. According to the report, States don’t consistently perform preemployment background checks, and when they do conduct these checks, they are not always fingerprinted or connected to the national criminal database.

There is widespread agreement on both sides of this aisle that more must be done to protect students. We have worked with our colleagues to advance legislation that will ensure that every school employee–from the cafeteria workers, Mr. Speaker, to the administrators, to the janitors, to the teachers, principals, and librarians–that everyone is subject to a complete background check that includes the FBI fingerprint identification system and the National Sex Offender Registry.

Why did Rokita and other Republicans responsible for moving education legislation through the House reverse their position on local control of education between July 19 and October 22? The answer is that they actually did not reverse their position, despite the fact that anyone looking at their comments logically would conclude that they had. The Republican leaders’ position on local control has remained the same: cloudy and inconsistent. They just change their rhetoric to defend the legislation they are pushing at the moment.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

US Mass Spying Targets Mexico Presidents to Advance the Drug War

In contrast to the counter-terrorism narrative used to defend the US government’s mass spying program, unfolding revelations suggest the program’s Latin America efforts are focused on much besides terrorism. First, evidence arose that the US spying program, alone and in coordination with spying programs of other nations, is engaging in industrial espionage against Brazilian companies and the Brazil government’s mines and energy ministry. Now, new revelations suggest that the US spying program targeted current and former Mexican presidents, along with other high level Mexican government officials, for surveillance to advance the war on drugs.

Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, and Holger Stark provide the new revelations regarding Mexico today in a Der Spiegel article, including that the US National Security Agency, working with the US Central Intelligence Agency, has since at least May 2010 snooped on the email communications of high level Mexican government officials including Presidents Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, as well as cabinet members. The article goes on to explain that another spying operation the NSA called “whitetamale” focused on a Mexican government department conducting Mexico’s drug war:

In August 2009, according to internal documents, the agency gained access to the emails of various high-ranking officials in Mexico’s Public Security Secretariat that combats the drug trade and human trafficking. This hacking operation allowed the NSA not only to obtain information on several drug cartels, but also to gain access to “diplomatic talking-points.” In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.

It may be more than a coincidence that August 2009 is also when the Mexican government enacted legislation decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of various drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.