Government’s Gun Law Ruse to Access Mental Health Records

Your appointment with a psychiatrist or admission to a mental health facility may now be included in United States and state government databases. What happened to the protection of medical privacy? The United States government and some state governments adopted legislation directing that mental health issues can bar people from owning guns. But, you protest, you neither own a gun nor intend to buy a gun. It doesn’t matter. The government will still put your information in the database, just in case.

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

US Mass Spying Loses Obama’s ‘Shoddy Coat of Legitimacy’

Declan McCullagh at reports on Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s revelation that the United States executive branch has admitted in a secret briefing to Members of the US House of Representatives that a US government analyst can listen to phone calls at his own discretion without any warrant or other authorization. McCullagh’s dense article, well worth a close read, proceeds to explain that this means “thousands of low-ranking analysts” probably can unilaterally decide to snoop on the contents of email, text, and instant messages as well. McCullagh also addresses the enormity of the mass spying operation and its capabilities.

Nadler’s revelation directly contradicts President Barack Obama’s emphatic denials earlier this month:

When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.  That’s not what this program is about.  As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls.  They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.  If these folks — if the intelligence community then actually wants to listen to a phone call, they’ve got to go back to a federal judge, just like they would in a criminal investigation.So I want to be very clear — some of the hype that we’ve been hearing over the last day or so — nobody is listening to the content of people’s phone calls.  This program, by the way, is fully overseen not just by Congress, but by the FISA Court — a court specially put together to evaluate classified programs to make sure that the executive branch, or government generally, is not abusing them, and that it’s being carried out consistent with the Constitution and rule of law.

And so, not only does that court authorize the initial gathering of data, but — I want to repeat — if anybody in government wanted to go further than just that top-line data and want to, for example, listen to Jackie Calmes’ phone call, they would have to go back to a federal judge and indicate why, in fact, they were doing further probing.

Now, with respect to the Internet and emails — this does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States.  And again, in this instance, not only is Congress fully apprised of it, but what is also true is that the FISA Court has to authorize it.

Obama’s claims that only metadata was collected, that the program was fully overseen by Congress, and that content of phone calls and Internet communications could only be obtained via FISA court authorization was repeated approvingly by ardent defenders of the mass spying program.

Even if Obama’s claims had been true, they provided little assurance that the spying program is not dramatically infringing on our privacy.

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

Bill Kristol’s Cato Crush

William Kristol is promoting at the Weekly Standard an article by “two of America’s leading libertarian legal thinkers, no friends to intrusive government,” to support Kristol’s assertion that the National Security Agency mass secret spying program is a “legitimate use of government power to protect the nation from our enemies abroad.”

The defense of the NSA program by these two authors is of particular note because of the authors’ affiliation with the Cato Institute that describes itself as “dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace” and having a “strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism.” The authors’ article is providing valuable cover for the advocates of the mass spying program.

The authors of the article Kristol is promoting are Cato Institute Center for Constitutional Studies President Roger Pilon and Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar Richard A. Epstein who wrote an attempted sweeping exculpation of the National Security Agency (NSA) and all the branches of the US government for the NSA’s mass spying on phone calls. Here is a portion of the authors’ defense:

“Legally, the president is on secure footing under the Patriot Act, which Congress passed shortly after 9/11 and has since reauthorized by large bipartisan majorities. As he stressed, the program has enjoyed the continued support of all three branches of the federal government. It has been free of political abuse since its inception. And as he rightly added, this nation has real problems if its people, at least here, can’t trust the combined actions of the executive branch and the Congress, backstopped by federal judges sworn to protect our individual liberties secured by the Bill of Rights.”

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

Bipartisan Agreement: Anti-TSA Amendment Disqualifies Rep. Broun from Winning Senate Race

United States Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who is running for US Senate, struck a nerve when he offered an amendment to eliminate funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during consideration of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act in the House of Representatives last week. At Roll Call, this amendment is characterized as the latest example of Broun’s “penchant for pushing amendments that are viewed as extreme, even by many in his own party.” The article includes quotes from Republican and Democrat pundits piling on Rep. Broun, saying that his offering of the amendment is one of the reasons Broun can win neither the Republican primary nor the general election.

If Broun is strong enough in the Senate race and does not acquiesce to staying within the prescribed limits of political debate, do not be surprised if significant money flows into attacking him for his TSA amendment. Such spending, if seen as successful in defeating Broun, can teach other politicians that it is not safe to independently oppose core aspects of the US government’s march forward in spending and power, especially in the areas of security and police.

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


US Government Spying: Constructing a ‘Turnkey Totalitarian State’?

The Washington Post reports that the ranking minority member of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence seems not too concerned about the United States government collecting information about our phone conversations:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said, “This is nothing particularly new…. Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this.”

He added: “It is simply what we call metadata that is never utilized by any government agency” unless an agency goes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges for further review of the information.

Using section 215 of the PATRIOT Act federal government agencies can require companies to hand over this and other personal information without the government establishing reasonable grounds, much less the constitutionally required probably cause, that the people whose information is sought are engaged in criminal activity.

When section 215 came up for re-authorization in 2011, Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, also members of the Senate Intelligence Committee with access to classified briefings on the US government’s use and interpretation of section 215 powers, warned that Americans would be concerned about the powers being exercised and promoted unsuccessful efforts to limit the exercise of these powers. Declan McCullagh detailed the senators’ concerns and legislative efforts.

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