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Archive for the ‘liberty and rights’ Category

A policy of torture

In foreign policy, liberty and rights, war and peace on March 3, 2010 at 12:35 am

Evidence of U.S. torture is continuing to mount. What at first seemed as an isolated incident at Abu Ghraib is now appearing to be policy. Obama, like Bush before him, is concealing evidence, protecting torturers and ignoring the continued use of torture.

On Feb. 10, a British court ordered its government to release evidence about a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who says he was tortured while in U.S. custody.

Binyam Mohamed, 31, says he was beaten, subject to sleep deprivation, shackled and had his genitals sliced with a scalpel.

The Obama administration has continually tried to suppress the proof of Mohamed’s torture — even threatening to withhold future intelligence information from British government at the expense of public safety if evidence of Mohamed’s were to be released.

How long will the American people sit back and let torture be committed in their name?

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The ‘war on cyber terrorism’

In liberty and rights on February 27, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Until now, the Internet has been a mostly unregulated, user-created technology; giving rise to an unprecedented expansion of free speech. However, that may soon be changing.

According to a Washington Post article on Wednesday, the federal government is looking for ways to regulate both federal and private industry in an effort to increase cyber security.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are drafting legislation to protect the nation from a massive cyber security attack. Rockefeller described such an attack as an “enormous threat” and justified the controversial legislation. 

“Too much is at stake for us to pretend that today’s outdated cybersecurity policies are up to the task of protecting our nation and economic infrastructure,” Rockefeller said. “We have to do better and that means it will take a level of coordination and sophistication to outmatch our adversaries.”

According to an article in The Hill, the power to regulate and, if need be, control the Internet would be vested in one man, the President of the United States:

“The president would then have the ability to initiate those network contingency plans to ensure key federal or private services did not go offline during a cyberattack of unprecedented scope”

The threat posed by cyber attacks is real. Google recently fell victim to an attack it claims originated in China. Even the Joplin Globe blogs, including Redheaded Politics, were shut down in January 2009 by hackers opposed to U.S. and Israeli policy in Gaza.

But the threat of giving the executive branch sweeping powers of regulation and “protection” in case of a national emergency are far more unsettling. If the federal government wishes to increase the security of its own networks let it do so. The ramifications of it controlling and monitoring the private sector, aka me and you, could be dreadful.

Watch Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee cybersecurity hearing.

Digital ‘strip searching’ at airports?

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, protest on February 16, 2010 at 3:16 am

 

A millimeter scanner

When I flew home for Christmas break on Dec. 19, I wasnt aware of the controversial body scanners TSA was beginning to employ. But after the failed attempt by the now notorious Christmas bomber, I realized my digital figure, minus boots, sweater and pants, had already been viewed by TSA agents.

Tulsa International Airport is among the 19 U.S. airports TSA has selected to use the full-body scanners. The scanners, like Supermans x-ray vision, produce digital images of a persons naked figure. While the renderings arent exactly pornographic, privacy advocates and civil rights groups have raised strong objection to the scanners.

Originally, TSA claimed the machines would only be used on persons requiring extra screening. Instead of a full-body pat down, passengers in question would be subjected to a 2-and-a-half second scan. However, as was the case at Tulsa, airports are instead using the machines for all passengers boarding. Unlike Londons Heathrow airport, passengers in the United States can opt for a full-body pat down.

There are two different types of the body scanners being used. The backscatter uses x-rays to scan and produce a realistic 2 dimensional image. The somewhat less-revealing millimeter scanner I was subjected to at Tulsa, uses terahertz waves to produce a 3D image. The latter appears to be the more widely used.

However, there are serious health concerns over the use of the millimeter scanner and terahertz waves. Terahertz waves lie on the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves. An article in Technology Review says radiation from these waves could cause DNA strands to tear apart and interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.

Privacy and health concerns have caused European Union President Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba to resist U.S. pressure to implement the scanners. He said a commission will first conduct studies to make sure the machines “are effective, do not harm health, and do not violate privacy.”

Hopefully, the United States will take note and similar precaution.

image produced by a millimeter scanner

image produced by a backscatter

Watch: Germanys Pirate Party members protest the use of airport body scanners in their underwear

Google working with federal surveillance agency

In liberty and rights on February 16, 2010 at 3:12 am

The Internet search engine giant, Google, has partnered with the “world’s most powerful electronic surveillance organization,” according to The Washington Post. In a Feb. 4 article, The Post said Google has asked the National Security Agency to analyze a recent hack it claims originated in China and to help protect its networks.

However, civil rights groups such as the ACLU have raised serious objections to the partnership.

“The ramifications of companies like Google working with the NSA are frightening,” said Ateqah Khaki, advocacy coordinator for the ACLU’s National Security Project.

The ACLU is right to be concerned. After all, it was the NSA under the Bush administration that partnered with AT&T and Verizon to spy on the phone conversations of American citizens. Why should American’s trust the intentions of one of America’s most powerful corporations?

Even if Google’s intentions are pure, opportunities and temptations for abuse by the NSA abound. The secret agreement between NSA and Google has prompted the Electronic Information Privacy Center to submit a Freedom of Information request.

Government: a ‘dangerous servant’

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights on February 10, 2010 at 4:08 am

To have a healthy fear of government is to understand human nature — its to understand ourselves.

I often hear people making fun of conspiracy theorists or those fearful of big government. After all, government is nothing more than the people. So what is there to fear?

First of all, government is not the people. Government is a representation of the people — or at least it should be. Secondly, inherent rights and power belong to persons, not groups. Government is a group and therefore a surrogate power. When we talk of issues such as civil rights or womens rights, it is the people constituting the group, not the group itself, that own the rights and, consequently, the power. This distinction may seem unnecessary but it is crucial.

Persons within a democratic republic give up some of their inherent power to the government in exchange for various interests. However, the power ultimately rests within the people.

The danger of government lies in the heart of humankind. Which one of us has not experienced the rush of being appointed to a position of power or at times sought to lord ourselves over others? The potential for power abuse among individuals pales in comparison to that of government — especially that of a superpower. Surely those tasked with buying up billion-dollar industries and bringing nations to their knees face tremendous temptation.

Because of this, it is a wise citizen who posses a healthy fear of, and keeps a consent watchful eye on, her government.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

— George Washington

Activist’s death loss for ‘the people’

In foreign policy, liberty and rights, protest, war and peace on February 1, 2010 at 5:05 am

“The power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it and at certain points in history they have used it,” — Howard Zinn.

Howard Zinn is a name I’d never heard until a few weeks ago. I discovered Zinn and his work while home for Christmas break at my parents’ house watching Bill Moyers. Impressed with the aging activist and feeling like somewhat of an intellectual for watching Bill Moyers, I jotted down Zinn’s name and the title of his bestseller, “A Peoples’ History of the United States.”

I wasn’t until yesterday while searching YouTube for interviews of Zinn that I learned of his death on Wednesday.

Perhaps many people knew who Howard Zinn was. I had never heard of the man until recently. I suppose I feel sad I did not learn of him sooner.

What impressed me about Zinn was his philosophical transformation. As a young fighter pilot serving in World War II, he was responsible for dropping napalm on a village in France — a task that changed him forever.

Later, Zinn became one of the leading voices of opposition against the Vietnam War. He was also an author, playwright, historian, speaker and teacher. Most importantly, Zinn became a voice of hope and empowerment for all people.

One man’s terrorist another man’s animal rights activist?

In liberty and rights, protest on December 6, 2009 at 12:46 am

What sort of imagery comes to mind when you think of PETA? Angry activists, nude models or perhaps animals in cages? If you’re the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the word terrorism might come to mind.

Treehugger.com reported on Wednesday that a new form released by the USDA labels the organization a terrorist threat. The Web site provides a link to a PDF of the form but the link is no longer valid. However, if you enter “PETA terrorist” in the search box on the USDA’s homepage, the first result will link you to the same “no-longer-available” page. And under the search result is a brief description of the form — proving the form does, in fact, exist.

According to Treehugger.com, the form is provided to animal experimentation facilities. It appears to be a sort of survey, asking the facilities what kind of terrorist activities have occurred in or around their premises.

Here is an excerpt from the form.

B. Terrorist Threat. What terrorist activities have occurred in or around your building/facility in the past 5 years (documented cases)? Please check all that apply.

[ ] Attack from international terrorists
[ ] Attack from domestic special interest terrorists
-[ ] Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
-[ ] Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
-[ ] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
-[ ] Animal Defense League (ADL)
-[ ] Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
-[ ] Formal hate group(s) (please specify):
-[ ] Other (please specify): ____________________
[ ] Cyber Attack from a known or unknown source.

Notice that PETA, a non-violent animal rights organization, is listed along with violent animal rights organizations such as ELF which have committed known acts of terrorism.

PETA has not been convicted of terrorist activity although it has admitted to contributing to organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front and convicted eco-terrorists such as Rodney Adam Coronado. And, in the government’s opinion, aiding terrorists makes you a terrorist.

The Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

However, the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism is more far-reaching:

“Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

And the PATRIOT ACT amended the U.S. Code to redefine terrorism as including providing material support to terrorists/terrorist organizations and financing of terrorism.

Likewise, the Military Commissions Act of 2009 gives the U.S. President the power to declare a person an “unprivileged enemy combatant” who “has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

Federal law makes it clear the government considers supporting terrorism a terrorist activity. Therefore, one can logically conclude that PETA is a terrorist organization since they have financially supported known terrorists/terrorist organizations.

But such a definition of a what constitutes a terrorist is far too broad — and, it is dangerous. The federal government’s definitions of domestic terrorism, unprivileged enemy combatants and terrorist activity are slippery. When combined they are broad enough to include an array of activities. PETA may not be the most sane organization but it is not a terrorist threat.

 

Related links:

The U.S. Department of Defense labels protest as “low-level terrorism activity.”

Missouri Information Analysis Center report links Ron Paul supporters with militia members/domestic terrorists.

Gitmo detainees; 9/11 families ask for fair trials, Obama ignores promises

In foreign policy, liberty and rights on December 5, 2009 at 7:14 am

A recent video by the ACLU features families of 9/11 victims asking that Guantanamo Bay detainees be tried in federal courts. While some prisoners are being tried in federal courts, many more are being subject to military commissions or, worse yet, receiving no trial at all.

This week, the Obama administration quietly resumed military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Obama had suspended the commissions after taking office in January. He was also a loud opponent of the commissions during his campaign and promised to close Guantanamo Bay.

As feminist author Naomi Wolf points out, not much has changed since George W. Bush.

Fort Hood, fear mongering, infringement on civil liberties

In liberty and rights, politics on November 24, 2009 at 3:00 am

The tragedy of Fort Hood, like Sept. 11, 2001, is being turned into another excuse to partake in anti-Muslim rhetoric and to call for the infringement on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. So too, may the tragedy be used as a catalyst to infringe on the privacy of non-Muslim Americans.

Consider the following statements by conservative darling Sarah Palin in a recent interview with Fox News:

“Profiling in the sense of finding out what his radical beliefs were. Profiling, in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives, I’m all for it then.”

And this statement by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) in a recent interview with CNN:

“I’m not only worried about these types of people potentially being in the military, I’m concerned about these folks being everyday Americans, around America, living among us who may have become or are in the process of becoming radicalized.”

This kind of fear-inducing rhetoric is nothing new in American politics. It was used to rally the America people against American Japanese during World War II and to justify their relocation to internment camps. Similar rhetoric was also used during the “Red Scare.” Americans need to realize that if they do not believe in civil liberties for those they fear, they do not believe in them at all.

Ladies of liberty increasing in numbers

In liberty and rights, protest, women's rights on November 10, 2009 at 2:24 am

Ultimately, the most feminist thing that can ever be, is a truly independent women. Free mind, free body free spirited.Angela Keaton, AntiWar.com

The Republicans have Sarah Palin and the Democrats have Hillary Clinton. But within the liberty movement, a much younger, brighter feminism is growing.

These young women are not content to simply support Ron Paul or follow the lead of their male counterparts. They are grabbing the reigns and directing the pro-freedom spirit spreading throughout their country. They are organizing, educating and protesting all for the sake of liberty.

The Ladies of Liberty Alliance, otherwise known as LOLA, is one such organization. According to its Web site, LOLA’s goal is to “build a community of liberty-minded women who are empowered to achieve their individual goals in the fight for freedom.”

However, LOLA is not a politically driven organization as mush as it is an educational and philosophical one:

“The opportunity to influence the leaders of today and tomorrow is ours. We intend to take it. Note that our goal is not to create ‘politicians.’ We have no desire to lead men in chains or to empower others to do so. The force of reason and an appeal to morality is what we seek to bolster. And we will.”

The majority of LOLA’s 400 plus members appear to be young, educated feminists (men are also allowed to join). Many of them are entrepreneurs with pro-liberty organizations/businesses of their own.

One such example is member Catherine Bleish. Bleish is the co-founder and executive director for the Missouri-based Liberty Restoration Project — an organization whose main focus has been fighting the Federal Reserve system. Bleish was also the Kansas City area grassroots leader for the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign and the communications director for the Revolution March.

Another prominent member is creator of ByteStyle TV Shelly Roche. Roche has been a guest on both FOX News “Freedom Watch” and on Russia Today. ByteStyle TV was originally intended to be a podcast but Bleish has grown it into a multimedia blog, covering everything from politics to food issues.

Another semi-famous lady of liberty is the singer/songwriter Aimee Allen. Allen’s dance song “Cooties” contributed to the soundtrack of the 2007 film Hair Spray and her single “Revolution” appeared in the soundtrack of the film Storm and was the theme for the WB Television Network series Birds of Prey.

Allen is perhaps most well known for writing the “The Ron Paul Revolution Theme Song” otherwise known as the “Ron Paul anthem.” On Sept. 2, 2008, she performed the song in front of a 12,000-plus crowd at Ron Paul’s sold-out Rally for the Republic in Minneapolis.

The above are just a few examples of how the other half is taking over the liberty movement. OK, so maybe women aren’t “taking over” the liberty movement, but their numbers are definitely growing.

As is the case all across the political spectrum, women tend to be underrepresented among the pro-libertarians. According to Bonnie Kristian with the Leadership Institute, the ratio of men to women in the liberty movement is about 25 to 1, “and that’s on a good day.”

It’s exciting to see organizations like LOLA altering that ratio. My dream is not  for women to take control of the movement but to work side by side with men in advancing its cause.