Senators Reveal That Feds Have Secretly Reinterpreted The PATRIOT Act

from the this-is-a-problem dept

We had mentioned, briefly, the amendment that Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall had tried to push for with relation to the renewal of controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act, however didn't spend much time discussing it. The details are important -- even if we can't know what most of them are. Basically, what becomes clear is that both Senators -- who are on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- are aware of the fact that the feds have interpreted the PATRIOT Act provisions much more broadly than the wording suggests, but they've kept this interpretation secret. In other words, though the law says one thing, the federal government has announced internally that it's "interpreting it" an entirely different way, but it's kept that interpretation secret. The speculation is that these provisions are being massively abused for widespread warrantless wiretapping.

In an interview with Wired, Wyden makes the point clear:
“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says."
He notes that he has no problem with keeping the techniques the feds use secret, but the interpretation should be public, and that's what their amendment is about.

And it's not just the public that's having the wool pulled over their eyes. Wyden and Udall are pointing out that the very members of Congress, who are voting to extend these provisions, do not know how the feds are interpreting them:
As members of the Senate Intelligence Committee we have been provided with the executive branch's classified interpretation of those provisions and can tell you that we believe there is a significant discrepancy between what most people - including many Members of Congress - think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and what government officials secretly believe the Patriot Act allows them to do.

Legal scholars, law professors, advocacy groups, and the Congressional Research Service have all written interpretations of the Patriot Act and Americans can read any of these interpretations and decide whether they support or agree with them. But by far the most important interpretation of what the law means is the official interpretation used by the U.S. government and this interpretation is - stunningly -classified.

What does this mean? It means that Congress and the public are prevented from having an informed, open debate on the Patriot Act because the official meaning of the law itself is secret. Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations that the executive branch is currently relying on and do not have any staff who are cleared to read them. Even if these members come down to the Intelligence Committee and read these interpretations themselves, they cannot openly debate them on the floor without violating classification rules.
In the understatement of the year, Wyden and Udall state "this is not acceptable." I think it goes beyond unacceptable. It's downright scary. That Congress is about to rubberstamp the extension of the law when they think it says one thing, while the feds pretend it says something entirely different, is a travesty.




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    :Lobo Santo (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Be Careful!

    How long until this sort of "whisteblowing" gets the staff at Techdirt thrown in jail for espionage?

     

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    jilocasin, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:34am

    Executive branch trying to one-up Humpty Dumpty

    As Humpty Dumpty was wont to say (In Through the Looking Glass);

    "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

    'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

    'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

    'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?' "

    At least Humpty relented and tells Alice what 'he' means... our _transparent_ administration won't even do that....

     

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    Donnicton, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    Obama's transparent government at work.

     

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      Joe Publius (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:29am

      Re:

      Whatever our Presidents say on the stump as candidates are just words compared to the power that we have endowed them with. All it has taken the past few decades is some rhetoric about "security", and an enemy to point a finger at and even the most humble leader believes in their heart that they trample our liberties in order to save us from the monsters under the bed.

       

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      nasch (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:28pm

      Re:

      I wasn't very happy with his record before I heard about this, but now? I can't vote for a president who is OK with the US having secret laws. This is not what his voters wanted when we put him in office. There's another candidate for understatement of the year I guess.

       

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    Ima Fish (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:37am

    "...but it's kept that interpretation secret."

    We're a nation of laws. Secret laws.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 8:59am

      Re:

      We're a nation that requires citizens to have psychic powers to avoid infringement and to avoid violating the laws. Maybe it's a good thing though, maybe it'll promote the advancement of psychic powers since the laws create such a need.

       

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:41am

    serious

    This is fucking insanity.

     

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    Aaron T (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Sec 215

    I actually for the first time in years watched a little CSPAN this morning while Sen. Wyden was talking. He didn't say what the new interpretation was- but he specifically pointed out how the gov't could get "records" as part of an "investigation".

    Reading between the lines, my guess is that they've expanded what constitutes an investigation to allow them access to *everyone's* bank, credit card, phone, travel, etc records and they're data mining the data looking for patterns which might indicate terrorism/etc. Basically using records to start investigations rather then getting records as part of an existing one. Read up on what Thomas Drake (NSA guy who built a data mining solution, only to find the gov't stripped all the privacy protections from it) has been talking about and it fits:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    Later I was listening to NPR on the way into work and they were talking about the vote over Ryan's budget bill which privatizes Medicare and it's political ramifications for the Dems/Reps for the next election. It then hit me- as a society we're more concerned about entitlements ($$$) then the the Bill of Rights.

     

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      Jon B. (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:07am

      Re: Sec 215

      "It then hit me- as a society we're more concerned about entitlements ($$$) then the the Bill of Rights."

      Both have a direct relationship to government power, authority, and control. Both are important. Isn't it ok to be against both? (Or, in favor of restricting both...)

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:36am

      Re: Sec 215

      my guess is that they've expanded what constitutes an investigation to allow them access to *everyone's* bank, credit card, phone, travel, etc records

      That's the same take that emptywheel is taking. She looked at the amendments that Wyden and Udall are proposing. The amendment makes it clear that not only should the records be relevant to an investigation, but also must belong to someone directly connected to terrorism:

      http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2011/05/25/the-changes-wydenudall-wanted-to-section- 215/

      What the existing law does, through magic of grammatical obfuscation, is eliminate the requirement that Section 215 have anything to do with an actual investigation of suspected terrorists (or alleged spies like Julian Assange). It’s just easier (“presumptively relevant”) to use Section 215 with such people.

      But all of that means the government can use Section 215 to get tangible things to protect against international terrorism. The government might only have to argue that it needs a database of everyone’s cell phone geolocation so when they look for terrorists or WikiLeaks supporters, they’ve got that all on file already.

      Wyden and Udall are trying to swap out that language to require that the information both be relevant to an investigation and be tied to some suspected terrorist (or Julian Assange). The magic of “and.”

      But of course that would make Section 215 useless for bulk collection, which is why this Amendment, after some fear-mongering, always gets defeated.

      Because the United States of America, under the guise of fighting terrorists, has to consistently lie to its citizens so it can create massive databases on completely innocent people available for any searches the government might want to do, whether those searches have to do with terrorism or not.

       

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    Kevin (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    Cue the ACs

    (I'm surprised we haven't had one yet.)

    I can hear them now.

    "Masnick, this is why you're such a joke. One Senator who is in the know because he's on a committee with clearance to view privileged information publicly reveals all he can about a disturbing trend in politics and all of a sudden you're crying foul, blaming Obama for issues related to transparency and privacy.

    This is just your same tired old schtick. I'm surprised you didn't mention copyright, blah, blah, blah."

    Except this time, it will be extra ironic, because the _Anonymous_ Cowards will be making, essentially, the aforementioned "nothing to hide" argument. :P

     

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    crade (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:53am

    Wouldn't it be the court's interpretation be that really matters when you are deciding whether or not to extend it?
    The feds interpretation should only tell you if they are breaking the law or not. If the feds interpretation trumps (or sets) the court's then you have even bigger problems.

     

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      Designerfx (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      aaaand why do you think they don't want this in court? Courts will smack it down quickly and show that the private government interpretation (which is already knowingly wrong), is wrong.

      What was the name of the asian government AG who was misinterpreting stuff during the bush era? I forgot the name, but it's the same as now.

      Basically, we have an attorney who has their own intentionally (and factually) wrong interpretation of the law - and they tell the government they approve it and bam, it moves forward.

       

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      WysiWyg (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:22am

      Re:

      Of course. So it will all come out when it goes to court... which will never happen. Oh.

       

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      DCX2, May 26th, 2011 @ 11:04am

      Re:

      The Fed's interpretation of the law is a State Secret.

      Case dismissed.

      (btw, Designerfx, his name was John Yoo. Jay Bybee also played a part)

       

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        Designerfx (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 10:19pm

        Re: Re:

        yeah, that's exactly what I'm thinking of.

        Where he reads as "we can torture people" even though we have laws in place that say the torture was blatantly illegal.

        Ahh, how fast plenty of people forget.

         

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      nasch (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:34pm

      Re:

      In addition, if they're secretly gathering information about you, you will never know it so you won't even know to sue them. And if you do sue, you won't have any proof that you have standing to sue. So as crade says, it doesn't really matter what the law says, the FBI will just do whatever it wants because there can never be any consequences. At least, until the President (looks like it won't be this one) puts a stop to it.

      This is really getting scary when we have a secret police force following secret laws with no accountability.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    I have been thinking about the various issues that are published on Techdirt for some time. I have to say that a growing sense of dread has been rising within me as i put individual articles and their sources together and look at them as a whole.

    The dread originates from the realization that our society is considered civil because we have laws. Laws that were originally designed for the betterment of society as a whole. Murder, theft, etc. are all illegal because they harm society as a whole, in some manner.

    What we have here, in the 21st century, is what is becoming a more and more apparent breakdown in our society and a general move toward lawlessness. This lawlessness is brought on by the special interests who have only two goals - more money, and more power. Clearly, more power can easily provide one with more money. But more importantly, this lawlessness is enabled by people who are currently within the government who are willing to forgoe their oaths to defend the constitution and twist the meaning of the law to suit their needs.

    If that type of situation already exists, and I'm sure many people will agree that it does, are we not already past the point of no return? How do you rid yourself of a parasite that has absolute power over you? Not only does it have absolute power over you but it is progressively doing things that endanger your life. To what lengths would you go to rid yourself of such a situation. Nothing can be done that will allow your life to be the same or better without a lot of effort.

    I certainly have my ideas of what should be done and where things should go to improve the lot of the people of the US but I leave it to you to ponder - what can be done to fix this situation?

     

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      hegemon13, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      Register Republican. Vote for Ron Paul in the primary. He needs all the help he can get to defeat the GOP establishment. After that, I think he can handle the general election with aplomb.

      Don't just take my word for it, though. Paul has put everything out in the open in his book, "Liberty Defined." Check it out from your library and read it. You'll be amazed that such a politician can even exist in today's environment, let alone get re-elected year after year.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re:

        Register Libertarian and vote Libertarian. Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same face now.

         

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          ltlw0lf (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 10:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same face now.

          I'd agree, except this is Ron Paul we are talking about. I'd vote for the guy (already done it before,) and he'd put me out of a job. But I'd still vote for him in a heart-beat. The sad thing is that you just cannot trust most politicians, they say they are for transparency and small government, but then when they get in office they become the most obtuse and push for huge government. With Ron though...it sounds like he is a boy scout, and I'd be really surprised if he fell back on his word.

           

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          Jordan (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          But I'm from Oregon. Is it ok to vote for Wyden?

           

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        Derek Kerton (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re:

        While this is true, and I admire Ron Paul for his tremendous consistency and adherence to his beliefs...he is a little wacky.

        His policies revolve around not just less government, but almost NO government. His Utopia, which is as unrealistic as the communists' Utopia, is a world where every man fends for himself, and it works out just swimmingly. But what happens to public goods like roads, police, armies, parks, health and education under such a vision? Who assures us that polluters don't poison us?

        Like the communists did in their countries, Paul's vision would ruin America on his way to HIS extreme, Libertarian, false paradise.

        Ron Paul is principled, honest, consistent, and straight-dealing. I wish I could find those qualities in any politician who shared some of my policy views. But ultimately, I'd rather be lied to by someone who shares some policy views with me, than told the truth by somebody who doesn't understand the merits of the kindergarten concept of cooperation.

        While choosing between R and D seems like a Hobson's choice (no choice at all, really); choosing between Paul and the establishment seems to be a Morton's Fork (screwed either way).

        Paul supporters: I know how passionate you guys are, so I won't be back to this post to argue with you - I've seen that those debates can go on for days. If you love him, good for you, but I'm in favor of the existence of a substantial government, so we are unlikely to agree.

         

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          Chosen Reject (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Disclaimer: This is NOT a Ron Paul rant, even though I'll use him as an example.

          The president doesn't have all power. Even if Ron Paul were elected, there's still no way that he'd get his utopia. Republicans and Democrats are both for bigger government (just in different ways so they claim), so voting for them means no matter who wins, the government increases, and they are both fine with that, because the other party will win in an election or two. The increased government that one party wins will be wieldable by the other party soon enough. So they each are willing to allow the other to increase government reach knowing that they'll get that power soon enough.

          On the other hand, someone like Paul, that truly wants to shrink the government reach can actually stop (or at least seriously slow) government's expansion. He might be able to shrink it in some ways even. But there's no way that Ron Paul as president would shrink the government to his utopia even if he had the full 8 years to do so. The only way it could happen is if others who had complete agreement with him held a super majority in the house and senate.

          So you can vote for R or D, and they will both happily continue expanding government, or you can vote for someone (not necessarily Paul mind you) that wants to decrease government. In the former case, no matter what you vote, the government will expand, in the latter case, no matter what your candidate actually wants, the most they can do is make the government slightly less big.

           

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          Mike Masnick (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          While this is true, and I admire Ron Paul for his tremendous consistency and adherence to his beliefs...he is a little wacky.

          Yeah. Ron Paul has significant problems. While I understand some of the love people have for him, and I think he's better and more principled than most politicians, he's definitely out there on some issues.

          I have to admit that I'm intrigued by Gary Johnson, who appears to be Ron Paul without the wacky. And yet, he seems to be getting no love at all in any discussions about presidential candidates.

           

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          PrometheeFeu (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "But what happens to public goods like roads, police, armies, parks, health and education under such a vision?"

          Healthcare and education both have all the hallmarks of private goods. They are both excludable and rival.

          Parks and roads are definitely excludable and they are non-rival only to a point. That makes them halfway between a private good and a club good.

          The police and the army are both public goods. (In part) But especially for the police, voluntary arrangements can often solve the problem of provision since so much police work is done at the local level where interpersonal ties are so much stronger.

          "Who assures us that polluters don't poison us?"

          The vast majority of libertarians do believe that some amount of government is a good thing. (An army and courts to sue polluters are just two common examples) We just often believe that it should be extremely limited.

           

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            ohb1knewbie (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

            Re: Healthcare and education

            Wait... Healthcare and education are not public goods??

            Is this the libertarian position? If so, then I'll have to add it to the list of why I can't call myself a libertarian along with "racism is okay".

            The idea that racism is okay because "the free market will take care of it" is the main reason I scratched libertarian off my list. Libertarians seem to place more faith in the mob of humanity than I'm comfortable with doing.

            Based on all the complaining that you hear from HR departments every Oct.-Nov. when group health insurance policies have to be reviewed and renewed, reason would have indicated that the public option should have sailed through Congress at the insistence of the Chamber of Commerce. But the idea of removing healthcare as a ball and chain on employee mobility was too much for the corporations to ever consider giving up in the name of good business and the public good.

            Like healthcare and prisons, public education is now a prime target for conversion into a profit center by the GOP (God Of Profit ?). One of the few remaining distinctions between D's and R's is the idea that somethings should be beyond the influence of the profit motive.

             

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              PrometheeFeu (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 8:25am

              Re: Re: Healthcare and education

              Wait... Healthcare and education are not public goods??

              Is this the libertarian position?


              This is not the libertarian position. This is a very simple application of the economic definition of public goods. A public good is one that is non-excludable (Once it exists, it is hard to prevent anyone from using it) and it is non-rival (My getting it does not prevent you from getting it either). As it turns out, both education and healthcare are very easily excludable: The teacher doesn't have to talk to you and the doctor doesn't have to treat you, the classroom is closed etc... It is also highly rival: While a doctor is busy treating you, he cannot be treating you. While a teacher is busy teaching you, he cannot be focusing on another student. (Larger classes have significantly worst outcomes than smaller classes) So, healthcare and education are clearly private goods. There are some comparatively small externalities for healthcare in matters of public health and preventing epidemics, but those are small compared to the bulk of healthcare.

              The reason why non-excludable and non-rival goods are called public goods is that it is harder for the market to provide them because it is hard for the supplier of those goods to capture enough of their value as profits to justify providing enough of them. Given how much benefits an individual gets from their own education and healthcare and the fact that businesses can easily charge for those things, private provision of those goods is no problem at all. The reason many people want publicly provided healthcare or education is to help poor people. That's government provided charity which is not the same thing as the public goods.

              If so, then I'll have to add it to the list of why I can't call myself a libertarian along with "racism is okay".

              Libertarians don't think that "racism is okay". They just think that the government is an incredibly blunt and inappropriate instrument to combat racism.

              Libertarians seem to place more faith in the mob of humanity than I'm comfortable with doing.

              Actually no. Libertarians just have difficulty trusting the corrupt politicians which are inevitably elected. Remember the Deep Water Horizon spill? I remember in connection to that scandal hearing about the Mineral Management Services. It appears they were sleeping with oil industry executive at oil industry resorts and snorting coke off toasters. Remember Meredith Baker FCC Commissioner who got hired by Comcast after approving their deal? Or the guy at the SEC who spent his days downloading porn? I find it beyond strange that you would trust these people to run anything. Of course you'll say that it's not those people who should be in charge. It should be wise, honest, principled people. Well, it turns out we don't know of any mechanism whereby wise honest people get to be in charge. What we have is a world in which regulatory capture and corruption are inevitable. So yes, as a libertarian, I want government to have as little power as possible. That way, when it screws up, it won't do too much harm.

               

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                ohb1knewbie (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 11:27pm

                Re: Public vs. Private Goods

                Thank you for taking the time to clarify that you were speaking with respect to economic theory. My bad, I had assumed the intangible use of “good” in the context of “this promotes life, liberty and happiness and therefore serves the public good and that does not and is therefore bad” rather than the tangible goods of the marketplace.

                To summarize your explanation of the economic distinction between public and private goods, private goods lend themselves to the making of profits (capturing value) and public goods do not. The distinction seems to fall mainly to the market's ability to control access to the supply (excludable vs. non-excludable) and scarcity of supply (rival vs. non-rival).

                Public education helps society in general, not just poor people. I think public healthcare would likewise improve society in general. Calling it charity is like using entitlement in a pejorative manner to refer to Social Security. People pay into the system throughout their entire working lives, so , yes – they're entitled to it.

                Considering that the provisioning of healthcare through the private insurance industry can only capture value by restricting itself to those who need minimal levels of healthcare, how is healthcare for the population in general not a public good? Once a public option exists, it would be difficult to restrict access to it and so it would generally be both non-excludable and non-rival.

                Libertarians have done a poor job of explaining what mechanism other than the free market they would employ to prevent racism that would be as effective as the blunt instrument of government. A hundred years of free market activity in the south did not eliminate Jim Crow. When it comes to fundamental human rights the inefficiencies of the marketplace in securing those rights is simply unacceptable.

                I recall all of the situations you mentioned. I also recall that few if any of the people responsible have been prosecuted and punished for their actions. If we never prosecuted murderers, murder would run rampant too. Remove the “corporations are people and therefore have free speech rights” craziness and you'll go a long way to removing the money that fuels corruption through the influencing of elections as well as the tainting of the public interest by lobbyists. I don't deny the corruptibility of human beings, but to say we know of no way to keep people honest belies the intelligence that most of your reply demonstrates.

                Mostly, I'm reminded of John Kenneth Galbraith's take on modern conservatives.
                “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

                 

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                  PrometheeFeu (profile), May 28th, 2011 @ 4:38pm

                  Re: Re: Public vs. Private Goods

                  "Public education helps society in general, not just poor people. I think public healthcare would likewise improve society in general."

                  You need to be more specific. Education helps those who are educated. Healthcare helps those who receive treatment. I am not sure what you mean by "society" benefiting from those things.

                  "Calling it charity is like using entitlement in a pejorative manner to refer to Social Security. People pay into the system throughout their entire working lives, so , yes – they're entitled to it."

                  I call it charity because that's what it is. We hand out education and healthcare for free with the aim of ensuring that your income or wealth is not an obstacle to you obtaining those goods or services. That is charity. That is different from the government for instance providing for the common defense to solve the coordination problems that arise from collective action. The reason the government provides the army is because it would be hard for everyone to organize and voluntarily contribute to the military. It's not because without the government, the military would only protect rich people from bombs.

                  "Considering that the provisioning of healthcare through the private insurance industry can only capture value by restricting itself to those who need minimal levels of healthcare, how is healthcare for the population in general not a public good? Once a public option exists, it would be difficult to restrict access to it and so it would generally be both non-excludable and non-rival."

                  It is not a public good because the entire value of the transaction is captured by those involved in it and there is a finite amount of healthcare to go around. I gain health, my doctor gains my money. When my doctor is treating me, he cannot be treating somebody else. When the government pays for it through a "public option" nothing has changed except that payment is made through a more complicated system. My doctor still can't treat an infinite number of patients and he still can refuse to provide care to someone.

                  "Libertarians have done a poor job of explaining what mechanism other than the free market they would employ to prevent racism that would be as effective as the blunt instrument of government. A hundred years of free market activity in the south did not eliminate Jim Crow. When it comes to fundamental human rights the inefficiencies of the marketplace in securing those rights is simply unacceptable. "

                  You forgot something important in that statement. It was Jim Crow laws. Discrimination was government mandated. We are talking about the inefficiencies of the government in securing those rights. The market had nothing to do with this. In fact, there is some evidence that this discrimination was going away as businesses were seeking more workers and wanting more customers. That is part of the reason why Jim Crow laws were enacted. A very racist portion of the population was able to lobby lawmakers into passing a law which clearly attacked the property rights of business owners. In a libertarian state, Jim Crow laws would be impossible because the government would simply not have the power to do so.

                  Sure, you would have a couple of people here and there who would discriminate but they would rapidly be eliminated by market forces. Making hiring and firing decisions based on race is a great way to drive up your costs and ultimately be forced out of the market. Refusing to serve blacks as they want to be served is otherwise known as loosing customers and ultimately loosing your company.

                  "I recall all of the situations you mentioned. I also recall that few if any of the people responsible have been prosecuted and punished for their actions. If we never prosecuted murderers, murder would run rampant too. Remove the “corporations are people and therefore have free speech rights” craziness and you'll go a long way to removing the money that fuels corruption through the influencing of elections as well as the tainting of the public interest by lobbyists. I don't deny the corruptibility of human beings, but to say we know of no way to keep people honest belies the intelligence that most of your reply demonstrates."

                  Oh sure, we can keep some people honest in some situation. But on the whole, this a simple application of public choice theory. The way regulation works, it has a diffuse effect on the population at large and a strong effect on the companies/people that are being regulated. Those individuals have therefore a strong incentive to lobby their regulators to do things one way or another while we have very little incentives to do so. Furthermore, they are small groups and therefore can organize much more easily. Also, the more power you give to the regulators the greater the incentive for the regulated to attempt to capture the regulator. So they will pour huge amounts of resources into finding every loophole and every way to capture the regulator. You and I have day jobs and we will spend a little bit of energy every once in a while to keep the regulator honest. Guess who will win? Sure, erect all the barriers you want against certain groups unduly influencing the regulator. That's just giving a relative advantage to another group which will also not be in the public's interest.

                   

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    Almost Anonymous (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    Shhh... the secret is a secret

    """But by far the most important interpretation of what the law means is the official interpretation used by the U.S. government and this interpretation is - stunningly -classified."""

    I'm actually rather shocked that they are allowed to even talk about the fact that the interpretation is secret. I would think that would also be a secret. Perhaps there should be a new classification along with Secret and Top Secret: Recursive Secret.

     

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      ohb1knewbie (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:00pm

      Re: Shhh... the secret is a secret

      LOL,,, Recursive Secret, I like that for it's echo of the sad truth of where are these days.

      Take a lesson from the Queen of Secrets, someone who knew a thing or two about how to use them for and against those in power.

      "It can be held certain that information that is withheld or suppressed contains truths that are detrimental to the persons involved in the suppression."
      J. Edgar Hoover

       

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    weneedhelp (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    Senate "Intelligence" Committee

    LOL.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Fucking scary times we live in. What can we do? We can't do shit, we literally can - not - do - shit.

    Our "Government" is a private police force influenced by big business and corrupt Govt. officials.

    As Americans we've given up all of our rights because of an estimated 500-1,000 al qaeda members. Don't forget why we're in Afghanistan either, as our own CIA admits, there's a "few dozen" al qaeda operatives there. Reason enough for war, right?

     

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    Gwiz (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:29am

    So in a nutshell, our federal government is saying as long as we call our activity a "state secret" and keep it secret we don't have to worry about those pesky checks and balances between the three branches of government.

    Wow...just wow.

    As I grow older and wiser, I long for the days of my youth when I believed that the ideals that our founding fathers set into place would protect me from an overly oppressive government.

     

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      Havoc (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 11:35am

      Re: Older and Wiser

      An older & wiser moment:
      Remember when Berlin had the wall? When the USSR had barbed wire fences to keep their people in, not keep others out?
      It was so much easier to tell the good governments from the bad ones due to the walls.
      Seems the walls are gone, perhaps just renamed as "Acts".

       

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    Overcast (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:34am

    www.infowars.com

    Maybe some more people will start to see things for what they are now.

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Why is the Executive branch "Interpreting" laws? Is that the exact mandate of the Judicial branch?

    Legislative branch Writes the Laws
    Executive Branch enforces the Law
    Judicial Branch Interprets the Law

    Thats what I was taught in school. Why does the Executive Branch get to do the job of the Judicial Branch AT ALL. Thats the point of the check and balance. Any Interpretation of the PATRIOT Act should be done by the Judicial branch... If the Executive branch wants to know if they can wiretap some 9-yr old's cell phone without a warrant, they should ask for an interpretation, not just say "Well thats not the way I read it."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      Because there's no checks and balances anymore. That's the first step of descent into a fascist police state. The Executive branch now breaks laws daily and has no one to answer to.

       

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      Chosen Reject (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

      Re:

      You have to some kind of interpretation in order to enforce it. Sure some things are probably pretty cut and dry (no speeding means no speeding), but when it comes to other things there's going to be some level of interpretation. The judicial branch only gets to give their interpretation of the law when someone sues the executive over the executive's interpretation. If you don't know what the executive is doing, you're going to think everything is peachy and have no reason to sue. Even if you know what's going on, if it doesn't affect you, the courts will say you have no grounds to sue.

       

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    HothMonster, May 26th, 2011 @ 10:03am

    This certainly cant be true. As one of our AC friends and fudbuster have been pointing out in the arguments about protect-ip, the government only ever acts in relation to a laws intended purpose. Just as protect-ip was written to go after pirates and will never do harm to anyone else the patriot act was written to go after terrorists and would never be used for anything else. Remember we should write lots of vague and far reaching laws because the people enforcing them will only ever go after the intended targest, i.e. pirates and terrorists. Just close your eyes and trust that those more powerful than you are good, honest people looking out for you best interest. Remember the close your eyes part, thats kind of important for the rest of it to work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Happy my Senator, Udall, is taking this on.

     

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    Beta (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    long-starving hopes

    If members of the executive branch cannot be hauled into court for breaking the law, then it really doesn't matter what the law says, what congress and the courts say, whether the Act is extended or not, or any "interpretations".

    If they can be hauled into court for breaking the law, I would love to be in the gallery when the defendant tells the judge how the law should be "interpreted". I'd sit in line overnight for tickets.

     

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    I'm pretty sure that's what the second Secessio was about: The laws cannot be secret. This simple concept was understood by the plebians in Rome 2500 years ago. What is so complicated about this that President Obama, a legal scholar, doesn't understand it?

     

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    Michael (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:18pm

    For today, I couple of heroes.

     

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    mole removal at home, Sep 9th, 2011 @ 4:19am

    In fact, there is some evidence that this discrimination was going away as businesses were seeking more workers and wanting more customers. That is part of the reason why Jim Crow laws were enacted.Calling it charity is like using entitlement in a pejorative manner to refer to Social Security. People pay into the system throughout their entire working lives, so , yes – they're entitled to it.

     

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    prophit, Oct 19th, 2011 @ 5:46pm

    Mark Udall's support for the bill

    Gee, Mark must be running for re-election. Its the first real serious act of caring for his constituents that he has exhibited. Of course, he will vote to extend, but dress it up in "I tried to fix it". LOL Why don't we ask the Homeland security, NSA, and all other spy agencies to remove the terrorists from their respective depts and that way they won't have a leg up on us and we wouldn't need the Patriot act to spy on our legislators who may speak and vote against the terrorists. Wonder if that is how our congress who were killed were identifed???

     

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    casement window air, Jul 13th, 2012 @ 10:30pm

    casement conditioning

    Seriously, where is democracy? People are socially conditioned into units that will just accept these bills going through, without stopping for a moment to wonder, who in the population actually wants these laws passed? Who do they benefit, the answer is- not the public.

     

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