Usually, the NSA's whoppers are so ham-fisted everyone knows them for falsehoods. And if there's any question, you can usually rely on the fact that when the agency's lips move, it's stretching the truth so far that it's as good as a lie.
But from the start of Snowden's revelations, one of the NSA's tall tales has differed vastly from the others. It's so subtle and ubiquitous, such a consummate Big Lie, that even the surveillance-state's fiercest critics haven't spotted it.
"[T]here's a great deal of minimization procedures that are involved here, particularly concerning any of the acquisition of information that deals or comes from US persons. As I said, only targeting people outside the United States who are not US persons."
"There have been queries … using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence targeting non-US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States … These queries were performed pursuant to minimization procedures approved by the FISA court and consistent with the statute and the Fourth Amendment."
Yep, those are my emphases again -- and I included "Fourth Amendment" because that's the biggest clue of all. Here's the text of that strangled, mangled, moribund member of the Bill of Rights:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Anyone see notation there about "US persons" and "non-US persons?" Yet for basically its entire existence, the NSA has pretended that the Fourth prohibits the government from searching American citizens without a warrant (not that that's stopped the spooks) while authorizing it to search the rest of the world willy-nilly.
But the Fourth's language is so clear that even Clapper should comprehend it: without a warrant, the government may not "violate" anyone's "person, house, papers, and effects." Whether he's Australian or American, from Utah or Uzbekistan, living in or visiting Mexico or Massachusetts is irrelevant.
"Wait a minute!" the NSA's bureaucrats sneer. "'People' is just a synonym for 'citizens.'"
Wrong. The Founding Fathers wrote "citizen" when that's what they meant (remember, most of these Dead White Men were fluent in Greek and Latin, which is to say they understood and used language precisely). And though they employ "citizen" eleven times in the body of the Constitution, they mention only "people" and "persons" in the Bill of Rights. For example, when delineating the requirements for election to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency, the Constitution specifies the minimum number of years each official must have been a citizen.
But when the Constitution concludes, and its amendments begin, "citizen" goes on hiatus. As you may recall from high-school history, the Anti-Federalists insisted on adding ten amendments to the Constitution, the partial list of liberties known as the Bill of Rights. Anti-Federalists distrusted and loathed government, even the Constitution's severely limited one: they eerily, accurately predicted today's creeping totalitarian state and tried to protect themselves with a written guarantee that the government would never restrict their speech, disarm them, spy on them, etc.
The Anti-Federalists also realized that politicians and bureaucrats powerful enough to silence, disarm, and spy on foreigners will certainly pull the same stunts at home. That's why the Bill of Rights consistently says "people," as in the Ninth Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The nationality of the government's victim doesn't matter: politicians and bureaucrats may not silence, disarm, or spy on, etc., anyone. Then, bingo, when the Bill of Rights ends and nationality becomes pertinent again in the Eleventh Amendment, "citizen" pops up like clockwork.
Of course, at this point, discussions of the Constitution are somewhat academic: our rulers have amply demonstrated their disdain for it and us. But, unlike Sen. Dianne Feinstein or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, we should be as livid when the Feds spy on others as when they spy on us. The Constitution clearly, adamantly prohibits both.
Becky Akers is the author of two novels, Halestorm and Abducting Arnold. Both are set during the American Revolution, when Peeping Toms were horsewhipped rather than handsomely paid to spy on citizens.
from the not-so-fun-when-it's-your-metadata,-huh? dept
Earlier today, we wrote about Senator Dianne Feinstein's justified anger over the CIA "spying" on the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers as they went about putting together a massive (and apparently incredibly damning) report condemning the CIA's torture program. Having now watched the whole video of her speech, as well as read the transcript, there's a lot more here to discuss. You can watch the speech yourself if you'd like, or read the full transcript, which we've embedded below:
Apparently, some of the concerns actually stem from an earlier incident, from back in 2010, during which the CIA deleted access to a bunch of documents that it had previously given to the committee staffers. This came after an initial fight over whether or not the CIA would interfere with the staffers' efforts. The Intelligence Committee eventually agreed with the CIA's request that the research work be carried out on the CIA's premises, but only after the CIA promised not to interfere and to leave the staffers alone. The staffers requested lots of documents, and the CIA did a full pure data dump on them, just handing over piles and piles of documents with no context at all. Basically, it appears the CIA sought to bury the staffers in bullshit, hoping to hide many of the important bits. In response, the staffers asked the CIA to provide an electronic search engine, in order to go through the electronic documents. Also, to keep things organized, the staffers would regularly make local copies and/or print out key documents so they could more easily organize them and keep track of them. Based on this, they noticed that some documents that had initially been available "went missing" in 2010:
In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that [certain] documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.
This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.
Apparently, this snafu was settled quietly between the intelligence committee and the CIA, with the CIA promising not to do it again.
Now, as we've been pointing out, and which was revealed by McClatchy and the NY Times last week, this latest fight is focused mostly on a draft of an internal review by the CIA of the torture program, conducted for then director Leon Panetta. Feinstein reveals some more key details about this document. First, it appears that Panetta more or less ordered the CIA to conduct what appears to be a "shadow review" of the very same documents that were being handed over to the Senate staffers. The report, as noted, appears to come to the same basic conclusions about the CIA's torture program (i.e., that it went to insane lengths and produced absolutely nothing in the way of useful intelligence). This internal review also contradicted the CIA's "official response" to the Intelligence Committee's own report.
Here's where it gets a bit trickier. When current CIA director John Brennan was asked for the full internal report, rather than the draft that the staffers had, there appears to have been a freakout at the CIA, because no one had intended for the intelligence committee to see the report, either as a draft or final report. The CIA appears to have believed that Senate staffers got access to the report illegally (hence the CIA's request that the staffers be investigated for illegal activity). Feinstein denies all of this and notes that the draft report was among the many documents provided in the data dump -- in what now looks like an accident by the CIA folks (and some contractors) in charge of compiling the data dump for the intelligence committee. The staffers "found" this document by using that search tool, which they'd asked the CIA to provide.
Feinstein goes on to reject the claims made by the CIA and CIA supporters that (1) the staffers should have known not to read the documents since they were marked "deliberative" or "privileged" and (2) that they somehow "mishandled" those classified documents by printing them out and bringing them to the Senate. As she notes, both of those claims make little sense. On the classification:
As with many other documents provided to the committee at the CIA facility, some of the Internal Panetta Review documents—some—contained markings indicating that they were “deliberative” and/or “privileged.” This was not especially noteworthy to staff. In fact, CIA has provided thousands of internal documents, to include CIA legal guidance and talking points prepared for the CIA director, some of which were marked as being deliberative or privileged.
Moreover, the CIA has officially provided such documents to the committee here in the Senate. In fact, the CIA’s official June 27, 2013, response to the committee study, which Director Brennan delivered to me personally, is labeled “Deliberative Process Privileged Document.”
We have discussed this with the Senate Legal Counsel who has confirmed that Congress does not recognize these claims of privilege when it comes to documents provided to Congress for our oversight duties.
That takes care of that. On the question of mishandling the documents, the argument is not quite as strong, but still quite reasonable. Yes, it does appear that staffers did not follow the exact process for removing the documents -- in that they were supposed to first review it with CIA staffers, but the reasoning here is not so crazy. The review process was supposedly just so that the CIA could make sure that names of key people or details of operations weren't revealed. The staffers made sure that all such info had been redacted before moving the document -- and, of course, they recognized that this document was a bit of a smoking gun for the CIA in that it appeared to confirm that Director Brennan had been lying to the committee. Taking it to the CIA to review would be an odd move -- especially for staffers tasked with oversight of the CIA itself. Even more important, the staffers noticed that, like back in 2010, that draft review document suddenly "disappeared" from their computer system, despite the previous promises that the CIA wouldn't do that any more (also, she points out that the CIA had previously destroyed early evidence about their torture program). So they made the entirely reasonable decision to make a copy and store it in the Senate:
When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.
As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.
Now, the Relocation of the Internal Panetta Review was lawful and handled in a manner consistent with its classification. No law prevents the relocation of a document in the committee’s possession from a CIA facility to secure committee offices on Capitol Hill. As I mentioned before, the document was handled and transported in a manner consistent with its classification, redacted appropriately, and it remains secured—with restricted access—in committee spaces.
Now that brings us to the latest "fight." In late 2013, after the intelligence committee had seen that draft report, it had requested the final report from the CIA. That set off alarm bells in the CIA when they realized that the committee knew such a report existed, leading to a freakout and further "searching" the staffers' supposedly private computers and networks:
Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.
According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.
Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.
As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation.
Of course, as Julian Sanchez points out, from this description, it certainly appears that the CIA was collecting "just metadata," and, as you may recall, Feinstein has been at the forefront of arguing that no one should care about the NSA's activities, because it's just metadata. Kinda funny how perspective shifts when it's your metadata being discussed. Suddenly, it becomes a constitutional issue:
Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.
Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
And yet that doesn't apply when the NSA spies on all Americans? Yes, Feinstein is absolutely right to be angry about this. It is an astounding breach of protocol, and given that it's the Senate Intelligence Committee's job to oversee the CIA, it appears to be quite a brazen move by the CIA to effectively undermine the Senate's oversight. It's just too bad she doesn't see how the very same things she's angry about concerning her own staff apply equally to everyone else.
There's one other issue in the speech that should be highlighted as well. She notes both of the referrals (that we've previously discussed) to the DOJ: the request to investigate the CIA's activities, and the CIA's tit-for-tat response asking for an investigation into the staffers' access and removal of the draft Panetta review. Feinstein also points out that the person at the CIA who filed the crimes report against her staffers at the DOJ was heavily involved in the torture program the report condemns, and certainly suggests that the move is much more about intimidating Senate overseers:
Weeks later, I was also told that after the inspector general referred the CIA’s activities to the Department of Justice, the acting general counsel of the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions. I have not been provided the specifics of these allegations or been told whether the department has initiated a criminal investigation based on the allegations of the CIA’s acting general counsel.
As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.
I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.
Once again, it's worth noting that these are the very same folks that, just weeks ago, Feinstein was insisting would never abuse their positions because they're professionals. She said that on January 19th. That was just four days after CIA Director Brennan had told her about how the CIA had conducted the almost certainly illegal search on her own staffers.\
And, of course, this is the point that many of us have been making all along to Feinstein and other kneejerk defenders of the intelligence community. No matter how "professional" they are, they're still human. And given situations where their own jobs may be threatened, they're going to do what they do, and that often leads to serious abuses, like the ones that now have Feinstein so angry. That's why we're so concerned by her lack of real oversight of the intelligence community for years, as well as the rather permissive attitude that both Congress and the courts have taken for years to the intelligence community, by insisting that they only do what they do for the purposes of "national security." I'm curious what kind of "national security" reason the CIA has for spying on the very staffers who were investigating the CIA's torture program?
California’s Modesto Junior College (MJC) [has] agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed last October by student Robert Van Tuinen, whom the college prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day...
As part of the settlement, MJC has revised its policies to allow free speech in open areas across campus and has agreed to pay Van Tuinen $50,000. Van Tuinen was represented by the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington, D.C., and assisted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
The college, which previously "fought back" by complaining about negative press and "hatred and cruelty" directed at its staff, has overhauled its free speech policies, opening up the campus to students who wish to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Limited public forums on Modesto Junior College’s campus are “areas generally available to students and the community,” defined as grassy areas, walkways, or other similar common areas.
This is a significant improvement over MJC's previous "free speech area," which was a small concrete slab only accessible to students who had been granted "permission" by the administration in advance to exercise their free speech rights.
The timeframe available to students has also been expanded and is no longer limited to one-hour reserved slots.
Use of free speech areas is permitted every day from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. Speakers who will be using the free speech areas outside normal working hours (Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm) are encouraged to notify the Office of Student Development and Campus Life to coordinate their event.
Note the fact that contact is "encouraged" but not required. These new policies are now in effect not just at Modesto Junior College, but at all schools within the Yosemite Community College District.
While this is a heartening win for free expression on MJC's campus, FIRE notes that 59% of colleges nationwide still uphold policies that restrict free expression on campus. That this particular situation resulted in litigation is unfortunate, considering the application of a little common sense by school administrators would have saved the college $50,000 plus whatever it racked up in legal fees defending a stupid, restrictive policy.
Modesto Junior College (MJC) has agreed to suspend enforcement of its “free speech zone” as it negotiates an end to a federal lawsuit filed by a student prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Constitution Day.
A joint stipulation filed in federal district court yesterday by MJC and attorneys for student Robert Van Tuinen states that the parties have agreed on several significant revisions to the college’s “free speech policies and procedures,” pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District, expected this spring.
The proposed procedures would change district denial of permission to speak or distribute materials in open areas from “at its discretion” to “in a manner consistent with applicable law.” In general, the policy limits hate speech, use of microphones, soliciting money except for campus groups, blocking passers-by or being disruptive. It says people distributing materials should pick up the discards lying around campus.
As FIRE President Greg Lukanioff notes, these moves put MJC's policies more "in line" with the First Amendment rather than operating in its proprietary First-Amendent-Free zone. Free speech isn't really free when its routed through layers of administrative bureaucracy and sent to wait in line for a chance to utilize the "little cement area" so graciously begrudgingly bestowed by the college.
Trying to create a stress-free environment by ensuring as little free speech as possible occurs on campus is a disservice to students. It does nothing but allow administrators to avoid the uncomfortable situations and confrontations that necessarily arise from the exercise of free speech. Running an institute of higher learning isn't supposed to be easy. If it is, you're doing something wrong. The real world isn't the sort of place where speech never offends. It also isn't the sort of place where speech, offensive or not, waits in line patiently. Creating an insular environment handicaps the same people administrators are supposed to be preparing for the future. It's good to see the district will be removing this ridiculous policy, which has done little but serve as a crutch for administrators who dislike being challenged.
from the questioning-the-status-quo,-and-the-complacency-that-allows-it-to-continue dept
On Constitution Day (Sept. 17th), a student of Modesto Junior College, Robert Van Tuinen, was prevented by Modesto Junior College administration from handing out copies of the Constitution. The college apparently believes free speech is limited to a single small concrete slab on campus, generously named the "Free Speech Zone." Contrary to the First Amendment (and the state's laws governing public university policies), MJC restricts free speech to no more than two people per day, subject to approval of the administration.
Professor William J. Holly was kind enough to forward his entire email to me, as well as provide some additional info on California laws governing schools and students' First Amendment rights, as well as this bizarre and tense interaction with school security over the supposed rule changes President Jill Stearns said were underway.
I do not know what rules are now in effect. Last week I stopped by campus security and asked what the rules now were, and he referred me to ASMJC office on the other campus. I said he must know what the rules are since he was responsible for enforcing the rules. He kept pushing the paper with the name of the office on it, saying he was referring me to that office. It got a little tense because I kept saying he must know the rules and should be able to let us know what the rules are. Finally, he said he was not allowed to discuss this with anyone because they are under litigation. Stearns says the rules are being reviewed. Does that mean there are no rules?
Stearns' statement says the college is "evaluating its policies and procedures." It also says this:
There is absolutely no requirement that a student register weeks in advance and hand out his literature only in a small marked area.
There may not be one now, but that requirement was certainly in place back in September.
It also says this.
To those who were offended by the appearance of censorship, we again affirm the commitment of the college and district to civil discourse.
Hilarious. Pity the poor people who took offense at Van Tuinen being accosted by a campus cop and repeatedly told he'd need to get on the waiting list for the Freedom Slab and mistakenly believed it violated his First Amendment rights.
Holly does a wonderful job in his email dismantling Stearns' non-apology.
[I]t is unclear what she means when she addresses "those who were offended by the appearance of censorship." Van Tuinen was not subjected to the mere "appearance of censorship." He was silenced and he was prevented from distributing his literature. That is outright censorship, pure and simple, whether it resulted from a misunderstanding or not.
But Holly's letter is more than just a deconstruction of Stearns' statements and MJC's dubious policies. It's also a wakeup call directed at his colleagues, many of whom were either unaware of this event or simply stood by and let incident pass by not remarked on.
The paper attached above (Destructing Causal Deconstruction) exposes some of the absurdities that are committed in the name of "Deconstruction." I think it is a good read -- clear, amusing, imaginative, and instructive. If you ever wondered what "deconstruction" is really about, you would be hard pressed to find a better introduction. One question that I cannot answer, however, is whether or not I would be arrested by a security officer if I insisted on wandering about the quad on our campus, handing out copies of this paper and discussing it with those who might be interested in the topic. This is not a silly question...
Nearly a month ago (Sept. 17th) one of our MJC students, Robert Van Tuinen (also a veteran), was trying to pass out copies of our federal Constitution on Constitution Day. He was prevented in this exercise of free speech by an MJC security officer, and then by an official at the office of Student Services who told him he was allowed freedom of speech and the right to pass out literature only in certain tiny restricted areas on our campus, and then only after booking a reservation -- which would not be available until the following month!
I am puzzled why there has been no faculty outcry over this ugly incident. Why are we not standing up for our student who only wanted to exercise his constitutional right to free speech? Do we really want to be known nationwide as the college that wouldn't let a veteran pass out copies of our Constitution on Constitution Day?
Holly's not being facetious about "nationwide." The story was picked up by the Huffington Post, the Washington Times, FOX News, the L.A. Times, along with numerous other well-read sites like Reason, the Daily Caller and National Review Online. But Modesto Junior College itself? Apparently it isn't interested in providing current or prospective students (or faculty, for that matter) with anything more than the president's statement.
The First Amendment in pertinent part says, " Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …" Some have taken this to be a right you have against the Federal Government, but not (say) against the State of California (as though the rights you thought you had simply in virtue of being a citizen of the United States could be nullified by the particular state in which you live). Happily, the point is largely moot because the constitution of California has its own guarantees of rights that largely parallel the U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights -- including separation of church and state, etc. Guarantees of freedom of expression even exist in parts of the California Code of Education, and even the University of California has a constitution that holds out these rights, and even individual campuses have their own codes regarding such things as Academic Freedom. At CSUS and at PLU, the rules that claim Academic Freedom for faculty make clear that such freedom should extend equally to students!
66301. (a) Neither the Regents of the University of California, the Trustees of the California State University, the governing board of a community college district, nor an administrator of any campus of those institutions, shall make or enforce a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanction solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside a campus of those institutions, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution.
Considering Van Tuinen's lawsuit, the directly-following subsection is also relevant.
(b) A student enrolled in an institution, as specified in subdivision (a), at the time that the institution has made or enforced a rule in violation of subdivision (a) may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by the court. Upon a motion, a court may award attorney's fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action pursuant to this section.
Given the state law governing the public college, it would appear that MJC's free speech policies are in violation of state law, not to mention the state's constitution, even granting a very generous reading of "time, place and manner" wording.
Holly also questions the "formal apology" extended by the school to Van Tuinen. Whatever it was (and no one has seen it but Van Tuinen and administrators), it's clearly not sufficient.
[W[e are told that a formal apology has been provided the student. It seems to me, however, that apologies in such cases are best made in public. I think Van Tuinen would want a published apology, a public admission that MJC had no right to deny him the exercise of his liberties that they did, and a promise that no other students would have their rights similarly violated. And, since the violation of the rights of one of our fellow citizens violates us all, I believe that we all are entitled to see a copy of that apology, to see the particulars of the concessions made, and to see in what manner those liberties now are affirmed that then were denied.
As Holly points out, the fact that Van Tuinen is proceeding with his lawsuit is a good indicator that the apology offered wasn't satisfactory.
Holly then goes further, suggesting what should be done, not only to satisfy Van Tuinen, but to make sure other students know their rights are protected and ensure this sort of restriction doesn't make its way back into the school policies in the future.
In one interview, [Van Tuinen] has said that he is not doing this for the money. I think what he wants is a civil rights victory. That should be easy to give him, especially if President Stearns is right this all has just been a misunderstanding…
If he doesn't really care about money, if he just wants public acknowledgement that he was wronged, perhaps we should offer this: Buy him a couple thousand copies of the Constitution or of the Bill of Rights, and offer to make the individuals he has sued do community service that is relevant. Make them each do twenty hours of community service that consist of passing out copies of the Constitution and explaining to people the importance of everyone's right to free speech. That ought to make him whole. And, to show my sincerity, I hereby offer to do 20 hours of such community service myself. Perhaps I too bear part of the responsibility here, because this one flew under my radar too. I did not check to see if my students' rights to free speech were properly protected. Sometimes the implications of rules just do not strike us until we see them enforced.
Summing things up, Holly asks what some famous free speakers would run into if attempting to speak on MJC's campus.
Now, if you do not like my suggestion that we should have a policy of completely free, unfettered and unqualified freedom of thought and expression on this campus, just ask yourself this one question: Suppose that Thomas Paine, the great pamphleteer ("These are the times that try men's souls…") were to come to MJC. Would you make him show his ID or make an advance appointment? Would you sic campus security and Student Services on him before allowing him to distribute his literature? Hell, what would you do if Jesus came? Would you have Student services tell Him he needs an appointment in advance, that the free speech zone is booked up until next month, and that He needs to confine his speech to the designated free speech zone areas? I say, Let Freedom Reign!
Holly's effort to light a fire under his colleagues is admirable. Many people are too willing to defer to existing policy, especially if it doesn't apply directly to them. Van Tuinen pushed back against an unconstitutional policy and has brought the idiocy of campus "Free Speech Zones" back into the national limelight. Holly doesn't suggest throwing away all restraints on speech (exempting classrooms and faculty offices in order to prevent disruption of educating), but his view of what a "Free Speech Zone" should actually include covers far more area than MJC's infamous concrete slab.
The entire email (embedded below) is worth a read, as is his Deconstructing Casual Deconstruction. Holly's defense of students' rights is a rarity in institutes of higher learning, many of which seem to believe the restraint of speech somehow creates better students.
We've written a few times about the attempt in Iceland to crowdsource a new Constitution. While that's had some political troubles, despite widespread public support, it seems others are taking note. The folks over at the London School of Economics recently decided it might be a fun thought experiment to see if it would be possible to crowdsource a Constitution for the UK. While many are aware of things like the Magna Carta, which in many ways laid the groundwork for the US Constitution, the UK today does not have a single written constitutional document -- meaning that there is no effective restriction on the UK Parliament's actions (as the US Constitution restricts Congress in the US).
There have been a number of online discussions about ideas for this crowdsourced Constitution on the site linked above, which are worth reading, but recently the LSE held an event to do some of the crowdsourcing live, which they then released as a podcast (on a sidenote: if you're interested in economics or world politics, I highly recommend the LSE podcast). The discussion is well worth listening to. They take a somewhat lighthearted approach to the whole thing, and it gets pretty amusing at a few points, but the discussion is still fascinating, as they debate concepts like whether or not the right to be treated equally belongs in a Constitution (and further, what does the statement even mean). There's also a spirited argument made for not having a Constitution at all (and a rebuttal for why a Constitution would be really helpful).
While it's unlikely that anything actually binding or important will come out of this process, it's somewhat fascinating even to think through the process of making a Constitution, and it's fun to see the LSE attempt to do the whole thing publicly.
from the SHUT-UP-AND-RETURN-TO-THE-DESIGNATED-'FREE-SPEECH-ZONE' dept
As an American with First Amendment rights, you'd probably assume that a "Free Speech Zone" would look something like this:
The blue on that map should represent areas where you can exercise your right to free speech. Unfortunately, for many college students, their "Free Speech Zone" shrinks considerably when on campus. One out of every six major colleges have designated "Free Speech Zones" where students are "permitted" to "enjoy" this Constitutional right, and even then there are restrictions. In these colleges, exercising your right to free speech means asking permission at least a couple of days in advance as well as having the administration "approve" your speech.
The latest example of confined and controlled speech comes to us courtesy of Modesto Junior College. As FIRE.org reports, a student found his exercise of free speech shut down on one of the worst days of the year for a college to assert its negative attitude towards the First Amendment.
In a stunning illustration of the attitude taken towards free speech by too many colleges across the United States, Modesto Junior College in California told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on September 17, 2013—Constitution Day. Captured on video, college police and administrators demanded that Robert Van Tuinen stop passing out Constitution pamphlets and told him that he would only be allowed to pass them out in the college’s tiny free speech zone, and only after scheduling it several days or weeks ahead of time.
After 10 minutes of handing out these pamphlets, Van Tuinen was approached by a campus police officer. After some discussion regarding the ridiculousness of shutting down free speech on Constitution Day and Van Tuinen's repeated assertion of his rights, the campus cop tells him to take it up with administration.
[The officer sends out a little cheap shot before Van Tuinen moves on, telling him, "Look at you. You're shaking." This is a common cop tactic designed to both a) cast suspicion on the person and b) assert the officer's control of the situation. The fact that it's a byproduct of the fight-or-flight response is ignored. People speaking to armed authority figures will often appear nervous because that's how the human brain works. It's not solely a byproduct of fear or guilt. It's adrenaline being pumped with no available outlet.]
The response he receives from administration is no less ridiculous, considering it relies heavily on quoting policy rather than acknowledging the absurdity of shutting down free speech on Constitution Day. (As if it would be any less ridiculous on any other day of the year, but Constitution Day?)
Upon arriving at that office, Van Tuinen talks with administrator Christine Serrano, who tells him that because of “a time, place, and manner,” he can only pass out literature inside the “free speech area,” which she informs him is “in front of the student center, in that little cement area.” She asks him to fill out an application and asks to photocopy his student ID. Hauling out a binder, Serrano says that she has “two people on campus right now, so you’d have to wait until either the 20th, 27th, or you can go into October.” Van Tuinen protests that he wants to pass out the Constitution on Constitution Day, at which point Serrano dismissively tells him “you really don’t need to keep going on.”
So, now everything's clear. In a nation where free speech is one of the foundations of society, an American in a public American college (founded by legislation and infused with public money via grants) is restricted to "that little cement area" (see below) -- and then only with advance notice and permission. Free speech possibly available in October -- get your reservation in now!
As FIRE's Robert Shibley points out, there's really no way Modesto Junior College could have handled this situation any worse than it did.
“Virtually everything that Modesto Junior College could do wrong, it did do wrong. It sent police to enforce an unconstitutional rule, said that students could not freely distribute literature, placed a waiting period on free speech, produced an artificial scarcity of room for free speech with a tiny ‘free speech area,’ and limited the number of speakers on campus to two at a time. This was outrageous from start to finish. Every single person at Modesto responsible for enforcing this policy should have known better.”
Free speech isn't something you box up and dole out. It's the right of all citizens. Modesto Junior College should know this, being a public college, but has apparently decided it's much easier to avoid uncomfortable or unpopular speech by violating its students' First Amendment rights.
from the prying-our-rights-out-of-the-govt's-cold,-undead-fingers dept
Some good news has arrived on the Homeland Security front (although the department in charge of securing the Homeland probably wouldn't agree). Last time we visited the infamous "No Fly List," a federal judge (Anna J. Brown) wasn't buying the government's arguments in favor of preserving the list's lack of transparency or redress options. The ACLU, arguing on behalf of 13 list members, pointed out that the system violates citizens' (there are more than 20,000 names on the list) right to due process.
As if being on the list and having no way to be removed wasn't enough of a problem, the government made it clear it believed air travel and international travel in any form were luxuries granted by the State. The government's argument was Marie Antoinette-esque in its dismissive simplicity: let them drive cars.
During deliberations, Judge Brown swiftly undercut the government's argument that air travel is nothing more than a "convenience."
"To call it 'convenience' is marginalizing their argument," Brown said. [She] said alternatives to flying are significantly more expensive. "It's hugely time-consuming, and who knows what impediments there are between the Port of Portland and other countries."
The government apparently failed to make any further inroads at impressing the judge over the past couple of months. The ACLU announced today that the federal court has found in its favor.
A federal court ruled late yesterday that constitutional rights are at stake when the government places Americans on the No Fly List, agreeing with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit challenges the process for attempting to get off the list as unfair, inadequate, and unconstitutional. The decision also asked the ACLU and the government to submit additional information about the No Fly List redress procedure in order to help the court decide the ultimate question of whether it satisfies the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.
We'll likely be waiting quite some time for the government to get its input together, if other TSA-related input-gathering efforts are any indication. As it stands now, the so-called redress procedure offered by the DHS is a pointless waste of paper for everyone involved. Here's that procedure in all its glory.
Their only recourse is to file a request with the Department of Homeland Security's "Traveler Redress Inquiry Program," after which DHS responds with a letter that does not explain why they were denied boarding. The letter does not confirm or deny whether their names remain on the No Fly List, and does not indicate whether they can fly. The only way for a person to find out if his or her name was removed from the No Fly List is to buy a plane ticket, go to the airport, see if he or she can get on the flight – taking the risk of being denied boarding and marked as a suspected terrorist, and losing the cost of the airline ticket.
That's not due process. That's a form letter awaiting a name to insert between the placeholder brackets.
In her ruling, Judge Brown reiterated the her problems with the government's insistence that air travel is a "convenience."
"Although there are perhaps viable alternatives to flying for domestic travel within the continental United States such as traveling by car or train, the Court disagrees with Defendants’ contention that international air travel is a mere convenience in light of the realities of our modern world. Such an argument ignores the numerous reasons an individual may have for wanting or needing to travel overseas quickly such as for the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a business opportunity, or a religious obligation… the Court concludes on this record that Plaintiffs have a constitutionally-protected liberty interest in traveling internationally by air, which is affected by being placed on the list."
This is good news for the 20,000 unwilling participants in the DHS's no-fly program. I would imagine the government will be appealing this decision as any changes to its (lack of) redress process will probably cause "grave damage to national security," especially as it will now require the DHS to divulge some sort of actual information as to why Person A is on the list.
More likely the real reason for this opacity is to prevent the public from recoiling in horror at the briefest peek into the crafting of War on Terror™ sausage -- a process that seems to involve running a variety of amendments through the grinder along with handfuls of tax dollars. This win is a small push back against that apparatus and stakes another one of ACLU's flags into a chunk civilly liberated territory.
Reuters continues to reveal incredible details of how the intelligence community (NSA, FBI, CIA, etc.) has been sharing information with other government agencies -- mainly via the DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD) and then telling those who use that info to do law enforcement work to "launder" their own investigation to hide where they got the information from. The example given was that, perhaps, the FBI or the NSA might provide the SOD with information about a truck likely to have drugs. SOD then tells other DEA agents to look for "this kind of truck in this truck stop," and then the DEA has local police stop the truck on a traffic violation, leading to a "random" search and voila, drug trafficker arrested.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency.
This is almost certainly unconstitutional, as a due process violation, by hiding the evidence used to arrest someone. Furthermore, even if you think that it's reasonable that if the FBI or NSA comes across some details of, say, a tax cheat or a drug deal, that they should pass that info along to a relevant agency, at best you could make an argument that this made sense when those investigations were narrow and targeted at wrongdoing. Yet, as we've seen, surveillance capabilities for both the NSA and FBI have been expanding rapidly, such that nowadays they're collecting information on absolutely everyone. When you have information on everyone, it's not hard to construct "patterns" that can be passed along to various agencies for the purpose of directly targeting individuals. The risk of abuse of this kind of information gathering and information sharing is tremendous.
We already talked about the Amash Amendment being voted down very narrowly (217 - 205). While it didn't pass, this was still a huge victory, because a few weeks ago (hell, even last week) people predicted that this amendment had no chance at all and might not even be debated. To come within seven votes of passing shows you why the NSA, the White House and the Senate's primary NSA enablers went absolutely ballistic in going all out against the amendment. Think about that: you had incredibly powerful interests working overtime against this amendment, and no special interests beyond basic common decency and grassroots support working for it... and the vote was still incredibly close.
The full roll call has now been released, and you'll note that this is not a partisan issue. The vote didn't fall along partisan lines at all. Rep. Mike Rogers (one of the strongest defenders of the program) called the vote "bipartisan" against Amash, but it was equally as bipartisan against the NSA. 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted to stop the NSA collecting every phone record on every phone call. 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted to let the NSA keep spying on you. I'm thankful that my own Representative, Jackie Speier voted for the Amash Amendment.
There are some strange bedfellows voting in favor of NSA spying: there's Nancy Pelosi right alongside John Boehner. Rep. Issa, who's been so good on tech issues, voted to let the NSA keep spying on all of you, whereas Rep. Gohmert, who's been ridiculous on tech issues, voted to stop the spying. Oddly Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Chris Van Hollen, who have specifically complained about the Patriot Act, voted to let it move forward today. Van Hollen specifically spoke out against Section 215 a few years ago, noting that it was too broad, didn't have safeguards and might be used against innocent Americans. Yet, he voted to allow that to continue today. Bizarre. This amendment would have stopped exactly what he complained about.
Either way, I figured folks would want to see the names of the 217 Congressional Representatives who gave a giant middle finger to the 4th Amendment and voted to let the NSA continue to spy on each and every American citizen. Direct from the roll call:
---- NOES 217 ---
Aderholt Alexander Andrews Bachmann Barber Barr Barrow (GA) Benishek Bera (CA) Bilirakis Bishop (GA) Bishop (NY) Boehner Bonner Boustany Brady (TX) Brooks (AL) Brooks (IN) Brown (FL) Brownley (CA) Bucshon Butterfield Calvert Camp Cantor Capito Carney Carter Castor (FL) Castro (TX) Cole Collins (GA) Collins (NY) Conaway Cook Cooper Costa Cotton Crawford Crenshaw Cuellar Culberson Davis (CA) Delaney Denham Dent Diaz-Balart Duckworth Ellmers Engel Enyart Esty Flores Forbes Fortenberry Foster Foxx Frankel (FL) Franks (AZ) Frelinghuysen Gallego Garcia Gerlach Gibbs Gingrey (GA) Goodlatte Granger Graves (MO) Green, Al Grimm Guthrie Gutierrez Hanabusa
Hanna Harper Hartzler Hastings (WA) Heck (NV) Heck (WA) Hensarling Higgins Himes Hinojosa Holding Hoyer Hudson Hunter Hurt Israel Issa Jackson Lee Johnson (GA) Johnson, E. B. Johnson, Sam Joyce Kaptur Kelly (IL) Kelly (PA) Kennedy Kilmer Kind King (IA) King (NY) Kinzinger (IL) Kirkpatrick Kline Kuster Lance Langevin Lankford Larsen (WA) Latham Latta Levin Lipinski LoBiondo Long Lowey Lucas Luetkemeyer Maloney, Sean Marino Matheson McCarthy (CA) McCaul McIntyre McKeon McKinley McNerney Meehan Meeks Meng Messer Miller (FL) Miller (MI) Murphy (FL) Murphy (PA) Neugebauer Noem Nunes Nunnelee Olson Palazzo Paulsen Payne Pelosi
Peters (CA) Peters (MI) Peterson Pittenger Pitts Pompeo Price (NC) Quigley Reed Reichert Renacci Rigell Roby Rogers (AL) Rogers (KY) Rogers (MI) Rooney Ros-Lehtinen Roskam Royce Ruiz Runyan Ruppersberger Ryan (OH) Ryan (WI) Schakowsky Schneider Schwartz Scott, Austin Scott, David Sessions Sewell (AL) Shimkus Shuster Simpson Sinema Sires Slaughter Smith (NE) Smith (TX) Smith (WA) Stivers Stutzman Terry Thompson (CA) Thornberry Tiberi Titus Turner Upton Valadao Van Hollen Vargas Veasey Visclosky Wagner Walberg Walden Walorski Wasserman Schultz Webster (FL) Wenstrup Westmoreland Whitfield Wilson (FL) Wittman Wolf Womack Woodall Young (FL) Young (IN)
As for those who voted to cut off the NSA's ability to do bulk data collection on all your phone calls: