Obama’s DOJ assault on civil liberties

Obama’s been really bad for privacy, due process, and discretion when it comes to a litany of topics. Many of these issues aren’t really discussed in the mainstream media and it’s beginning to really bother me. I take that back, it’s been bothering me for quiet some time, but I’m going to be talking about it a lot more now. In fact, many of these issues have dated back to before this past election. I was extremely close to voting for a third party candidate for president because I find it repugnant that the US president would kill US citizens abroad without a trial by jury, because the Bush administration created a legal gray zone called “enemy combatant.” I’m not a fan of conjecturing what our founding fathers think about modern day issues, however, I feel that this one is pretty obvious. People were being imprisoned and killed without trail under British rule. The right to a trail was to ensure this wouldn’t happen to a citizen.

The next area that’s really starting to disturb me is the efforts to shut down some types of DDoS activities. It was just discovered within the past few days that the FBI has backdoor access into a company that does DDoS for hire. Which likely means that they’re used as part of the US Cyber Security Defense League of National Homeland Safetiness. It also means that anyone that uses a service like this can be tracked and arrested for using the service, if the FBI decides to – essentially if the FBI feels that the use would have been justified from their perspective the customer wouldn’t be bothered. However, this isn’t the case at all when it comes to teenagers, young adults, or whatever age you are if you’re in Anonymous, Lulzsec, or just Kim Dot Com. According to a great Guardian article, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/may/04/security-alert-war-in-cyberspace, there’s a general all out attack on people that decide to use the internet in new ways to do different things. These are people that are notifying others of risks to their own security. For example, Weev, was just sentenced to 3 years in prison for alerting AT&T that the had some email addresses associated with iPads exposed, sure he went through Gwaker, but this information was easily accessible and in plain text. This creates a risk to all security researchers, the people that are called “white hats” that are the good Samaritan hackers which find security exploits, inform the firm give them 30 days or so to fix the issue and then release the information into the public to force the fix. Many cases of hacking are “Black hat” hackers that are really up to no good, but as the generation younger than mine continue to explore the web there will be continued clashed of culture of what is right and wrong on the internet. To me, these prison terms (and attacks that lead to Aaron Swartz’s suicide) is the old guard trying to assert authority in an area they don’t understand and cannot control.

The final area of DOJ assault is on whistle blowers and journalists. I’ve long been an advocate for releasing more information to the public and applying more scrutiny to the government. The scandals with the IRS, Benghazi, and military leaderships only indicate we need more transparency not less. The Obama administration has taken the idea of national security needs to new heights and this has created a pervasive atmosphere throughout the US that governments can simply do as they please. For example New York City, which famously said privacy is off the table, refuses to respond to legally binding Freedom of Information Requests. They are simply ignored. If it’s good for the federal government then it’s good for state and city government! Greater transparency to the public is the only way to prevent corruption throughout the government. I believe the only reason we learned of the IRS fiasco is because it was a government issued report to the public. Otherwise, it would have been buried for years and we wouldn’t have heard of it for some time, and even then there would have been a nasty fight over getting the information public.

Back to my main point of the assault on journalism – the DOJ secretly sopenaed phone records from the AP, then charged an investigative reporter from Fox as a co-conspirator which allowed the DOJ to access emails and other records skirting typical judicial oversight when dealing with the press. Furthermore, nearly all aspects of the US Government feel they can just access whoevers email they want without a warrant.

All of these things are setting really bad precedents and we need to hold people accountable to them. I know that many of you out there are apathetic towards voting. Instead of not voting, vote for a third party. Aside from Obama and the guy that ran against Lamar Smith, I voted third party for anything I could. I knew it wouldn’t have much of an impact, but I’m starting to do that and I plan to continue to do so. I also plan to support activities to get money out of our government. You should too.

Loss of dignity when arrested?

Today the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that it’s OK for prison officials to decide to strip search someone once arrested. In the case in question a man was wrongfully arrested and in two different prisons within the span of a week was required to strip and display himself to a guard. Kennedy argued that if guards had the ability to strip search anyone pulled over or arrested it is likely that Timmy McVey or one of the 9/11 terrorists would have been stopped ahead of time, as they were arrested days before they committed a crime.

This line of thinking is a very dangerous slippery slope. If we start allowing these unreasonable searches after a traffic violation arrest where is the stopping? At what point will it be allowable to strip search someone after a traffic violation with no arrest? While that’s one direction this could go the other direction has research and very recent photographic evidence.

What I’m talking about is the Stanford Prison Experiment and Abu Gharib. The Stanford Prison experiment is famous for the fact that it finished early due to the brutality of the “prison guards.” In the experiment a random selection of students were split between prisoner and prison guard. Over the course of a few days, the guards and prisoners started to really get into their role to the point that there were serious behavior changes. In fact many of the guards became extremely sadistic to the “prisoners” including beating them and abusing them emotionally. Due to the change in the behavior the experiment ended.

During the Iraq war photo evidence was released that showed systemic abuse that was at least on some level condoned by military and civil authority in the Pentagon. The abuse was used as a way to debase and demoralize the “terrorists,” which is not to say that some of them weren’t actual terrorists but there were innocents. These actions likely started harmlessly enough as strip searches and other activities. However, they escalated into pictures of naked pyramids.

Using these two historic cases as a back drop I think that we can see that there is great potential for abuse and escalation of these sorts of activities. It is well known that torture doesn’t really give us the information we need and it is unlikely that the next McVey or 9/11 terrorist will have something on them at the time of a random street arrest unless they are actively en route to their destination. In the case of the 9/11 terrorist the strip search would have likely found a box cutter and luggage for a trip. It’s unclear how if he would have been arrested it would have turned up enough evidence to put him away for life.

I am extremely disappointed with the SCOTUS with this ruling. While I understand some of the rational for the ruling, it seems heavy handed and likely to lead to abuses rather than the results the Court wishes to find.