Category Archives: Civil Rights

4th Amendment Bills Civil Rights Current Events Nullification TSA Uncategorized

Don’t Comply with the REAL ID Act

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real-id-nullified-092415Like countless similar news stories recently, a report on Business Insider claims: “Residents from 5 US states could soon need a passport for a domestic flight.” The idea is that the Transportation Security Administration will begin to enforce the REAL ID Act in 2016 by denying airport access to travelers from non-compliant states.

It’s not true.

Nobody needs to get a passport to fly domestically. No state needs to implement the REAL ID Act’s national ID mandates.

I’ve been collecting examples of misleading reports like this at the Twitter hashtag “#TakenInByDHS.” A recent blog post of mine, also called “Taken In by DHS,” fleshes out the story of widespread misreporting on the situation with our national ID law.

In brief, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to get the states to convert their driver licensing systems into components of a U.S. national ID system. The REAL ID Act, which Congress passed in 2005, allows DHS to refuse IDs from non-compliant states, including IDs travelers present at TSA’s airport checkpoints.

This concerns some people when they first learn about it, but the REAL ID compliance deadline passed more than seven years ago with not one state in compliance. DHS has improvised deadline after deadline since then, and it has caved every single time its deadlines have been reached. I went through the history last year in my Cato Policy Analysis, “REAL ID: A State-by-State Update.”

DHS’s latest story is that it might start to enforce REAL ID in 2016. It won’t.

Contrary to DHS claims, not one state is in compliance with the national ID law. Not one. Some years ago, the department created a whittled down “material compliance checklist,” and it has freely given out deadline extensions to states that make enough of a show that they might go along with the federal government’s plans.

The story now being spun is that TSA will categorically turn away people from a small group of remaining outlier states—if you can actually call New York small—when enforcement starts next year. I am 100% certain they will not. Every state will be out of compliance for the entire year, and the TSA will not implement a policy of refusing travelers from non-compliant states.

The reason for my confidence is a basic understanding of the politics involved. If TSA—perhaps the most despised U.S. federal agency in history—refuses people the right to travel because they do not carry a national ID, the uproar will be intense and lasting. The lawsuits that follow such an action will make their heads spin. And it will all be focused at the federal government: the TSA, the DHS, and the U.S. Congress with its flaccid oversight of the security bureaucracy.

DHS officials can do basic political calculations, and, while they will communicate through back-channels and proxies that they plan to enforce REAL ID this time, there is no chance that they will actually bring a storm like this down upon themselves. State officials who do similar calculations from their end realize that they don’t have to follow federal mandates this time, or ever, and that their states will be worse off if they do. All this issue requires is a little sunlight.

Americans, you don’t have to have a passport to fly domestically. American states, you don’t have to obey federal national ID mandates. America, you don’t need to comply with the REAL ID Act.

by Jim Harper, CATO Institute

4th Amendment Civil Rights Congress DEA Marijuana Nullification Uncategorized

Rohrabacher Dresses Down Drug War

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danaIt is becoming increasingly obvious that the United States government’s war on drugs, and especially its war on marijuana, is being torn down by state and local governments choosing to move in a less punitive direction. But, drug warriors, in and out of government, are trying their best to keep the war going and the casualty count increasing. From Rep. John Flemming (R-LA) promoting misinformation about marijuana in the US House of Representatives to former “Drug Czars” William J. Bennett and John P. Walters writing nostalgically in the Boston Globe about the drug war that they assert “worked,” the drug warriors are refusing to just fade away.

In an insightful USA Today editorial “Bitter-end drug warriors do more damage than weed” published Friday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) dresses down the drug war promoters, whom he terms “bitter-enders.” Rohrabacher devotes substantial attention in the editorial to criticizing marijuana prohibition in particular. Still, much of his critique extends to the entire war on drugs.

Fortunately, the “bitter enders” are losing their fight to perpetuate the war on drugs that, as suggested in Rohrabacher’s editorial, is most properly understood as a war on freedom, both in America and abroad.

Rohrabacher’s editorial begins as follows:

The end of the second prohibition era draws near. The disastrous consequences of the misbegotten “War on Drugs,” with its focus on marijuana, are now widely recognized. More humane approaches to drug use are being implemented as states ease restrictions.

But not if the bitter-enders prevail — as witness Gov. Chris Christie’s struggle with the issue in Wednesday night’s GOP debate.

President Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, placing the counter-culture’s favored drug, marijuana, on Schedule I of controlled substances. Since then, countless lives have been ruined, not so much by the drug itself, but by the legal regime that followed.

Whereas it is true that less than 10 percent of pot arrests are designated felonies, recorded misdemeanors stay on offenders’ records. This especially damages minority and other young Americans seeking jobs. In the most serious cases, appallingly long sentences, counted in decades of imprisonment, disrupt sustainable employment and tear apart families.

Our criminal justice system has been corrupted and our foreign policy — as every Mexican president since Vicente Fox has complained, as well as other Latin American leaders — perverted, undermining our ability to conduct positive relations with our neighbors.

Inner-city violence and hostility to militarized police stem both directly and indirectly from the drug war. Beyond our borders, a wave of anti-American sentiment grows as an unintentional consequence of our global do-goodism.

Written by Adam Dick

4th Amendment Civil Rights Current Events Surveillance Uncategorized

The Latest Snowden Leak

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Consider the latest leak sourced to Edward Snowden frlead_largeom the perspective of his detractors. The National Security Agency’s defenders would have us believe that Snowden is a thief and a criminal at best, and perhaps a traitorous Russian spy. In their telling, the NSA carries out its mission lawfully, honorably, and without unduly compromising the privacy of innocents. For that reason, they regard Snowden’s actions as a wrongheaded slur campaign premised on lies and exaggerations.

But their narrative now contradicts itself. The Washington Post’s latest article drawing on Snowden’s leaked cache of documents includes files “described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained” that “tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.”

The article goes on to describe how exactly the privacy of these innocents was violated. The NSA collected “medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque. Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam …”

Have you ever emailed a photograph of your child in the bathtub, or yourself flexing for the camera or modeling lingerie? If so, it could be your photo in the Washington Post newsroom right now, where it may or may not be secure going forward. In one case, a woman whose private communications were collected by the NSA found herself contacted by a reporter who’d read her correspondence.

Snowden defenders see these leaked files as necessary to proving that the NSA does, in fact, massively violate the private lives of American citizens by collecting and storing content—not “just” metadata—when they communicate digitally. They’ll point out that Snowden turned these files over to journalists who promised to protect the privacy of affected individuals and followed through on that oath.

What about Snowden critics who defend the NSA? Ben Wittes questions the morality of the disclosure:

Snowden here did not leak programmatic information about government activity. He leaked many tens of thousands of personal communications of a type that, in government hands, are rightly subject to strict controls. They are subject to strict controls precisely so that the woman in lingerie, the kid beaming before a mosque, the men showing off their physiques, and the woman whose love letters have to be collected because her boyfriend is off looking to join the Taliban don’t have to pay an unnecessarily high privacy price. Yes, the Post has kept personal identifying details from the public, and that is laudable. But Snowden did not keep personal identifying details from the Post. He basically outed thousands of people—innocent and not—and left them to the tender mercies of journalists. This is itself a huge civil liberties violation.

The critique is plausible—but think of what it means.

I never thought I’d see this day: The founder of Lawfare has finally declared that a national-security-state employee perpetrated a huge civil-liberties violation! Remember this if he ever again claims that NSA critics can’t point to a single serious abuse at the agency. Wittes himself now says there’s been a serious abuse.

The same logic applies to Keith Alexander, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Stewart Baker, Edward Lucas, John Schindler, and every other anti-Snowden NSA defender. So long as they insist that Snowden is a narcissistic criminal and possible traitor, they have no choice but to admit that the NSA collected and stored intimate photos, emails, and chats belonging to totally innocent Americans and safeguarded them so poorly that a ne’er-do-well could copy them onto thumb drives.

They have no choice but to admit that the NSA was so bad at judging who could be trusted with this sensitive data that a possible traitor could take it all to China and Russia. Yet these same people continue to insist that the NSA is deserving of our trust, that Americans should keep permitting it to collect and store massive amounts of sensitive data on innocents, and that adequate safeguards are in place to protect that data. To examine the entirety of their position is to see that it is farcical.

Here’s the reality.

The NSA collects and stores the full content of extremely sensitive photographs, emails, chat transcripts, and other documents belong to Americans, itself a violation of the Constitution—but even if you disagree that it’s illegal, there’s no disputing the fact that the NSA has been proven incapable of safeguarding that data. There is not the chance the data could leak at sometime in the future. It has already been taken and given to reporters. The necessary reform is clear. Unable to safeguard this sensitive data, the NSA shouldn’t be allowed to collect and store it.

Conor Friedersdorf