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Former Drone Operators Report More Shady Business from the NSA

February 19, 2014 Leave a comment

From The Intercept, by Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald:

The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

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[TBT] President Obama’s Question: To Kill or Not to Kill?

February 18, 2014 Leave a comment
All this past week, the President has been faced with a bit of a dilemma coming from overseas.
Full story from RT
 
There is a United States citizen (name not known to the public) in a foreign country (country not known to the public) who has been suspected of plotting terrorist attacks against the United States.  The man in question has been accused of being an Al-Qaeda facilitator.  As of now, this person is still alive (to our knowledge) and is bunkered down in a remote area. Complicating the matter is the fact that the unknown country in which the accused currently resides will not permit U.S. military forces to enter. According to the damning accusations, this person has planned multiple other terrorist attacks against the U.S. in the past. President Obama’s problem is the question of whether or not he should execute that person -by drone- or capture him and put him on trial.
 
If the Constitution was given a voice in the matter, the question would have already been answered. The clause “No person…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;” is very clear and precise. It requires that if an individual is going to have his life taken away from him, he is to be granted due process of law to determine if such an action is justified. If the man being targeted by the Department of Justice is in fact guilty of everything he has been accused of, it should be determined in court – as opposed to a single decision by the executive branch of the federal government. Not being able to forcefully enter the country he is hiding in is not a legitimate excuse to circumvent the law.
 
Unfortunately, the current Administration has already demonstrated that it feels it has the justification to execute American citizens without trial. Sadly, if the President decides to assassinate the unknown alleged terrorist, it would have precedent. The good news is that political pressure from outside the White House over the previous murders have brought a magnifying glass over the President in his current dilemma; perhaps causing this balk by the administration.
 
 Last year’s policy standards and procedures issued from the White House included a piece that stated “If the United States considers an operation against a  terrorist identified as a US person, the Department of Justice  will conduct an additional legal analysis to ensure that such  action may be conducted against the individual consistent with  the Constitution and laws of the United States,”
 
While that is encouraging, feet must be held to the fire in order to ensure those words are adhered to. We are watching, Mr. President!
 
Ben Swann gives his take:

[Tru Blu Tuesday] Our Big Bad Bully

June 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Just last week someone asked me “So what makes you angry?” I had to stop and think for a minute, because, believe it or not, I don’t get angry very easily. After giving it some thought I blurted out “Bullies.” If I can paraphrase my explanation to the inquirer: As a large person, I have always felt it is my responsibility to protect smaller and weaker people. When I see other people abusing their victims, that really gets under my skin. At the moment, I was thinking of individuals picking on other individuals. That was the context of bullying that was on my mind at the time. But when I arrived home later that day I realized my hatred of bullies stretched across a much wider spectrum.

On June 5th the story broke that the National Security Agency secretly got their hands on three months worth of Verizon customers phone NSArecords. They were able to see who called who, from where, at what time and so on. They did this to millions of people. They did this illegally, without a warrant. Yes, they butchered the Constitution en route to explicitly invading the privacy of millions. As I said before, I don’t get angry easily. When I read this piece of news, however, my blood boiled. As it turns out, bullies come in all shapes and sizes.

The story from The Atlantic

The New York Times calls out the Obama Administration

Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano rages

I expected a lot of outrage from this event. I fully anticipated that an all out uproar would take place from almost all Americans. I mean, most conservatives will jump at the chance to bark at President Obama, and civil liberties is a special pet of liberals right? Why wouldn’t there be a near-unanimous calling for accountability? I guess I’ll have to keep waiting.

Instead, I saw an unhealthy lack of interest and an extra dose of apathy. I gather that the cause of this is from two dominating modes of thinking amidst the public: a) It doesn’t affect me, as I have nothing to hide and b) What does it matter anyway?

Today, I’d like to answer those questions so we can all oust the bullies together!

Why it really does affect you:

The initial reaction to this story for many is “I have nothing to hide, I don’t care if they invade my privacy. Only bad people should feel nervous about this.” This mindset ignores the inevitable reality of what such a privacy invasion, if left unchecked, will lead to. By this logic, you won’t mind the government snooping into your purchasing data, your medical records, banking records, your internet browsing history, or even your cellphone conversations. “No way!” is the natural response, I would hope. “That is too far!” you might say. Oh really? Just how do you draw that line of yours? A favorite book from my childhood reads “If you give a mouse a cookie, he is going to want some milk to go with it….” It is only to be expected that if you give the NSA your phone records, it is going to want to know everything there is to know about you, and then some.

And what happens when the Federal Government gets a hold of that information? Well if you’re a Verizon customer they already know your calling habits. They know about those late night calls to that cute guy you met at the bar last month. (You know, the one not even your husband is aware of.) They know a lot about where you spend most of your time. (Like that one secret spot you thought you had all to yourself.) If the pattern of privacy invasion continues and they get to know more about you how much information will they find out? — They’ll know about those embarrassing fungal infections you’ve been researching online. They’ll know how much -or rather, how little- you have saved up in your rainy day fund. They’ll know all the flirty one liners you use in internet chat rooms. Of course they won’t find any terrorist activity associated with you…but they’ll get everything else.

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Why this really matters so much:

Ok, so you still don’t care about your privacy. You wouldn’t mind if everything about you was known by some shady bureaucracy. That’s fine.

The most serious problem with what the NSA has done is that it has brazenly violated the Constitution, as a government agency, and may get away with it scott-free. (Note: The ACLU is currently pursuing a law suit against the agency.) The Fourth Amendment, in no uncertain terms, states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated,”. I keep quoting that Amendment over and over it seems, but it hasn’t changed since the ink that wrote it dried on the Bill of Rights two centuries ago. We still have our right to be secure and we still are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Amendment continues: “and no Warrants shall issue, except upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the places to be searched and persons or things to be seized.” Secretly gathering personal information from millions of people, without a warrant or even so much as a hint of probable cause is like taking a machete to the Constitution.

Our Constitution is the very foundation of our country. Everything about us rests on its words. We debate its content endlessly, as we should, but it remains the rock on which America builds its successes. On Memorial Day I wrote of the sacrifices made by men and women to preserve our freedom from foreign threats. The Constitution was written as the permanent guard to liberty from enemies within. Enemies that would like to abuse their power to exact control over us. So if the federal government can simply discard the rule of law, paint it as “keeping us safe”, and walk away as if they did nothing wrong, what is the point of having the Constitution in the first place? Why don’t we just let them walk all over it? Arms? Let them come and take my guns. Due process? Come put me in prison for absolutely nothing. Freedom of speech? Bind my lips so that I never utter another word. It is all a bully could hope for.

The molested principle here, is that the highest law in the land has been broken by the highest level of authority. We need to take that authority back for ourselves and put abusive government in its place: under the power of the Constitution of these united States. Then, and only then, will we have an answer for our big bad bully.

[Tru Blu Tuesday] The Justice Department’s Press Break

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Honestly, I thought we had a few years yet, before we saw freedom of the press be violated like this.

Last week the story broke that the Department of Justice had secretly acquired two months worth of phone records from the Associated Press. The specific reason for what AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion”, is so far unknown. The best educated guess is that it had to do with the Justice Department looking to gain more information into the sources behind a May 7, 2012 AP story on a foiled terror plot. Said terror plot suspected of being in retaliation to the May 2, 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden. Regardless, the Justice Department’s actions have more than ruffled a few feathers. People have taken notice, and for good cause. For all the gritty details here is Huffington Post’s May 13th article with the story.

The First and Fourth Amendments for your review:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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

You know your government is corrupt when they manage to violate two basic Constitutional rights in one take.

Just how bad is it? Well this story, combined with Benghazi-Gate and the IRS scandal which were also uncovered last week, even made CNN host Piers Morgan question the integrity of our government. Yes, the gun loathing, anti-logic, overly emotional Piers Morgan actually said that this invasion by the DOJ was “bordering on tyrannical behavior”. Watch the words come out of his mouth. You might have to watch it a few times to believe it; I certainly did.

As bad as this intrusion may be, I was able to look at the bright side of what may come of this mess. Here are a few thoughts that have crossed my mind after hearing the news:

1) Will the press become more skeptical of government? It is no secret that media has a bias towards government. They generally tend to go hand in hand, having been a wicked one-two punch of misinformation on the public for decades. Perhaps this violation of one over the other will rattle the party a little, causing individual journalists to rethink how they see things.

2) Will the American people be shocked into the harsh reality? An unworthy trust in our government by Americans is one of the reasons we fell this far in the first place. People have an understandably hard time accepting the fact that officials in power have a tendency to abuse that power. Even when cold hard truth is staring them in the face, the will to ignore it often wins because the pill is too hard to swallow. Perhaps this disaster will shake a few more out of apathy?

Ever the eternal optimist, I could just be thinking wishfully. A guy can dream though right? Or are dreams now subject to privacy violations too?

[Tru Blu Tuesday] Nazi Amerika?

May 7, 2013 Leave a comment

It seems that I can’t turn around these days without walking face first into another battle front in the war for freedom going on in this country. Campaign For Liberty keeps me regularly posted about important fights in Congress, such as the ill-named Marketplace Fairness Act, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Privacy Act and the never-ending contest for Second Amendment rights. Today I caught wind of an attempt by my Governor, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, to insert a “DNA on Arrest” mandate into the state budget. This mandate would require a DNA sample be taken, upon arrest, of anyone charged with a felony -not convicted. The problem with that should not have to be spelled out, and it is not the topic for today so I will refrain from elaborating on it. Liberty is under attack from all angles it would seem, even from people -like Governor Walker- who I usually side with.

These warning sirens made me think about the rapidly growing number of ways in which our country mirrors that of Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. I know, I know, but don’t worry. This isn’t me chasing a conspiracy theory or saying that President Obama is the new Hitler, just to rile people up so they can thump their chests for America. And I’m not saying that America is a quasi-Nazi country today. What I am saying, and want to get off of my chest, is that there is a very disturbing and very real trend in the U.S. that is frighteningly comparable to the early stages of the infamous Third Reich.

I remember studying Adolf Hitler and his  Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party) in high school. The man and his movement fascinated me a great deal. “How could the people of Germany not see this evil?” I often thought to myself. I wondered constantly how they could not see this wickedness coming at them like a freight train bound for Auschwitz. Today, however, I find myself plagued by the same concerns for my country. Reading current headlines too often reminds me of the then-obvious chain of events that led to the perils I read of in world history books.

Don’t believe me? Here are five very concerning points, as written by Michael Snyder in an article he wrote in February 2012. These are only the most interesting to me, out of the twenty-five points he made. Click here for the full list. (Heads up: don’t be turned off by the conspiracy-theory-esque ads in the side bars. The article rests on good sources.)

#5 Under Adolf Hitler, there were massive increases in government spending.

According to eyewitness Kitty Werthmann, just about everyone was getting some sort of a handout from the German government….

Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families. All day care and education were free. High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

Of course, as I have written about so many times before, this is the exact same thing that we are seeing in the United States today.

#7 The economy of Nazi Germany was very highly socialized. 

As Ludwig Von Mises once correctly observed, the German economy under Hitler was not capitalist at all….

What Mises identified was that private ownership of the means of production existed in name only under the Nazis and that the actual substance of ownership of the means of production resided in the German government. For it was the German government and not the nominal private owners that exercised all of the substantive powers of ownership: it, not the nominal private owners, decided what was to be produced, in what quantity, by what methods, and to whom it was to be distributed, as well as what prices would be charged and what wages would be paid, and what dividends or other income the nominal private owners would be permitted to receive. The position of the alleged private owners, Mises showed, was reduced essentially to that of government pensioners.

The United States has not gotten to the level of Nazi Germany yet, but we do have a socialist president and back in 2009 the cover of Newsweek boldly proclaimed that “We Are All Socialists Now“.

#11 In Nazi Germany, the health care system was taken over by the government.

The following is more eyewitness testimony from Kitty Werthmann….

Before Hitler, we had very good medical care. Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna . After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone. Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything. When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full. If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.

Of course we all know what is going on in America today.  The government spends nearly half of all health care dollars and Obamacare is going to mean more government control over the health care system than ever before.

#12 Under Adolf Hitler, abortion was made “safe and legal” in Germany.

It turns out that Hitler was a huge fan of the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger.  And as I wrote about recently, it was Sanger that once said the following….

“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Hitler echoed this sentiment when he wrote the following in Mein Kampf….

“The demand that defective people be prevented from propagating equally defective offspring. . . represents the most humane act of mankind.”

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, abortion was very quickly legalized.  By 1935 there were approximately 500,000 abortions being performed in Germany every single year.

Yes, Hitler very much encouraged Aryan women to have as many children as possible.  But he also very much viewed abortion as a way to reduce “undesirable” populations.

Unfortunately, something very similar is happening today.  Abortion clinics are often located in the “poor” part of town, and a staggering 72 percent of Planned Parenthood’s “customers” have incomes that are either equal to or beneath 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

#22 Under Adolf Hitler, society became very highly militarized.

Of course we are seeing the same thing in the U.S. right now.

Sadly, this is even happening to our public schools.  According to blogger Alexander Higgins, students in kindergarten and the 1st grade in the state of New Jersey are now required by law to participate “in monthly anti-terrorism drills”.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that he recently received from the school where his child attends….

Each month a school must conduct one fire drill and one security drill which may be a lockdown, bomb threat, evacuation, active shooter, or shelter-in place drill. All schools are now required by law to implement this procedure.

This is the kind of thing that a sicko like Adolf Hitler would try to do, and it is not good for our children.

It was incredibly difficult to pick only five points from that article to share, so I encourage you to read the whole piece in its entirety.

There is something we can take out of Nazi Germany’s playbook to use to our advantage, however. In fact our Department of Homeland Security already has. The ‘See something, say something’ campaign encourages people to essentially spy on their neighbors by promoting the concept of reporting every suspicious movement they make. If nothing else, it is creepy and disturbing.

We can do they same thing to our government, and in truth, responsibility suggests that we should. Every time you see something happening in your local, state or federal government that violates Constitutional law, speak up! If you hear of unjust legislation being pushed, call your representatives. You have a voice, so use it. Call corrupt politicians out on the carpet. Let others know about dangerous government actions, and get them to help apply the pressure to do what’s right. Otherwise, we will be guilty of allowing the history books to lament the tragedy of some version of a Nazi America.

[Tru Blu Tuesday] What Dzokhar Tsarnaev Deserves

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

 – Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

     When two explosions rocked the country last week on April 15th in Boston, we were sent spiraling into sadness and anger. It is to be expected that a nation so heartbroken would respond with passion, and so it should. However, in our passion we must not forget the qualities which made us great. One of those qualities, as etched in the Constitution over and over again, is the defense of the minority – the smallest minority of all being the individual. This concept oozes from such clauses as the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the protection from unlawful search and seizure, and the right to due process of law. These rights are not limited to the pure among us. They are not set aside for only the good citizens. They are for everyone.

Dzhokhar-Tsarnaev

          Yes, that includes the devil himself, should he ever show his unsightly face in this country. Today nineteen year old Dzokhar Tsarnaev wears the devil’s mask. In this past week he has become the face that so many now instantly recognize and despise. Yet despite the awful crime with which he has been held suspect, this young man is still under the protection of the supreme law of the land.

     What protections are those? The Fifth Amendment for your review (emphasis added):

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

And the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Because Tsarnaev is, in fact, a citizen of these united States, he has every claim to these clauses. Furthermore, until he is proven guilty through due process, he is to be presumed innocent. As difficult as that may be, considering the aforementioned passion behind this case, he is still entitled to them. This entails that he be read his Miranda rights, be provided legal defense, tried before a jury of his peers and provided every other accommodation required by the Constitution.

     Why should we do this? Why give a person, someone suspected of the most atrocious of crimes, the protection of law? Because in protecting him, we protect ourselves. If we cut down the laws, as William Roper would have done, in order to get after the devil, we will have nothing with which to protect ourselves when he turns back towards us. “But I haven’t done anything wrong” you might say. Oh? But how would we know that without the law to determine justice? When there is no respect for law and order, the line between right and wrong is virtually erased and the good among us are no more innocent than the evil. Under such a horrid circumstance, we are all Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

Dzokhar Tsarnaev derserves what we all deserve. The right to due process of law.

 

[Tru Blu Tuesday] Just Be You: The Fight for Your Mind and Heart

April 16, 2013 Leave a comment

     I’d like to detour from the usual politics and write about something that has bothered me for some time now. To be honest, I apply it more towards politics than most anything else, but it can be applied towards almost any aspect of life. Whether it be art, health, employment, religion or any avenue in which you find your passion invested. It is the concept of individualism. We, as fellow humans on this big blue ball we call Earth, have both the innate desire to be our own master, and the debilitating crutch of needing safety and approval from others. It is only a small part of the conundrum that is humanity. But that part of us that wants to be ourselves is too often dominated by others who would prefer that we remain corralled into the ways of the rest of the herd. And that is what I would like to address today.

To be sure, we are a social race not designed to be isolated from the rest. We form families and communities quite well and operate as a functioning team, almost instinctively. Together we keep each other safe, care for each other, and benefit each other in any way we can.

However, with that said, there is a disturbing trend in our society today, and it bothers me greatly. People today have taken this group mentality to an unhealthy level. Everyone wants you to agree with them – to think and act like everybody else. They have erected specific paradigms of thought on how to view the world. Whether it is how a painting should make a person feel, or the best way to perform a task, or what religion you choose to follow, the way you live must be like everyone else. Granted, there are a lot of instances where society, through time, has figured out the best way to live for the good of one and all. Yet, even these, if challenged by an independent mind, could be made so much better, and, in turn, benefit society as a whole.

Take the wonderful example of Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian astronomer. In his day, as we know, our solar system was believed to revolve around the earth. From the casual observer this would make sense since we cannot feel the earth spin, which would make it seem logical for the sun rise and set to be cause by it orbiting us. Still, despite the political and religious institutions pressure upon him, Galileo challenged this thought. Having been influenced by Nicolaus Copernicus’ teachings, Galileo pursued his research and studies to find the truth. Once he knew he had the truth, he stuck with it even as outside forces attempted to stop him. He indeed suffered for his beliefs, but in the long run his efforts benefited mankind to a great degree. How different might our world be if the powers that were, had been victorious in stopping him? Fortunately that is only a hypothetical question, because Galileo kept his mind and heart independent of any thought he found to be untrue.

thinkingman     Unfortunately, I have personally discovered this to be true: people do not want you to be you. They hate it when you think outside the prescribed box of what is labeled “normal” or “acceptable”. They hate it when you challenge the standard, established way of thinking. They hate it when you entertain or (gasp!) act on opinions that do not line up with the accepted rational of the masses. They hate it when you realize your thoughts are your own. They hate it when you act as an individual and refuse to wear a label from the choices provided. Despite all the grandiose cheers to “be yourself” or “be independent” what they really want is for you to fall in line, submit to the current most popular train of thought. Whether that train is right or wrong doesn’t matter. I am talking about standing on principle and sticking to your guns because you value what you know and believe in too much for it to be taken away by every overconfident lamb with a mouth.

What are the consequences of this societal trend? Fewer Galileos for one. Less and less people are willing to stand up when they know something is wrong. Fewer brave souls are willing to put up a fight for what is right, because they do not want to face the pain that would likely come as a result. They do not want to take the criticism of being different. This has the effect of permitting more wrongs in the world. As more individuals succumb to the limited modes of thought provided, the right way is pushed farther away everyday.

     I’ll use my favorite political dead horse as an example to beat on. Our Republican vs. Democrat paradigm in America. Both stand for good things, such as civil liberties on the left and fiscal responsibility on the right. Yet the politicians, under their respective flags, still do so much harm in the name of their parties. “Pick a side” we’re told. Are you red or blue? Liberal or Conservative? It must be one or the other! Meanwhile, as these two raging beasts drag us down into oblivion, the Constitution is trampled on and our future grows more dim. If we were able to think independently of the two teams, we could see their shortcomings. We could chasten the politicians who betrayed us, by removing them from office and install more worthy representatives of We the People. Alas, we are blinded by the false us vs. them mentality and fall ever so quickly towards collapse.

     And this is why I write this today: to encourage anyone who reads this to think freely. Think critically. Think independently. Do not allow numbers to intimidate you or convince you that “if so many people believe this way it must be true”. Far too often the majority is wrong. Find the truth for yourself, and once you have it, never give it up. Quite honestly, if you search for the truth yourself you may very well discover that it is already approved and agreed upon by many others. But you will be stronger and better able to defend it as a result.

     It will not be easy. I can promise you that. It will be tough, sometimes heartbreaking and even despairing at times. What I can promise you though, is that you will be a better person for it. You will have more to offer the world. You will be equipped to make a difference. You will be you.