Bill Submitted to Prevent Warrantless GPS Tracking

Here’s an important piece of legislation that was submitted a few months ago, in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), that would prevent the government from using GPS or cell phone geolocation data to track us without first getting a warrant. This is the statement released by the two of them announcing the bill and the rationale for it:
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Drawing Lines on Religion-Based Discrimination

The Chicago Tribune reports that a gay couple is suing two bed and breakfasts for refusing to rent facilities to them for a civil union ceremony.

The Beall Mansion in Alton told the Wathens via email that it “will just be doing traditional weddings.” The owner of the Timber Creek Bed and Breakfast in Paxton wrote in an email to the couple: “We will never host same-sex civil unions. We will never host same-sex weddings even if they become legal in Illinois. We believe homosexuality is wrong and unnatural based on what the Bible says about it. If that is discrimination, I guess we unfortunately discriminate.”

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Agreeing With Vox Day

I’ve hammered the guy enough over the years, I ought to at least acknowledge when he’s gotten something right. And his recent column about the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has some good stuff in it.

One of the many troubling aspects of the hijackings is the brutal demonstration that we, as a people, have received very little of the security we were promised in return for the many violations of personal freedom and civil liberties that have been enacted over the past decade. We would go so far as to raise the question if this had not been a fool’s bargain, wherein we have given up something of precious value in return for … arguably, nothing. It is bad enough that we allow the FBI to filter our e-mails and record our keystrokes, that we permit the National Security Agency to intercept every electronic communication floating through the aether, but it is even worse that we have done so without realizing that which we hoped to gain.

Just as the drug war has not reduced the amount of illegal drugs used in this country, the sacrifice of our civil liberties on the altar of national security has not brought us security. Keep this in mind, as the inevitable drumbeat begins for more sacrifices, as the calls begin for Americans to give up even more of their hard-won freedoms.

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Farah’s Anti-Jihadist Nonsense

Worldnutdaily Grand Poobah Joseph Farah writes a typically hysterical column extolling the virtues of Pam Geller’s latest bit of crazy, which is a handbook for fighting the marauding hordes of Muslims set to take over America any minute now. I especially loved this line:

Are you willing to lie down and accept the multicultural mumbo-jumbo that suggests America must embrace a future of second-class citizenship for women, a dual legal system that stands the Constitution on its head and the kind of violence and terrorism and aggression that characterize so much of the Islamic world?

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Sneak and Peek Warrants Not Used for Terrorism

We’ve been told over and over again by both political parties that the Patriot Act was vital to stopping terrorism, including such clearly unconstitutional measures as National Security Letters and sneak and peek warrants, which allow the police to break into someone’s home or business and collect evidence without even notifying the person or organization that they’ve been the subject of a search. But this chart from a New York Magazine article tells you what that power is really for. It’s for routine law enforcement that has nothing to do with terrorism.

Between 2006 and 2009, sneak and peek warrants were used 15 times in terrorism investigations. They were used 122 times in fraud investigations. And they were used 1618 times in drug investigations.
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Whitehead on the Anniversary of 9/11

This is a perfect example of why I still have a good deal of respect for John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute despite some serious disagreements on a few issues (like his support for John Freshwater). He is one of the few conservatives who is serious about constitutional limits on executive power and on enforcing the Bill of Rights, as evidenced by his participation in the American Freedom Agenda organization and by a new essay he has about the dangerous path taken by our government since 9/11. He writes:
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2% of Welfare Recipients Fail Drug Tests in Florida

You may remember that Gov. Rick Scott of Florida instituted drug testing for all welfare recipients in that state on the premise that it would save the state money by not having to pay benefits to those who were on drugs. And guess what they found out? Welfare recipients use drugs at a lower rate than the rest of the population — and by a pretty significant margin.

Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.

Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.

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My New Hero

Gotta love this kid. Her Catholic school banned a bunch of books so she started keeping them in her locker and loaning them out to other students.

Nekochan wrote about the recent book ban: “I was absolutely appalled, because a huge number of the books were classics and others that are my favorites. One of my personal favorites, The Catcher in the Rye, was on the list, so I decided to bring it to school to see if I would really get in trouble. Well… I did but not too much. Then (surprise!) a boy in my English class asked if he could borrow the book because he heard it was very good AND it was banned! This happened a lot and my locker got to overflowing with banned books, so I decided to put the unoccupied locker next to me to a good use. I now have 62 books in that locker, about half of what was on the list.”

Brilliant.

Another Reason to Love the First Amendment

Another absolutely creepy case of government overreach, this time in Russia:

A court in the Kaluga Region of Russia has ruled that a painting of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse is offensive and banned it from being exhibited. The courts called the work “extremist,” and ruled that it was “religiously offensive” under Article 282.

Russian news source Ria Novosti reports that, “unless the Kaluga Region court’s ruling is successfully appealed, the painting will be banned from exhibitions, newspapers, magazines or television. The case was heard in the Kaluga Region after a local complained to the authorities.”

Judge Rips Government on Mistreatment of Drake

This is actually about a month old but I missed it when it came out. I’ve written before about the failed prosecution of Thomas Drake, the former NSA employee who blew the whistle on corruption and unconstitutional surveillance by that agency. The case collapsed and the government dropped all the espionage charges against Drake earlier this year. The Federation of American Scientists has a transcript of a remarkable hearing where the prosecutor demanded that the judge impose a huge fine on Drake for the minor misdemeanor charge that was left in the case to serve as a warning to others. The judge, who was appointed by George W. Bush, pretty much unloaded on the government for its abusive prosecution.
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CIA Censoring Soufan Book

If you don’t know who Ali Soufan is, you should. He is a former FBI interrogator who played a vital role in the war on terrorism before he became an even more vital opponent of the government’s torture regime. He’s trying to publish a book that reveals even more, but the CIA is preventing him from doing so — even with information that is already in the public domain. Glenn Greenwood has the details:

He has written a book exposing the abuses of the CIA’s interrogation program as well as pervasive ineptitude and corruption in the War on Terror.  He is, however, encountering a significant problem: the CIA is barring the publication of vast amounts of information in his book including, as Scott Shane details in The New York Times today, many facts that are not remotely secret and others that have been publicly available for years, including ones featured in the 9/11 Report and even in Soufan’s own public Congressional testimony.

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Most Important Op-Ed You’ll Read This Year

Thomas Drake, the former NSA employee who blew the whistle on that agency’s unconstitutional surveillance programs, had an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last week that should be required reading in every high school government and civics class and should be read by every American. What he reveals here is enormously important, especially that there was a system in place that allowed the government to comply with the constitution while getting the information it needed to combat terrorism, but it was scrapped in favor of the unconstitutional data mining program.
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1st Circuit Rules Recording Police Protected by First Amendment

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an enormously important ruling that says recording police officers during an arrest is not only constitutionally protected, but so clearly constitutionally protected that it overrides qualified immunity for an officer who arrests someone for doing it. You can read the full ruling here (PDF).

As Balko notes, that distinction is important. This was not a criminal case; the charges were dropped in this case. But the plaintiff then filed a civil suit, arguing that the arrest violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The district court ruled in his favor and the appeals court has now upheld that ruling.
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The Racial Injustice of the War on Drugs

This report from the Washington City Paper could have been written about any large city in the country.

But even with a high arrest rate, some people in D.C. can probably safely get high without worrying that the cops are coming. Those people are white people. In 2007, 91 percent of those arrested for marijuana were black. In a city whose population demographics are steadily evening out, that’s odd. In fact, adjusting for population, African Americans are eight times as likely to be arrested for weed as white smokers are.

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Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Child

The New York Times had an article about the appalling practice of taking children away from parents if they are found to smoke pot — even if they’re not charged with the drug infraction.

The police found about 10 grams of marijuana, or about a third of an ounce, when they searched Penelope Harris’s apartment in the Bronx last year. The amount was below the legal threshold for even a misdemeanor, and prosecutors declined to charge her. But Ms. Harris, a mother whose son and niece were home when she was briefly in custody, could hardly rest easy.

The police had reported her arrest to the state’s child welfare hot line, and city caseworkers quickly arrived and took the children away.

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