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Friday Talking Points [261] -- Rest In Peace, Fourth Amendment

[ Posted Friday, June 7th, 2013 – 16:33 PDT ]

Every so often as I sit down to write these Friday columns, the spirit of the rant overtakes me. Instead of our usual Talking Points section this week, I offer up such a rant, on the death of the Fourth Amendment. You have all been warned. I did consider calling this rant an "Ode To Dianne Feinstein," but then I thought that was too limiting -- she certainly isn't the only one out there singing from the same hymnbook. And I certainly wouldn't want to have anyone feel left out.

What this means is there's a lot to cover here in the introductory summary of the week's events. So forgive me if this all seems a little jumbled-together and in shorthand.

First up, we have the ongoing Republican War On Women, as usual. Here's a good wrapup of the sorts of things Republicans have been saying and doing, just in the past week. If this were a normal week, I would have ended the whole column with the bizarre tale of a Republican politician whose wife thinks he is being stalked online by strippers. You just know there's a lot more to that story than meets the eye, right?

The Big Brass from the Pentagon got their turn on the hot seat this week in a congressional hearing, during which they all strongly stated that they think commanders need to retain the magic power to make military rape convictions disappear for anyone under their command (more on this in a bit). The most telling part of this hearing was when only one of the branches of the military (the Coast Guard) could even point to a single commander who had ever faced any discipline themselves over misuse of this magic power. As for the rest of their answers, they were best summed up as "stunningly bad."

The Obama administration lost a court battle this week it really shouldn't even be fighting in the first place, and a federal appeals court ruled that until the Obama appeal is heard, the morning-after pill will be legally available to all without regard to age. I wrote about this subject earlier this week, if you're interested in the details.

In Texas, a Tea Party spokesman uttered a "Washington gaffe," defined as "accidentally speaking the truth in politics." Here's his quote: "I'm going to be real honest with you. The Republican Party doesn't want black people to vote if they are going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats." Well, thanks for clearing that up! He later tried to walk his quote back, but it's the type of thing it's tough to walk away from, really.

Unsurprisingly, marijuana arrests are unbelievably racially unequal, according to a new report. Could've knocked me over with a feather, right?

In atheist news, the woman who politely informed Wolf Blitzer what an absolute buffoon he was being (hint to Wolf: if you want to call yourself a "journalist," don't put words in people's mouths!) by leaning on her to say she "thanked the Lord" for not killing her with a tornado (that did kill many of her neighbors, including children). She informed Blitzer that she was an atheist, and now the atheist community is helping her out by donating money for her, since assumably she doesn't have a church group to do so for her. While that's a feel-good story, the reaction of a Republican to the idea of "atheist chaplains" in the military (to give support to soldiers who may not want to talk to a religious counselor) was not exactly good news.

Immigration is finally getting its day in Washington, and (as expected), the Republicans are throwing shovelfuls of dirt on the grave of their chances of ever attracting any future Latino votes. Jeff Sessions insists that "virtually nobody" is being deported, while over in the House Steve King got an amendment passed that would treat the "Dreamers" the same as violent criminals. Way to boost Latino support, GOP! Can't wait to see what happens in the Senate next week, guys! Obama spokesman Jay Carney immediately shot back with a veto threat (should such a thing ever make it through the Senate): "It's wrong. It's not who we are. And it will not become law."

OK, that's it for this week. Oh, wait -- one more. Some counties in Colorado are apparently considering seceding from the state, now that them dang Libruls have taken over in Denver. You just can't make this stuff up, folks!

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

OK, we've got to keep going with the shorthand-style here, because we've still got a lot to cover before we get to that rant. We begin with a list of folks who all have earned (for various reasons) at least an Honorable Mention this week:

Senator Frank Lautenberg died this week, which means New Jersey's Chris Christie has named a Republican who will occupy his seat in the Senate for the next five months or so.

Both former Senator Russ Feingold and current Senator Dick Durbin got in a hearty "I told you so!" this week, when the news on the National Security Agency's breathtaking vacuum-cleaner approach to phone records was made public.

Obama stuck his thumb in the eye of the Senate Republicans this week -- twice -- in terms of nominations. He announced Susan Rice would be becoming his National Security Advisor (a position which does not require Senate confirmation), and nominated three lawyers to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals all at once. This is going to set up a gigantic battle in the Senate in July, so stay tuned.

Patrick Leahy cosponsored an incredibly sane bill which would significantly dial back the entire concept of "mandatory minimums," but what was truly surprising about it (for me) is that I found myself agreeing with George Will on the matter. And Rand Paul, to boot.

But perhaps the most impressive of the Honorable Mention awards this week is Representative John Dingell, who has now broken the all-time longevity record in Congress, besting Robert Byrd by serving a whopping 57 years, 5 months, and 26 days as of today. When Dingell began serving his term, America was a far different nation -- one where segregation was still the law of the land, in fact. He took office just in time to see Eisenhower's second presidential campaign, to put it another way.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is none other than Senator Claire McCaskill, who is getting very proactive about the whole "rape in the military" problem, in specific the "commanders overturning military verdicts" thing.

McCaskill made a statement this week that she would be placing a permanent hold on the promotion of a female Air Force Lieutenant General "for granting clemency to a convicted sex offender." This officer may have been the first woman from the military to travel into space, but she also "ignored a recommendation from her legal adviser to uphold the jury's conviction. The general intervened to grant clemency before an appellate court could hear the case," because she "found the defendant to be a more credible witness than his accuser" even though she hadn't witnessed the trial herself.

Such absolute power is corrupting by its very nature. And the only way this situation is going to change is if one of two things happen: either Congress strips this power away from such commanders by passing a law, or if individual commanders suffer professionally for abusing the power and overturning jury verdicts without even bothering to watch the case. The former is what Congress is now contemplating, but in the meantime I'm glad Senator Claire McCaskill is sending a warning shot across the bow of the Pentagon: abuse this power, say goodbye to future career promotions. Period.

For taking this stand, Senator Claire McCaskill is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator Claire McCaskill on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

While some might argue for MDDOTW awards for folks like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid for basically saying "What's the big deal?" over the NSA phone records revelation, we think we've adequately covered that subject (without stooping to name names) in the rant which follows below.

Instead, we have three Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out -- to Representatives John Barrow of Georgia, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina -- for voting to support Steve King's amendment to treat the Dreamers the same as violent criminals.

Words fail me. I guess we shouldn't count on you guys' vote for comprehensive immigration reform any time soon either, huh?

[Contact Representative John Barrow on his House contact page, Representative Mike McIntyre on his House contact page, and Representative Nick Rahall on his House contact page, to let them know what you think of their actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 261 (6/7/13)

We gather here today to mourn the passing of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although weakened and battered in the past, it seems that it has finally succumbed and will be heard of no more. This is indeed cause for mourning, and a sad day for the country.

The Fourth Amendment was born, of course, as one of ten such amendments which came to be known as the Bill of Rights. The Federalists who pushed hard for the ratification of the Constitution insisted that no such Bill of Rights was necessary. Their political counterparts demanded the Bill of Rights as the price of their support for the Constitution. Antifederalists argued that while the Constitution laid out what the federal government was allowed to do, what was needed as a counterpart was a list of things the federal government would never be allowed to do. Never.

Most of these items were included because of complaints against the British abuses of power which led to the American Revolution. One of the major points of contention between Britain and her colonies was the payment of new taxes, and the rampant smuggling which the Americans had been engaged in to avoid all taxes. In cracking down on the widespread smuggling, Britain instituted some harsh policing procedures which basically gave them license to search anywhere they thought smuggled goods might exist. Here is how Samuel Adams, in his usual bombastic style, described these abuses (note: emphasis, spelling, and archaic terminology all from the original):

Thus our homes and even our bed chambers, are exposed to be ransacked, our boxes chests & trunks broke open ravaged and plundered by wretches, whom no prudent man would venture to employ even as menial servants; whenever they are pleased to say they suspect there are in the house wares etc. for which the dutys have not been paid. Flagrant instances of the wanton exercise of this power, have frequently happened in this and other sea port Towns. ... Those Officers may under colour of law and the cloak of a general warrant, break thro' the sacred rights of the Domicil, ransack mens houses, destroy their securities, carry off their property, and with little danger to themselves commit the most horred murders.

This was the passion behind the conception of the Fourth Amendment. This was how it was birthed -- as one of ten decaplets, all beautiful infants in their own right. It entered this world consisting of only 54 words. These words, the spirit of which have now been all but forgotten by today's government, are:

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.

It was a simple and beautiful concept, at its birth. Before the government can search or seize anything, a human being must swear before a judge that there is probable cause that a law has been broken. Searches and seizures will only be legal when a warrant has been issued and when such warrants are specific instead of vaguely all-encompassing. These warrants will not allow general or wide-reaching searches -- because they will be restricted to only cover whatever evidence was duly sworn to in court.

The Fourth Amendment led a generally robust life for its first century and a half. However, in the past few decades, it has been sickened and slowly undermined by courts and politicians who -- always with the best of intentions -- decided that there was some overwhelming governmental reason to ignore the clear and plain language of those four words: "shall not be violated."

It is said that the Constitution is "not a suicide pact," and that curtailing rights is often necessary to deal with situations where the possible harm to society so outweighs the possible harm to one individual. As I said, it's always with the best of intentions that rights are whittled away. I point no fingers of shame at anyone, politician or judge, who has done so. They meant well, one supposes. They are all "honorable men," as Mark Antony might have observed.

One of the first assaults on the Fourth Amendment happened because of a wave of hijacked airplanes. Passengers were bringing weapons on board planes and forcing the planes to fly whither they wished. These were acts of terrorism and kidnapping writ large, which are impossible to defend. The inconvenience of stepping through a metal detector was justifiably necessary to guarantee passengers' safety on airplanes. But what it meant was public acceptance of being searched to travel on a public conveyance. Everyone agreed that these were reasonable searches, though, since everyone was searched equally and since there was indeed a very real hijacking problem to be solved.

Congress created a special court around this time which would operate in total secrecy, in cases where the government was arguing to retain its own secrets in the field of "foreign surveillance." One can only imagine what the nation's Founders would have had to say about such a court's creation. This court went on to become a rubber-stamp for the government, rarely turning down any warrants or actions the government deemed too secret for the American people to know.

Later, the public became outraged at the leniency of how the laws against drunk driving were being applied. In response, stricter laws were passed across the land. The police became a lot more proactive in combating what everyone agreed was a threat to society -- people driving around who had no business being behind the wheel because they were such a danger to everyone else. So checkpoints sprang up. Now citizens were subject to search not only when flying on commercial airlines, but driving their car down a public street. The Fourth Amendment shrank a little more, but everyone had the best intentions and it was impossible to defend the rights of drunk drivers politically. The checkpoints were deemed reasonable searches. As were checkpoints set up on roads near the nation's borders, to search for illegal immigrants.

The next step was to combat drugs in cars, and the way to achieve this was by using dogs to sniff them out. The police could stop your car and run a dog around it and if the dog barked, that was deemed "probable cause." Now, I hate to say it, but very few dogs have actually read the Constitution. I know of no dogs who have ever given an oath or affirmation in court before a judge. But they were given the power to decide what was legally meant by the words "probable cause."

If any one political action can be said to have done more to kill off the Fourth Amendment in the pre-9/11 world, it would have to be the War On Drugs. The federal government, after deciding it had the power to regulate plants and other substances which many Americans consumed, also determined that the Fourth Amendment didn't apply to "open fields" -- even if the police had to ignore "No Trespassing" signs and hike a considerable distance across private property to even view such a field. Police would be allowed to "stop and frisk" any citizen who looked the least bit suspicious. That was reasonable, the government argued. Probable cause became contingent on the "good faith" of the officer doing the searching -- even though I've never met a policeman who wouldn't swear in a court of law that every single thing they did in the performance of their duties was done in "good faith." Faith, by its very definition, means believing in something which is unprovable. The people responsible for this body blow to the Fourth Amendment, though, were doubtlessly had the best intentions and were all (one assumes) also acting in "good faith" -- although it's hard to pin down what they were being faithful to, because it certainly wasn't the Bill of Rights. More than anything else in the twentieth century, the Drug War proved to be almost a terminal illness for the Fourth Amendment.

Of course, what really killed off the Fourth Amendment was the enticement of technology. The federal government began very early on to realize that technology made it easier an easier to collect evidence. Phone calls could be tapped and recorded. What better way to convict someone than by the use of his or her own voice? Phone tapping is as old as the telephone itself, almost.

The Fourth Amendment initially fought off this sickness and the courts agreed that tapping someone's telephone was an activity covered by the Fourth Amendment, therefore warrants had to be sworn out before someone's phone could be legally tapped. This didn't stop the government from tapping a whole lot of phones they didn't have warrants for, but it did mean they couldn't use any of it as evidence to convict anyone of a crime.

But telephone systems got bigger and better. Computers entered the scene. Mobile phones became ubiquitous. Technology leaped forward, to include global positioning which could physically pinpoint an electronic signal.

And then came the horror of 9/11.

A shocked nation immediately rallied behind politicians who passed a law with an odious and Orwellian name which served to override many constitutional rights in the face of an emergency situation. The men and women who created this law considered themselves Patriots, however -- they had nothing but the best of intentions. But the Bill of Rights is always most at risk when the nation is under attack or at war -- the first time it happened was less than ten years after the Bill of Rights was passed, in fact. Ben Franklin predicted such, when he prophetically warned: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." You just knew I was going to use that quote somewhere in here, didn't you?

The Fourth Amendment was thrown out the metaphorical window at this stage. It's fall downwards has been decried by many, but it has now hit the ground and lives no more. Anyone could be searched anywhere, as long as the reason was "preventing terrorism" -- so open up those backpacks as you try to board a train, go to the beach, or attend a sporting event. The secret court sprang into action as well, and first decided that warrants simply were not to be required to listen in to any American speaking to any foreigner on the telephone. Then it decided that wider and wider nets could be thrown to harvest as much data as could be technologically feasible. Airport security was given free rein, and now instead of just looking for weapons (in what now amounted to a strip search or even sexual assault), they were also authorized to search a laptop computer's files. DNA samples could be taken from anyone arrested by the police -- even if the government never charged them with a crime. The government could collect your trash every week and root through it without a warrant. Information on every citizen's phone calls was vacuumed up in the biggest haul yet. Computer traffic was likewise collected in bulk. Just in case.

The reason why I now say that the Fourth Amendment is no more is because of the implications of the most recent revelations. The government swears it is only glomming on to everyone's phone information so they can use it later -- when there is an actual investigation of someone suspected of a crime. But the reason that person is suspected has now been completely automated. Computers themselves determine what is probable cause. Citizens making phone calls to foreign countries have their phone calls recorded, but because of the sheer volume of data, a computer scans what is being said and "red flags" those conversations which it decides appear to be criminal or subversive. A human never sees the data until the computer points it out. The same with the database which was revealed this week. While not recording the conversations themselves, if the computer deems your use of telephony suspicious -- whether by what numbers you call, whether your "use pattern" looks "unusual" to the computer, or perhaps by the location you are in when you pull your phone out of your pocket -- then the computer will alert a human to take a look.

But if you asked this computer program (assuming for the sake of argument that the N.S.A.'s computer were programmed to respond to such inquiries) to make an oath or affirmation before a federal judge that there was probable cause to suspect an individual of a crime, you know what the computer would answer?

"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

The initial suspicion and the initial evidence-gathering to show probable cause is now done by the close cousins of the fictional HAL 9000. It leads, legally, to what computer programmers would call an "endless loop" or perhaps "circular logic." A person is suspected of aiding and abetting terrorists. This suspicion arises from the fact that a computer has already analyzed the data and perhaps phone calls of the suspect. But this is evidence of a crime. The only way to get a search warrant -- so this evidence can be presented in a legal court of law -- is to have someone swear before a judge that there is probable cause. But this probable cause only exists because the evidence has already been collected. "I need a search warrant to seize information I already have," to put it another way.

We've followed a long path to where we find ourselves now. The Fourth Amendment had a good run, and future historians will point back to our era as the time when American society decided it just didn't care anymore. There simply is no widespread "expectation of privacy" of anyone who lives and operates in the modern interconnected world. Data flits hither and yon through wires and through the airwaves, and private corporations don't just collect all this personal data on you, they sell it to anyone willing to pay for it. Why should it be a big deal if the government gets in on the game? The politicians already are -- "data-mining" has become a crucial operation for any national political campaign. These politicians come from both sides of our political divide, too -- in droves. There weren't many votes against the USA PATRIOT Act, and there haven't been a whole lot of votes to overturn it since. It is in fact routinely extended nowadays.

Libertarians on the right and civil liberties types on the left are mere voices crying in the wilderness as the vast majority of politicians form a thundering herd in order to all get their bootprints on the tatters of the Bill of Rights. It's not enough that dogs were given the power to interpret the Fourth Amendment, now the entire process has been completely automated. I'm sure the dogs and the computer programs are all acting in good faith, right? One wonders: why do we even need FISA courts anymore? A simple subroutine inserted in the program would serve the same purpose. Any computer programmer worth his or her salt could create one during a lunchbreak. In good faith, of course.

If the government can come up with a rationale it considers "reasonable" to collect data on every phone call made in America, then one wonders what would not fall under similar reasoning. After all, it might help some theoretical future terrorism case if the government had data on every credit card transaction in America. Or every bank transaction -- there's no need for a warrant, we promise we'll only look at the database when the computer tells us there is probable cause of a crime having been committed, how's that? All those GPS devices in automobiles spit out a whole lot of interesting data -- and it'd probably make all those future terrorism cases easier if we sucked all that data up too. In fact, it's hard to see how any data deserves to be private, since all of it could quite possibly catch terrorists at some future point. We're so far down this slippery slope that it's virtually impossible to see how we can climb out of the ditch, really.

Of course, all these people in the government who are responsible for where we find ourselves now -- they're all acting from the best of intentions. They all want to keep us safe. As far as they're concerned, they're all being reasonable in interpreting the plain language of those 54 simple words. While we send our best wishes that the Fourth Amendment will rest in peace throughout eternity, they would prefer it if we all went back to sleep and refused to attend this funeral. No doubt there will be an investigation into the leak, to punish whomever woke the public up. It's not that they want to prevent some of us from remembering the Fourth Amendment and mourning its passing -- it's that they prefer we not even notice such a momentous turn of events in the first place. "Don't worry, be happy," both Republican and Democratic leaders say. "Just trust us, we know what we're doing." Maybe that's a fitting epitaph for the Fourth Amendment: "Our hearts were in the right place as we eagerly joined together to kill it. We really had only the best of intentions for doing so."

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post

 

37 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [261] -- Rest In Peace, Fourth Amendment”

  1. [1] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Chris, have you been following James Fallows at the Atlantic and his series on domestic civilian pilots and their adventures dealing with the "authorities"? Interesting stuff.

  2. [2] 
    db wrote:

    CW,

    Michale is right, I was incensed that the Bush Administration was gathering such private information. But I came to realize that all the information I would consider private is already being collected & collated in the name of selling me more successful advertising. "After all, it might help some theoretical future terrorism case if the government had data on every credit card transaction in America. Or every bank transaction -- there's no need for a warrant". Maybe not, but the putative terrorists would be receiving ads for "Bombs4U" & offers for subscriptions to "Jihad Monthly" & offers to meet Muslim Singles in your area. Privacy is a battle we lost without knowing we were in the fight.

    I think I disagree with your conclusion, "Our hearts were in the right place as we eagerly joined together to kill it. We really had only the best of intentions for doing so.". I see it more that the 4th Amendment was taken over in a leveraged buyout. It's now a division of Skynet.

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    If this current fiasco has shown ANYTHING, it has shown that any difference between Right and Left when it comes to our leaders, is purely illusional...

    Personally and professionally, I don't have a problem with this sort of data mining albeit for different reasons..

    Personally I do not feel that my privacy is worth innocent people's lives.. If the government has to suck up all the phone calls in order to stop terrorist attacks, I am all for it.. Any rational person would feel like utter shit if they had taken a stand for their privacy and that stand resulted in a successful terrorist attack that killed innocent men, women and children. The best truism of this is, "If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't be worried about who is listening end."

    Now, granted, what the government DOES with this information is the determining factor.. If a government agency uses this information to stop a terrorist attack, then who in their right mind would complain??

    On the other hand, if a government agency .... oh... I dunno.. released private information of one political group to an opposition political group, then who in their right mind would find that acceptable???

    So, until their is evidence to the contrary ( {{{cough}}} {{cough}} IRS {{cough}} ) that this data mining is being used contrary to the benefit of society as a whole, I do not have a problem with it..

    Professionally I don't have a problem with it because it works.. Granted, my expertise in the field is dated. Back in my day, we didn't have the tools that agencies have today. Well, not as effective tools anyways. I could tell you horror stories that ya'all would flip out over...

    But I can give you a perfect illustration as to why tools of MY day were used.. I'll quote from CW's HAL 9000 commentary in August of 2007..

    I was asked on another forum to watch some PBS (or A&E, I don't recall) specials about issues such as this, especially the "Las Vegas Incident"..

    For those of you unfamiliar with the case, let me briefly outline it. Federal authorities had received reliable intelligence that during a New Years Eve celebration (2004's, I think), there was going to be a terrorist attack. Federal agents moved in and started "data mining" the area. They obtained hotel records from all the hotels on their guests, looking for anyone that "fit the profile".

    As it turned out, the intelligence was false. No attack was planned..

    But one segment of this special dealt with this one couple who were completely indignant that the Federal Government would "violate" their privacy by obtaining their hotel records.

    I simply cannot understand this for one simple and basic reason..

    Let's play the scenario in reverse.. Let's say that there HAD been a terrorist attack in Las Vegas. Hundreds were killed. During the investigation to determine who was responsible, Federal agents obtain all the records of the local hotels, trying to find anyone that "fit the profile". No one could object to this. It is only good police work. It's a natural effort of the investigative process...

    So, this begs the question. If people do no have a problem with this so-called "violation of privacy" AFTER the fact, *why is it a problem BEFORE the fact??* People are saying that they don't mind the so-called invasion of privacy to INVESTIGATE the brutal murder of hundreds of innocent men, women and children. But they get all indignant and scream "GESTAPO!!!" if it is done to SAVE the lives of hundreds of innocent men, women and children..

    It's a dangerous world we live in. An EXTRAORDINARILY dangerous world.

    As such, extraordinary measures are required...

    db,

    Michale is right, I was incensed that the Bush Administration was gathering such private information.

    I heard "Michale is right" and then what?? :D

    But I came to realize that all the information I would consider private is already being collected & collated in the name of selling me more successful advertising.

    Ahhhh, but THAT information usage was (and is) by and large authorized.. Buried deep inside "User Agreement" are authorizations for just about anything under the sun. You walk into a store, you see signs about being monitored 24/7. You sign a cell phone contract and you sign authorization for companies to do this and do that.

    You sign up for yahoo or gmail or facebook, you authorize to have your data used in any way they see fit..

    Any advertising you are bombarded with has, at one time or another, been authorized by you.

    I am certain that if I had access to everything you have ever said and done and had the inclination to actually search thru it all, I could find where you have authorized every bit and piece of advertising that you have ever been targeted with...

    Advertising-wise, our Brave New World will be exactly like MINORITY REPORT..

    Michale

  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    We gather here today to mourn the passing of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although weakened and battered in the past, it seems that it has finally succumbed and will be heard of no more. This is indeed cause for mourning, and a sad day for the country.

    I am constrained to point out that, at least in the case of the Verizon Data Mining, the metadata collected has been consistently ruled by State & Federal courts as to be information gathering not under the protections of the 4th Amendment...

    Michale

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i guess the fourth amendment was dead the moment the ability of any individual to construct and utilize weapons outstripped the ability of society to protect us from them. look at these two brothers in boston; how many innocent people were they able to murder or maim in broad daylight before anyone even figured out who they were? nonetheless, it seems almost schizophrenic that we're fast and loose with the 4th amendment and rigidly adherent to the 2nd.

    But this probable cause only exists because the evidence has already been collected. "I need a search warrant to seize information I already have," to put it another way.

    i would say it's more like, "we have this diary, this is why we took it, and we need the court's permission to open it." still not a great argument, but i don't see it as circular reasoning. the sad thing is it will probably end up being futile - if i were a terrorist nowadays, i wouldn't even bother using the internet, i'd shift back to lower-tech forms of communication. i bet that's what they're doing even now.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    nonetheless, it seems almost schizophrenic that we're fast and loose with the 4th amendment and rigidly adherent to the 2nd.

    That's a very profound observation.. I bet shrinks would have a field day with that, eh!?? :D

    - if i were a terrorist nowadays, i wouldn't even bother using the internet, i'd shift back to lower-tech forms of communication. i bet that's what they're doing even now.

    A terrorist is only as effective as their lines of communication..

    Non-electronic means of interception are actually easier to do because of the fallibility of human beings..

    I am considered "old skool" in the CT field..

    Give me a good old-fashioned greedy or weak human any day of the week... :D

    Michale

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

    The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

    WOW....

    Just..... WOW..

    Michale

  8. [8] 
    akadjian wrote:

    it seems almost schizophrenic that we're fast and loose with the 4th amendment and rigidly adherent to the 2nd.

    The big difference is that 2nd has a huge marketing and lobbying organization sponsored by the gun industry.

    The 4th amendment has few corporate defenders. It's far more likely, in fact, that the military lobby would oppose the 4th amendment.

    This likely explains at least some of the difference.

    -David

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    This likely explains at least some of the difference.

    Or, another possible explanation is that many MANY Americans understand that the reasons for upholding the 2nd and extenuating the 4th are part and parcel to the same reason..

    Self-Defense..

    As CW points out, the US Constitution is not a suicide pact..

    It must be viewed thru the eyes of common sense and an acknowledgement of the realities of the here and now.

    Michale

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Or, another possible explanation is that many MANY Americans understand that the reasons for upholding the 2nd and extenuating the 4th are part and parcel to the same reason..

    "We can't discount one possible explanation just because we don't happen to like it."
    -Martin Sheen, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

    :D

    Michale

  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    it has shown that any difference between Right and Left when it comes to our leaders, is purely illusional.

    Welcome to the Occupy movement Michale!

    -David

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Welcome to the Occupy movement Michale!

    YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!! :D

    I have been saying that there is no difference between Right & Left since CW.COM started.

    If THAT is the mantra of the Occupy Movement, then I invented the movement back in 2006!! :D

    Michale

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    Ya know, I really feel bad for the Left....

    If this had been a GOP Administration, the entire Left would be carrying around this Snowden guy on their shoulders and singing his praises to the high heavens..

    But, because it's OBAMA, the Left (*AND* Weigantia) is largely silent... Hell, some Leftist Pundits are actually DEFENDING the activities *AND* attacking Snowden!!! They are calling him a traitor and a liar!! They are saying, "Ya know, this stuff isn't REALLY spying! It's not REALLY violating anyone's privacy!!"

    It's enough to make Karl Rove and Dick Cheney well up with pride!!

    I am constantly amazed at the power that that one little letter has over people...

    If you have a -D you are the cat's meow, no matter WHAT you do wrong!!!

    If you have an -R you are the spawn of Lucifer, no matter WHAT you do right!!

    It's gabberflasting... :D

    Michale

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    You might want to ask yourself why it has been so silent around here. And, while you're asking yourself, be sure that you're looking in the mirror.

    No one likes to be on the receiving end of what you incessantly have to give here. I mean, you are dealing with people here who would like to engage with you - some of us even enjoy it, from time to time - but one can only take so much of this ... well, kind of "discussion".

  15. [15] 
    akadjian wrote:
  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    You might want to ask yourself why it has been so silent around here.

    Oh, I know exactly why it's so silent around here..

    Obama is getting pummeled by scandals and public opinion and even his own supporters..

    Regardless of whether I post or not, everyone around here is chatty Kathy when Obama is up..

    But when Obama is down, down and going further down, no one wants to discuss jack....

    No one likes to be on the receiving end of what you incessantly have to give here.

    Just as I don't like being on the receiving end when it's all "OBAMA is great!!!" and "Obama is awesome!!!" and "Obama walks on water!!!"

    AND I don't like being on the receiving end of "Bush is satan!!" and "Bush is a war criminal!!" and "BUSH is a terrorist!!"...

    Yet, I DO it because it's the FAIR thing to do...

    You see, I am ALWAYS willing to discuss things whether MY position is dead on ballz accurate (as it is now) or whether ya'all are right..

    Ya'all only seem to want to debate when your position is defensible..

    If it isn't (as it is now) no one wants to say "boo"...

    Ya can't blame that on me... :D I won't let ya :D

    Michale

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    @Michale

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pardon-edward-snowden/Dp03vGYD

    Yea, I saw that...

    Did ya sign it?? :D

    Michale

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Put it another way..

    How can it be so quiet around here because of my postings when my posting level has been constant??

    The one thing that HAS changed is the number and severity of scandals hitting The Great And Powerful Obama..

    So, if one looks at things logically and rationally, really the ONLY conclusion that makes ANY kind of sense is that everyone else is tired of defending the indefensible. Tired of complimenting what fine livery the POTUS has on when it's blatantly obvious to even the most dullard of observers that Obama isn't wearing anything...

    And, rather than do the PROPER thing and agree and acknowledge that I have been right all along, everyone is simply remaining quiet and hoping Obama's fortunes will rise again, so that they can once again sing the praises of the Great And Powerful Obama...

    Don't blame me because the horse ya'all backed is lame...

    I tried to tell ya'all... :D

    Michale

  19. [19] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Elizabeth, I sympathize. I shudder to anticipate the upcoming Zimmerman trial fiasco :-) Hope my fears don't come true.

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    Elizabeth, I sympathize. I shudder to anticipate the upcoming Zimmerman trial fiasco :-) Hope my fears don't come true.

    Yea, it's tough on ya'all when that Leftist agenda that violates everything Americans stand for gets pummeled and tattered to shreds...

    But hay, I understand.. There ain't any problem with dishing it out.. But when it's time to take it?? :D

    Like I said.. I understand. Completely...

    Michale

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    For the record, though.. You won't hear a peep out of me over the Zimmerman "trial"...

    The facts are so blatantly obvious that there should never have even been an arrest and it was only done to appease a racist/political agenda.....

    I mean, it would be too damn easy.. Like dynamiting fish in a barrel..

    So, no Zimmerman discussion from me.. :D

    Michale

  22. [22] 
    Kevin wrote:

    Some people light the dynamite while holding it in their teeth before climbing into the barrel. The image of you sitting amid shattered staves with no teeth and a blackened face made my day. Self awareness...you should try it sometime.

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    Some people light the dynamite while holding it in their teeth before climbing into the barrel. The image of you sitting amid shattered staves with no teeth and a blackened face made my day.

    You have been watching WAY too much Yosemite Sam.. :D

    Self awareness...you should try it sometime.

    Not sure what ya mean by that.. *I* am not the one who lurks in the shadows afraid of a little confrontation and discussion.. :D

    The simple fact is, everyone here is always ready to do some mental fencing when their guy, Obama is up..

    But when he's getting his arse kicked six ways from Sunday.....????

    {{chirrrrpppp}} {{{cchhhiiiiiirrrrrrrpppppp}}}

    So, maybe it's not me that needs a little inward introspection, eh? :D

    I'm just sayin'...

    But hay... If ya'all want to make everything about me....????

    Who am I to argue... :D

    Michale

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    If you recall, I backed Biden. And, he's anything but lame. In fact, I shudder to think where the Obama administration would be without Vice President Biden, Secretary Geithner notwithstanding.

    Kevin,

    Don't be such a stranger around here, okay? :)

  25. [25] 
    Michale wrote:

    In fact, I shudder to think where the Obama administration would be without Vice President Biden, Secretary Geithner notwithstanding

    Considering where the Obama Administration IS right now, ANYTHING would have to be an improvement.. :D

    But I do have to give Biden credit..

    At least he was smart enough to get out of Dodge before the feces hit the rotating cooling device.... :D

    Michale

  26. [26] 
    Kevin wrote:

    If Michale can't see what he proudly confesses to be in comment #21, why does ANYONE attempt to reason with him? Waiting for commenters who agree with his position to reveal themselves...then again, even true believers would be ashamed to come forth. But nothing new there - his predictability grew tiresome a long time ago. LewDan, if you're out there, care to try explaining to him why he exemplifies the hateful minority of Americans who scare the crap out of the rest of the world?

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    Waiting for commenters who agree with his position to reveal themselves...

    Where did you ever get such an idea that I was waiting for that??

    I simply ask for the exact same courtesy that I extend to everyone here..

    When any one of you is correct, I acknowledge it..

    With a couple notable exceptions, not one of ya'all had extended me that same courtesy?

    But I don't whine and cry about how many times ya'all point out that Obama is a god's gift to America...

    It just would be nice for ya'all to acknowledge what everyone NOW knows..

    When it comes to counter-terrorism, Obama is no different than Bush or Cheney or any other Righty that ya'all TO THIS DAY incessantly demonize...

    As far as Zimmerman?? Do you have ANY evidence to indicate that there was ANYTHING about race in this incident. One SHRED, one SINGLE IOTA, ONE MINISCULE piece of evidence??

    No, you do not...

    NONE... ZERO... ZILCH... NADA

    So, WHO is the "true believer" and who is the one ruled by facts and reality in this case, Kevin???

    I think the answer is self-evident...

    At least, it would be to anyone not ruled by the almighty '-D'....

    Michale

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    You might want to ask yourself why it has been so silent around here.

    ^^^^^ THAT is exactly why it's so quiet around here, Liz...

    Because I am right and ya'all just can't STAND it...

    When I am wrong (which DOES happen) Weigantians come out of the woodwork and delight in showing me that I am wrong..

    But when I am dead on ballz right?? Weigantians all of the sudden have better things to do..

    So you simply can't put the blame on me for the silence around here...

    And, I'll prove it.. AGAIN..

    I have a lot of projects going on this week.. So, I'll bow out of any discussions here on CW.COM..

    If what you say is true, if my excessive posting is the problem, then a week without Michale should be a posting bonanza here. There SHOULD be dozens and dozens and dozens of postings...

    We'll see who, exactly, is to blame for the silence around here...

    I'll be back on the next FTP and we can take stock.. :D

    Michale

  29. [29] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Did ya sign it?? :D

    Heck yeah. D'you?

    -David

  30. [30] 
    Michale wrote:

    Not responding to direct questions would simply be rude...

    Heck yeah. D'you?

    I am somewhat ambivalent about it..

    On the one hand it totally destroys and decimates the argument that Obama is actually better than Bush when it comes to CT policies... It makes my case for me by laying out the facts so completely that NO ONE can ever hope to make the case that Obama is not Bush Jr....

    But I don't believe that winning an online debate is worth the damage that such revelations does to the safety and security of this country..

    So, I am going to stay out of the "Is Bowden a traitor or a hero" debate as I think there are good arguments for both...

    Personally, I find many of Bowden's statements to be very suspect, based on my own personal knowledge and experience in the field..

    It would not shock me to learn that this is a giant False Flag op... However, I just don't see what the motive or endgame would be..

    Michale

  31. [31] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    If what you say is true, if my excessive posting is the problem, then a week without Michale should be a posting bonanza here. There SHOULD be dozens and dozens and dozens of postings...We'll see who, exactly, is to blame for the silence around here...

    I'll be back on the next FTP and we can take stock.. :D

    I have a small favour to ask, Michale ... could you continue your break through the next FTP and then be back on next Monday's column? I think we'd be better able to take stock AFTER a Michale-free FTP, if you wouldn't mind too much.

    What d'ya say?

  32. [32] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, Michale, I'm right there with you on the subject of Bowden ... or Snowden, or whatever his name is ... :)

  33. [33] 
    Michale wrote:

    I have a small favour to ask, Michale ... could you continue your break through the next FTP and then be back on next Monday's column? I think we'd be better able to take stock AFTER a Michale-free FTP, if you wouldn't mind too much.

    It would depend on a lot of factors.

    What's going on in my life, if anything REALLY game changing happens, if CW makes an FTP commentary that is REALLY provocative.. :D

    So, while I won't make any promises beyond that, I will promise to let the small stuff slide... :D

    Michale

  34. [34] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That's fair enough, Michale. :)

  35. [35] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    To all -

    Actually, the silence here has been my own. Because I've been working so hard on the weekends, I have let commenting on FTP columns slip. But there is indeed a light at the end of this tunnel, and I should be a lot more active here on the site in the coming weeks.

    Anyway, just wanted to say sorry for letting these Friday comments go unremarked-upon, and to let people know things will be improving very shortly.

    -CW

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    How can it be so quiet around here because of my postings when my posting level has been constant??

    You just answered your own question!

    It'll come to you on the bus home ... :)

  37. [37] 
    Michale wrote:

    How can it be so quiet around here because of my postings when my posting level has been constant??

    You just answered your own question!

    It'll come to you on the bus home ... :)

    Ah Ah Ah...

    I said my posting LEVEL was constant...

    Not my POSTING....

    In other words, *I* haven't changed my posting level whatsoever.

    Since my posting LEVEL is constant, you can't say that my increased postings are causing people to stay away..

    So, what HAS changed in the last couple weeks???

    Well, Obama has been getting his ass kicked by scandal after scandal after scandal..

    And something else I have noticed as well. On the commentaries where CW has taken Obama or his administration to task for this or that, Weigantians are scarce...

    It is only when CW jumps on the Republicans, do Weigantians poke their heads out of their shells..

    So, what's the ONLY logical conclusion??

    No one here wants talk about things when Obama is doing wrong..

    And no one wants to concede that I have been dead on ballz accurate about most everything to do with Obama and his scandals. Starting back with Benghazi...

    When I am wrong, we can't shut ya'all up... :D

    So, when ya'all are silent, the only conclusion is that ya'all are conceding the point..

    "Simple logic"
    -Admiral James T Kirk, STAR TREK III, The Search For Spock

    :D

    Michale

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