Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Drone hunting license? Count me in!

Posted by Richard on July 18, 2013

Wow. Phillip Steel has certainly gotten a lot of media attention with the petition he’s circulated in tiny Deer Trail, CO (population 546). He already has enough signatures to put it on the ballot. The town council will consider his proposed ordinance at their Aug. 6 meeting. The ordinance would allow people to buy a drone hunting license for $25. It would pay a bounty of $25 to $100 for the downing of a US government drone over the sovereign air space of Deer Trail.

I love the idea! It’s fun and a nice fundraising vehicle for Deer Trail, but it also makes an important point.

7NEWS Reporter Amanda Kost asked Steel, “Have you ever seen a drone flying over your town?”

“No,” Steel responded. “This is a very symbolic ordinance. Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way.”

I hope they come up with a nice looking, real official drone hunting license certificate. Because I’ll buy one.

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If Sen. Graham has nothing to hide…

Posted by Richard on June 22, 2013

Blowing off the 4th Amendment, Senator Lindsey Graham (OR-SC) has defended the Obama administration’s increasingly powerful surveillance state and specifically NSA’s Prism program, arguing that if we have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t bother us that our email is being monitored. FreedomWorks is challenging Sen. Graham to “lead by example.” They’re collecting signatures on a petition requesting that the Senator release his email password. Go to www.lindseyspassword.com right now and sign. It only takes a few seconds. It costs nothing. And haven’t you always wanted to read Lindsey Graham’s email?

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A Thanksgiving traveler survey

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

I’ve come up with a survey I’d like to see Rasmussen or somebody do of potential Thanksgiving travelers:

  1. Are you planning to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  2. If you’re planning to fly, will you be traveling with your children?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  3. If you’re planning to fly with a daughter or daughters, how old is she (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  4. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener grab your daughter’s crotch?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  5. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  6. If your daughter has passed puberty, how do you feel about letting a TSA screener cup her breasts and squeeze her breasts?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than her feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  7. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  8. If you’re planning to fly with a son or sons, how old is he (or are they)?
    • _____
    • _____
    • _____
  9. How do you feel about letting a TSA screener feel your son’s penis and testicles?
    • It’s OK with me. Protecting us from terrorists is more important than his feelings or mine.
    • I’m uncomfortable about it, but if the government says it’s necessary, who am I to question them?
    • No, that’s not acceptable. It’s sexual assault on a child.
    • Hell, no!
  10. Would your response be any different if the TSA screener were a woman instead of a man?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  11. Would you be more comfortable putting your child(ren) through a back-scatter X-ray scanner that produces a nude image of your child detailed enough to show, for instance, whether your son is circumcised, and possibly increasing their risk of skin cancer?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure
  12. Are you sure you and your child(ren) want to fly for Thanksgiving?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Not sure

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New Jersey legislators take on TSA

Posted by Richard on November 17, 2010

Here is the press conference held by a bipartisan group of New Jersey legislators challenging the constitutionality, efficacy, safety, and decency of TSA's back-scatter radiation scanners and "enhanced" pat-downs (a.k.a. gropings). They were joined by the New Jersey ACLU.


[YouTube link]

From their press release

Senator Michael J. Doherty (R- Hunterdon, Warren) and Senator James Beach (D- Camden) announced they will present resolutions to the Senate and Assembly calling on the U.S. Congress to end TSA screening procedures requiring full body scans and pat downs at U.S. airports Their action comes in response to widespread concerns over privacy and radiation, as well as reports of inappropriate conduct by TSA agents during the screening process. 

“The pursuit of security should not force Americans to surrender their civil liberties or basic human dignity at a TSA checkpoint,” said Doherty. “Subjecting law-abiding American citizens to naked body scans and full body pat downs is intolerable, humiliating, vulnerable to abuse, and is fast becoming a disincentive to travel. Particularly concerning to us is the fact that physical searches result in children being touched in private areas of the body. Terrorists hate America because of the freedoms upon which this great nation was built. By implementing these screening measures, the TSA has already handed a victory to those who seek to destroy our freedoms.”

Senator Doherty was joined at a State House press conference announcing the resolution by Senator Diane Allen (R- Burlington), American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, and Assembly members Erik Peterson, Alison McHose, John DiMaio, and Valerie Vanieri Huttle.

Read the whole thing. Bravo, New Jersey legislators!

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“Don’t touch my junk”

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2010

The backlash against TSA's new "enhanced" airport screening techniques is continuing to build. Apparently, quite a few Americans object to having to choose between a revealing full-body scan that may increase their risk of cancer and a "pat-down" that includes aggressive groping of their genitals.

Airline pilots are objecting. EPIC is suing. New Jersey lawmakers are calling on Congress to act.

John Tyner's blog post and videos of his experience at the San Diego airport have gone viral, as has the clip of a distraught 3-year-old girl being groped. National Opt-Out Day is getting increasing attention.

Bill Belew asked, "Are new TSA airport security measures sexual harassment?," and provided links, photos, and videos to help you decide.

WorldNetDaily quoted John Whitehead as pointing the finger at the President: 

"Legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it," John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, wrote in a new commentary.

"So we can thank President Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights. Mind you, this is the same man who insisted that 'we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans,'" Whitehead said.

WND also recounted numerous disturbing TSA stories such as these: 

"We've gotten tons of e-mails, mainly from females about the invasions of the body scanners," Whitehead said. "In one case, a mother [told how] her 12-year-old daughter was pulled out of the security line, and [TSA] did touch her breast and vaginal areas.

"This is an unreasonable search and seizure," he said.

Rutherford said any court adhering to the Constitution would find that so.

In another case, a pilot reported having TSA inspectors put their fingers down inside his pants, and yet another person reported TSA officers, infuriated that she was upset over their pat-down procedures, "put her in a room and isolated her for two hours" so that she missed her flight.

This crap doesn't really enhance security; it just creates the illusion of security. As John Tyner pointed out (emphasis in original):

Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem. Aside from securing the cockpit doors and the realization by passengers that they must fend for themselves …, security is largely the same as it was before 9/11.

The only thing changing is the amount of money being spent on the problem and the constant erosion of liberty, and all I did was draw attention to this.

And as Michelle Malkin noted: 

the American approach to flight security misses the point, thanks to an “everyone must suffer equally” approach. The Israelis have not had an incident in decades, thanks to a much more comprehensive but subtle approach that looks for actual clues to danger, rather than using a random-sample method.

Translation: the Israelis intelligently profile. 

If, like a growing number of Americans, you're ready to say "enough is enough" and demand a stop to this outrageous nonsense, sign this petition. Then go to WeWon'tFly.com and follow some of the suggestions under "How To Raise Hell." And share this info with everyone you know. 

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Administration defends warrantless tracking of cell phone users

Posted by Richard on February 12, 2010

This story cries out for one Instapundit's trademark "They warned me that if I voted Republican…" posts, but I haven't seen one yet — aha, there it is! CNET reported:

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their–or at least their cell phones'–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

I thought it might be fun to see what the lefties (who for the entire eight Bush years cried "police state!" at the drop of a hat) were saying about this. At Daily Kos, nextstep fretted about what some administration other than this one might do (emphasis added): 

This may be more incideous that one would first imagine.  How do you feel about attending a protest against a Republican administration, where the government can record that you attended the protest, when you arrived, when you left and where did you go after the event.

But nextstep was quick to give Obama the benefit of the doubt regarding such an "incideous" policy (emphasis in original): 

While the article refers to the government as the Obama adinistration, to my knowledge President Obama has not spoken on this issue.  The press needs to follow up with the Justice Deprtment and the White House to get them on the record as supporting or opposing this policy.

And nextstep closed with this quintessential example of moral relativism (emphasis added): 

Remember even if one believes the Obama administration would not use these powers against people like us – and may even use this power against the worst of the Tea Party activists, it is just a matter of time for the administration to change to a party that we don't trust.

See, even though it would be a good thing to use warrantless tracking to go after our enemies, we have to consider how wrong it would be if our enemies did the same thing to "people like us." 

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Big Brother is being ripped off

Posted by Richard on July 29, 2009

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the country's most strident opponents of citizens' self-defense rights, a man who firmly believes we should forgo armed self-defense in favor of dialing 911 and/or counting on the government to always be watching out for our safety, has for some time been pushing for more and more surveillance cameras in the city.

They'd better add cameras fast, because the thieves are stealing them pretty fast:

New York, NY – Two oddballs have been busted for swiping nearly 20 percent of the city’s red-light cameras right under Big Brother’s nose.

They allegedly drove around town in a pickup truck with a cherry-picker to dismantle 22 of the high-end Nikons from their street poles.

The devices are used to identify red-light-running drivers, who then are issued tickets by mail.

The suspects peddled an estimated $88,000 worth of goods to a camera resale shop for $300 each to feed their heroin habits.

Having gobs of cameras covering public places everywhere is not really a Constitutional problem. But in spite of what TV cop shows lead you to believe, it's apparently not very helpful either. That's what the evidence from Britain, the most surveilled society on Earth, suggests, according to Ross Clark, author of The Road to Big Brother: One Man's Struggle Against the Surveillance State. Reason's Jacob Sullum noted this in his review of the book:

Take all those cameras. So far in the United States, they have been limited mainly to detecting traffic violations, generating heated debate about whether they reduce or increase accidents and whether municipalities are sacrificing public safety for the sake of revenue (by reducing the duration of yellow lights, for example). But provided they focus only on public areas, there is no constitutional barrier to erecting surveillance cameras throughout the United States, until our country is as thick with them as the U.K. …

Yet there is something to be said, fiscal concerns aside, for not having a cop on every corner. The sense of being constantly watched tends to put a damper on things

By Clark’s account, this cost is not worth paying. He says the evidence that the government’s surveillance cameras are effective at either deterring or detecting crime is thin. Facial recognition software aimed at catching known suspects has been a bust, easily foiled by poor lighting, hats, sunglasses, even a few months of aging. Clark argues that Britain’s cameras, which he describes as frequently unmonitored or out of order, are appealing as a relatively cheap way of seeming to do something about crime. He finds that “electronic surveillance is not always augmenting traditional policing; it is more often than not replacing it, with poor results.” Likewise, he says, huge collections of information gleaned from private sources such as phone companies, banks, and credit bureaus (along the lines of America’s renamed but not abandoned Total Information Awareness program) are unmanageable and rife with errors. Clark notes that “there is a fundamental rule about databases: the bigger they are, the more useless they become.” 

There's no indication in Sullum's review that camera theft is a problem in Britain. Maybe the bad guys are just more entrepreneurial in New York than in London. 

In any case, the idea that we can abandon all responsibility for our own safety and entrust it to the ever-watchful and ready-to-respond-instantaneously "authorities" is, always has been, and always will be nonsense.

 And likewise, the fears of libertarians (and civil libertarians) that Big Brother is always watching seem overblown (even if Big Brother's camera hasn't been stolen).

Governments seem to be no more competent in their efforts to institute Big Brother than they are in anything else.

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Financial privacy: what would Kerry do?

Posted by Richard on June 28, 2006

Hugh Hewitt has been a bit, um, put out by the New York Times’ disclosure of terrorist finance tracking. Today, Hewitt pointed out that the Gray Lady had a different attitude in a September 2001 editorial (emphasis added):

The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America’s law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies.…If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one.

The contrast between what the Times said then and now triggered something in my on-again, off-again memory. After refreshing that memory a bit, I have a question for the New York Times and its supporters: Would this story have been pursued — and published despite administration pleas — during a Kerry administration?

You see, if history is any guide, a President John Effin’ Kerry would not only have authorized the same SWIFT program monitoring — he’d have pushed for much more aggressive and far-reaching monitoring than Bush authorized, and he’d have put far fewer privacy and civil liberties safeguards in place.

On Sept. 26, 2001, Kerry testified on money laundering and terrorism before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. An adaptation of that prepared statement appeared in a DLC publication a couple of months later. It began:

There can be no war on terrorism without declaring a war on money laundering. Only Osama bin Laden’s vast resources allow him and al-Qaida to pay the living expenses of sleeper terrorists for years on end and move them around the world. This global terrorist network has a financial ledger that more closely mirrors that of a Fortune 500 multinational corporation than that of an isolated fanatic.

To defeat this new kind of terrorist, we must cut off the money that supports him. The United States must lead an aggressive effort at home and around the world to eliminate the ways in which dirty money flows through the banking system to finance new criminal enterprises. 

A burning desire to destroy all vestiges of financial privacy has been one of the enduring traits of Kerry’s character for almost his entire political career. When the Patriot Act was originally debated, Kerry fought strenuously to strengthen government access to financial records and weaken financial privacy protections. John Berlau’s 2004 Reason article, John Kerry’s Dark Record on Civil Liberties, documented the Senator’s long-standing hostility toward encryption and privacy, and his enthusiasm for financial transaction monitoring and asset forfeiture. For instance:

Many on the left and right worried about overreach from the federal "Know Your Customer" regulations of 1997-98, which would have required banks to monitor every customer’s "normal and expected transactions." Those proposed rules were eventually withdrawn after the ACLU, the Libertarian Party, and other groups generated more than 100,000 comments in opposition. But from his writings and statements, John Kerry seemed worried that the regulations did not go far enough.

Kerry then expressed his belief that bank customers are entitled to essentially zero privacy. "The technology is already available to monitor all electronic money transfers," he wrote (emphasis added). "We need the will to make sure it is put in place."

A 2004 Money Laundering Alert article, which detailed Kerry’s many years of anti-money-laundering advocacy, noted (emphasis added):

The Kerry Amendment to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (S. 3697) was “a good example fairly early on that showed what Kerry was willing to take on,” said Bruce Zagaris, a Washington, D.C. lawyer and publisher of International Enforcement Law Reporter. …

The amendment called for Treasury to negotiate information-sharing agreements with foreign countries covering money laundering cases and currency transactions over $10,000. …

Kerry introduced four more money laundering-related bills in 1989. They included legislative proposals to create a money laundering advisory commission, make U.S. currency traceable by electronic scanning, improve money laundering intelligence and revoke charters of banks involved in money laundering. …

“Senator Kerry has long taken the view that U.S. national security requires us to have the ability to trace funds on a global basis when someone has engaged in criminal or terrorist activity,” said Jonathan Winer, a former State Department enforcement official who was Kerry’s Senate counsel and legislative assistant.

Months before 9/11, Kerry sponsored the International Counter-Money Laundering and Foreign Corruption Act, which would have authorized Treasury to require financial institutions to file suspicious activity reports on transactions involving any person or jurisdiction deemed a primary money laundering concern. Financial institutions would have been required to identify the owner of any account opened or maintained by a foreign person.

The bill, which did not pass, was criticized for giving Treasury too much power. After 9/11, however, Kerry was a major player in getting these provisions incorporated into the USA Patriot Act...

Do you recall anyone in the Democratic Party denouncing Sen. Kerry’s lack of respect for civil liberties and financial privacy? Neither do I.

Do you think if Kerry were President today, Al Gore, Russ Feingold, Max Baucus, and various other politicians, talking heads, and media pundits would be calling him a criminal and suggesting censure or impeachment? Me neither.

Do you suspect that in a Kerry administration, we’d never even know about such intelligence operations because the liberal/leftist career employees in the State Department, CIA, NSA, etc., would keep their mouths shut instead of doing everything in their power to bring the administration down? Yeah, me too.
 

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