Tag Archives: ACLU

WTF! Navy tracks our parking tickets and traffic citations

Eye of Sauron

It’s not enough that the NSA (National Security Agency) spies on every phone call, email, and credit card transaction we make.

Now comes news that the U.S. Navy, specifically the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service), has a massive database of hundreds of millions of law enforcement records. If you’ve had so much as a parking ticket, you are already in that database.

Mark Flatten reports for the Washington Examiner, March 21, 2014, that the NCIS database is called the Law Enforcement Information Exchange (or LinX), containing 506.3 million law enforcement records ranging from criminal histories and arrest reports to field information cards filled out by cops on the beat even when no crime has occurred.

Fidell reviewed the Navy’s LinX website at the request of the Washington Examiner to assess the propriety of putting such a powerful database under the control of a military police entity. He says LinX “gives me the willies.

LinX is a national information-sharing hub for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It is run by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, raising concerns among some military law experts that putting such detailed data about ordinary citizens in the hands of military officials crosses the line that generally prohibits the armed forces from conducting civilian law enforcement operations.

Those fears are heightened by recent disclosures of the National Security Agency spying on Americans, and the CIA allegedly spying on Congress.

The military has a history of spying on Americans. The Army did it during the Vietnam War and the Air Force did it after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Among the groups subjected to military spying in the name of protecting military facilities from terrorism was a band of Quakers organizing a peace rally in Florida.

LinX administrators say it is nothing more than an information-sharing network that connects records from participating police departments across the country.

LinX was created in 2003 and put under NCIS, which has counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering missions in addition to responsibility for criminal investigations. LinX was originally supposed to help NCIS protect naval bases from terrorism.

More than 1,300 agencies participate, including The FBI and other Department of Justice divisions, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. Police departments along both coasts and in Texas, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii are in LinX. Participating agencies must feed their information into the federal data warehouse and electronically update it daily in return for access.

The number of records in the system has mushroomed from about 50 million in 2007 to more than 10 times that number today.

Background checks for gun sales and applications for concealed weapons permits are not included in the system, according to NCIS officials and representatives of major state and local agencies contacted by the Examiner.

Director of NCIS Andrew Traver

Director of NCIS Andrew Traver

The director of NCIS, Andrew Traver, drew stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association after Obama twice nominated him to be head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The nomination failed to go forward in the Senate both times, largely because of what the NRA described as Traver’s advocacy for stricter gun laws.

He became NCIS director in October 2013.

NCIS officials could not say how much has been spent on LinX since it was created 2003. They provided figures since the 2008 fiscal year totaling $42.3 million. Older records are not available from NCIS.

Incomplete data from USAspending.gov shows at least $7.2 million more was spent between 2003 and 2008. The actual figure is probably much higher, since the spending listed on the disclosure site only totals $23 million since 2003.

Why LinX wound up in the NCIS, a military law enforcement agency, is not clear. Current NCIS officials could not explain the reasoning, other than to say it grew out of the department’s need for access to law enforcement records relevant to criminal investigations.

The FBI, a DOJ entity, has since built its own system similar to LinX, called the National Data Exchange or N-Dex. The systems are connected, and much of the information in N-Dex comes from LinX, said Christopher Cote, assistant director for information technology at NCIS.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School and is a member of the Defense Department’s Legal Policy Board and a board member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War, calls LinX “domestic spying.”

Asked by Washington Examiner to review LinX, Fidell says “It gives me the willies. Clearly, it cannot be right that any part of the Navy is collecting traffic citation information. This sounds like something from a third-world country, where you have powerful military intelligence watching everybody.

Fidell says Americans have distrusted the use of the military for civilian law enforcement since before the Revolutionary War. Since the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, it has been illegal for the military to engage in domestic law enforcement except in limited circumstances, such as quelling insurrections. The limits in the law were largely undefined for almost a century.

In 1973, the Army provided logistical support for FBI agents trying to break the standoff with American Indian Movement militants at Wounded Knee, S.D. Several criminal defendants later argued the use of the military was illegal under Posse Comitatus. Ensuing court decisions decreed that using the military for direct policing, such as making arrests or conducting searches, was illegal and should be left to civilian departments. Providing logistical support, equipment and information are allowed. Since then, the law has been loosened to allow limited military participation in certain large-scale anti-drug investigations.

Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute and an Examiner columnist who has written about the overreach of the military in civilian law enforcement, says that aside from the legal issues is the problem of “mission creep.” What begins as a well-meaning and limited effort to assist local police can grow into a powerful threat to constitutional protections.

A recent example of mission-creep gone awry is the Threat And Local Observation Notice (or TALON) program created by the Air Force at the same time LinX was launched.

Like LinX, TALON’s purpose was to create a network for information-sharing among federal, state and local police agencies that could be used to help protect military facilities. In 2005, media reports showed TALON was being used to spy on anti-war groups, including the Quakers. TALON was disbanded in 2007.

Healy says: “The history of these programs is that they tend to metastasize and that there is mission creep that involves gathering far more information than is needed. In general, what you see in these programs is they start out very narrow and they expand beyond the limits of their original logic. Repeatedly throughout American history, what starts small becomes larger, more intrusive, more troubling.”

TALON was primarily an intelligence-gathering network. As for LinX, it can only be used for law enforcement purposes, though intelligence and counter-terror officers at NCIS do have access to the system. The rules governing LinX are almost identical to those controlling other federal databases run by the FBI.

NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said while NCIS is a military police unit, its agents are civilian employees equivalent to those at the FBI and other federal agencies. And although there are limits on military enforcement of civilian laws, it is allowed if it is done “primarily for a military purpose,” which is how NCIS uses the system.

Civil libertarians get more concerned as more trivial information on average citizens is collected under the guise of protecting the public, especially absent some reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese said pawn shop records and parking tickets are that kind of questionable information. “To me, that may be where you are starting to cross the line on mass collection of information on innocent people just because you can. We live now in a world of records where everything we do is generating a record. So the standard can’t be, ‘We have to keep it all because it might be useful for something some day.’ The rationale has to be more finely tuned than that.”

~Eowyn

Arizona bill protects businesses that refuse to serve same-sex weddings

Do you remember Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado who was ordered by administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer to bake a wedding cake for two homosexuals or face fines, even though doing so violates Phillips’ Christian religious beliefs?

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Colorado

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Colorado

The Arizona state legislator just passed a bill, SB 1062: Exercise of Religion, to protect business owners from what happened to Phillips.

Catherine Briggs reports for LifeSiteNews, Feb. 25, 2014, that SB 1062 would grant business owners the right to refuse service to clients on the basis of religious objections.

In the past few years, there have been several cases of business owners facing lawsuits after refusing to provide their services to homosexual couples at their “weddings.” This bill would prevent such suits from being filed in Arizona and would protect objecting business owners from facing heavy fines.

The bill, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Jan Brewer, has been lambasted as discriminatory by its opponents, but its defenders say it’s a necessary protection for religious freedom.

As we would expect, Democrats oppose SB 1062, including all four of Arizona’s Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s religion and belief program, said, “Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but it’s not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors.”  The ACLU opposes the legislation. 

But the bill also is opposed by Republicans, including:

  • Arizona’s two federal senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have urged Gov. Brewer to veto SB 1062.
  • Of Arizona’s Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, one has refused to comment while the other four have not yet commented.

The reaction to SB 1062 from the media has been heated to say the least.  In an interview with CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo, Kelly Fiedorek, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, tried explaining the bill and how it would protect religious freedom. She says:

“[There’s] a basic difference between denying someone a cup of coffee or a piece of pizza or selling someone a pencil versus forcing someone to use their creative ability to create a message to support an event, to support an idea that goes against their beliefs. For example, we would not force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning ceremony. We wouldn’t ask a black photographer and force them to go take a picture of a KKK event. This is America and in America we should be able to live freely and not be forced to endorse ideas.”

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, responded to the fiery reaction to the passing of SB 1062 in a statement on Saturday:

“The attacks on SB 1062 show politics at its absolute worse. They represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate. Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting. I urge Governor Brewer to send a clear message to the country that in Arizona, everyone, regardless of their faith, will be protected in Arizona by signing SB 1062.”

The bill now awaits Gov. Jan Brewer’s signing or veto sometime this week. Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year during a self-imposed freeze on signing legislation until a budget was passed for the 2014 fiscal year.

According to CNN, Brewer is expected to veto what the liberal media insist on calling “the anti-gay bill” because “Sources say she is concerned about this bill taking away from other issues she is now pressing, such as overhauling Arizona’s child protective services system.”

Here’s contact info for Gov. Brewer:

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Phone Numbers
Phoenix Office: (602) 542-4331
Tucson Office: (520) 628-6580
In-State Toll Free: 1-800-253-0883 (outside Maricopa County only)

Fax Number: (602) 542-1381

To send an email, click here.

~Eowyn

Satanists want to build a 7-ft tall statue of Satan next to 10 Commandments

Remember my post of about a month ago, on a group of New York-based devil worshippers who call themselves the Satanic Temple — in the name of “religious parity” — planning to erect a monument to Satan next to the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol building in Oklahoma?

10 commandments monument outside Oklahoma state Capitol

In 2009, the conservative-led Oklahoma state legislature approved a privately funded Ten Commandments monument, which was erected last year outside the state Capitol building. Ever since the approval, opponents have called into question the constitutionality of the monument. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.

Similar requests for other “religious parity” monuments have been made by a Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

In response, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission recently placed a moratorium on considering any new requests. “Anybody can still make their request, but we’ll hold off on considering them until the [ACLU] lawsuit is adjudicated,” commission Chairman Trait Thompson said.

Well, the Satanic Temple has chosen a design for their monument.

CBS New York reports from Oklahoma City that yesterday, Jan. 6, 2014, the Satanic Temple unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan. The group hasy submitted its application to the Capitol Preservation Commission, including an artist’s rendering that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard that’s often used as a symbol of the occult. In the rendering, Satan is sitting in a pentagram-adorned throne with smiling children next to him.

BaphometDesign submitted by Satanic Temple

Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said in a statement: “The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond. The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

The push by The Satanic Temple has rankled elected leaders in this conservative state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt, who say such a proposal would never be approved by the commission.

“I think you’ve got to remember where you are. This is Oklahoma, the middle of the Heartland,” said Rep. Don Armes (R-Faxon). “I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma, and that’s not going to fly here.”

Another Oklahoma legislator, Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville), called the group’s effort “an insult to the good people of the state. I do not see Satanism as a religion, and they have no place at the state Capitol.”

Lucien GreavesGreaves makes the devil’s horns hand-sign (Oops! Excuse me! it’s really the “I love you” sign of deaf-mutes! No, it’s really the Texas Longhorns handsign! Sarc) at a Satanic Temple rally in Tallahassee, on Jan. 25, 2013, in support of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Senate Bill 98.

But Greaves says “We plan on moving forward one way or another” and claims to have raised nearly half of the $20,000 needed to build the monument.

See also:

H/t FOTM’s swampygirl

~Eowyn

Colorado Judge compels baker to sell wedding cake to homosexuals

Jack Philips of Masterpiece CakeshopMasterpiece Cakeshop

America is no longer the Land of the Free.

A judge is compelling a privately-owned business in Denver to serve a homosexual couple or face fines, even though doing so violates the business owner’s Christian religious beliefs.

Ivan Morena reports for Seattle PI, Dec 6, 2013, that Colorado Office of Administrative Courts’ administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer said Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver had discriminated against a gay couple “because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage.”

Spencer’s order says the cake-maker must “cease and desist from discriminating” against gay couples. The cakeshop will face penalties if it continues to turn away gay couples who want to buy cakes.

Homosexual couple: Charlie Craig & Dave Mullins Dave Mullins (r) with his husband Charlie Craig

In July 2012, Charlie Craig, 33, and David Mullins, 29, got married in Massachusetts and wanted a wedding cake for their celebration in Colorado. When Masterpiece Cakeshop’s owner Jack Phillips found out the cake was to celebrate a gay wedding, he turned the couple away, according to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the two homosexuals with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. 

ACLU attorney Amanda Goad said no one is asking Phillips to change his religious beliefs, “But treating gay people differently because of who they are is discrimination, plain and simple.”

Nicolle Martin, an attorney for Masterpiece Cakeshop, said the judge’s order puts Phillips in an impossible position of going against his Christian faith: “He can’t violate his conscience in order to collect a paycheck. If Jack can’t make wedding cakes, he can’t continue to support his family. And in order to make wedding cakes, Jack must violate his belief system. That is a reprehensible choice. It is antithetical to everything America stands for.”

The Civil Rights Commission is expected to certify the judge’s order next week. Phillips can appeal the judge’s order, and Martin said they’re considering their next steps.

Colorado has a constitutional ban against gay marriage but allows civil unions. The civil union law, which passed earlier this year, does not provide religious protections for businesses.

Judge Spencer said in his written order, “At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses. This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”

In other words, it’s all about “feelings.” The “hurt feelings” of Craig and Mullins are more important than a privately-owned business’ freedom of choice as to whom the business would serve.

Mullins said he and Craig are “ecstatic” and hope the “decision will help ensure that no one else will experience this kind of discrimination again in Colorado.”

A similar case is pending in Washington state, where a florist is accused of refusing service for a same-sex wedding. In New Mexico, the state Supreme Court ruled in August that an Albuquerque business was wrong to decline to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony.

*****************

Robert Spencer is an administrative law judge in the State of Colorado and, as such, he is a public servant. I spent a good half hour scouring the net for information and an image of Spencer, to no avail. The only information I found was on the “Judges” page of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts, which simply lists Robert Spencer as “Judge.”

That’s it.

Nothing on how old he is; what education and legal training he has; how he got appointed judge.

This is unacceptable!

Here’s contact info. for the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts:

Denver Office
633 17th Street, Suite 1300
Denver, CO 80202
Phone: (303) 866-2000
e-mail address: OAC-GJT@state.co.us

See also DCG’s “Oregon bakery that denied service to same-sex couple closes.” Sept. 3, 2013.

~Eowyn

It’s coming: Tax on your car mileage

screwthetaxpayer

Like a hungry lion prowling for prey, cash-poor and revenue-hungry state governments are now looking at a new tax — on how many miles you drive.

The push comes as the federal government’s Highway Trust Fund, financed with taxes Americans pay at the gas pump, is broke. We’re not buying as much gas as we used to: Cars are getting many more miles to the gallon; and the federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon hasn’t gone up in 20 years. Politicians are loath to raise the tax even one penny when gas prices are high, so they’re looking elsewhere to raise revenue — your mileage.

Evan Halper reports for the Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 2013, that as America’s road planners struggle to find the cash to mend a crumbling highway system, many are beginning to see a solution in a little black box that fits neatly by the dashboard of your car.

The devices, which track every mile a motorist drives and transmit that information to bureaucrats, are at the center of a controversial attempt in Washington and state planning offices to overhaul the outdated system for funding America’s major roads.

Wonks call it a mileage-based user fee. The tax has made unlikely allies on both sides. Among the mileage-tax advocates are:

  • Urban liberals and environmentalists (two overlapping groups), who see the mileage taxes as a way to change driving patterns in ways that could help reduce congestion and greenhouse gases.
  • Libertarians and free marketeers at the Reason Foundation. Its vice president of policy Adrian Moore said, “This is not just a tax going into a black hole. People are paying more directly into what they are getting.”
  • Two former U.S. Transportation secretaries, who in a 2011 report urged Congress to move in the pay-per-mile direction.
  • Republican Congressman Bill Shuster (Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who said he sees the tax as the most viable long-term alternative.
  • The U.S. Senate approved a $90-million pilot project last year that would have involved about 10,000 cars.

Opponents of the mileage-tax include:

  • The House GOP leaders, who killed the Senate pilot project proposal, acting on concerns of rural lawmakers representing constituents whose daily lives often involve logging lots of miles to get to work or into town.
  • The Tea Party.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union is troubled by violations of our privacy because the same black box that tracks your mileage also tracks when and where you drive. The ACLU of Nevada warns on its website: “It would be fairly easy to turn these devices into full-fledged tracking devices…. There is no need to build an enormous, unwieldy technological infrastructure that will inevitably be expanded to keep records of individuals’ everyday comings and goings.”

While Congress can’t agree on whether to proceed, several states and cities are not waiting and are moving ahead on their own:

1. Oregon

The state of Oregon is the most eager for the mileage tax and is enlisting 5,000 drivers in the country’s biggest experiment. Those drivers will soon pay the mileage fees instead of gas taxes to the state.

2. Nevada

Nevada has already completed a pilot in which about 50 volunteers’ cars recently were equipped with the black boxes. But Nevada drivers are uneasy about the government being able to monitor their every move. “Concerns about Big Brother and those sorts of things were a major problem,” said Alauddin Khan, who directs strategic and performance management at the Nevada Department of Transportation. “It was not something people wanted.”

3. California

California planners are looking to the system as they devise strategies to meet the goals laid out in the state’s ambitious global warming laws. Southern California Assn. of Governments is planning for the state to start tracking miles driven by every California motorist by 2025. The Association’s executive director Hasan Ikhrata said, “This really is a must for our nation. It is not a matter of something we might choose to do. There is going to be a change in how we pay these taxes. The technology is there to do it.”

4. Minnesota

Minnesota recently put tracking devices on 500 cars to test out a pay-by-mile system. University of Minnesota transportation policy expert Lee Munnich said, “The gas tax is just not sustainable. This works out as the most logical alternative over the long term.”

5. New York City is looking into one.

6. Illinois is trying the mileage tax on a limited basis with trucks.

7. The I-95 Coalition, which includes 17 state transportation departments along the Eastern Seaboard (including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida), is studying how they could go about implementing the mileage tax.

Obviously, a mileage tax that doesn’t involve tracking drivers’ speed and location would be more palatable.

A small California startup called True Mileage had devices that appeal to highway planners because they don’t use GPS and deliver a limited amount of information, uploaded periodically by modem. True Mileage’s chief executive Ryan Morrison says, “People will be more willing to do this if you do not track their speed and you do not track their location. There have been some big mistakes in some of these state pilot programs. There are a lot less expensive and less intrusive ways to do this.”

In Oregon, planners are experimenting with giving drivers different choices. They can choose a device with or without GPS. Or they can choose not to have a device at all, opting instead to pay a flat fee based on the average number of miles driven by all state residents.

Other places are hoping to sell the concept to a wary public by having the devices do more, not less. In New York City, transportation officials are seeking to develop a taxing device that would also be equipped to pay parking meter fees, provide “pay-as-you-drive” insurance, and create a pool of real-time speed data from other drivers that motorists could use to avoid traffic. “Motorists would be attracted to participate … because of the value of the benefits it offers to them,” says a city planning document.

Meanwhile, thousands of motorists, aka sheeple, have already taken the black boxes, some of which have GPS monitoring, for a test drive.

Some transportation planners, though, wonder if all the talk about paying by the mile is just a giant distraction. At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area, officials say Congress could very simply deal with the bankrupt Highway Trust Fund by raising gas taxes. An extra one-time or annual levy could be imposed on drivers of hybrids and others whose vehicles don’t use much gas, so they pay their fair share.

Randy Rentschler, the commission’s director of legislation and public affairs, said, “If we do this [mileage tax], hundreds of millions of drivers will be concerned about their privacy and a host of other things. There is no need for radical surgery when all you need to do is take an aspirin [increase gas taxes].”

~Eowyn

It’s now illegal to pray in Jesus’ name in this NC county

persecutionA federal judge, James A. Beaty Jr., ruled last week that city commissioners in Rowan County, North Carolina must immediately cease opening government meetings with Christian prayers because doing so violates the constitutional rights of three county residents who found those prayers oppressive.

Rowan County NCThe three Rowan County residents are Nancy Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker.

Katherine Weber reports for Christian Post, July 25, 2013, that Judge James A. Beaty Jr. allowed a preliminary injunction against the prayers in the case Lund, et al. v. Rowan County, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation in March on behalf of three Rowan County residents, who argued their constitutional rights were being violated because the majority of the county commission’s prayers were Christian in scope.

“Defendant Rowan County, North Carolina is hereby enjoined from knowingly and/or intentionally delivering or allowing to be delivered sectarian prayers at meetings of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners during the pendency of this suit,” read the docket entry in the U.S. Middle District Court case, as reported by Fox News. 

The lawsuit is representing Rowan County residents Nancy Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker.

Montag-Siegel told the local Salisbury Post that she was delighted with the judge’s Tuesday ruling because she believes it shows that all Rowan County residents should be treated “fairly”: “We feel that the judge recognized that the law applies to everyone and that what we’re asking for – which is for people to feel equal and for people to not feel left out when they come to meeting [...] has been listened to.”

Judge Beaty Jr. also denied on Tuesday the county’s request to drop the case, saying that similar cases are currently being debated in higher courts.

Rowan County Commissioner Craig Pierce said in an email response to WBTV that although the commission would not disobey the judge’s ruling, he believes that the real issue has to do with First Amendment rights rather than the commision of prayer:

“Naturally we anticipated the injunction. We were told by our attorneys that it would come. This is just another example of the ACLU trying to take away the rights of the American citizen. It’s not about prayer as much as a first amendment right, I don’t give up my rights because I’m sitting in a chair conducting county business. I’m not casting any opinion for the rest of the commission, or other members of the board, but for me it’s all about first amendment rights.”

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners in March, claiming that the commission expressed preference to the Christian religion in that an alleged 97% of board meetings since 2007 had opened with Christian-themed prayers.

The ACLU claimed in a press release at the time that some portions of the commission’s opening prayers included statements “there is only one way to salvation, and that is Jesus Christ,” as well as references to the “virgin birth,” the “cross at Calvary,” and “the resurrection.”

The main sticking point with the ACLU was that the commissioners in the meetings performed the prayers themselves, instead of having a volunteer citizen or chaplain deliver the prayer.

But in a similar case in Hamilton County, Tenn. earlier this week, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge refused to halt prayers performed at the county’s commissioner meetings, arguing that they were constitutional because they could be offered voluntarily by any citizen of any religious denomination.

Federal judge James Beaty Jr.

Federal judge James Beaty Jr.

64-year-old James A. Beaty Jr., was nominated in 1994 by then Pres. Bill Clinton to the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. In 2006, Beaty became chief judge of that court, and is based in Winston-Salem, NC. In 2011, Beaty had blocked NC’s cuts to Planned Parenthood.

~Eowyn

Police scanners record location and movement of every car in America

Eye of Sauron

It is not enough that the Obama regime’s National Security Agency (NSA) collects our every email, phone call, credit card purchase, and bank transaction. Our police departments now have records on the location and movement of your cars — all done in the name of protecting us from “terrorists” and criminals.

The images of our cars and license plates are taken by automated scanners affixed to bridges and buildings, or mounted on police cars, like the one below.

Police car with license plate scannerA Police Dept. squad car outfitted with a license plate scanner mounted to the trunkAn Alexandria, VA Police Department squad car outfitted with a license plate scanner mounted to the trunk (photo by Pablo Martinez/AP) 

But it turns out that license plate scanners actually produced only a small fraction of “hits,” or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle has been found. Which then begs the question of what’s the real reason why our government is recording our cars’ every movement and location.

Anne Flaherty reports for the Associated Press, July 17, 2013, that your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

According to a study published July 17, 2013, by the American Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement agencies across America, using automated scanners, have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.

As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge’s approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver’s location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a “single, high-resolution image of our lives.”

“There’s just a fundamental question of whether we’re going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine,” said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The civil rights group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to a crime.

Law enforcement officials said the scanners can be crucial to tracking suspicious cars, aiding drug busts and finding abducted children. License plate scanners also can be efficient. The state of Maryland told the ACLU that troopers could “maintain a normal patrol stance” while capturing up to 7,000 license plate images in a single eight hour shift.

“At a time of fiscal and budget constraints, we need better assistance for law enforcement,” said Harvey Eisenberg, chief of the national security section and assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Law enforcement officials also point out that the technology is legal in most cases, automating a practice that’s been done for years. The ACLU found that only five states have laws governing license plate readers. New Hampshire, for example, bans the technology except in narrow circumstances, while Maine and Arkansas limit how long plate information can be stored.

“There’s no expectation of privacy” for a vehicle driving on a public road or parked in a public place, said Lt. Bill Hedgpeth, a spokesman for the Mesquite Police Department in Texas, which has records stretching back to 2008, although the city plans next month to begin deleting files older than two years. “It’s just a vehicle. It’s just a license plate.”

In Yonkers, N.Y., just north of the Bronx, police said retaining the information indefinitely helps detectives solve future crimes. In a statement, the department said it uses license plate readers as a “reactive investigative tool” that is only accessed if detectives are looking for a particular vehicle in connection to a crime. “These plate readers are not intended nor used to follow the movements of members of the public.”

But even if law enforcement officials say they don’t want a public location tracking system, the records add up quickly. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, the population is only 250,000 but the city collected more than 2 million plate images on file. Because the city keeps records for five years, the ACLU estimates that it has some 10 million on file, making it possible for police to plot the movements of most residents depending upon the number and location of the scanners, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU study, based on 26,000 pages of responses from 293 police departments and state agencies across the country, also found that license plate scanners produced a small fraction of “hits,” or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle has been found. In Maryland, for example, the state reported reading about 29 million plates between January and May of last year. Of that amount, about 60,000 — or roughly 1 in every 500 license plates — were suspicious. The No. 1 crime? A suspended or revoked registration, or a violation of the state’s emissions inspection program accounted for 97% of all alerts.

Eisenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney, said the numbers “fail to show the real qualitative assistance to public safety and law enforcement.” He points to the 132 wanted suspects the program helped track. They were a small fraction of the 29 million plates read, but he said tracking those suspects can be critical to keeping an area safe.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

When will the American people wake up to the realization that, by forfeiting our freedom and our privacy to Big Brother in exchange for the elusive promise of “security,” we have made a Faustian bargain?

~Eowyn

Immigration reform bill will create a national biometric database

The so-called Gang of 8* immigration reform amnesty bill, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, is bad enough, given that:

  • Its total costs are estimated to be $6.3 trillion (!).
  • Two amendments acknowledging same-sex marriage were recently added to the bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

* Gang of 8 refers to the four Republicans and four Democrats who are sponsors of the bill. They are Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Big Brother is watching

But there is something even worse, something downright sinister, hidden in the 844-page bill: a national biometric database of every adult in the United States.

Biometrics refers to the identification of humans by distinctive measurable characteristics, such as iris scan, DNA or fingerprint.

David Kravets reports for Wired, May 10, 2013:

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”

For now, the legislation allows the database to be used solely for employment purposes. But historically such limitations don’t last. The Social Security card, for example, was created to track your government retirement benefits. Now you need it to purchase health insurance.

“The Social Security number itself, it’s pretty ubiquitous in your life,” Calabrese said.

David Bier, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, agrees with the ACLU’s fears.

“The most worrying aspect is that this creates a principle of permission basically to do certain activities and it can be used to restrict activities,” he said. “It’s like a national ID system without the card.”

For the moment, the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee is focused on the parameters of legalization for unauthorized immigrants, a border fence and legal immigration in the future.

The committee is scheduled to resume debate on the package next Tuesday.

~Eowyn

Homosexual couple book remains in school library

A model of "inclusiveness"

A model of “inclusiveness”

Davis School District settles lawsuit with ACLU over book depicting same-sex homosexual couple

Deseret News (Farmington, UT): After returning a book depicting a same-sex homosexual couple to elementary school library shelves, Davis School District officials have agreed to not remove “In Our Mothers’ House” from libraries based on its content.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed against the district by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Tina Weber, a mother whose children attend school in the district. But district spokesman Chris Williams said the settlement applies primarily to the book in question, and the district’s policy of reviewing library books for offensive content remains in place.

The lawsuit was filed after the district removed “In Our Mothers’ House” by Patricia Polacco from four school library shelves to be placed behind counters as the result of a petition by a group of parents. Students were still able to check out and access the book, but only with parental permission.

Earlier this month, Assistant Superintendent Pamela Park instructed librarians to return the book to library shelves. Park said the existing library computer system, which allows parents to block their children from accessing certain books, is sufficient to address what individual parents find objectionable.

The lawsuit also took issue with the district’s argument that “In Our Mothers’ House” violated the state’s sex education law, which prohibits schools from using educational materials that endorse or advocate for homosexuality.

According to the ACLU of Utah, the district has agreed that library books do not fall under the sex education statute and furthermore that a depiction of a family with same-sex homosexual parents does not constitute advocacy of homosexuality.

In the terms of the settlement, provided to the Deseret News by Davis School District, the district agrees to not rely on the current wording of the sex education statute as a basis to remove or restrict access to school library books.

“We’re glad that the school (district) agrees that they can’t remove a book from the shelves just because some people don’t agree with its content,” said John Mejia, legal director of the ACLU of Utah. “Children shouldn’t be discouraged from learning about different homosexual families or cultures by keeping books behind a counter as if there was something wrong with them.”

Williams said books deemed objectionable will still be subject to review under district policy. The settlement also states that it does not represent an admission of liability, but rather is a “compromise of disputed claims.”

Davis School District succumbs to the minority, of course. Just following the Communist Goals for America: Get control of the schools, break down cultural standards of morality, and present homosexuality as “normal, natural, healthy.” Reason  ∞ to home school.

DCG

Obama’s secret DOJ memo on killing US citizens

A secret Obama regime memo, detailing the circumstances and legal justification in which a US government may order the killing of an American citizen who is a high-ranking member of al-Qaida, has just been leaked.

Titled “Department of Justice White Paper,” a copy of the 16-page memo was obtained by NBC.

The memo gives a very wide latitude and flexibility to the Executive Branch of the U.S. government to decide whether an individual is “a senior al-Qaida member” and when and how that individual poses “an imminent threat” to U.S. national security. Add to all this the fact that the memo insists the President needs not consult or obtain the court’s approval.

Obama FOR WAR D

Peter Beaumont reports for the UK’s Guardian, Feb. 5, 2013, that the document, dating from 2011, lays out for the first time the precise rationale for carrying out targeted killings of senior al-Qaida members who are US citizens, and who are believed to pose an “imminent threat of violent attack” against Amercia.

Although the white paper deals specifically with the issue of when and how the president can order the killing of a US citizen who is a member of al-Qaida, it also provides one of the most comprehensive accounts of the wider international legal framework the US believes supports its controversial drones policy.

Although the paper does not specify the “minimum legal requirements” for launching such an operation, it insists that the killing would be constitutionally justified as the United States is engaged in an “armed conflict”, as defined by international law and authorized by Congress, with al-Qaida and its affiliates.

In a key passage in the document – which is unsigned – it argues that for a US citizen who has rights under the due process clause and the fourth amendment, “that individual’s citizenship would not immunize from a lethal operation”.

The paper concludes: “Where certain circumstances are met, a lethal operation against a US citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qaida … and who himself poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, would not violate the constitution.”

The leaking of the documents came as eight Democratic and three Republican senators wrote to Barack Obama requesting the disclosure of all the legal opinions drawn up at his request authorizing the killing of Americans.

The question of the constitutionality of such operations emerged after the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born radical Muslim cleric, in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. Although the leaked paper is not understood to be the legal determination that authorized that killing, it is understood to mirror it.

The paper argues that the operation must be consistent with the laws of war, and that capture of the individual must have be found to be unfeasible. But in a number of areas, it controversially appears to give considerable flexibility to administration officials to define key issues.

Those include defining the imminence of the specific threat and the operational seniority of the target, considerations outside of the overview of the US courts. The paper insists the decision to authorize a lethal operation may be made by an “informed, high-level official of the US government”, rather than by the courts.

On the issue of imminence, the justification is particularly wide-reaching: as attacks are “continually” being planned by al-Qaida, it is argued, “imminence must incorporate considerations of the relevant window of opportunity.”

The paper justifies the exclusion of the courts by arguing that “judicial enforcement of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”

The leaking of the document, with its dense legal argument justifying the targeted killings of US citizens, is certain to escalate the arguments that have been swirling around the issue.

Speaking to the New York Times, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project, denounced the memorandum as “a profoundly disturbing document”, adding: “It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority: the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them, far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”

Here’s the URL of the 16-page memo, “Department of Justice White Paper”:

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf

If that URL doesn’t work, I’ve saved the pdf document to FOTM’s Media Library. Click here: DOJ_White_Paper

Now do you see what 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror spawned? We have gone from George W. Bush’s troubling Patriot Act to this monstrosity of Obama’s kill memo. :(

~Eowyn