We Want to Clarify That Our Authority Is Vague

The Obama administration wants Congress to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act so that the FBI can obtain "electronic communication transactional records" without a court order, simply by issuing a "national security letter." It's not exactly clear what "electronic communication transactional records" are, since the phrase is not defined in the statute. But according to The Washington Post, "Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history." The admistration's lawyers emphasize that the FBI would still need a court order to obtain the content of messages, and they argue that the information involved is equivalent to the phone records that already can be obtained with an NSL, which show the dates and times of calls as well as the numbers dialed.

That's not really true, however. For one thing, an email address is person-specific, while a phone number does not necessarily tell you who was on the other end of the call. Furthermore, phone records do not contain anything like a Web browsing history, which can be highly revealing. "Our biggest concern," Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston tells the Post, "is that an expanded NSL power might be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited and every file downloaded." Michael Sussman, a Justice Department attorney in the Clinton administration, says "you're bringing a big category of data—records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information—outside of judicial review." An attorney who represents Internet companies wonders whether a Facebook friend request counts as a "transactional record."

A Justice Department spokesman insists "this clarification will not allow the government to obtain or collect new categories of information, but it seeks to clarify what Congress intended when the statute was amended in 1993." To the contrary, the statute's requirements were already clarified by a 2008 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which said the information that can be obtained from a phone company or ISP without a court order is limited to a customer's name, address, length of service, and toll billing records. What the Obama administration wants is not a "clarification"; it is a government-friendly fuzzification.

The New York Times sees a broken promise, noting that a 2008 Obama position paper (PDF) declared:

There is no reason we cannot fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties....As president, Barack Obama would revisit the Patriot Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.

But since the FBI is so punctilious about obeying the current NSL rules, why worry?

Addendum: I just noticed that the same position paper promised to "eliminate warrantless wiretaps." Obama not only did not eliminate them; as a senator he voted to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that it explictly authorized them, while shielding companies that helped the Bush administration break the law from liability.

[Thanks to Tricky Vic for the tip.]

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  • ||

    "The Obama administration wants Congress to amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act so that the FBI can obtain "electronic communication transactional records" without a court order, simply by issuing a "national security letter."

    Well, at least there aren't any prisoners still in Guantanamo.

    Now that's change you can hope in!

  • Suki||

    Let me try to understand this. Measures like these were bad during the campaign, but they are fine now?

  • ||

    There's always hope during the campaign, Suki.

    ...and then afterward comes the change you can hope in!

    It may not be any real change at all, but it is change you can hope in. And that's the important thing.

    Oh, and don't forget to vote. That's important too. 'cause obviously it doesn't matter who's in office from a bailout standpoint or a civil rights standpoint...

    Oh, and it's also important not to blame John since he voted for Kang.

    Good morning.

  • Suki||

    Do you write for Obama or do you just do a great impression?

  • ||

    C'mon, liberaltarians. Let's hear a round of applause! Because the one thing, the ONE THING, that Dems are definitely better than Repubs at is civil liberties, restraining the police state, all that jazz.

  • ||

    Kerry McCain would have been worse!

  • Suki||

    What about Gore? Speaking of Algore, is he going to the royal wedding?

  • ||

    To be fair, it is somewhat better than what the Bush Administration did.

    It's one thing to go to Congress and ask for a law giving you the ability to do something; quite another to just go ahead and do it and then argue that you already had the authority after the fact. ...when you didn't.

    It's the difference between a lynch mob and justice in the old West, though. Sure, either way, they've already decided to hang us, it's just that this bunch is gonna give us a trial first.

  • ||

    To be fair, it is somewhat better than what the Bush Administration did.

    In this case, no its not. The Bushies didn't do this, as far as I can tell, didn't go to Congress to get authority to do it, and indeed the Bush Justice Department said they didn't have the authority to go this far.

    The Obamatrons want Congress to authorize it. How is that better, exactly?

  • ||

    Maybe we're talking about different things.

    I do not believe the Bush Administration went to get a law making warrantless wiretapping okay before the fact...

    They didn't even go to a judge.

    They said they already had to authority to do that--after they got caught.

    That's different from going to Congress beforehand. The end result may be the same, but going out and making sure you have a law authorizing what you want to do is an order of magnitude better than doing whatever the hell you want and then relying on some secret, internal Bush Administration legal opinion.

    It's the difference between having the powers of the President constrained by the law and Congress, on the one hand, and the powers of the President being constrained only by the advice of the President's counsel.

  • Suki||

    They used the same wiretap authority and methods that had been used by several administrations before them, to include Clinton.

    The press seemed to use "warrentless" with wiretap the same way Reason forgets to use "illegal" with immigration.

  • ||

    Back in the day, "Kerry would have been worse!" was a standard H&R catchphrase every time the Bush Administration screwed up again...

    Once the Bush Administration became indefensible, that was all his onetime fanboys had to say for themselves. I think we're getting into that territory with Obama.

    McCain would have been worse? It's really hard to imagine that at this point. ...not that he wouldn't have put us in his own maverick flavor of hell.

  • ||

    The one clear advantage to McCain is that he would have been at loggerheads with Congress on at least some issues.

  • ||

    "They used the same wiretap authority and methods that had been used by several administrations before them, to include Clinton."

    If you can help me out with a link to the Clinton Administration sidestepping FISA to do surveillance on American citizens, I'd really appreciate it.

    Some people hate Clinton because he raised taxes. Some people hate him because of his ethical lapses.

    I'll always think of him as the man who executed a retarded kid just to prove he was tough on crime, but I'd love another reason to hate on him too.

  • Suki||

    My GOD, the first story in a Google search for Clinton+Warrentless+Wiretaps gets you this. I am renewing my vow not to look shit up for the willfully ignorant.

  • ||

    That isn't willfull ignorance.

    What you're talking about is some legal argument various lawyers have made over something that, from what I can tell, no one but the Bush Administration actually did.

    I couldn't care less about what the inherent meaning of emergency powers are--from what I can tell, the Clinton Administration never sidestepped FISA to do surveillance on American citizens.

    There isn't much new under the sun in the way of arguments made by lawyers on behalf of the President. That's the president's counsel's job--throwing every possible argument at whatever the president's done or wants to do to make it okay or possible.

    Actually doing something like that is a completely different animal. I'm sure there's a lawyer's argument on file somewhere saying it's okay for the President to order people executed in war time--but why would that matter?

    Same thing here. There may have been arguments for why it was okay to sidestep FISA from the day it was ratified--so who actually did the sidestepping?

    Was it Clinton? Because I'm not seeing that here.

  • ||

    Seriously...

    Am I supposed to think that because some past President's lawyer argued for something, that makes it okay for future Presidents to actually do?

    Regardless of the law?

    And am I supposed to think that's in no way different from the Obama Administration going to Congress and asking for a law beforehand?

    It seems like you're asking me to be willfully ignorant.

  • WTF||

    Have you seen some of the arguments Nixon's lawyers made?

    And Clinton's, too, yeah.

  • ||

    I believe you are overlooking that, on this issue, the Bush DOJ issued an opinion that the statute doesn't go that far, while the Obama administration has taken the position that it isn't clear (already less civil-liberties friendly than the Bushies) and that they want the authority (much less civil liberties-friendly than the Bushies).

    On the specific issue of warrantless wiretaps, Obama approved them and shielded them with immunity. I suppose we could argue whether it is worse for a single administration to engage in this practice without clear legal support, or worse for Congress to enshrine the practice, with immunity, into law.

    But I don't see how that argument advances the position that Dems are to be trusted on civil liberties.

  • ||

    Let us pause for a moment and realize that the correct answer isn't Bush or Obama. In fact, they both should be lumped together as--

    Unacceptable on Civil Liberties
    Unacceptable on Foreign Policy
    Unacceptable on Economics
    Unacceptable on Limited Government
    Unacceptable.

    Unacceptable,
    In every way.
    And forever more,
    That's how you'll stay.

  • ||

    I agree, Pro L. I'm just looking for anyone saying different. So I know who to slap around.

  • ||

    I know you pox their houses--just wanted to make the general observation that our options are not shit and crap.

  • ||

    I think it was Juvenal who, after someone asked him why he wrote so much satire, said something to the effect of, "Given the world I live in, what else could I write?"

    Sometimes ridicule really is the best medicine.

  • ||

    I wonder what Imperial America will look like? Will we have repeated civil wars before then, or will it just spring forth one day and be accepted?

  • WTF||

    Obama is going to have the DoD build him this big space station, the size of a small moon, equipped with an extremely powerful weapon, capable of wiping out entire planets in a single shot.

    Fortunately for us rebel forces, he will also use government architects and engineers, who will overlook a fatal weakness - a small nuclear reactor exhaust port at the end of a long trench.

  • ||

    I agree.

    Trying to compare is tough, we don't know what they did in secret. We only know what's reported.

  • Number 2||

    But ProL, you need to bear one additional fact in mind on the issue of national security and civil liberties. Obama specifically condemned what Bush was doing and told us he be different. Just like he told us that most Americans will not see their taxes increase "one single dime" Or that all the Congressional health care debates would be broadcast on C-Span.

    But like he told McCain earlier this year, "John, the campaign's over."

  • ||

    If you're telling me that the shit is worse today, I completely agree. This president and this Congress are among the worst ever.

  • ||

    To be fair, it is somewhat better than what the Bush Administration did.

    You seem to have missed the part where the restrictive DOJ ruling that Obama wants to overturn came in 2008. Remember who was president during the entirety of that year?

  • ||

    Actually, I kind of prefer the "just do it, then have the Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional later" approach.

    It's much better then the "let Congress authorize this in perpetuity" approach, IMO.

  • FBI||

    All your Internets are belong to us.

  • Suki||

    +1 LULZ!

  • ||

    ""All your Internets are belong to us.""

    It's for the childrens

  • kilroy||

    Whaddaya wanna bet they've already gotten their hands on this information for someone they want to bust/persecute/railroad/discredit and they can't use it publicly because they shouldn't have it?

  • WTF||

    The sad thing is, I can't tell whether you're being cynical, paranoid or merely realistic.

  • ||

    Every time I see a car with an Obama bumper sticker, I want to ram it with my truck.

  • ||

    Every time I see one, I want to open my window and ask how they're feeling about the wars being ended, Guantanamo being closed, etc, and then sneer in their face. Morons.

  • ||

    What's appalling is the number of those idiots who'll vote for him again. Dudes, the man raped you.

  • ||

    Well, they still sort of reflexively defend him, but the people that I know who were super hyped that he was going to be secular Jesus are even souring on him pretty heavily now. In other words, I think he's pretty fucked if the GOP can field someone against him who isn't a complete 'tard, which is admittedly asking a lot of them.

  • ||

    ""What's appalling is the number of those idiots who'll vote for him again. Dudes, the man raped you.""

    I said roughly the same thing in 2004.

  • ||

    And I voted for Bush in 2000.

  • ||

    I think GOP supporters were pretty blind to how they were raped, due to the whole war thing. That's the big blind spot for the right--give up everything you believe in because we've got some military conflict to deal with. Stupid.

  • ||

    One of the excuses I heard about voting for Bush in 2004 was they didn't want to change Commander-in-cheif during a war. I'm going to have fun with that one in 2012.

  • ||

    I've been un-friended (enemied?) on Facebook by about 20 people for doing the virtual equivalent of that. Of course, most of that was during the early part of the administration when the medical MJ promises first started being broken. At the present time, I wouldn't even know which issue to start with... maybe choice IS paralyzing!

  • joe from lol||

    blah blah blah, just more of the same. This is why I left this place.

  • MJ||

    You assuming that those are major issues for someone who has an Obama bumber sticker.

  • WTF||

    Glad to know I'm not alone in having that urge in response to seeing those stickers.

    At the very least, I just want to pull alongside and flip them off. But then that would perpetuate their perceived stereotype, wouldn't it. Especially as I'm usually driving a big pickup with a faded NRA sticker. Which clearly means I'm a racist, teabagging, homophobic, right-wing, wife-beating, bible-thumping gun nut.

    Well at least they'd have the gun nut part right.

  • Almanian||

    Right with you both. WTF, sing along with me:

    "I heaven...there are no Brady Laws..."

  • ||

    Putting the phrase "collateral murder" into perspective:

    Taliban hunt Wikileaks outed Afghan informers

  • Suki||

    But . . . but . . . they went through the tens of thousands of documents to redact the names of anybody who might be killed! The wikileaker hero of Cosmotarian reason said so and he is not a government guy!

  • ||

    You are tedious beyond belief. I think you know this deep down.

  • Suki||

    Stop replying to me you freak of nature.

  • Suki||

    dbc, you got a h/t on the blog. thanks for the link

  • ||

    Back off man!
    I've got a National Security Letter!
    I will so totally use it, asshole!

  • ||

    Why no judicial review? I have serious doubts that the Obama administration has trouble finding willing accomplices judges. Why risk letting this become an issue? Are they just fucking with us now?

  • ||

    Even friendly judges might frown on using data mining techniques for massive internet fishing expeditions.

    That is where this all leads. We have a "suspect". He e-mailed a, q, t, x, y and z. Now we need to see who a, q, t, x, y and z. He visited and commented on websites d, g, and p as well so we need to gather information on all the people who commented on websites d, g, and p also.

    Six degrees of seperation and we're all being monitored in Admiral Poindexter's wet dream of Total Information Awareness.

    I know it's getting old but I just gotta

    Meet the new boss ...

  • ||

    That is where this all leads. We have a "suspect". He e-mailed a, q, t, x, y and z. Now we need to see who a, q, t, x, y and z. He visited and commented on websites d, g, and p as well so we need to gather information on all the people who commented on websites d, g, and p also.

    And through the mechanisms of the Great State, we can expect, one, two or all three of these outcomes:

    1. Summer intern loses data, on a thumb drive, on the Metro and it ends in the hands of a 14 year old who uses it to purchase endless amounts of pron.
    2. Homeland Security's public affairs office mistakenly puts all the data up on the department's website and everyone in the world experiences rolling identity thefts and the galactic economy slows down to a crawl.
    3. A disgruntled employee sells the info to the russians, who have a disgruntled employee sell it to some identity theives in Albania, who hold the whole world ransom.
    [writing a screenplay now]

  • ||

    ""Even friendly judges might frown on using data mining techniques for massive internet fishing expeditions.""

    An arguement can be made that a lot of the data is either public record, intended for publication, or no expectation of privacy on information given to a thrid party.

    ""Six degrees of seperation and we're all being monitored in Admiral Poindexter's wet dream of Total Information Awareness.""

    Exactly. TIA never went away. It went to a protection program where its name was changed and it moved to a different location.

  • ||

    We no longer need judicial review. We have the Right People in charge now.

  • ||

    Team America!

  • ||

    Come on, Obamatrons! Defend this shit. I need a good laugh, it's Friday.

  • Max, Chad, Tony, et al.||

    This makes our pockets tight.

  • ||

    They seem to be hiding. I don't see any discussions on the lefty blogs, either. They must be just hoping that nobody will notice.

  • ¢||

    They don't have to defend it. It's not about that. It's about being the -tron.

  • ||

    "All right. Give you another Swahili word. It's, ah, it's tron. It means dude."

  • ||

    Shouldn't the protons be protrons?

  • ||

    Dialect and don't correct Venus.

  • libertarian realist||

    To all you libertarians and especially the Reason editors who voted for me: How's my ass taste?

    Sincerely,
    Barack

  • Mayor Richard Daley||

    Why don't we see how it feels when I shove this gun up your ass and pull the trigger?

  • Almanian||

    C'mon now, Dick, violence never solved anything.

    Well, except WWII. And WWI. And a bunch of other wars. And the pecking order among a bunch of chickens. Well, and who'd the new Alpha Dog of the pack. OK, and some other stuff...fire away.

  • ||

    We Want to Clarify That Our Authority Is Vague

    "Let me be clear, my authority is vague"

    Would have been a way better title

  • ||

    Respect my vague authority!

  • Brad Potts||

    There are five bullets under "Restoring Our Values" and an argument can be made that he has accomplished none of these.

    Extreme rendition continues with a presidential pledge to have more oversight and discretion. (At the same time the Obama DOJ managed to win impunity from lawsuits by those claiming their rights were abridged by rendition practices that lead to torture)

    Guantanamo Bay is not closed.

    The Patriot Act continues as it has.

    Warrantless wiretaps have been expanded.

    The only grant of habeas corpus has really been made for Guantanamo detainees by the courts. There are several black sites where detainees are still held without habeas corpus.

  • WTF||

    This from an acquaintance, when I e-mailed him the link to this story:

    "Y'know, they told me if I didn't vote for Obama, the Constitution would get shredded.

    And they were right!"

  • Shirley Sherrod||

    You racists won't rest with your criticism until Obama and all other blacks are back in chains, will you?

    Jacob, if you were a white farmer, I would SO not be helping you right now.

  • Almanian||

    Shirl, we only require chains during childbirth (see yesterday's H&R)

  • BeltwayLurker||

    FTW

  • juris imprudent||

    Who knew that Maggie's Farm was a minstrel tune.

  • ||

    Obama administration: Arizona has no right to regulate immigration separately from Congress -- but we do...


    The Obama administration is considering ways it could go around Congress to allow undocumented migrants to stay in the United States since its attempts to push a broad overhaul of immigration law have been thwarted, according to an agency memo.

    The internal draft written by officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlines ways that the government could provide "relief" to illegal immigrants — including delaying deportation for some, perhaps indefinitely, or granting green cards to others — in the absence of legislation revamping the system.

    It's emerging as chances fade in this election year for a measure Obama favors to put the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants on a path to legal status, and as debate rages over an Arizona law targeting people suspected of being in the country illegally.

    "This memorandum offers administrative relief options to promote family unity, foster economic growth, achieve significant process improvements and reduce the threat of removal for certain individuals present in the United States without authorization," reads the 11-page document, which was written in April of this year and addressed to the agency's director.
  • ||

    Not surprising. I can't imagine they would let a big pool of potential Democratic voters get away from them like that.

  • ||

    One begins to wonder, with some dread, how far our current Dem masters will go when they feel power slipping from their scaly, reptilian fingers.

    Will the Congress go Mad Duck and pass cap and trade, immigrant amnesty, and card check?

    Or will Obama save them the trouble and do it all by executive fiat, instead? They are certainly laying the groundwork for this. Now that C02 is a "pollutant", the EPA has cover to impose C&T. The workaround for immigration has been drafted. With the historic balance of the NLRB tossed into the ash-heap of history, I don't suppose there's much stopping them from imposing card check, either.

  • ||

    Or will Obama save them the trouble and do it all by executive fiat, instead?

    This has been the trend...i mean the constitution has hardly been changed in the last 100 years...why change it when you can just reinterpret it or ignore it.

    Law by fiat is simply the next stage in this evolotion. Hell it really is not that new...congress has been letting agancies write the law for some time. I is not as if the CO2 regulations impossed on us by the EPA is a new thing for the EPA. They write and rewrite regulations all the time all without one roll call from congress.

  • ||

    Re: the EPA: The CO2 maneuver is qualitatively different from the previous regulatory behavior under the Clean Air Act, since it involves regulating a pollutant which (a) occurs naturally in significant quantities in the atmosphere, and (b) does not directly affect human health at the levels that CO2 emission commonly produces.

  • CJ||

    So Bush heads up the Patriot Act and wiretapping, and with Obama we get tracking Internet communications. Why, it's almost as if Republicans and Democrats are on the same team, working to set up greater powers for each other as they rotate through government offices.

  • ||

    ""So Bush heads up the Patriot Act and wiretapping, and with Obama we get tracking Internet communications. ""

    They were tracking Internet comm with Bush too. Why do think the NSA has its own equipment room in the telcoms?

    And yes, when it comes to screwing Americans, red and blue is the same team. Some people just want to give their team a pass out of fear it will give the other team ammo.

  • Ben P.||

    Okay, multiple choice test:

    1) The following email address -- tickets@concertvenue.com -- is:
    a) a personal, private email address, belonging to one person;
    b) a personal, professional email address assigned by a company to one person;
    or c) a generic, professional email address which probably can be checked by multiple individuals at a company.

    2) The following phone number -- 954-222-1212 -- is:
    a) a land line to a house that might be answered by any number of people; or
    b) a corporate number that might be answered by any number of people; or
    c) the number to a cell phone which is usually carried and answered by one person and one person only; or
    d) it is impossible to tell from the phone number given.

    So what's this again about emails being person-specific while phones generally aren't?

    Don't get me wrong: I'm opposed to the administration's tactics on this, but this sliver of the argument, well, in the words of the great cartoon pontificator Foghorn T. Leghorn, is a dog, I say, a dog that just won't hunt there, son.

  • ||

    The FBI recently asked for the power to obtain without warrants, Citizens’ “electronic communication transactional records” including email addresses they used to send communications. If the FBI’s request for warrant-less Internet surveillance is granted, Citizens to avoid federal conspiracy charges will have to report to police (every email) they receive that might allude to anything illegal.

    FBI’s request for no warrant Internet surveillance can’t be viewed separately: if pending bills in Congress pass, the FBI can then use its warrant-less Internet surveillance to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans on mere suspicion not evidence, based on their Internet Activity. Private information the FBI derives from warrant-less searches of emails and Internet Activity—could potentially be used by U.S. Government to blackmail, target anyone though government harassment, prosecution or civil asset forfeiture because he or she disagreed with government.

    Will lawful Internet Activity, be used by Government to detain/arrest Americans without probable cause? On March 4, 2010, Sen. McCain introduced The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” McCain’s bill would eliminate several Constitutional protections allowing Government to arbitrarily pick up Americans on mere suspicion—with no probable cause. Under McCain’s bill, your political opinions and statements made on web postings and in emails against U.S. Government and others could be used by authorities to deem you a “hostile” “Enemy Belligerent” to cause your arrest and indefinite detention. U.S. activists and individuals under McCain’s bill would be extremely vulnerable to detention or prosecution, if (charged with suspicion) of “intentionally providing support to hostilities or an Act of Terrorism”, for example American activists can’t control what other activists might do illegally—they network by email domestically and overseas. The Government under McCain’s bill would need only allege an individual kept in military detention, is an Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent suspected of; having engaged in hostilities against the United States; its coalition partners; or Civilians or (has) purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States; its coalition partners or U.S. civilians. Detained Americans can be denied legal counsel.

    Alarmingly the Obama Government recently employed a vendor to search Internet social networking sites to collect information about Americans that could potentially be used by this government to injure Americans, for example, if you apply for a federal job, your name might be crossed referenced by the Obama Government with comments you made at Websites against Obama; or if you make application at a bank for a loan the Government has control since the financial crisis, could your Internet comment(s) prevent you getting that loan? Obama’s monitoring of the Internet sites can too easily be used by Government to intimidate, coerce and extort Corporations and Citizens from speaking out.

    See McCain’s 12-page Senate bill S.3081 The “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010 at: assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/politics/ARM10090.pdf

    Obama gave a speech in May 2010 that asked Congress to pass legislation to give the President power, to detain any person in the U.S. that government deems a “combatant” or likely to engage in a violent act in the future. President Obama wants the power to incarcerate U.S. Citizens not on evidence, but for what they might do. Obama wants the power to override the U.S. Constitution, to detain indefinitely any American based on conjecture her or she might do something violent in the future. If Obama’s proposal to detain Americans without probable cause is approved, and FBI is granted warrant-less searches of the Internet, it is foreseeable Government could use anyone’s Internet activity including emails to claim an individual or lawful organization might do something violent in the future to order their indefinite detainment. See: Obama Sound-Video asking for power to detain people without probable cause at:
    http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/630.html

    What the recent Washington Post Report, (Secret America) did not mention: in the U.S., government-private contractors and their operatives work so close with U.S. law enforcement, exchanging information to arrest Americans and or share in the forfeiture of their assets, they appear to have merged with police. Similarly in 1933 Hitler merged his private police the Gestapo with German national security. Before the Gestapo was consolidated with the German Government, the Gestapo arrested Citizens and confiscated private property with no legal authority. However U.S. Government has already granted that power to private U.S. contractors. In 1939 all German Police agencies including the Gestapo were put under the control of the "Reich Main Security Office” the equivalent of U.S. Homeland Security.

    Can History repeat itself? Should there be a radical change of U.S. Government, history shows law enforcement is generally not replaced; that police will work for—e.g. a fascist U.S. Government; communist or other despot government—against the interests of Citizens. Note: The German police first worked for a democracy before Hitler; then worked for the Nazi Fascists; then joined the Soviet Union’s East German Police (Stasi) believed to be the world most oppressive police force until the German Wall came down. Consequently it should be expected U.S. Government security contractors and private mercenary corporations would work for a despot U.S. Government.

    If FBI warrant-less Internet Spying is approved, it is problematic the FBI will share its spying with law enforcement, government contractors and private individuals that have security clearances to facilitate the arrest and forfeiture of Americans’ property—-to keep part of the bounty. Police too easily can take an innocent person’s hastily written email, Internet fax, phone call or web activity out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause an arrest or confiscation of someone’s property. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. Under federal civil asset forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property.

    Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 passed, the “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” and effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. With such a weak statute of limitations and the low standard of civil proof needed for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to FBI, NSA and other government Internet surveillance, including wiretaps perhaps illegal to arrest Americans and to seize their homes, assets and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws.

    Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police and government contractors become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to pay their salaries and operating costs?

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  • And much more.

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