Blog Archives

The Iron Jaws of the Police State: Trump’s America Is a Constitution-Free Zone

Run for Your Life: The American Police State Is Coming to Get You

Death at Your Door: Knock-and-Talk Police Tactics Rip a Hole in the Constitution

The Multibillion-Dollar U.S. Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard of

Ihre Papiere, Bitte! (Your Papers, Please): Are We Being Set Up for a National ID System?

Your Papers, Please: Are We Being Set Up for a National ID System?

“Big Brother” Watches Everyone in America: Obama Signs “Ministry of Truth” into Law

Paris, Brussels, Nice, Berlin… The Role of “Massive Casualty Producing Events”. The Roadmap to a Police State

The Radical Jesus: How Would the Baby in a Manger Fare in the American Police State?

Wards of the Nanny State

The Tyranny of 9/11 The Building Blocks of the American Police State from A-Z

Academic Freedom in America? Tenured Professor Questioning Official Sandy Hook Shootings Narrative Fired

Shot Down Like A Dog

The Criminalization of the State. The Roadmap to a Police State

America: The Punishment Society. “Violence is the Defining Hallmark of the US”

Increasing Police Brutality: Americans Killed by Cops Now Outnumber Americans Killed in Iraq War

America’s Police State Is Rooted in Four Federal Wars

WATCH: 14 Police Take Down a One-legged Homeless Black Man

Tyranny Grows in America as FBI Insists No Warrant Needed to Snoop on Private Citizens’ Cell Phone Calls

Police kill man holding toy gun in California

Vigilantes with a Badge: The War Against the American People

By John W. Whitehead 

 “We live in a small rural town. Moved here in 1961. I don’t remember what year the State Troopers moved a headquarters into our town. Our young people were plagued with tickets for even the smallest offense. Troopers had to get their limits for the month. People make jokes about that but it has been true. Every kid I knew was getting ticketed for something. But now it is so much worse. I raised my kids to respect police. If they did something wrong and got caught they deserved it and should take their punishment. But now I have no respect for the police. I feel threatened and fearful of them. They are aggressive and intimidating. They lie and are abusive and we do not know how to fight them. I am not a minority here but people are afraid if they speak out they will be targeted. We are just a small town. I just don’t care anymore if they do target me. I am afraid they are going to kill someone.”—Letter from a 60-year-old grandmother

The following incidents are cautionary tales for anyone who still thinks that they can defy police officers, even if it’s simply to disagree about a speeding ticket, challenge a search warrant or defend oneself against an unreasonable or unjust charge, without deadly repercussions. The message they send is that “we the people” have very little protection from the standing army that is law enforcement.

For example, Seattle police repeatedly tasered seven-months pregnant Malaika Brooks for refusing to sign a speeding ticket. While Brooks bears permanent burn scars on her body from the encounter, police were cleared of any wrongdoing on the grounds that they didn’t know that tasering a pregnant woman was wrong.

Eight Los Angeles police officers fired 103 bullets at two women in a newspaper delivery truck they mistook for a getaway car during a heated manhunt. The older woman was shot twice in the back and the other was wounded by broken glass. The women were offered a $4.2 million settlement for their injuries, while the officers were reprimanded for acting inappropriately, “retrained” and put back on the streets.

During the course of a routine investigation, a group of Los Angeles police officers beat, punched, and tasered Kelly Thomas, schizophrenic, homeless and suspected of vandalizing cars, until he was brain dead. The two officers charged for their role in the beating were acquitted and will face no time in prison. A third officer who was supposed to be charged will also walk free.

New York City police, pursuing a man who had reportedly been weaving among cars in Times Square, fired into a crowd, shooting a 54-year-old woman in the knee and another woman in the buttocks. Although the officers faced no repercussions for their reckless behavior, prosecutors charged the suspect with felony assault on the grounds that he was responsible for the injuries caused by the police.

Chicago police arrested, beat, and sodomized with a gun Angel Perez, pushing in his eye sockets, driving his elbows back into his head, and sticking a gun into his rectum, all in an effort to “persuade” him to be a drug informant. All of the officers remain in active duty, patrolling the streets.

Houston police shot and killed Brian Claunch, a mentally ill double amputee, who had refused to drop a ballpoint pen. The police officer was cleared of any misconduct and remains on the force. Curiously, in the last six years, the Houston Police Department has yet to find a single police shooting unjustified. Between 2007 and 2012, the HPD officers injured 111 civilians while fatally shooting 109 people.

This phenomenon we are experiencing with the police is what philosopher Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument, which essentially says that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s henchmen, a.k.a. its guns for hire, a.k.a. its standing army, a.k.a. the nation’s law enforcement agencies.

Indeed, there can no longer be any doubt that armed police officers, the end product of the government—federal, local and state—and law enforcement agencies having merged, have become a “standing” or permanent army, composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband. Yet these permanent armies are exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights feared as tools used by despotic governments to wage war against its citizens.

That is exactly what we are witnessing today: a war against the American citizenry.

Let that sink in a moment, and then consider that not a day goes by without reports of police officers overstepping the bounds of the Constitution and brutalizing, terrorizing and killing the citizenry. Indeed, the list of incidents in which unaccountable police abuse their power, betray their oath of office and leave taxpayers bruised, broken and/or killed grows longer and more tragic by the day to such an extent that Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.

Making matters worse, when these officers, who have long since ceased to be peace officers, violate their oaths by bullying, beating, tasering, shooting and killing their employers—the taxpayers to whom they owe their allegiance—they are rarely given more than a slap on the hands before resuming their patrols. Ironically, even when the victims are awarded multi-million dollar settlements to compensate for the injuries suffered at the hands of out-of-control police, amped up on the power of the badge and the gun, it’s the taxpayers who must sacrifice, scrimp and save in order to pay for their transgressions, all the while, the officers, never held accountable for their actions, continue to collect regular paychecks, benefits and pensions.

Before I am drowned out by howls of outrage from those who consider all individuals in uniform blameless and noble to a fault, let me acknowledge that there are undeniably many honorable law enforcement officials (some of whom are among my closest friends) who strive to abide by their oath to uphold the Constitution and serve and protect the citizens of their communities. However, they are fast becoming a minority in a sea of police officers who take advantage of their broad discretion and repeatedly step beyond the bounds of the law, ignoring their responsibility to respect the Bill of Rights. These latter individuals are little more than vigilantes—albeit vigilantes with a badge—and our communities are presently being overrun by individuals entrusted with enforcing the law who are allowed to operate above the law and break the laws with impunity.

This lawlessness on the part of law enforcement, an unmistakable characteristic of a police state, is made possible in large part by police unions which routinely oppose civilian review boards and resist the placement of names and badge numbers on officer uniforms; police agencies that abide by the Blue Code of Silence, the quiet understanding among police that they should not implicate their colleagues for their crimes and misconduct; prosecutors who treat police offenses with greater leniency than civilian offenses; courts that sanction police wrongdoing in the name of security; and legislatures that enhance the power, reach and arsenal of the police.

As I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we’re entering the final phase of America’s transition to authoritarianism, a phase notable for its co-opting of civilian police as military forces. American police forces were never supposed to be a branch of the military, nor were they meant to be private security forces for the reigning political faction. Instead, they were intended to be an aggregation of countless local police units, composed of citizens like you and me that exist for a sole purpose: to serve and protect the citizens of each and every American community.

As a result of the increasing militarization of the police in recent years, however, the police now not only look like the military—with their foreboding uniforms and phalanx of lethal weapons—but they function like them, as well. Thus, no more do we have a civilian force of peace officers entrusted with serving and protecting the American people.  Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials have shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, acting preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power, unrestrained by the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment. As journalist Herman Schwartz observed, “The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”

This brings me to the looming question, the one to which there is no easy answer: what can “we the people” do to protect themselves from the police? While there are scattered attempts to combat police abuses underway, ranging from increased surveillance of on-duty police officers through the use of lapel cameras, and campaigns to film police interactions with one’s smart phone, to legislation authorizing citizens to use force against a police officer who is acting unlawfully, few bring about any lasting change.

The solution is far simpler yet so much more difficult to achieve. As with all things—no matter what level of government, whether you’re talking about abuses within law enforcement, Congress, the National Security Agency, or within your own community—for real change to occur, it will take Americans getting outraged enough to speak up and speak out. It will take them showing up at City Council meetings, picketing in front of police stations, and demanding that their concerns, complaints and fears about police brutality—not only for themselves but for their fellow citizens of lesser incomes, darker skin tones and questionable lifestyles—be acknowledged and acted upon.

To put it another way, there can be no hope for freedom unless “we the people” recognize that every time the police shoot an unarmed citizen, taser an elderly person, or beat someone senseless or crash through a homeowner’s door, they are really shooting me, tasering you, and beating senseless your children, your neighbors and your loved ones.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book “The Freedom Wars” (TRI Press) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37839.htm

Turn Every E-mail Into a Stand Against Mass Surveillance

By Jesselyn Radack

February 05, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “Daily Kos“- In one simple step, you can turn every e-mail you send into a warning and protest against the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance programs. My organization, the Government Accountability Project, is distributing and encouraging use of a Privacy Statement for all Internet users to adopt as part of their signature line in their online communications:

This communication may be unlawfully collected and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in secret. The parties to this email do not consent to the retrieving or storing of this communication and any related metadata, as well as printing, copying, re-transmitting, disseminating, or otherwise using it. If you believe you have received this communication in error, please delete it immediately.

The NSA is making no effort to filter out communications that the government knows fall within the ambit of legally-recognized confidentiality, such as the doctor-patient, attorney-client, or priest-penitent privileges. Consider all of the privileged and confidential information communicated electronically: an e-mail to your therapist about an upcoming appointment, an e-mail to your doctor to refill a prescription, or to your attorney about an upcoming divorce.

These violations of privacy are not speculation. The Nation reported earlier this week that many attorney-client communications are not subject to NSA’s minimization procedures:

Such calls are normally sacrosanct under the principle of attorney-client privilege, the ability to speak confidentially with your lawyer. But a leak to The Guardian last summer of National Security Agency (NSA) procedures that are supposed to protect privileged calls showed that some attorney-client privileged calls are not subject to internal rules that detail the instances when a wiretap should be turned off.

Just as Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General James Cole told the House Judiciary Committee that the phone records of members of Congress were not filtered out of the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program, there is no indication – even from surveillance state proponents – that NSA weeds out the privileged communications of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.

The e-mail signature message serves a warning and a protest against mass surveillance. In addition to the e-mail action, next Tuesday, February 11, 2014, has been dubbed “The Day We Fight Back”against mass surveillance:

Participants including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and more to come, will join potentially millions of Internet users to pressure lawmakers to end mass surveillance — of both Americans and the citizens of the whole world.

Americans can take a stand against mass surveillance, by participating in Tuesday’s “Day We Fight Back,” by making every e-mail they send a protest against mass surveillance, and by calling on Congresspeople to support real reform (like the USA FREEDOM Act) and to oppose fake reforms that further empower the national security surveillance apparatus (like Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s FISA Improvements Act).

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden sacrificed his career and his life as he knew it to give Americans the knowledge and opportunity to reign in the surveillance state. When Snowdenanswered questions from the public in January, he expressed a remarkable faith in American democracy:

Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden

Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

(emphasis added)

If Snowden can maintain his patriotism and faith in democracy amid the near-constant retaliatory threats and smears from high-level US government officials, Americans can seize the chance to prove that American democracy can roll back an out-of-control and powerful surveillance apparatus. You can begin with two clicks of your mouse, copy and paste the message to your e-mail signature line:

This communication may be unlawfully collected and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) in secret. The parties to this email do not consent to the retrieving or storing of this communication and any related metadata, as well as printing, copying, re-transmitting, disseminating, or otherwise using it. If you believe you have received this communication in error, please delete it immediately.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37565.htm

Police Kill Man Who Had His Hands Up

Video

Unarmed suspect had turned his back and raised his hands above his head before he was shot and killed by a Pinal County sheriff’s deputy.

Experts who have seen the video have conflicting opinions, and an eyewitness’ account differs from the official account.

No weapon was found.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37540.htm

Cops War On People Deadlier Than Iraq

Video

Over 5,000 people have been killed in the US by police than US soldiers have fallen during the Iraq war over the last 10 years. The figure seems to reflect the increased militarization of police and, shockingly, means that you are 29 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.

Posted January 23, 2014

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37450.htm

Life in the Emerging American Police State: It’s Time for a Second American Revolution.

By John W. Whitehead

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Vol. 1

December 31, 2013 “Information Clearing House – In Harold Ramis’ classic 1993 comedyGroundhog Day, TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is forced to live the same day over and over again until he not only gains some insight into his life but changes his priorities. Similarly, as I illustrate in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we in the emerging American police state find ourselves reliving the same set of circumstances over and over again—egregious surveillance, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc.—although with far fewer moments of comic hilarity.

What remains to be seen is whether 2014 will bring more of the same or whether “we the people” will wake up from our somnambulant states. Indeed, when it comes to civil liberties and freedom, 2013 was far from a banner year. The following is just a sampling of what we can look forward to repeating if we don’t find some way to push back against the menace of an overreaching, aggressive, invasive, militarized government and restore our freedoms.

Government spying. It’s hard to understand how anyone could be surprised by the news that the National Security Agency has been systematically collecting information on all telephone calls placed in the United States, and yet the news media have treated it as a complete revelation. Nevertheless, such outlandish government spying been going on domestically since the 1970s, when Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA’s breaches, warned the public against allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” Recent reports indicate that the NSA, in conjunction with the CIA and FBI, has actually gone so far as to intercept laptop computers ordered online in order to install spyware on them.

Militarized police. With almost 13,000 agencies in all 50 states and four U.S. territories participating in a military “recycling” program, community police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware—tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield—in droves. Keep in mind that once acquired, this military equipment, which is beyond the budget and scope of most communities, finds itself put to all manner of uses by local law enforcement agencies under the rationale that “if we have it, we might as well use it”—the same rationale, by the way, used with deadly results to justify assigning SWAT teams to carry out routine law enforcement work such as delivering a warrant.

Police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Sadly, it is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas “who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police… after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident.” And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? The lesson to be learned: this is what happens when you take a young man (or woman), raise him on a diet of violence, hype him up on the power of the gun in his holster and the superiority of his uniform, render him woefully ignorant of how to handle a situation without resorting to violence, train him well in military tactics but allow him to be illiterate about the Constitution, and never stress to him that he is to be a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, respectful of and subservient to the taxpayers, who are in fact his masters and employers.

The erosion of private property. If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat or what you smoke, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home. If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property. If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own—they are the property of the state. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, and probe you intimately, your body is no longer your own, either. This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like, where the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant or serf in bondage to an inflexible landlord.

Strip searches and the loss of bodily integrity. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect the citizenry from being subjected to “unreasonable searches and seizures” by government agents. While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity. Unfortunately, court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately. For example, during a routine traffic stop, Leila Tarantino was allegedly subjected to two roadside strip searches in plain view of passing traffic, while her two children—ages 1 and 4—waited inside her car. During the second strip search, presumably in an effort to ferret out drugs, a female officer “forcibly removed” a tampon from Tarantino. No contraband or anything illegal was found.

Invasion of the drones. As corporations and government agencies alike prepare for their part in the coming drone invasion—it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry—it won’t be long before Americans discover first-hand that drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to middle-sized copter drones that can deliver pizzas to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high. Police in California have already begun using Qube drones, which are capable of hovering for 40 minutes at heights of about 400 ft. to conduct surveillance on targets as far as 1 kilometer away. Michael Downing, the LAPD deputy chief for counter-terrorism and special operations, envisions drones being flown over large-scale media events such as the Oscars, using them to surveil political protests, and flying them through buildings to track criminal suspects.

Criminalizing childish behavior. It wouldn’t be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance which plagues our nation’s schools. Some of the most egregious: the 9-year-old boy suspended for allegedly pointing a toy at a classmate and saying “bang, bang”; two 6-year-old students in Maryland suspended for using their fingers as imaginary guns in a schoolyard game of cops and robbers; the ten-year-old Pennsylvania boy suspended for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination; the six-year-old Colorado boy suspended and accused of sexual harassment for kissing the hand of a girl in his class whom he had a crush on; and the two seventh graders in Virginia suspended for the rest of the school year for playing with airsoft guns in their own yard before school.

Common Core. There are several methods for controlling a population. You can intimidate the citizenry into obedience through force, relying on military strength and weaponry such as SWAT team raids, militarized police, and a vast array of lethal and nonlethal weapons. You can manipulate them into marching in lockstep with your dictates through the use of propaganda and carefully timed fear tactics about threats to their safety, whether through the phantom menace of terrorist attacks or shooting sprees by solitary gunmen.  Or you can indoctrinate them into compliance from an early age through the schools, discouraging them from thinking for themselves while rewarding them for regurgitating whatever the government, through its so-called educational standards, dictates they should be taught. When viewed in light of the government’s ongoing attempts to amass power at great cost to Americans—in terms of free speech rights, privacy, due process, etc.—the debate over Common Core State Standards, which would transform and nationalize school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade, becomes that much more critical. These standards, which were developed through a partnership between big government and corporations and are being rolled out in 45 states and the District of Columbia, will create a generation of test-takers capable of little else, molded and shaped by the federal government and its corporate allies into what it considers to be ideal citizens.

The corporate takeover of America. The corporate buyout of the American political bureaucracy is taking place at every level of government, from the White House all the way to the various governors’ mansions, and even local city councils. With Big Business and Big Government having fused into a corporate state, the president and his state counterparts—the governors, have become little more than CEOs of the Corporate State, which day by day is assuming more government control over our lives. The average American has no access to his or her representatives at any but the lowest level of government, and even then it’s questionable how much really gets through. Never before have average Americans had so little say in the workings of their government and even less access to their so-called representatives. Yet one of the key ingredients in maintaining democratic government is the right of citizens to freely speak their minds to those who represent them. In fact, it is one of the few effective tools we have left to combat government corruption and demand accountability. But now, even that right is being chipped away by laws and court rulings that weaken our ability to speak freely to the politicians who govern us.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, put it best: “Take alarm,” he warned, “at the first experiment with liberties.” Anyone with even a casual knowledge about current events knows that the first experiment on our freedoms happened long ago. Worse, we have not heeded the warnings of Madison and those like him who understood that if you give the government an inch, they will take a mile. Unfortunately, the government has not only taken a mile, they have taken mile after mile after mile after mile with seemingly no end in sight for their power grabs.

If you’re in the business of making New Year’s resolutions, why not resolve that 2014 will be the year we break the cycle of tyranny and get back on the road to freedom. As I’ve said before, it’s time for a second American revolution.

Copyright 2013 © The Rutherford Institute

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37267.htm

Citizens Have Become Subjects

2014 Will Bring More Social Collapse

By Paul Craig Roberts

December 30, 2013 “Information Clearing House – 2014 is upon us. For a person who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1961, a year in which the class ring showed the same date right side up or upside down, the 21st century was a science fiction concept associated with Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” To us George Orwell’s 1984 seemed so far in the future we would never get there. Now it is 30 years in the past.

Did we get there in Orwell’s sense? In terms of surveillance technology, we are far beyond Orwell’s imagination. In terms of the unaccountability of government, we exceptional and indispensable people now live a 1984 existence. In his alternative to the Queen’s Christmas speech, Edward Snowden made the point that a person born in the 21st century will never experience privacy. For new generations the word privacy will refer to something mythical, like a unicorn.

Many Americans might never notice or care. I remember when telephone calls were considered to be private. In the 1940s and 1950s the telephone company could not always provide private lines. There were “party lines” in which two or more customers shared the same telephone line. It was considered extremely rude and inappropriate to listen in on someone’s calls and to monopolize the line with long duration conversations.

The privacy of telephone conversations was also epitomized by telephone booths, which stood on street corners, in a variety of public places, and in “filling stations” where an attendant would pump gasoline into your car’s fuel tank, check the water in the radiator, the oil in the engine, the air in the tires, and clean the windshield. A dollar’s worth would purchase 3 gallons, and $5 would fill the tank.

Even in the 1980s and for part of the 1990s there were lines of telephones on airport waiting room walls, each separated from the other by sound absorbing panels. Whether the panels absorbed the sounds of the conversation or not, they conveyed the idea that calls were private.

The notion that telephone calls are private left Americans’ consciousness prior to the NSA listening in. If memory serves, it was sometime in the 1990s when I entered the men’s room of an airport and observed a row of men speaking on their cell phones in the midst of the tinkling sound of urine hitting water and noises of flushing toilets. The thought hit hard that privacy had lost its value.

I remember when I arrived at Merton College, Oxford, for the first term of 1964. I was advised never to telephone anyone whom I had not met, as it would be an affront to invade the privacy of a person to whom I was unknown. The telephone was reserved for friends and acquaintances, a civility that contrasts with American telemarketing.

The efficiency of the Royal Mail service protected the privacy of the telephone. What one did in those days in England was to write a letter requesting a meeting or an appointment. It was possible to send a letter via the Royal Mail to London in the morning and to receive a reply in the afternoon. Previously it had been possible to send a letter in the morning and to receive a morning reply, and to send another in the afternoon and receive an afternoon reply.

When one flies today, unless one stops up one’s ears with something, one hears one’s seat mate’s conversations prior to takeoff and immediately upon landing. Literally, everyone is talking nonstop. One wonders how the economy functioned at such a high level of incomes and success prior to cell phones. I can remember being able to travel both domestically and internationally on important business without having to telephone anyone. What has happened to America that no one can any longer go anywhere without constant talking?

If you sit at an airport gate awaiting a flight, you might think you are listening to a porn film. The overhead visuals are usually Fox “News” going on about the need for a new war, but the cell phone audio might be young women describing their latest sexual affair.

Americans, or many of them, are such exhibitionists that they do not mind being spied upon or recorded. It gives them importance. According to Wikipedia, Paris Hilton, a multimillionaire heiress, posted her sexual escapades online, and Facebook had to block users from posting nude photos of themselves. Sometime between my time and now people ceased to read 1984. They have no conception that a loss of privacy is a loss of self. They don’t understand that a loss of privacy means that they can be intimidated, blackmailed, framed, and viewed in the buff. Little wonder they submitted to porno-scanners.

The loss of privacy is a serious matter. The privacy of the family used to be paramount. Today it is routinely invaded by neighbors, police, Child Protective Services (sic), school administrators, and just about anyone else.

Consider this: A mother of six and nine year old kids sat in a lawn chair next to her house watching her kids ride scooters in the driveway and cul-de-sac on which they live.

Normally, this would be an idyllic picture. But not in America. A neighbor, who apparently did not see the watching mother, called the police to report that two young children were outside playing without adult supervision. Note that the next door neighbor, a woman, did not bother to go next door to speak with the mother of the children and express her concern that they children were not being monitored while they played. The neighbor called the police.http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mom-sues-polices-she-arrested-letting-her-kids-134628018.html

“We’re here for you,” the cops told the mother, who was carried off in handcuffs and spent the next 18 hours in a cell in prison clothes.

The news report doesn’t say what happened to the children, whether the father appeared and insisted on custody of his offspring or whether the cops turned the kids over to Child Protective Services.

This shows you what Americans are really like. Neither the neighbor nor the police had a lick of sense. The only idea that they had was to punish someone. This is why America has the highest incarceration rate and the highest total number of prison inmates in the entire world. Washington can go on and on about “authoritarian” regimes in Russia and China, but both countries have far lower prison populations than “freedom and democracy” America.

I was unaware that laws now exist requiring the supervision of children at play. Children vary in their need for supervision. In my day supervision was up to the mother’s judgment. Older children were often tasked with supervising the younger. It was one way that children were taught responsibility and developed their own judgment.

When I was five years old, I walked to the neighborhood school by myself. Today my mother would be arrested for child endangerment.

In America punishment falls more heavily on the innocent, the young, and the poor than it does on the banksters who are living on the Federal Reserve’s subsidy known as Quantitative Easing and who have escaped criminal liability for the fraudulent financial instruments that they sold to the world. Single mothers, depressed by the lack of commitment of the fathers of their children, are locked away for using drugs to block out their depression. Their children are seized by a Gestapo institution, Child Protective Services, and end up in foster care where many are abused.

According to numerous press reports, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year-old children who play cowboys and indians or cops and robbers during recess and raise a pointed finger while saying “bang-bang” are arrested and carried off to jail in handcuffs as threats to their classmates. In my day every male child and the females who were “Tom boys” would have been taken to jail. Playground fights were normal, but no police were ever called. Handcuffing a child would not have been tolerated.

From the earliest age, boys were taught never to hit a girl. In those days there were no reports of police beating up teenage girls and women or body slamming the elderly. To comprehend the degeneration of the American police into psychopaths and sociopaths, go online and observe the video of Lee Oswald in police custody in 1963. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FDDuRSgzFk  Oswald was believed to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy and murdered a Dallas police officer only a few hours previously to the film. Yet he had not been beaten, his nose wasn’t broken, and his lips were not a bloody mess. Now go online and pick from the vast number of police brutality videos from our present time and observe the swollen and bleeding faces of teenage girls accused of sassing overbearing police officers.

In America today people with power are no longer accountable. This means citizens have become subjects, an indication of social collapse.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37258.htm

The Police State Wants What the Police State Wants

By William Boardman 

October 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  [Note: Since the lifting of the federal court gag order on October 2, Ladar Levison and his company, Lavabit, have been getting some media attention (including a somewhat snide and incomplete story on page one of the New York Times). What follows in an effort to reconstruct at least the outline of a personal nightmare inflicted by our government on a small business owner who had done no wrong, even in the government’s eyes ­– at least until he started taking his constitutional rights seriously.]

The Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution is anti-police-state

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” [emphasis added]

The founding document of the United States is inherently suspicious of a government’s willingness to abuse its powers, a suspicion rooted in centuries of tyranny around the world. Even the U.S. government, as well as state and local governments, have abused their powers from time to time since the country’s beginning. The drift toward an American police state intensified under the guise of anti-Communism, but that was mostly a convenient cover for state intrusion into people’s lives. The Soviet Union collapsed, but the nascent American police state kept growing. The Patriot Act of 2001, a massive assault on personal and political liberty, was largely written before 9/11 and passed, largely unexamined, in the hysterical atmosphere and raw panic of that over-hyped “new Pearl Harbor.”

Now we have a police state apparatus of almost unimagined dimension, most of which is kept secret and remains unknown, despite the efforts of a few reporters and whistle blower, who tell the truth at their personal peril.

The “American police state” is likely an abstraction in the minds of many people, and as long as they remain unknowing and passive, it’s likely to leave them alone. But even law-abiding innocence is not a sure protection of a person’s right to be secure. And when the police state comes after you in one of its hydra-headed forms, the assault can be devastating.

For starters, the state won’t always tell you when it begins

The intrusion of the police state into your life can shatter your world even before you realize it’s begun. Fight it, or surrender to it, the cost is huge. Recovery may be possible, eventually, if it’s ever allowed, but it will be hard, and it will take time.

In May 2013, Ladar Levison was 32 when the police state first came after him. The dreaded “knock on the door” was actually only an FBI business card on his door at home. And Levison’s initial interactions with the FBI were reportedly mild and civil, at first by email and later in person. The FBI was interested in Levision because he owned and operated a secure email service called Lavabit. From the FBI point of view, Lavabit was too secure, because the NSA and the rest of the security state couldn’t get into it.

Right out of college, Levison had started Lavabit as a sole proprietorship in April 2004 (the same month Google launched Gmail at a much greater scale). Having grown up in San Francisco, Levison studied computer science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he still lives. While working on his start-up, he supported himself mostly with internet security projects for financial services. He also worked as a consultant on website development for clients such as Dr Pepper, Nokia, and Adidas.

What Lavabit was selling was secure email, much more secure than anything Google, Microsoft, or most other email providers were offering. The demand was not that great at first. It took six years for Lavabit to gather enough paying subscribers to allow Levison to devote himself to the business fulltime in 2010. Even when the FBI became interested in Lavabit in May 2013, it was still a small company, with two employees and about 400,000 subscribers. But one of those subscribers was another American about Levison’s age, 30-year old Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose leaked documents have added so much to our understanding of the dimensions and activities of the American police state. Snowden opened his moc.tibaval@nedwonsde email account in 2010.

Political repression may not be the government’s overt intent, but it works

At this point, there’s no indication that Levison and Lavabit ever had anything but a commercial relationship with Snowden. It’s even possible that Snowden had nothing to do with the FBI’s initial interest in Lavabit. It may be that Lavabit’s effective security was sufficient offense to the surveillance forces to make it an object of attack for its own sake. In May 2013, Levison says he had the impression the FBI agents who talked to him didn’t even know who or what was the subject of their investigation. The FBI hasn’t said.

Levison is not an obviously political person, he hasn’t been revealed to be involved in party politics or political causes. “Until last summer, Mr. Levison, a Republican of libertarian leanings, had not been active in politics,” according to the New York Times October 9. He seems to be the person he seems to be: a thoughtful, hardworking, physically fit, computer business guy who has had a dog named Princess since January 2010 and who spends a lot of his spare time keeping in shape playing beach volleyball.

Princess has her own album on his Facebook page, where the dominant theme by far is Levison’s competition in beach volleyball (with albums for Sunday Night, as well as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Nights) and there is one picture of Levison with Rep. Ron Paul. Levison’s page shows membership in just one Facebook group, “OCCUPY (Support) EDWARD SNOWDEN and All Other Whistleblowers,” to which someone else added him about two months ago. Among his 43 “Likes,” Levison lists two Interests (programming and computers), lots of volleyball Activities, and six books, including William Gibson’s Neuromancer, George Orwell’s 1984, and Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment.

From another perspective, Levison is as political as the Fourth Amendment, which is as profoundly political as it gets. It was the Patriot Act’s assault on the Fourth Amendment, Levison says, that contributed to his decision to start Lavabit in 2004, when the act was up for renewal and much in the news. Among the many objections to the act was that it gave to federal agents excessive authority to, in effect, write their own search warrants on no other authority but their own. In the Orwellian language of the act, these personal searched warrants are known as “national security letters.” Levison designed the security architecture of the Lavabit email and storage services to be beyond the reach of unwarranted searches, even in national security letters. As Levison recalled on Democracy Now! in August:

“And as I was designing and developing the custom platform, it was right around when the PATRIOT Act came out. And that’s really what colored my opinion and my philosophy, and why I chose to take the extra effort and build in the secure storage features and sort of focus on the privacy niche and the security focus niche…. [for] people who want email but don’t necessarily want it lumped in and profiled along with their searches or their browsing history or any of their other Internet activities.”

You can’t reveal what you don’t know – and that provides more security

During May 2013, Levison met for “a couple hours” with FBI agents at his office, where he explained how his security system and his business operated. As Levison told Democracy NOW! the service included his personal pledge of security:

“I’ve always liked to say my service was by geeks, for geeks. It’s grown up over the last 10 years, it’s sort of settled itself into serving those that are very privacy-conscious and security-focused. We offered secure access via high-grade encryption. And at least for our paid users, not for our free accounts—I think that’s an important distinction—we offered secure storage, where incoming emails were stored in such a way that they could only be accessed with the user’s password, so that, you know, even myself couldn’t retrieve those emails.

“And that’s what we meant by encrypted email. That’s a term that’s sort of been thrown around because there are so many different standards for encryption, but in our case it was encrypted in secure storage, because, as a third party, you know, I didn’t want to be put in a situation where I had to turn over private information. I just didn’t have it. I didn’t have access to it.”

Over the years, Lavabit has received and complied with “at least two dozen subpoenas” from the local sheriff’s office to the federal courts, Levison says, “I’ve always complied with the law.” Each of those subpoenas targeted a specific individual and appeared to Levison to be consistent with the Fourth Amendment. As recently as June 2013, he complied with an unrelated subpoena seeking information on one of his subscribers accused of violating child pornography law.

A secret subpoena from the American police state is different

On June 6, 2013, the Guardian began publishing surveillance state revelations based on documents from Edward Snowden, the Lavabit.com email subscriber. On June 9, Snowden revealed that he was the whistlblower who leaked documents to the Guardian and others. The first secret court order against Lavabit came the next day.

On or about June 10, the Justice Dept., on behalf of the FBI, went to federal court to compel Lavabit to provide information “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation” involving someone with a single Lavabit email account. The FBI has not identified the subject of this investigation, but it is widely believed to be Snowden.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (the Fourth Circuit) granted the FBI’s request and issued the disclosure order against Lavabit that same day. A one-page, single-spaced attachment to the order listed the categories of information to be disclosed, including names, addresses, phone records, other subscriber identities, billing records, activity records, and “information about each communication” – in other words, everything about the email account “not including the contents of communications.” The order did not mention encryption keys, SSL keys, or the like. These are closely guarded secrets in a security business like Lavabit.

The U.S. Magistrate Judge who signed the initial order gave Lavabit 10 days to comply. He also sealed the court records from public view and further ordered that Lavabit “shall not disclose the existence of the application of the United States, or the existence of this order” to anyone except “an attorney for Lavabit.” In other words, Levison was subject to a gag order before he ever found out the FBI was definitely coming after him.

In the meantime, on June 14, the Justice Dept. filed a sealed criminal complaint against Snowden, who was then in Hong Kong. The government accused him of three offenses – theft of government property and two forms of “unauthorized communication” the Espionage Act of 1917. The criminal complaint, which was made public a week later, gave the government 60 days to file a formal indictment.

Getting unsatisfying compliance, the FBI decided to raise the stakes

According to a later Justice Dept. filing: “Mr. Levison received that order on June 11, 2013. Mr. Levison responded by mail, which was not received by the government until June 27, 2013. Mr. Levison provided very little of the information sought….” [emphasis added]

On June 28, the day after getting Levison’s belated response to the June 10 order, the Justice Dept. went back to the Fourth Circuit Court in Alexandria seeking an order “authorizing the installation and use of a pen register/trap device on an electronic mail account” – an FBI wiretap on email. Levison had no notice of the government motion and no opportunity to contest it. A new judge on the case, Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, promptly ordered the wiretap installed on the basis that the government “has certified that the information likely to be obtained by such installation and use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation….” Like the first order, this order did not mention encryption keys, SSL keys, or the like.

FBI special agents met with Levison in Dallas the same day to discuss the new order, which Levison had not yet received, as well as a prior summons to appear before a grand jury. The agents presumably explained to Levison that the court had issued a secret order based on a secret motion, itself based on secret evidence (or none at all) and that Levison was not only compelled to comply but was also still under court order to keep the whole secret process a secret, this time with no exception even for his attorney.

According to a later government filing, “Mr. Levison told the agents that he would not comply with the pen register order and wanted to speak to an attorney. It was unclear whether Mr. Levison would not comply with the order because it was technically not feasible or difficult or was not consistent with his business practice of providing secure, encrypted email service for his customers.”

As Levison months later explained to reporters about Lavabit: “We’re wholly focused on secure email. Without it, we have no business.” In Levison’s view, breaking Lavabit’s security without the right to tell his customers would have been to commit commercial fraud.

Judge Buchanan keeps the pressure on Levison and Lavabit

Following this meeting, the Justice Dept. immediately went before Judge Buchanan seeking an order to compel Lavabit to comply with the other Magistrate’s earlier order and install the FBI wiretap and to “furnish agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, forthwith, all information, facilities, and technical assistance necessary to accomplish the installation and use of the pen/trap device…” as ordered pursuant to federal law [U.S. Code, Title 18, sec. 3123].

Judge Buchanan immediately granted the “Order Compelling Compliance Forthwith,” based in part on her findings that “Lavabit informed the Federral Bureau of Investigation that the user of the account had enabled Lavabit’s encryption services and thus the pen/trap device would not collect the relevant information” and that “Lavabit informed the FBI that it had the technological capability to obtain the information but did not want to ‘defeat [its] own system’…”

Judge Buchanan ordered Lavabit to provide “unencrypted data pursuant to the Order.” Noting that failure to comply “forthwith” would subject Lavabit to “any penalty within the power of the court,” Judge Buchanan added in her own handwriting, “including the possibility of criminal contempt of court.” This order was issued under seal.

Previously, Levison faced the possibility of being fined for civil contempt if he failed to comply. Now he also faced going to jail. And the court’s most recent orders, in their plain language, prevented Levison from discussing his situation with anyone, not even an attorney.

According to the FBI, agents “made numerous attempts, without success, to speak and meet directly with Mr. Levison” during the next ten days. On July 9, the Justice Dept. returned to the Fourth Circuit court seeking an order for Lavabit to show cause why it “has failed to comply with the orders entered June 29” by Magistrate Buchanan, and why Lavabit should not be held in contempt of court for its failure to comply.

Judge Hilton decides a hearing with the parties present might help

Judge Claude Hilton issued the show cause order the same day, including a summons for Lavabit to appear at a hearing a week later. Judge Hilton is a secrecy case veteran, having served on the secretive FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court from 2000 to 2007. The Judge continued to keep the Lavabit case under seal, but reinstated Lavabit’s exception to the gag rule when consulting with an attorney.

The next day, Levison went to the FBI field office in Dallas for a meeting/conference call that included prosecutors and FBI agents in Washington and his attorney in San Francisco, convened “to discuss Mr. Levison’s questions and concerns… [that] focused primarily on how the pen register device would be installed on the Lavabit LLC system, what data would be captured by the device, what data would be viewed and preserved by the government… [and] whether Mr. Levison would be able to provide ‘keys’ for encrypted information.”

The parties did not reach an agreement at the meeting and the next day, July 11, Levison’s attorney informed the FBI that she no longer represented Levison or Lavabit. The same day, Levison “indicated that he would not come to court [for the July 16 show cause hearing] unless the government paid for his travel,” according to a government filing.

Rather than engage in a dispute over travel expenses, the FBI served Levison with a subpoena to appear before a Fourth Circuit grand jury, also on July 16. The government is responsible for the travel arrangements of grand jury witnesses, and the FBI so advised Levison by email. The grand jury subpoena left little wriggle room in its effort to force Lavabit to surrender the encryption keys that were essential to its business:

“In addition to your personal appearance, you are directed to bring to the grand jury the public and private encryption keys used by lavabit.com in any SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Security Layer) sessions, including HTTPS sessions with clients using lavabit.com website and encrypted SMTP communications (or Internet communications using other protocols) with mail servers;

“Any other information necessary to accomplish the installation and use of the pen/trap device ordered by Judge Buchanan on June 28….”

“I don’t trust you, but you should trust me” and vice-versa

Levison responded on July 13 with an email to the U.S. Attorney’s office, offering an alternative to the FBI-operated wiretap. Levison proposed that he would collect the court-designated data himself. While he didn’t state it in the email, this would address one of Levison’s primary concerns, that there was no effective oversight to prevent the FBI from gathering more data than the court had allowed. Levison proposed to design and implement the solution, gather the data manually, and provide it to the FBI at the end of the 60-day court order – for a price of $2,000. For another $1,500, he offered to provide data “more frequently,” which would require implementing an automated system.

The U.S. Attorney chose not to explore the offer. In a brusque and internally contradictory reply email the same day, an assistant U.S. Attorney explained “that the proposal was inadequate because, among other things, it did not provide for real-time transmission of results, and it was not clear that Mr. Levison’s request for money constituted the ‘reasonable expenses’ authorized by the statute.” The government later admitted to the court that it was “unclear” as to precise details of the proposal. The clear implication of Levison’s proposal is a willingness to provide real-time transmission for reasonable compensation. But that would leave Levison in control. The government didn’t consider that a useful compromise.

On July 15, Levison flew to Washington for his show cause hearing at 10 the next morning, although he thought it was set for 10:30 and arrived late. He was appearing pro se, representing himself without an attorney.

Even a federal court hearing can be a comedy of errors

The government goal for the July 16 hearing remained unchanged: “Lavabit LLC may comply with the pen register order by simply allowing the FBI to install the pen register devise and provide the FBI with the encryption keys.” Lacking compliance, the government asked the court to impose a civil contempt sanction of $1,000 a day until Lavabit complied.

The government also requested a search warrant for the encryption keys. Judge Hilton granted the search warrant before the hearing began.

As it turned out, the 20-minute hearing resulted in no change in the legal standing of the parties, but did produce a transcript with moments of unintentional hilarity.

Present in the courtroom were Judge Hilton and the court staff. U.S. Attorney James Trump represented the government, along with three other lawyers and an FBI agent. Levison was alone.

The U.S. Attorney wanted to know if Levison was going to comply with the wiretap order, but Judge Hilton wouldn’t ask and Levison wouldn’t say. Or rather, Levison said he had always been ready and willing to comply with installation of the wiretap, but he was reluctant to give up the encryption codes, which would give the FBI access to all 400,000 of his subscribers even though the court order named only one. “There was never an explicit demand that I turn over those keys,” Levison said.

The U.S. Attorney argued that Judge Buchanan had effectively if not specifically ordered Levison to turn over the encryption keys. Judge Hilton wasn’t touching that: “I’m not sure I ought to be enforcing Judge Buchanan’s order.” Judge Hilton said that his order was to install the wiretap and Levison had said he’d do that, so – “You’re trying to get me to deal with a contempt before there’s any contempt, and I have a problem with that.”

Levison moved to unseal all but the sensitive information in the proceedings. Judge Holton denied the motion, based on the underlying criminal investigation. Levison asked the judge to order “some sort of external audit to ensure that your oders are followed to the letter” as to FBI data collection. The judge refused. Levison moved to continue the hearing to allow him to retain counsel. Judge Hilton granted the continuance.

Levison and Lavabit get legal representation from a Virginia firm

Levison’s new attorney is Jesse Binnall of Bronley & Binnall PLLC in Fairfax, Virginia. Binnall, 34, was a communication major at George Mason University and graduated from the Law School there in 2009. Binnall and Levison would later be among the first guests on the New Ron Paul Channel in mid-August.

On July 25, Binnall filed under seal a “Motion to quash” the outstanding grand jury subpoena and the search warrant against Lavabit. The motion requested “that this Court direct that Lavabit does not have to produce its Master Key. Alternatively, Lavabit and Mr. Levinson request that they be given an opportunity to revoke the. current encryption key and reissue a new encryption key at the Government’s expense. Lastly, Lavabit and Mr. Levinson request that, if they are required to produce the Master Key, that they be reimbursed for its costs which were directly incurred in producing the Master Key….”

In support of his motion, Binnall made a number of arguments against the actions of the government, which had not faced serious legal opposition up to this point.

Binnall pointed out that giving the government access to Lavabit’s Master Key is tantamount to giving the government access to all of Lavabit’s 400,000 users. That amounts to a general warrant that is unconstitutional, Binnall wrote, and:

“It is axiomatic that the Fourth Amendment prohibits general warrants [with Supreme Court cases cited]…. The Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement is meant to ‘prevent the seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another’ [citation omitted]. This is precisely the concern with the Lavabit Subpoena and Warrant and, in this circumstance, the particularity requirement will not protect Lavabit. By turning over the Master Key, the Government will have the ability to search each and every ‘place,’ ‘person [and] thing’ on Lavabit’s network…. Additionally, the Government has no probable cause to gain access to the other users accounts.”

The government seemed unconcerned about Levison’s business survival

Bindall also argued that the court should quash the subpoena and search warrant as creating an “undue burden” on Lavabit as defined by law [U.S. Code Title 18, sec. 2703]:

“Not only has Lavabit expended a great deal of time and money in attempting to cooperate with the Government thus far, but, Lavabit will pay the ultimate price –the loss of its customers’ trust and business – should the Court require that the Master Key be turned over. Lavabit’s business, which is founded on the preservation of electronic privacy, could be destroyed if it is required to produce its Master Key.”

Also on July 25, Binnall filed a motion to unseal court records and to lift the gag order on his client, since the “gag order infringes upon freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and should he subjected to constitutional case law. “

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Attorney filed a motion in opposition.

At the motion hearing on August 1, Judge Hilton engaged in lengthy colloquy with attorney Binnall. Before the 25-minute hearing was half over, the judge had denied both motions and the U.S. Attorney had said little more than “Good morning.” Judge Hilton gave Levison and Lavabit until 5 p.m. Dallas time on August 2 to comply.

Levison’s compliance took an unexpected form

The next day in Dallas, at about 1:30 p.m., Levison provided information that purported to be full compliance with the court’s orders. Whether it was actual compliance remains uncertain. The government was not happy and engaged with attorney Binnall to achieve satisfactory compliance, without success. On August 5 the government filed a motion for sanctions against Levison, calling his apparent compliance “unworkable” and describing it as follows:

“Mr. Levison gave the FBI a printout of what he represented to be the encryption keys needed to operate the pen register. This printout, in what appears to be 4-point type, consists of 11 pages of largely illegible characters. See Attachment A. (The attachment was created by scanning the document provided by Mr. Levison; the original document was described by the Dal!as FBI agents as slightly clearer than the scanned copy but nevertheless illegible.) Moreover, each of the five encryption keys contains 512 individual characters — or a total of 2560 characters. To make use of these keys, the FBI would have to manually input all 2560 characters, and one incorrect keystroke in this laborious process would render the FBI collection system incapable of collecting decrypted data.”

When this compliance effort became public two months later, TechCrunch called it “an epic troll.” At the time, the government was not amused and called for the court to sanction Levison $5,000 a day, beginning at noon August 5. The court promptly granted the motion, while reminding the parties that all aspects of the matter remained under seal. Known only to the participants and some court employees, the case was still unknown to the public.

Levison makes a tantalizing public announcement

That secrecy ended on August 8, when Ladar Levison shut down Lavabit, posting a short notice on the Lavabit.com website, together with a link to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund. As Levison explained:

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

“What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Also on August 8, Levison fully complied with the Fourth Circuit courts orders, turning over the encryption keys to a now defunct service. He had incurred 2 days of sanctions – owing the government $10,000 – which remains pending.

The next day, Silent Circle, a global encrypted communications service, stayed in business but preemptively wiped out its email service (about 5 per cent of its customers) in anticipation of a government request that the company wouldn’t want to have to obey. “Meanwhile, Silent Circle is working on replacing its defunct e-mail service with a system that doesn’t rely on traditional e-mail protocols and keeps no messages or metadata within the company’s grasp. It is based on a protocol often used for instant messages and other applications. [CEO Mike] Janke says the goal is for this to not be e-mail, but ‘for all intents and purposes it looks, feels, and acts like e-mail,’” according to MIT Technology Review.

Lavabit’s closing drew some news coverage over the next week, but any story was hampered by the gag order that severely limited what Levison and Binnall could safely say. As Levison told Forbes the day after shutting down Lavabit:

“This is about protecting all of our users, not just one in particular. It’s not my place to decide whether an investigation is just, but the government has the legal authority to force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with….The fact that I can’t talk about this is as big a problem as what they asked me to do…. The methods being used to conduct those investigations should not be secret.”

The FBI and the Justice Dept. Have not commented publicly about the Lavabit case beyond their court filings.

Being secret, federal court appeal gets no news coverage

On August 15, Lavabit attorney Binnall filed notice – under seal – that he was appealing the federal district court’s rulings of August 1 and August 5 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In other words, the government can not only keep the public ignorant of what it’s doing, it can also prevent the public from knowing that anyone objects to the government’s actions as unconstitutional.

In the Lavabit case, at least, this changed abruptly on October 2, when Judge Claude Hilton ordered a censored version of 23 documents (162 pages) made public. The redactions in these documents appear, from context, to be intended mostly to conceal details of the criminal investigation into Snowden or some other lavabit.com user. Since the unsealing of the court documents, news coverage had expansed, and Levison and Binnall have appeared in public across the country to argue their cause. As Levison put it on his Facebook page October 2:

“If the Obama administration feels compelled to continue violating the privacy rights of the masses just so they can conduct surveillance on the few then he should at least ask Congress for laws providing that authority instead of using the courts to force businesses into secretly becoming complicit in crimes against the American people.”

On 2005, a U.S. Senator addressed a similar concern, when Congress was about to pass a law creating the “national security letter,” a secret government process much more intense and unforgiving what Levison went through last summer:

“This is legislation that puts our own Justice Department above the law. When national security letters are issued, they allow federal agents to conduct any search on any American, no matter how extensive, how wide-ranging, without ever going before a judge to prove that the search is necessary. All that is needed is a sign-off from a local FBI agent. That’s it.

“Once a business or a person receives notification that they will be searched, they are prohibited from telling anyone about it, and they’re even prohibited from challenging this automatic gag order in court. Even though judges have already found that similar restrictions violate the First Amendment, this conference report disregards the case law and the right to challenge the gag order.

“If you do decide to consult an attorney for legal advice, hold on. You will have to tell the FBI that you’ve done so. Think about that. You want to talk to a lawyer about whether or not your actions are going to be causing you to get into trouble. You’ve got to tell the FBI that you’re consulting a lawyer. This is unheard of. There is no such requirement in any other area of the law. I see no reason why it’s justified here.

“And if someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, through the library books that you read, the phone calls that you’ve made, the emails that you’ve sent, this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear your plea; no jury will hear your case. This is just plain wrong.”

The question is: how much of a police state do we have already?

That Senator was concerned eight years ago, and that Senator was Barack Obama. Today, national security letters are part of the law of the land, the Obama administration uses them, and if you get one, talking about it is against the law. In that context, since Ladar Levison apparently did not get a national security letter, he was lucky. The country, not so much.

On October 10, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Lavabit filed the opening brief of its appeal of the lower court’s orders. The United States has until November 4 to file its answer. This will take awhile, it will take effort to follow, but it matters.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary.

This article was first published in Reader Supported News

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36599.htm

Dallas Cops Shoot Unarmed Mentally Ill Man

Video

Footage from a surveillance camera pointed at the street where officers shot a mentally ill man in the abdomen earlier this week shows the man never walked toward police nor raised a knife to them, disputing a police officer’s narrative provided in a sworn affidavit.

Posted October 18, 203

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36574.htm

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