Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, December 5, 2011 8:02 pm

Quote of the Day, democracy edition

From Digby at Hullabaloo, a better political analyst than anyone now working for The New York Times or Washington Post:

Both parties are woefully corrupt and inept, but only one of them is engaged in systematic vote suppression. It doesn’t make the other side heroes, but it does show one important distinction between the two.

When the Republican Party is running around trying to keep legally entitled people from voting, I think it’s fair to ask why they hate freedom and why they hate America.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 8:10 pm

Because if you don’t stop it, the next time it will be even worse

During the Bush era, I raised hell here about violations of law and the Constitution by the administration, for which I had my intelligence, sanity, patriotism and sexual proclivities questioned. On the good days.

And I did it for a reason: History suggests that if violations of the law by government are not punished severely, those violations will not only continue but worsen. And American history suggests that party affiliation is no guarantor of government legality.

We’ve watched that pattern play out again during the Obama administration. Although Obama campaigned (to some extent) against the criminal violations of the Bush national-security state, he’s continuing some of those same practices now that he is the one with the power. I warned of this behavior early in his tenure, and I’ve long since reached my breaking point. But the pattern is worsening, as Fecund Stench notes in this brief but telling roundup:

From Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:

In Barack Obama’s rise to national prominence, when he criticized the Bush Administration for its false claims about WMDs in Iraq, its torture of detainees, and its illegal program of spying on American citizens without warrants, he owed a particular debt of gratitude to a New York Times national security reporter. In a series of scoops as impressive as any amassed during the War on Terrorism, James Risen reported in 2004 that the CIA failed to tell President Bush about relatives of Iraqi scientists who swore that the country had abandoned its weapons program; the same year, he was first to reveal that the CIA was waterboarding detainees in Iraq; and in 2005, he broke the Pulitzer Prize winning story about the secret NSA spying program.

These scoops so embarrassed and angered the Bush Administration that some of its senior members wanted Risen to end up in jail. They never managed to make that happen. But President Obama might. He once found obvious value in Risen’s investigative journalism. Its work that would’ve been impossible to produce without confidential sources and an ability to credibly promise that he’d never reveal their identities. But no matter. The Obama Administration is now demanding that Risen reveal his source for a 2006 scoop about CIA missteps in Iran. If he refuses to cooperate, which is his plan, he faces the possibility of jail time.

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon, last week:

The subpoena to Risen was originally issued but then abandoned by the Bush administration, and then revitalized by Obama lawyers. It is part of the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent whom the DOJ accuses of leaking to Risen the story of a severely botched agency plot — from 11 years ago — to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program, a story Risen wrote about six years after the fact in his 2006 best-selling book, State of War. The DOJ wants to force Risen to testify under oath about whether Sterling was his source…

What’s particularly striking about this prosecution is that it involves digging deep into the ancient past (the Iran operation in question was begun under the Clinton administration): this from a President who insisted that Bush officials not be investigated for their crimes on the ground that we must “Look Forward, Not Backward.” But it’s not hard to see why Obama officials are so intent on doing so: few things are more effective in creating a Climate of Fear — one that deters investigation and disclosure and stifles the exercise of basic rights — than prosecuting prominent people for having challenged and undermined the government’s agenda. As Risen documents, that — plainly — is what this prosecution and the Obama administration’s broader anti-whistleblower war is about: chilling the exercise of basic rights and the ability to challenge government actions.

From David K. Shipler at the NYT, last week:

THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.

I’ll be honest: I’m scared. Once these freedoms go, they’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to get back. Once the precedents have been established that criminal violations of the law and violations of the Constitution by our government will go not just unpunished but, if possible, unrecorded, we have entered a long, dark tunnel at the end of which no light is visible.

If you’re content to live in Guatemala with a bigger economy, fine. I’ve always hoped for better.

Friday, August 27, 2010 8:59 pm

The rotating corpse of Thomas Jefferson is lighting a small New England town

For crying out loud. What part of “warrant” do you people not understand?

Law enforcement officers may secretly place a GPS device on a person’s car without seeking a warrant from a judge, according to a recent federal appeals court ruling in California.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Oregon in 2007 surreptitiously attached a GPS to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno, whom they suspected of growing marijuana, according to court papers.

When Pineda-Moreno was arrested and charged, one piece of evidence was the GPS data, including the longitude and latitude of where the Jeep was driven, and how long it stayed. Prosecutors asserted the Jeep had been driven several times to remote rural locations where agents discovered marijuana being grown, court documents show.

Pineda-Moreno eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy to grow marijuana, and is serving a 51-month sentence, according to his lawyer. …

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal twice — in January of this year by a three-judge panel, and then again by the full court earlier this month. The judges who affirmed Pineda-Moreno’s conviction did so without comment. …

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., arrived at a different conclusion in similar case, saying officers who attached a GPS to the car of a suspected drug dealer should have sought a warrant. Experts say the issue could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Relatedly, you know those full-body scanners for use in airports? Law-enforcement agencies are buying them to use on the street … again, without warrants.

Let’s see if this subject comes up at the Glenn Beck rally …

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 8:25 pm

National Security Inc.

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

I still haven’t read every last word of The Washington Post’s multi-part project from last month, “National Security Inc.” But I have read enough to take away what I think is the most important conclusion:

The War on Terror will go on without end.

The War on Terror has sucked up and will continue to suck up not just a disproportionate but a crippling share of our national resources, broadly defined.

The War on Terror has been and will continue to be used as an excuse for all manner of government and corp0rate violations of individual rights.

The War on Terror will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses and individual taxpayers.

The War on Terror will not protect us from terror. It will only break us, legally, financially and socially.

If that all sounds familiar, it’s because the War on Drugs did exactly the same thing. (And while I believe it to be coincidence that the War on Terror is accelerating just as we’re finally starting to have a sane national conversation about drug policy, or at least marijuana policy, I can understand perfectly well why a lot of people believe it to be no coincidence at all.)

The difference is that this time, we’re much more vulnerable, as individuals and as a society.

The difference is that this time, no one — no one with the ability and will to do anything about it — is watching the watchers.

The difference is that this time, if we pursue this war, by far the likeliest outcome is that the United States will cease to exist in any meaningful — that is, exceptional — way. It will become, at best, one more banana republic. And the outcome might well be worse than that — worse in terms of violence and many other forms of human misery.

America. It was a really good idea.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:48 pm

So, is it cool with you if the government uses your cell phone to track your location without a warrant?

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 11:48 pm

Memo to Barack Obama: If I’d wanted more of George Bush, I’d’ve voted for McCain. Beehortch.

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