Category Archives: Rights

Will Citizens Be Denied Reentry Into The US?

With little fanfare, and as little review, new travel rules went into effect on the 19th of February that may have a profound effect on the ability and willingness of Americans to travel abroad.

The Department of Homeland Security has placed an odious new requirement on international air travel to, from, and over the United States. Where previously passenger lists had to be supplied to DHS within 15 minutes of a US bound flight taking off, now those lists must be made available in advance and every passenger must be given “permission” by DHS to board the flight in question. Think about that for a second. A passport is no longer sufficient to allow you to travel abroad, and DHS have given themselves the ability to deny you reentry to the United States…indefinitely.

Though most people don’t know this the right to travel and, more specifically, the right to return to one’s country of origin is guaranteed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the United States is a signatory. So these new rules are, in effect, a violation of treaties and by extension, the United States Constitution that requires that treaties be treated as the ‘law of the land’.

Though…the small matter of treaty violations doesn’t seem to bother DHS who’ve taken this nonsense one step further. They’ve added new procedural rules that require Customs and Border Protection officers to reject oral declarations of citizenship from people attempting to cross into the US by land. Now…two forms of identification that can establish citizenship will be required, presumably your passport and one other, such as a birth certificate. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the habit of carrying my birth certificate with me when I travel abroad.

So in the end the question is: When the Feds start using these rules to deny reentry to “troublemakers” (and they will), what recourse does the newly “stateless” person have?

Harry Reid – Biggest Asshole of the Week

Kvatch spoke with Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid from the AT&T Congressional Hospitality Suite at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Senator Reid, on Thursday, after the President criticized Congressional Democrats, you said:

The president could have taken the simple step of requesting new authority from Congress … but whether out of convenience, incompetence, or outright disdain for the rule of law, the administration chose to ignore Congress and ignore the Constitution…

If this is really your position, couldn’t you have tried harder to stop telecom immunity legislation in the Senate. What about a filibuster?

Well Kvatch you know filibusters are hard! They take a lot of time and your throat gets dry doing all that talking. Plus the President promised to ‘make me cry like a little girl’ if I didn’t get the Senate to roll over on this one. Not to mention the fact that AT&T threatened to cut off my DSL connection. You just can’t stand up to the administration when faced with that kind of pressure.

But Senator…now the only mechanism citizens have of discovering the extent of Bush Administration lawbreaking, civil lawsuits against the telecoms, could be taken away.

Come on Kvatch…don’t take it so hard. Lawsuits cost money, lots and lots of money. You don’t really want to squander what little you do have suing big companies like Verizon, now do you?

Well Senator…many of those suits—

I’m sorry Kvatch, but I’m afraid that I’m going have to go. There is a nice young woman here who says that Hamachi tastes ‘so much better’ if I eat it off of her stomach.

Come here sweet thing…

Ignorance must be bliss

As someone I love dearly reminded me recently, there is a belief that ignorance is bliss. I always thought ‘Lollygobble Bliss bombs’ were bliss, sad advertising tragic that I am. Actually I’m not sure what they are, but never mind.

I know many on this particular blog would agree with the statement that ‘the US presidential primaries are a crock of shit!’ I’m sure because I think mine is the first reference to that great media event storming the country. Ooops, the Uber Amphibian did have a piece recommending that Huckabee loser for the Repugnant candidate. But that hardly counts.

What really concerns me is the information the US media chooses not to deliver to your doorstep or living room. I assume there are more advertising dollars in the ‘Primaries Reality Show’ than in observing the results of US foreign policy.

The latest ignored story is the attempted coup in the world’s youngest democracy, East Timor (Timor Leste). This is a country that ‘the great democracy’ happily handed over to a draconian Indonesian regime. My country was also part of that disgusting deal, but we report the results here.

So we now have one very brave President lying in an induced coma in an Australia hospital, with lead in his lungs. My anger at the coup has been increased a thousandfold by the US ignoring this situation, ignoring responsibilities for past actions.

I recall when a White House functionary was quietly sidelined two years ago after it was revealed he was passing messages to certain people in the Philippines, in an attempt overturn the elected government in that country. That news was ignored by US media too.

So given the power of US media and advertising, of the sanctity of the corporations, one can only conclude that ignorance is the best path for American citizens.

Crossing the US Border? Secure Your Data!

 …or, “Nothing says ‘f*ck DHS!’ like strong encryption!”

Did you know that at US border points—bridge crossings, airports, ferry terminals—your 4th Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure doesn’t exist. Or perhaps the Department of Homeland Security somehow thinks that border crossings aren’t really part of the United States. Though…I suspect that Canada, Mexico, and the City of San Francisco would probably have something to say about that. Indeed Bu$hCo has found another novel way of violating the rights of US citizens, by seizing and copying all the data on their electronic devices as they pass through border checkpoints.

An engineer returning from business in London was forced by federal agents to log them in to his company laptop and then had to stand by as they copied information on the web-sites he’d visited. Amir Khan, an IT consultant and US citizen from Fremont, California, has been stopped every time he returns to the US. He claims that custom’s agents routinely search his laptop, books, personal notebooks and mobile phone. And it doesn’t end there. The EFF has documented numerous cases of Customs and Border Protection personnel unlawfully seizing and searching equipment without probable cause.

In a climate where the government becomes the violator of one’s rights, there is only one defense: Take data protection into your own hands. Many products exist that allow one to encrypt data with sufficient strength that even the government would have a hard time breaking it. If you use a Mac or PC, your laptop already comes equipped with hard drive encryption software. Just a password…and away you go. Want something stronger? Shareware, open-source products like TrueCrypt encrypt drives, folders, or files with multiple algorithms and passes.

So tell the Feds to go **SCREW THEMSELVES**! And when some hotshot Border Patrol agent announces that he needs access to your laptop, you can respond, “Certainly. Let me just log you in…” safe in the knowledge that they’ll get exactly NOTHING!

Can we can the hate?

“There are people who hate without knowing why they hate.” Australian Aboriginal activist Marcia Langton.

“I am not going to try and break down the reasons why an apology should be given… but in my heart I feel there is a real need for it.” Former Olympic champion Cathy Freeman – a decedent of the Australian Indigenous stolen generations.

My country is going through an amazing transformation following the repudiation of a decade of attempted Americanisation. While Rudd is carefully going about rebuilding a proper economic base for the country he has also launched into a deeper and more emotional reconstruction.

The first sitting of our new parliament occurs on Tuesday, Australian time. On Wednesday the first order of business, well the main order of business for his new parliament, is to say sorry for our historical treatment of the country’s indigenous population.

The issue is fraught with complications. For us ‘whitey’ it isn’t necessarily a personal guilt issue so much as recognition, but many fear Rudd will be apologising for something we didn’t personally do.

That is partly the fault of the Howard regime; everything is personal, except responsibility. Howard was adamant that he would never say sorry. But the aboriginal community is splintered as well. Many believe that recognition carries a cash bonus when the price tag should be a reasonable portion of the national budget into solving the old weeping sores.

Like the economy, the resolution of 200+ years of the indigenes will take time and some measure of understanding. Both will require putting aside personal issues like greed, hate and envy. But nothing will happen with the flick of a switch. Let’s hope the healing starts at least.

Real ID – When Persuasion Won’t Do, Try Coercion

Real ID is coming for you pork-chop! Despite years of delays, unfunded mandates on the states, and some states’ outright refusal to comply, the Feds intend to put the requirements of Real ID into force in May.

In the short term, this means that you won’t be able to access federal buildings or board airplanes if either 1) your state is not able, or does not intend, to comply with the standards that Real ID sets out for photo identification or 2) you don’t have a valid US Passport (which does comply). (Set aside, for a moment, that there is no published law that allows the airlines to require identification nor law that allows them to refuse to transport you if you fail to produce it. David Gilmore got caught up in the ‘unpublished law’ side of this issue, but that’s another story entirely.) TSA, on the other hand, can and does require identification for you to pass through its security checkpoints.

So…if you live in one of those states are you stuck? Probably not, but you’re almost certainly going to be in for the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for those unlucky individuals on one of TSA’s “extra security measures” lists.

But the real issue for DHS is: How to get all those recalcitrant states on board with the program? And at least one DHS official has come up with a novel idea: Require a Real ID before you can purchase over the counter medication. Got allergies? Need Claritin? “Then I’ll need to see your federally approved photo ID, please.” The howling from residents in those states will be heard from space.

I suppose that when simple persuasion won’t do, why not try coercion? Smacks of the tactics that Great Britain is using to trick their citizens into becoming part of their new “dossier database”.

Mukasey: U.S. does not torture

Attorney General calls it “private conduct,” “lifestyle choice”

Days after refusing to rule out the use of waterboarding, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has attacked congressional Democrats, calling the investigations of torture a violation of basic privacy rights.

“We don’t consider anything we do to be torture, and I find the Democrats’ inquiries a distasteful intrusion into people’s private conduct,” Mukasey said today on the “Jerry Springer” public affairs television program.

“Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism, or ‘BDSM,’ is a time honored lifestyle choice that deserves as much respect as traditional marriage,” said Mukasey, to gasps and hoots from the studio audience.

“What happens at Guantanamo Bay and the global network of secret prisons is a private matter between men and women, interrogator and detainee, master and servant, top and bottom, Christian and Muslim,” he said, dodging a flying chair.

“Alternative lifestyles occur in the illegal enemy combatant community in the same proportions as society in general,” said the attorney general. “We test each new detainee at time of intake, and we use what we find to protect the homeland, as well as have a bit of fun,” he said.

For the first time, Mukasey divulged protocols used by the Justice Department in matching interrogation methods with prisoners. All suspected illegal enemy combatants are evaluated according to the DSM-IV, categorized, then paired with intelligence agency staff or security contractors with complementary interests.

The attorney general warned of a slippery slope should Congressional investigations result in prosecutions.

“If BDSM is equated with illegal torture, where does it stop? Today it makes for grand political theater in the Judiciary Committee, but tomorrow anyone experimenting with a pair of fur lined manacles could be hauled before the World Court in The Hague,” said Mukasey, referring to the judicial body set up by former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander The Hague.

Mukasey said Congress “should get its nose out of people’s bedrooms, and put it where it belongs — in their telephone calls and emails.”

Mukasey provided a 2006 Justice Department Inspector General report that generally approved of the techniques, but found fault with the failure to provide detainees with safe words.

Bush Administration supporters in Congress said such a problem is correctable, and proves once and for all that U.S. practices do not violate the Geneva Conventions.

Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) issued an impassioned plea asking his colleagues to drop further inquiries into torture. “I beg Congress: stop nosing around in the private lives of illegal enemy combatants and their interrogators,” Craig said.

Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) agreed: “Don’t tie the hands of those protecting us from terrorism. Or if you do, use silk neckties.”

Previously at Wiseline Institute NW:New eatery does soup right, by Michael B. Mukasey

Privacy and Security – Not a “Zero-sum Game”

Are you concerned about privacy in the US? Worried that the government is coming to harvest your secrets? Well you damn well should be!

Warrantless wiretapping merely tested the waters; Data siphoning by NSA was just a prelude. Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell has got plans for every bit that flows in the US, plans that were hinted at by a member of the team putting together the new Cybersecurity Initiative:

In order for cyberspace to be policed, internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search. “Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation,” he said. Giorgio warned me, “We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.'”

The New Yorker

Supported by the same false dichotomy used for every power grab since 9/11—privacy must be traded to achieve security—McConnell plans to turn the Internet into one vast government overseen database. Consider that for a moment. Every email, every IM, every VoIP, every transaction (even presumably the “secure” ones) will be available to the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS, TSA, DHS, and whomever else can get a hold of the data.

And to defend this nonsense, the Feds use an intellectually dishonest argument, the little lie that goes: “The US government can be trusted not to abuse such expansive authority.” Though, we already know that this is not the case. Hell…Bu$hCo wants to grant retroactive immunity to telcos for participating in sweeping abuses of the 4th Amendment. (Remember you only need immunity when you’ve done something wrong. The law already indemnifies you if you had reason to believe what you were doing was legal.)

But let’s cut to the chase: A ‘zero-sum’ relationship between security and privacy only holds water as long as GOVERNMENT ITSELF IS NOT THE THREAT. Clearly here, as in other modern democracies, this is no longer the case.