UK Government forced a newspaper to destroy hard drives

It's frankly shocking behavior, clearly intended to intimidate and harass.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

That was in the UK, but don't pretend things are any better here. These people think that they rule us. Only time will tell whether they are correct.

Wed Aug 21 14:03:08 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Do the police need a warrant to go through your cell phone?

The Obama administration thinks not, at least if they are in the process of arresting you. I call BS on that one. A cell phone is not in any sense a threat to the safety of the arresting officers. Nor is it contraband in any sense. The police should need to get a warrant to access it just as they would need to get a warrant to open a safe in your home -- the mere fact that they are arresting you does not mean they get to search everything you own.

Who knows what the Supreme Court will rule, though. They have already said address books and pagers are fair game, which makes absolutely no sense. They are supposedly taking control of your physical person to prevent you from harming anyone or escaping justice, not going on a fishing expedition through your pockets.

Wed Aug 21 10:34:08 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Three-fourths of all internet traffic available to the NSA

It turns out that the NSA's electronic surveillance setup covers 75% of United States Internet traffic. That's a lot of traffic, and of course most of that is filtered out before it leaves the telecommunication provider's facility -- but it's still available to the NSA without a court order or even any additional cooperation from the telecommunication provider. All they have to do is add a name or email address or IP address to their filters.

The Journal reporting demonstrates that the NSA, in conjunction with telecommunications companies, has built a system that can reach deep into the U.S. Internet backbone and cover 75% of traffic in the country, including not only metadata but the content of online communications. The report also explains how the NSA relies on probabilities, algorithms and filtering techniques to sift through the data and find information related to foreign intelligence investigations.

Oh, and those vaunted safeguards that Obama keeps talking about?

A person familiar with the legal process told the Journal that the system relies in part on the telecom companies themselves to push back against what they see as problematic surveillance. This person said the appropriate rules aren't always clear, because of the complexities of Internet routing and surveillance.

How can the telecom companies push back against secret rules they aren't allowed to talk to anyone about? Aside from, well, shutting down their business and getting prosecuted.

Wed Aug 21 00:38:31 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Christie's belated backtrack on guns

The National Review has an article on Christie's desperate attempt to have it both ways on gun control. It's not so much "too little, too late" as it is "Do you really think we're that stupid?" Even leaving aside the other gun control bills that Christie signed recently, he's a New Jersey politician with a long history of supporting gun control. It makes sense in that state. It does not make sense when trying to run for national office as a Republican.

Wed Aug 21 00:19:58 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

NSA revelations to date just the tip of the iceberg

PJ Media has the story:

A pair of civil-liberties Democrats whom the White House tried to appease in a closed-door meeting warned today that fresh reports of thousands of privacy violations by the National Security Agency are just the “tip of a larger iceberg.”

“The executive branch has now confirmed that the ‘rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans’ have been violated thousands of times each year. We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg,” Wyden and Udall said in a joint statement this afternoon.

This came out Friday, and I haven't seen it getting the attention it deserves.

Tue Aug 20 20:51:35 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Did the IRS provide taxpayer records to the White House?

I found this buried in another article about the IRS controversy, and it seems like much bigger news than it was being billed as. I certainly haven't seen this specific allegation before, and the lack of explicit denial from the Internal Revenue Service is worrying:

The Cause of Action Institute, a non-profit organization aligned with conservative causes, filed suit last month to force the agency to disclose any requests for tax returns by the White House.

"We've had this fight with the IRS now for almost two years," executive director Dan Epstein said. "They could simply say, the easiest response for the IRS to say is, no such record exists."

Instead, the IRS has not explicitly denied that tax returns have been provided to the White House, but said that they would be covered by taxpayer privacy laws if they were."

A White House spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

If, in fact, the White House requested taxpayer data from the IRS and received it... well, I trust I don't need to spell out the implications.

Tue Aug 20 16:45:37 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Rep Amash ready to push for a new vote on defunding the NSA

Reason has a good collection of links:

It is unclear when Amash will introduce legislation that could limit the NSA’s ability to collect data. However, given the revelations that have emerged since Amash's amendment failed last month there is a good chance that his next attempt to curb the NSA’s snooping could receive more support than his first try.

We've had a lot more information leak out since the first vote about exactly what the NSA is up to and how serious and widespread violations are. I say give it another go. Timing these things to hit during the high point of opposition can be tricky, but we can try more than once.

Tue Aug 20 16:44:53 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Peggy Noonan on the value of privacy

We talk about this now because of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency revelations, and new fears that we are operating, all of us, within what has become or is becoming a massive surveillance state. They log your calls here, they can listen in, they can read your emails. They keep the data in mammoth machines that contain a huge collection of information about you and yours. This of course is in pursuit of a laudable goal, security in the age of terror.

Is it excessive? It certainly appears to be. Does that matter? Yes. Among other reasons: The end of the expectation that citizens' communications are and will remain private will probably change us as a people, and a country.

Read the whole thing.

She's right: if the government being able to listen in on literally every form of communication outside your home becomes the default assumption of the people, they will no longer be willing to challenge a government that can punish them for speaking out. We are already seeing this. We saw it with Joe the Plumber, whose impertinent questioning of a presidential candidate saw state officials publicizing details of his private tax records. We saw it with the IRS systematically punishing those who opposed Obama's healthcare and financial policies. We saw it with an obscure youtube video maker who took the full weight of presidential blame for a terrorist attack he had nothing to do with. We saw it with a rodeo clown who had the temerity to wear an Obama mask while trying to make people laugh.

Speaking out against the government has become dangerous. The government knows enough about you to punish you if you speak out effectively, and has demonstrated repeatedly that it is willing to do so.

A free republic cannot long survive this.

Tue Aug 20 09:00:23 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

I'm schocked, schocked to find Tea Party abuse going on here!

Rep Schock says the IRS can't stop their illegal behavior:

House Republicans have seized on recent testimony from an IRS screener in Cincinnati who said earlier this month that because the agency hasn't issued any guidance in the wake of the targeting scandal, all applications from political advocacy groups are referred for secondary screening.

That's not what he said, actually. What he said was that if he received an application from a Tea Party group, he would refer it to secondary screening, because he has not received any updated instructions from his manager. That's not all groups, that's still political targeting.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. The targeting will continue, with whatever excuses or presidential protection required, until after the 2014 elections. After that it won't matter to Obama.

Tue Aug 20 08:59:43 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

The NSA has lost USA today

There's no new information here, but it's a good summary of what we know and why it's wrong.

Tue Aug 20 08:59:02 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Looks like it's game on again

Legal Insurrection reports on a new ad campaign launched by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has released a chilling new online ad reenacting the night Travyon Martin was killed, in an effort to stop the controversial Stand Your Ground laws nationwide... The group has also launched a website and a petition asking people to urge their state lawmakers to “oppose this immoral legislation.”

Their press release accompanying the video is rather revealing. They aren't going after guns directly, or even anything to do with what actually happened on the night Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in lawful self-defense.

They are going after "stand your ground" laws which allow for self-defense without imposing a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Almost all states allow for the use of deadly force in self defense when you are unable to retreat, exactly as Zimmerman, pinned to the ground and being pummeled by Martin, was unable to retreat.

There's an interesting admission packed into that line of attack. By crusading to repeal "stand your ground" laws, they are implicitly admitting that Zimmerman was defending himself when he shot Martin.

The truth is, "stand your ground" authorizes self-defense, not murder. Most of the states do not have a duty to retreat, and the dirty secret is that this benefits minority defendants more than it does white defendants. People under criminal attack should not be required to look for an escape route before fighting back in defense of their life, and they should not be placed in legal jeopardy if they fail to notice one in the heart of the moment.

The fact is, this is not about Trayvon. It's not about Zimmerman. This is about Obama "community organizing" his voter base for the 2014 midterm elections. He knows that if he wants to get any more major legislation passed while he remains in office, he needs to hold the Senate and take the House. With the continuous drumbeat of scandal after scandal wearing down Obama's personal "Yes we can" image, and the IRS suppression efforts now public, he needs a proxy to make sure black voters turn out. And that's what we've got here.

It would be interesting to find out who is paying for this ad campaign (besides the obvious). A good bet would be Bloomberg or Obama, through one of their various affiliates. At some point, they're going to want to try to turn this effort into changes to state law -- and we need to be ready to counter that move.

Mon Aug 19 19:43:59 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Manchin admits pushing gun control was stupid

He put his name on the proposal, though, and now he's stuck playing defense.

"You think I didn't know that when I looked at the background-check bill that it wasn't going to be as hot as anything can possibly (be) in my state?" Manchin told the room. "You think politically that was a smart move for me? Not at all. It was a stupid move, politically."

He even has the audacity to claim he supports gun rights:

"There's enough people in the pro-life movement that know I'm pro-life. There's enough people in the gun movement that know I will protect your Second Amendment rights," he said in an interview in his Senate office. "But also they have to know that Joe won't just roll and kowtow."

Gun owners are not likely to be in a forgiving mood. Nor are they likely to be fooled by this sort of language, especially when he also says:

For his part, Manchin seems undeterred. He said he's going to defend his position and continue looking for a way to expand gun-sale background checks.

In other words, he has not learned his lesson and he will continue pushing for gun control.

Sebastian points out that background checks are a red herring. Here's what the National Rifle Association had to say about Manchin-Toomey:

Today, the misguided Manchin-Toomey-Schumer proposal failed in the U.S. Senate. This amendment would have criminalized certain private transfers of firearms between honest citizens, requiring lifelong friends, neighbors and some family members to get federal government permission to exercise a fundamental right or face prosecution. As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools.

You made your bed, Senator Manchin. Now you have to lie in it, comfortable or not -- at least until 2018.

Mon Aug 19 13:25:32 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Jennifer Rubin can't even read her own writing

See if you can spot the problem that leaped out at me in her latest screed. First, she quotes a story in her own paper:

“The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.”

Then she proceeds to apologize for the agency's failures by trying to perform some kind of numerical analysis.

The Post notes that there were 2,776 incidents of error since 2008. Was this a 5 percent error rate or a 0.0000005 percent error rate? An information sheet put out by the NSA on Aug. 9 indicates that “According to figures published by a major tech provider, the Internet carries 1,826 Petabytes of information per day. In its foreign intelligence mission, NSA touches about 1.6% of that. However, of the 1.6% of the data, only 0.025% is actually selected for review.” That is still tons and tons of data. If there were only 2,776 errors in five years, it may be of the best-run programs anywhere in government.

Never mind the fact that her whole analysis is meaningless because a single "incident" could refer to a single email improperly analyzed or the inadvertent collection of data from an entire area code of American politicians working for the federal government during an election year. It's impossible to conduct the kind of error rate analysis she's trying to conduct if an "error" could be one error or hundreds of thousands of errors. Never mind all that.

There were not "only 2,776 errors in five years", which according to her makes it a candidate for one of the best run programs in government. As she quoted in the very first paragraph of her own article, there were 2,776 errors in one year (3 quarters of 2011 and 1 quarter of 2012). Two thousand, seven hundred, and seventy-six "oops, did I just wiretap the wrong country" level errors.

I demand a better quality of fake conservative. Surely we can find someone who can keep their internal contradictions to separate articles.

Mon Aug 19 12:30:21 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Heller secures at least some right to carry outside the home

Eugene Volokh reports on Oregon v Christian. His take is that the decision supports some 2nd Amendment right to carry a firearm in a public place, while ruling against it in this particular instance.

It's an interesting case for a number of reasons. The first thing that leaped out at me is that the person charged here was carrying quite a lot of weaponry and behaving somewhat oddly, having stashed his firearms in a bag which he placed into a store and then left the store. There's little context in the decision to suggest reasons for this behavior:

Berne obtained defendant's consent to search him and found an empty firearm holster, a loaded magazine, two knives, one of which was concealed in his pocket, and a can of pepper spray. Berne asked whether defendant had firearms nearby, and defendant stated that he had placed firearms inside the store. The officers entered the store and retrieved the black bag from behind the counter. With defendant's consent, the officers searched the bag and discovered two loaded nine-millimeter semiautomatic handguns and additional loaded magazines. The officers obtained consent to search defendant's vehicle and found a .22-caliber rifle, two sets of handcuffs, police batons, flashlights, and binoculars.

Two handguns, a rifle, two pairs of handcuffs, two knives, multiple police batons, and multiple flashlights? Nothing illegal, I think, but it raised my eyebrows.

The court applies intermediate scrutiny to the Portland law in question. Strict scrutiny would be preferable, of course, but part of the reasoning for intermediate scrutiny is that Oregon has a shall-issue concealed-carry law. The defendant was not licensed to carry a firearm, and his conduct might well have been lawful had he obtained such a license. Thus the prohibition is not total and the court applies intermediate scrutiny rather than strict scrutiny.

Unfortunately, I suspect the interesting parts of this decision will be viewed as dicta and ignored, while the result -- the conviction for carrying a loaded firearm was upheld -- will be cited in other decisions. That's how these things usually go.

It should be noted that another district court has already ruled that the 2nd Amendment secures a right to carry outside the home, in Illinois. That decision was limited to striking down Illinois' complete prohibition on doing so. Until we see a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, we're liking to see the various districts taking different positions, but the more that take a favorable "there must be at least some allowance for carry outside the home" the better for us.

Mon Aug 19 12:01:44 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Obama's deficits bigger than WWII

And yes, that's in inflation-adjusted dollars:

Last year’s $1.087 trillion deficit was even greater in inflation-adjusted dollars than the peak World War II deficit of fiscal 1943—which was $54.554 billion in 1943 dollars and $723.8714 billion in 2012 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics online inflation calculator.

The deficit has also remained at a higher percentage of GDP over the last four years than at any time since the conclusion of World War II (which ended during fiscal 1946, which began in June 1945).

This is not meant to forgive the idiots in the House who can't seem to exercise the "power of the purse", preferring instead to carry them or something.

Mon Aug 19 11:01:32 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

NYC candidate for mayor wants to see gun use eliminated

"If you look at his fight against guns, that’s something that has particular meaning in New York City," Thompson said of current Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "I know it’s been a national fight, but particular meaning in New York City given gun violence in communities of color, in black and Latino communities. We want to see gun use eliminated. It’s cost us too many of our children."

In context, he's thinking about criminal violence with guns, but I don't think he's likely to be any more careful in crafting policy than he is in speaking about it. For people like this, firearms have no legitimate uses and no utility for self-defense. Those arguments just never enter their brain.

Obviously, this would not be Constitutional. But that never seems to stop these people.

Sat Aug 17 11:00:23 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Outside Interests

Only Guns and Money has two ads on the Colorado recall elections.

Sat Aug 17 10:10:35 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Answering questions

Sat Aug 17 10:09:28 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Christie vetoes remaining New Jersey gun control laws

Sebastian has the details. Looks like the .50 cal ban is dead permanently, but the other two could be amended and returned to his desk for his signature. The changes Christie is asking for are significant enough to make a difference, but not big enough to render the legislation completely meaningless. We'll need to wait and see what happens in the New Jersey legislature. While this appears to be enough to keep ANJRPC happy, Christie shouldn't expect gun owners to give him a pass on the issue in a national election. If Christie wants to be president, he's got a lot of work to do on gun rights.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey points out that Christie had demanded a ban on .50 caliber rifles to begin with:

But the governor completely axed a bill that would ban the Barrett .50 caliber rifle(A3659), which is the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians. Christie had called for a ban on future sales of the weapon in his own package of violent prevention measures outlined in April.

He doesn't get much credit from me for vetoing legislation he called for in the first place.

Fri Aug 16 20:14:04 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Registration leads to confiscation

Guns, Cars, And Tech reports that the Australian gun registry has predictably failed to reduce crime, leading the local Green party to call for confiscation of registered firearms.

This is why we refuse to register our firearms.

Fri Aug 16 08:13:52 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

New NSA revelations

It seems that the NSA has been auditing itself, and Snowden has released some of the audit reports to the Washington Post. Over the space of a year's time (2011-2012) the audit identifies almost three thousand separate incidents -- that is, violations of the court orders under which the surveillance program operates.

(Read More...)

Fri Aug 16 06:29:07 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Voter fraud in Ohio

After looking closely at the 2012 election results, it turns out that just a single county in Ohio has identified 163 poll workers that it will not ask to return due to their "high error rate". Hundreds more will be "retrained" after the last election identified almost 2000 "mishaps". All but one of the polling stations being restaffed were run by a Democrat. Reason has more.

Thu Aug 15 08:18:59 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Three more Fast and Furious guns surface

Sharyl Atkisson at CBS continues to report on a story that nobody else wants to touch:
According to Justice Department tracing documents obtained by CBS News, all three guns are WASR-10 762-caliber Romanian rifles. Two were purchased by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino in May and July of 2010. Sean Steward, who was convicted on gun charges in July 2012, purchased a third.

Found at crime scenes in Mexico, of course. Note that in the US, we have very little crime with rifles of any type. (We have the occasional spectacular incident, but almost no everyday criminal uses rifles). That's not the case in Mexico. One of the goals of Fast and Furious was to feed the desire for a renewed assault weapons ban in the US by getting more so-called "assault weapons" into the hands of criminals, who would presumably then use them in crime.

That narrative sort of backfires when 1) the plot is exposed and everyone knows where the guns came from, and 2) Mexico doesn't exactly have a shortage of real military weapons in the hands of criminals.

Thu Aug 15 08:18:31 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

California Senate passes ammunition background checks

The Reason blog has excerpts. Sebastian has thoughts on the whole package of California gun control.

Thu Aug 15 08:12:54 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

Not intrusive, but still stupid

A colleague sends me a link to an article that claims to be about using smartphones to cure diseases while you sleep. Since it was on Bloomberg's news service, I was expecting some sort of subliminal messaging to stop drinking sodas over 32 oz and eat less salt. Instead, it turns out the article has almost nothing to do with disease and a lot to do with an old topic of interest -- computational crowdsourcing through an application called BOINC.

(Read More...)

Wed Aug 14 05:44:49 CDT 2013 by TriggerFinger. Comments [Tweet]

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