A Failed Policy

“The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its torture policies, to provide necessary details about its enhanced interrogation program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to torture hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate … Continue reading A Failed Policy

CIA Torture and Politician Grandstanding

So the U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogation methods is out, and now we know that the CIA tortured detainees, including the use of violent rectal assault: Some of the detainees were terrorists; some were probably innocent. We'll never know because they were never tried in a court of law: Some neoconservative torture apologists oppose … Continue reading CIA Torture and Politician Grandstanding

The IRS and Asset Forfeiture

The New York Times had piece this weekend on the IRS and asset forfeiture: Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can … Continue reading The IRS and Asset Forfeiture

A Fond Farewell

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. is on his way out the door, and the New York Times Editorial Board has a lengthy farewell. Please read it in its entirety, because you will need to work through ten paragraphs before you arrive at this: Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department approved the targeted killing of civilians, … Continue reading A Fond Farewell

I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

Bad guys (and gals) beware: Dustin Volz (National Journal) reports that the “FBI’s Facial-Recognition Technology Has Achieved ‘Full Operational Capability’” The agency announced two new services Monday that complete the database's "operational capability." The first, called Rap Back, allows officials to receive "ongoing status notifications" regarding the reported criminal history of people "in positions of trust, … Continue reading I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

The Presumption of Guilt and the Glories of “Stop and Seize”

Michael Salla, Robert O’Harrow Jr, and Steven Rich (The Washington Post) have written an interesting series on asset forfeiture (see the teaser “Civil asset forfeitures more than double under Obama,” by Christopher Ingraham on Wonkblog). The basic presumption of asset forfeiture is simple: you are guilty until proven innocent. If you are the target of … Continue reading The Presumption of Guilt and the Glories of “Stop and Seize”

The War at Home

Images of warfare abound these days, from Syria, Gaza, northern Iraq...and Ferguson, MO. As Dylan Scott (TPM) notes, the images out of Ferguson have been “harrowing.” “American law enforcement decked out in military fatigues, patrolling the streets in armored vehicles that look like they were plucked out of Afghanistan or Iraq.” I have blogged in the … Continue reading The War at Home

Marijuana: The Political Class vs. Everybody Else

Marc blogged the other day about the New York Times editorial board's endorsement of repealing federal marijuana prohibition, just months after having rejected that step. Now, this isn't quite the same as endorsing marijuana legalization - just returning it to the states - but it is a significant step nonetheless. Still, they are well behind … Continue reading Marijuana: The Political Class vs. Everybody Else

A Return to the Culture Wars?

This has not been a good Supreme Court term for the Obama administration. Damon Root (Reason) has a quick and delightful overview of some of the key decisions. The most recent defeat—the Hobby Lobby decision—can be viewed as a loss for the administration, but it may provide some political benefits with respect to fundraising and continuing … Continue reading A Return to the Culture Wars?

Not a Bad Week…

It remains unclear where we are heading in Iraq and whether the IRS investigation will gain much traction. But this was a pretty good week for the Supreme Court. Wednesday, SCOTUS decided unanimously that police need warrants to search cellphones. As the New York Times reported: "While the decision will offer protection to the 12 … Continue reading Not a Bad Week…

Spoils of War [Surplus] continued

A few weeks ago I posted on the distribution of war surplus to state and local law enforcement agencies under the DOD’s Excess Property Program. This is all part of a larger trend detailed in the ACLU’s new report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. From the executive summary: This investigation gave … Continue reading Spoils of War [Surplus] continued

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Bill Clinton)

Bill Clinton is often quite a delight as ex-president, free to opine on a variety of subjects without being confined by anyone's talking points. Case in point: his comments on Edward Snowden delivered before the Naval Academy earlier this week. As reported by Dustin Volz (National Journal): "Mr. Snowden has been sort of an imperfect … Continue reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Bill Clinton)

Freedom of Information versus the Security State

Reporters without Borders has issued its annual World Press Freedom Index (map here, discussion here). The US has tumbled to 46, just above Haiti. To place things in context, the US was 17 in 2002 when the first index was published. As Reporters without Borders explains: Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting … Continue reading Freedom of Information versus the Security State

Snowden v. Leviathan

One of the more consequential events of the 2013 involved the ongoing revelations about the NSA.  Barton Gellman (Washington Post) has an excellent piece on Edward Snowden based on some recent interviews.  One excerpt: “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he [Snowden] said. “I already won. As soon as the … Continue reading Snowden v. Leviathan

Madison Aghast

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled yesterday that the NSA collection of metadata is likely unconstitutional under the 4th amendment (Klayman et al., v Obama et. al.). The most notable paragraph: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every … Continue reading Madison Aghast

A Living Death

The Economist has a painful piece about mandatory life sentences in the United States, much of which is drawn from a new report by the ACLU entitled “A Living Death.” A few interesting points: At least 3,278 people are serving life sentences without parole for non-violent crimes. “Around 79% of them were convicted of drug … Continue reading A Living Death

Making the Case for Liberty

Conor Friedersdorf (the Atlantic) has published the text of a talk he gave to students at Pepperdine (h/t John Moser). The brief talk is worth reading in its entirety. Much of the talk addresses the ongoing assault on civil liberties and frustration over how much of the Right is concerned over infringements on economic liberties … Continue reading Making the Case for Liberty

The Value of Left-Libertarian Alliances

The other day I referenced Tom Watson’s piece in Salon, rejecting any libertarian involvement in the Stop Watching Us demonstration (as you might recall, libertarians were the ones who use a “few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child”). Watson’s piece generated a useful response  in Salon from David Segal: … Continue reading The Value of Left-Libertarian Alliances

A Return to Drones and NSA Surveillance?

After weeks of media obsession with Senator Cruz, the GOP-forced government shutdown, and the impact on public opinion, the Obama administration’s use of drones and the NSA’s vast surveillance efforts are once again gaining some space above the fold. The Washington Post has an interesting piece on the civilian casualties from drone attacks, reviewing the recent … Continue reading A Return to Drones and NSA Surveillance?

Privacy Rights in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has an abnormally strong regime for the protection of privacy rights. It extends from strong wiretapping laws to laws prohibiting the retention of personal information in government databases against the consent of the individual. While getting my driver's license in Claremont, N.H. yesterday, I snapped this photo, which got memed by the Free … Continue reading Privacy Rights in New Hampshire

“You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

As you likely know, David Miranda (the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist for the Guardian at the center of the Snowden releases) was detained for nine hours (the maximum allowed under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act of 2000) and had personal items (e.g., laptop, thumb drives, DVDs, cellphone) confiscated. As the Washington … Continue reading “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

Concord Police Chief Regrets FSP, ONH Language

Mother Jones has followed up on the story reported here about the controversy over the city of Concord's acquisition of a Bearcat armored truck. The Concord police chief has this to say about the language of the grant citing the Free State Project and Occupy New Hampshire as potential sources of domestic terrorism: While the … Continue reading Concord Police Chief Regrets FSP, ONH Language

Liberty’s Lost Decade

That is the title of the leader in the new edition of the Economist, which devotes quite a bit of space to the ways in which liberty has been sacrificed for security by the Bush and Obama administrations.  A quote: Every intelligence service will impinge on individual liberties—and America’s has succeeded in its main job: … Continue reading Liberty’s Lost Decade

Suspicious Stuff

The newest revelations regarding the NSA surveillance programs have focused on XKeyscore, described by the NSA as its “widest reaching” system for collecting intelligence from the internet. As Glenn Greenwald notes: “XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that … Continue reading Suspicious Stuff

There’s Nothing Wrong with Detroit That a Mailed Fist Couldn’t Solve

So says the normally level-headed Matt Yglesias: This raises “really tricky legal-type questions” about the permissible scope of eminent domain law, but a fully empowered mayor could get the job done. Detroit famously can’t get 40 percent of its traffic lights to work, and its 58-minute 911 response time for major crimes is abysmal. Abandoning … Continue reading There’s Nothing Wrong with Detroit That a Mailed Fist Couldn’t Solve

The NSA and FISA

There was an  interview with Glen Greenwald this weekend at Salon that should be of great interest to anyone following the Snowden revelations and the NSA’s surveillance activities. Here is a quick excerpt. …hovering over everything is always the Fourth Amendment, regardless of what Congress says is legal. The Fourth Amendment constrains what Congress and … Continue reading The NSA and FISA

Marriage and Culture Change

My marriage is a sacred compact between my wife and me before God. No law, proposition, or court decision can ever change that. The government's recognition of my marriage did not make it the sacred compact that it is; the government's recognition of anyone else's relationship does not affect what mine is; and no legal … Continue reading Marriage and Culture Change

Senate MIA on NSA

Last week I noted, with some frustration, that the revelations about the NSA were not attracting the attention of much of the public (only 33 percent of Americans over 50 and only 12 percent of those between the ages of  18 and 29 were following the coverage of the NSA actions closely).   Apparently, the Senate … Continue reading Senate MIA on NSA

NSA Surveillance and the Big Yawn

I have been frustrated in the past by the results of public opinion polls (see my earlier post on drones, for example). Given that the polls show high levels of support for the use of drones, one should not be surprised that a narrow majority has no problem with the NSA’s surveillance program, according to … Continue reading NSA Surveillance and the Big Yawn

The more things change…

If you read enough political philosophy, at some point you wonder whether there really is anything new under the sun. On the heels of Edward Snowden’s wonderful and astonishing leaks, we get this: U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, called Snowden "a defector" who should … Continue reading The more things change…

The Past as Prologue: Total Information Awareness

As the revelations about the NSA’s data mining emerge, it is useful to remember that this is a continuation and expansion of activities initiated more than a decade ago. In the wake of 9/11, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began developing a host of new programs as part of the war on terror. … Continue reading The Past as Prologue: Total Information Awareness

A Bad Week for Liberty and Limited Government

This has not been a good week for those who value liberty and limited government (what Albert Jay Nock would refer to as "the Remnant"). On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Maryland v King, ruling that “the government has a legitimate interest in collecting DNA from arrestees” (see Robert Barnes, Washington … Continue reading A Bad Week for Liberty and Limited Government

“Suits and Sandals”: Different Freedom Indices for Different Folks

This post will illustrate how users can customize the freedom index according to their own judgments about how various policies affect freedom. In particular, it will show how the weighting for tax burden can be significantly reduced and explores the consequences of this choice. It will also discuss briefly how abortion policies might be included … Continue reading “Suits and Sandals”: Different Freedom Indices for Different Folks

FBI Trying to Infiltrate Keene, New Hampshire

The Keene Activity Center (KAC) is a place where (mostly) young libertarians and anarchists in Keene, New Hampshire congregate to talk philosophy, plan activism (including civil disobedience), and generally relax and socialize. Apparently the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been trying very, very hard to infiltrate the KAC, judging from this account of the arrest … Continue reading FBI Trying to Infiltrate Keene, New Hampshire

Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?

Last time I was here, I had a lot of fun teasing American libertarian readers, at least until the earthquake brought my guest blogging to an abrupt halt. Support for liberty is a lot like support for GMO-free food. If you survey people, they'll tell you how much they love it. They might even tell … Continue reading Now, where was I when we were so rudely interrupted?

Freedom in the 50 States Teaser #3: Weighting the Variables

The new, book-length edition of Freedom in the 50 States: Index of Personal and Economic Freedom will be released on March 28 by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. In the days leading up to release, I will be "teasing" a few of the novel findings and methods from the study. Here at Pileus, … Continue reading Freedom in the 50 States Teaser #3: Weighting the Variables

Asymmetrical Information

Access to information is an important topic. Citizen access to information is critical if norms of democratic accountability are to have any meaning. At the same time, the Bill of Rights and a long series of court decisions limit the capacity of the state to collect information on its citizens without first obtaining a probable … Continue reading Asymmetrical Information

Rand Paul and Domestic Drones

Some Republicans (including former VP Dick Cheney) applaud the Obama administration’s use of drones for targeted killing of US citizens abroad. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), in contrast, is threatening to filibuster John’s Brennan’s confirmation to head the CIA, based on his failure to answer a simple question during last week’s hearings (transcript here, see pages … Continue reading Rand Paul and Domestic Drones

The White Paper

The Justice Department White Paper on the targeted killing of US citizens is out, and worth a read. There are no surprises here, for anyone who has followed this sordid affair. Much of the same policy was articulated by AG Holder last year in his speech at Northwestern Law. Holder basically assured his audience that … Continue reading The White Paper