The recent firing of FBI Director James Comey leaves those who are concerned about mass surveillance in a precarious situation. On the one hand, Comey was no protector of Americans’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy, but neither is the president who will be searching for his replacement. One of the suspected favorites to succeed Comey, former Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers, is even more in favor of draconian surveillance than the ousted FBI director.
While Rogers is just one of eight candidates the Trump administration has interviewed for the position, all are establishment intelligence officials, including a Bush-era counterterrorism expert.
Continue reading at the Observer
Molotov cocktails and bricks are flying at former bastions of free speech like UC Berkeley. Conservatives are right that these violent protests from college liberals are an attack on free expression, but it’s more than just “whiny snowflakes” on campus who endanger this fundamental right. While these foolish protests over controversial speakers like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos pose a threat to free speech, it’s still the government that puts it in the most peril.
Reporters Without Borders recently released its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, in which it ranks 180 countries on a variety of free speech issues such as surveillance, censorship, and crackdowns on espionage and whistleblowers. The United States fell two spots this year to 43rd in the world.
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Last month, President Donald Trump appointed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the head of a task force aimed at curbing opioid use and abuse. On April 11, it was announced that Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino would likely step down from his current position to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) as the “drug czar.” However, increased drug control is unlikely to prevent drug-related deaths. Before instituting harsher drug policies, Christie and Marino must acknowledge that drug regulation has already made the situation deadlier.
Throughout his political career, Christie vowed to further regulate various drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin. Despite his “get tough” attitude on narcotics, his state has seen opioid deaths climb by 214 percent since 2010. Yet Christie continues to make battling overdoses his top, and seemingly only, priority in his final year in office. He recently signed a bill into law that bars doctors from issuing a script of longer than five days for first-time painkiller prescriptions. It also requires that any prescription of a pain killer for acute pain is the “lowest effective dose.”
Similarly, in his time in Congress, Marino has focused a lot on drug issues. He introduced drug regulation bills in the house, including the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act which aims to stop drug trafficking across borders, and a bill that increases collaboration between the Drug Enforcement Agency and prescription pill companies.
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Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently introduced a much-needed, bipartisan Senate bill to combat mobile device searches. Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO.) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) also introduced this bill to the House. The “Protecting Data at the Border” Act is a vital step towards protecting the American people from one of the most egregious forms of government overreach.
The bipartisan, bicameral bill would shut down what Wyden calls a “legal Bermuda Triangle,” which allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to search people’s mobile devices at the United States border without a warrant. If passed, the bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a “warrant based on probable cause” before seizing the device of “a U.S. person.” It also prevents law enforcement from denying or delaying entry to the country if a person refuses to turn over PIN numbers, passwords, or social media account information.
Current device search policy applies to U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike and allows the federal government to search cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices at border crossings without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. In 2009, after concerns were raised about the legality of the policy, the DHS conducted a civil liberties impact assessment, which came to the troubling conclusion that such searches are justified. The summary reads:
“We also conclude that imposing a requirement that officers have reasonable suspicion in order to conduct a border search of an electronic device would be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefits.”
In other words: Fourth Amendment need not apply.
It is abundantly clear that this policy treads all over civil liberties. As the American Civil Liberties Union points out, federal authorities are granted “broader” power near border areas. But those powers do not allow them blatantly to violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Continue reading at RealClearPolicy
This is Sunshine Week, the week where we celebrate government transparency and our “right to know.” But over the last eight years the clouds have crept in, and they’re showing no sign of going anywhere.
Former President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise of being the “most transparent administration” ever, and ran up a bill in doing so.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Obama administration spent a record $36.2 million in its final year on legal costs related to refusals to turn over federal documents under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Not only is that fiscally absurd, it’s also a slap in the face to those who actually believed Obama would follow through on his transparency promises.
On top of running up the legal fees, the Obama administration also set a record for the number of denied FOIL requests. The administration also told journalists and citizens it couldn’t find the requested documents more times in 2016 than ever before.