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home : opinions : opinions November 24, 2015

5/22/2012 9:58:00 PM
Column: A time to safeguard our freedoms
Related stories on the Web:

Sen. Udall on Patriot Act.

Sen. Udall letter to Dept. of Justice.

Smart gadgets may help CIA.

NSA building data center.

US citizens in Customs limbo.

CISPA information sharing act.

Drones can spy on us.

Part of NDAA ruled invalid.

Bill to end part of NDAA fails.

UK police taking smart phone contents.

Legalizing propaganda.

Police phone tracking Forbes article.

Police phone tracking ACLU report.

DEA watching license plates.

Tom Cantlon
Courier Columnist

With Memorial Day coming up, it's good to remember that the freedoms so many died for need constant vigilance. The following are some ways your rights are being whittled away. The links for these are with the online edition.

The head of the CIA says our interconnected smart devices can give them information. If your smart washer sends maintenance data to the manufacturer, and the number of loads run suddenly jumps up, that might mean there are more people in your house.

To help track such things an enormous new data facility is being built in the desert, which the NSA has acknowledged. The expectation is it will be used to capture every call and email, all of our parking receipts, travel itineraries, lists of books purchased, etc. I'm not one for wild conspiracies of imminent takeover. I do believe rights slip away, whittle by whittle.

The part of a recent security law, the NDAA, that allows for secret indefinite detention without due process has been ruled illegal by a federal judge, but there will be appeals. In the meantime the House voted against repealing that portion. The issue is not about holding people that are reasonably proven to be a danger. It's about secretly holding someone whom we have no idea if there even is any good evidence against.

Then there's the Patriot Act. Sen. Udall and others on the Intelligence Committee say they can't give details, but the public would be shocked at how it is being used. They also complain that there is an official interpretation of the law, which is secret, and the Justice Department has acknowledged that. So the interpretation in effect is a law itself, which governs you, but you can't know what it is.

A nationwide study has found it common for local police departments to track cell phone locations. If you just happen to work with someone who is a suspect, the police might decide to track you. No warrant required.

The DEA has acknowledged that on some highways the license plate number of every passing car is saved, so later they can recreate the travel of your car. The practice is expanding, including in Arizona.

Here's a hole in your rights: When, as a U.S. citizen, you are returning from another country and are in the customs receiving process, it's as if you have no rights at all. Several journalists, who do things like document the lives of Iraqis, upon returning, each time are questioned for hours, have all electronics taken and copied, and sometimes not returned to them for weeks.

Those drone aircraft we use so much in the Middle East? They can spy on you. It's not legal but if they are over the U.S. during practice runs or such and "accidentally" leave their cameras and sensors on, anything they pick up can be used.

In London, the contents of smart phones and gadgets of anyone who is detained are copied, regardless if they are charged. It's likely U.S. departments will be eager to do the same.

For many decades, it's been illegal to feed propaganda to U.S. media. Some members of the House want to end the ban, making it legal for defense and intelligence departments to create lies and slip them into the U.S. media stream.

Some other time I'll write in detail about CISPA, a proposed law encouraging companies and government to share information with each other, building a huge profile of each of us, without a warrant. It's the usual story. The bill started with a small, legitimate need, but once the ball gets rolling it goes much too far.

It used to be that your financial information, or your love letters, were on paper in your home and so there was an expectation of privacy. Now you do everything across the Internet and save copies on Internet servers. How does the old expectation of privacy apply to that? Is that all now considered public? The private calendar entry to have dinner with someone who isn't your spouse - does someone interpret that as your having an affair? The deposit you record in a separate account - could that be taken as hiding income?

Since much of law is about precedent, as new ways to lose privacy get started, they then become their own precedent, and that much harder to roll back. The law needs to have a presumption of privacy until cause is shown to do otherwise.

You know, through the first half of U.S. history most of the Bill of Rights was ignored. Only much later did we gradually demand them. That the Constitution documents our inalienable rights is a small step. That we can now expect them is only because we insisted on them. Continuing that tradition is our little part. It would be a good way to honor those we remember on Memorial Day.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

@John Galt: Fair enough. I would have to say that the general sentiment around here that liberals want big government and conservatives want smaller government is a bit erroneous. Doesn't seem like Janet Brewer is shrinking government. Bush and Reagan sure didn't. These different ideologies just seem to have different ideas on where to make government bigger and where to make it smaller. We have regulation, militarism at home and abroad and many other things that enlarge that apparatus. Widening the rich and poor gap also contributes to an imbalance of power. If you keep big daddy government from influencing markets in any way, the gap grows. So it almost seems that if you do one thing that theoretically shrinks government, you also do something that grows it. It may require a whole paradigm shift, beyond the current left/right structure, to effect any real changes. There's something to what you said about restoring local control to communities. How to really accomplish that is a whole other can of worms.

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Cantlon

to John Galt, you're hitting the crux of the issue. Some comments here expressed surprise that I, who want a good safety net for people when the jobs are scarce, would also want our privacy and rights intact. That's always been the liberal position and is consistent with expecting our gov of, by and for us to act in our best interests. Don't let financiers crash the economy and destroy jobs, provide a safety net if they do, don't spy on citizens without cause. It does create a challenge but one that's necessary. Just shrinking the size of gov would not avoid that challenge and might make it worse. Cutting departments or budgets like the SEC or the Consumer Protection board or legal aid and a host of others just leaves the foxes unpoliced in the hen house and the gov will just be all the more of, by and for those willing to spend a lot on influence. I agree with going for local decisions wherever possible, like education, but the cost of health care, for any of us, public or private insured, is a national challenge and can only be effectively reigned in by a national effort.

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by: Kathy Svendsen

Tom, this is very scary and we should all appreciate your putting it into one cohesive column so we can see at a glance what we're up against. Loss of our freedoms was made possible, first, by the overreaction of the Bush government to the terrorist attack of 9/11, then pushed further along by the Obama administration.

We'll soon see if President Obama signed the NDAA bill out of concerns for the budget, as he stated. He will get a second go at it now that Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest declared the law unconstitutional. If the justice department fights tooth and nail against the ruling, then we'll know for sure what the president's motives truly are.

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by: A Liberal Perspective.

The Patriot Act was signed into law by George Bush..........the same clown that brought us "Mission Accomplished". I had NO doubts at the time that the Patriot Act would be used against the common, everyday citizens of this country in pursuit of "Justice". I don't care who drafted it...........Bush signed it. And for extending it for another four years I find Obama to be no better. The Patriot Act is an abomination to the civil rights of all American citizens. Once you give any law enforcement agency in this country the power of another law they will NEVER give it up. I knew this would happen...........I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Article comment by: John Galt

@MD, Tom VD, et. al.

A couple good points. Yes. The Patriot Act, the powers of the NSA, security issues in general are widely viewed as Republican issues (or threats if you're on the left) And Obamacare, welfare, social issues are widely viewed as Democrat issues (or threats if you're on the right)

I submit to you that the real problem is a massive, intrusive federal government that is at the same time overly protective and overly intrusive. They are two sides of the same coin and we are fooling ourselves if we believe we can have a government so big that it can take care of us, protect us from ourselves, and provide for our welfare but that will not intrude on our personal liberties.

I think that the federal government does have a responsibilty in safeguarding Americans from those will do us harm. But that responsibility does not include intruding into the lives of law-abiding citizens. I will never be one willing to relinquish my freedom and right to privacy for the promise of safety.

But likewise, the federal government has no business requiring people to buy healthcare, redistributing wealth, or another laundry list of so-called compassionate social programs. If anything, those issues should be left up to the states to decide.

So you see- they're not separate issues. We the people- you and me- give ourselves labels and call ourselves liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, so we have something to identify with but the people at the top are really all the same. Two sides of the same coin and their interest is power. "You vote for my domestic spy satellite and I'll vote for your food stamp program." And we're the suckers jumping onto one bandwagon or the other.

We have got to bring the power and decision making back down to the lowest level possible. I may argue with you about healthcare or other social issues but lets decide those for Arizona, not for Maine. Or vice-versa.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: M D

Just for the record. The patriot act predates Obamacare by quite a few years and has nothing to do with healthcare. It is possible to be for one and not the other.. Further there is no nationalized healthcare. Obamacare retains private doctors, private hospitals and private health insurance companies. It does attempt to eliminate health insurance abuses such as lifetime limits, rescission when one gets critically ill, and exclusions due to preexisting conditions. Who in government is telling you what you are allowed to eat? Maybe you object to the FDA and their pesky food inspectors. Come in off the ledge Tom G.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: white warlock

Tom G, the Tea Pots are nothing but the far right wing of the Republican Party. They are that fringe group who have no problem in espoucing their racism. and believing in the most moronic conspiracies. They are a useful tool to the establishment of the Republican Party, who are just as racist as they are but are to timid to admit it. You are their Brown Shirts, useful to gain power, but to embarassing to keep around once power is attained. Read about what happened to the SA during the Night of the Long Knifes, could be the future of the Tea Party. James Madison, you are wrong about the gazillion to one, the old racist vets are dieing off at a fantastic rate, replaced by the more liberal and progressive Veteran. Soon we will have the numbers to take over the VFW, and change them from a stodgy old racist organization to a new more open accepting organization. The CHANGE is coming, join us or get out of the way.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tom G

No Tom VD, you don't seem to "get it" at all.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

I'm starting to get it now after reading the comments. The Patriot Act and NDAA were brought to you by welfare moms, illegal immigrants getting handouts and socialist public sector workers. Oh, and the Patriot Act was drafted by Obama and Warren Buffett.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Ted's Perspective

Remembering the value of being a citizen of this great country is important. We have struggles and should not abandon communicating with our representatives on what we do and do not approve of. In the mist of many significant other influences, we seek our place to succeed.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Common Senzi

And how many of you would like to run for office knowing that the NSA has the most intimate details of your life on file?

Activity like this tends to stifle democracy, dissent and political change. That's kind of its whole point.

The only one who seems to even be speaking out about this is Ron Paul. That's why I'll be voting for him in november whether he's on the ballot or not.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Pat O'Brien

The amendments to the NDAA (military funding bill) were added by party leadership at the last minute. It did not go through the normal budget process. So, if you voted against it, you did not fund the military. That is how the parties, both of them, control the pursestrings of the nation without allowing the 12 budget committees, the knowledgeable ones it is supposed, do their work. One of our representative or senators needs to take a stand. Haven't seen one yet.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: John Galt

@ Tom G

Well said.

Just goes to prove the old axiom: you can't have it both ways. People who wish for a nanny state with a big comfy safety net may soon find out how restrictive that net can be.

btw Tom C. The NSA scares the hell outta me too.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: James Madison

@ white warlock aka honkey brujo. Trust me on this one ... the veterans in the Tea Party outnumber those in the Occupy crowd about, oh I'd say...about a gazillion to one.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Gee, I'm shocked

Tom, one of the predictable fallouts of a huge, all powerful, central government of which you seem to be a huge fan 99% of the time. Perhaps you should reconcile your own feelings before continuing to lecture to the rest of us.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Ninety-three percent of the US Senate approved NDAA, including Mark. Patriot Act BAD, NDAA GOOD?

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tom G

Hey white warlock, guess who the "fringe" really are:

"Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics"

PRINCETON, NJ -- Tea Party supporters skew right politically but demographically, they are generally representative of the public at large. That's the finding of a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 26-28, in which 28% of U.S. adults call themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.

In several other respects, however -- their age, educational background, employment status, and race -- Tea Partiers are quite representative of the public at large.


Oh, and while I'm at it, also from Gallup:

Conservatives Remain the Largest Ideological Group in U.S.

January 12, 2012

Political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40% of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This marks the third straight year that conservatives have outnumbered moderates, after more than a decade in which moderates mainly tied or outnumbered conservatives.


Looks like you "progressives" are the fringe!

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: An American

I can not improve on what Tom G wrote....

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: white warlock

The vast majority of those that died fighting for our freedoms are poor and working class, not of the ruling class. It is the grunt, the ground pounder, the swabby, that take the brunt of violence in America's war, not the Officer class. Celebrate their sacrifices to a Country where they are seen as second class citizens, not of those of the Tea Pot Chickenhawks.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Thanks Tom for pointing this out. The Utah Data Center being built in Bluffdale, Utah will allow the National Security Agency (NSA) wire tap all communications from and to American locations plus all E-Mail and search engine activity. And don't forget the civilian use of drones in America also in use without judge approved warrants. We better get " elected officials" statements on how they feel about these violations of our constitutional rights before their next election. And that includes the candidates for county supervisor.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: James Madison

Be careful there, Tom. You're starting to sound like a Tea Party Conservative. Your lib buddies ain't gonna like that.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: Tom G

Amazing, isn’t it. The same guy whose columns time after time SUPPORTS big government, SUPPORTS OWS, SUPPORTS "jack-booted" central control over business is now concerned about HIS freedom.

You and your "progressive" pals whined for nationalized healthcare but you never gave it any thought how you kicked open the door for government micro-managing of your life, did you? Every day I see headlines on how government is contemplating "regulating" this and "taxing" that aspect of our daily life. When you give an all-powerful "central planning government" that kind of control, don’t be surprised when corruption takes over. They already are trying to tell us what to eat, what to drive, how much we should be allowed to earn, what kind of light bulbs to use and when ObamaCare is fully implemented, how much healthcare we should be allowed to have and how long we will be allowed to live. Visionary fiction writers wrote novels about it 50 years ago and now we are going to live it.

Funny how you are complaining about the bipartisan and passed nearly unanimously Patriot Act now. We saw it opened the door to abuse of AMERICAN citizen should the WRONG administration came to power. Well buddy, here it is! This president "deemed" (remember THAT word?) himself the power to have US citizens executed anywhere in the world WITHOUT due process. Meanwhile, the 9/11 mastermind is given every consideration, every right possible.

The MORE Americans government-dependent, the MORE government will be telling all of us what we can and cannot do. Under Mr. Hope and Change we have MORE job-aged people who CANNOT find a job EVER. 1 of ever 2 college grads CANNOT find a job. The MOST people on "semi-permanent" unemployment. The MOST people EVER on welfare and food stamps EVER. The more who depend on government to subsist, the MORE POWER those in government will wield over us. Your team always "knows what's best for the rest of us", but you forgot it included YOU too! Remember THAT come November.

Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Article comment by: WAKE UP

You cannot safeguard what has been lost. Personal freedoms and privacy are gone. Only the hollow shelled myth of democracy remains standing.
America is over.

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