L.A. Liberty

A Libertarian in Leftywood

New York Cops Know People Have a Right to Record Them; They Just Don't Care →

From his car, Brooklyn resident Dick George sees a couple of cops exit an unmarked vehicle and perform a “stop and frisk” and three black youths. George takes pictures of this encounter. After the cops walk away, George tells youths that next time they should demand badge numbers.

Cops overhear this and one says “What did he just say to them, get our badge number? … Let’s go get him,” or words to that effect. The cops then accost George:

After stopping George’s car, the cops roughed him up, handcuffed him, and took him to the precinct house, where he was strip-searched, locked in a cell, and charged with disorderly conduct. When he got his cellphone back after being released with a desk appearance ticket, he found that the photos of the stop-and-frisk encounter had been deleted.

According to George’s complaint, the cops repeatedly told him he was getting what he deserved for “being an activist.” Ferber allegedly said something like: “Now we are going to give you what you deserve for meddling in our business and when we finish with you, you can sue the city for $5,000,000 and get rich. We don’t care.”

That estimate was off by a factor of 40. The New York Daily News reported on Monday that the city agreed to settle George’s lawsuit for $125,000. “After a thorough review of the case facts,” a lawyer for the city said, “it was in the best interest of all to resolve this matter without costly litigation and trial.”

The officers, of course, are not on the hook for any of that money, which will instead come out of taxpayers’ pockets. And judging from the comments reported by George, the prospect of litigation does not deter this sort of unlawful bullying. The problem was not that the cops didn’t realize they were violating George’s rights; it was that they did not care, because they did not expect to suffer any negative consequences as a result—for good reason, according to the lawsuit:

The supervisory staff of the NYPD has consistently failed to investigate allegations such as those contained herein and to discipline officers who have violated NYPD guidelines. The investigation of these incidents by central office and/or supervisory staff reflects a bias in favor of uniformed officers. Furthermore, officers and staff who are known to have violated an individual’s civil rights in one command are often transferred by NYPD to another command rather than be disciplined, demoted or fired by the NYPD.

The cost of settling lawsuits like George’s helps explain the recent NYPD memo. But reminding cops that they are supposed to respect people’s constitutional rights will not accomplish much unless they suffer personally for violating them. Since courts have ruled that cops do not receive qualified immunity in cases like this (because the right to record them is well established), officers can theoretically find themselves owing damages to the people they victimize. But the usual practice in settling cases is to drop claims against individual cops along with claims against the city and the police department. Maybe it is time to reconsider that practice. The threat of financial ruin would be harder to laugh off than the threat of taxpayer-funded damages.

Yet another example of the unofficial police policy on engaging suspects at work.

Land of the Free? →

Can anyone name even one individual right that the government has not rescinded and turned into a conditional privilege?

We no longer enjoy freedom of speech. Is it necessary to elaborate? At a time when a person must ask permission to be allowed to publicly (and peacefully) express dissatisfaction with the government? When the expression of certain views is sufficient legal warrant to provoke a “visit” – or worse – by armed men who are empowered to kidnap the speaker or writer? When the mere wearing of a T-shirt with “objectionable” slogans or images upon it is regarded by the law as sufficient warrant to “detain” (that is, forcibly assault) a person? What happened to “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”?

We are not at liberty to choose with whom we associate, even in private. Or do business with. We are subject to arrest and imprisonment if we decline to associate with persons the government decrees we must associate with, or do business without the requisite permissions (such as licenses) and according to the rules laid down by the state. If you are 17 years old, you must attend a government school. You are not at liberty to go to work and support yourself, if that is your wish. It is “against the law.”

Everything – just about – is either “against the law” or requires the state’s permission first.

Our right to be “secure in our persons and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures” is a nullity. There is no place – not even in our homes – that we are not subject to grotesquely unreasonable searches and seizures. Is it necessary to elaborate? At a time when people are being violated in the most degrading way (roadside digital inspection of their body cavities) under color of law? When what would be considered sexual assault if done by any Mere Mundane is sanctified as “reasonable” by the courts? At a time when every single phone call, every single e-mail, is recorded and analyzed by the government? This is “reasonable”? According to the government, which interprets its own powers to suit, it certainly is.

Once, we were free to possess and carry arms. The Second Amendment formally acknowledged this absolute right: “…shall not be infringed.” Is it necessary to catalog the infringements we suffer? “Infringe” has become as meaningless as “reasonable.” Or rather, they have both come to mean their opposites in practice. It is a crime in most states merely to carry a firearm not obviously visible (i.e., “concealed,” for which one must posses a permission slip). In some states – and the federal capital itself – it is a felony to possess a firearm, period. So much for “shall not be infringed.”

Americans are subject to being dragooned into the night, held without charge – for years – at the whim of the government. The fact that is has not (yet) been done on a large scale is not relevant. That fact is it could be, at any time – because the authority has been asserted and formalized into “the law” by executive fiat and court sanction (or refusal to not sanction). There is no appeal, no mechanism in law to protect the individual. Merely the hazy recollection that it didn’t used to be that way. Once that fades, the results will be predictable.

We are forced – under threat of lengthy incarceration - to provide evidence the government can and will use to prosecute us as “criminals.” Doubt it? Decline to provide the government with information regarding your business dealings, your assets, your salary – and see what happens.

The onetime right to a trial by jury has been end-run by “administrative” law. Pay up – or else.

So much for the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

We are allowed to own nothing of substance. Our homes and land are functionally owned by the state, which assess us rent in the form of property tax. Fail to pay the rent and you will quickly discover who owns “your” land.

Not even your physical person is your own property. The state owns you. It decrees you may not consume certain substance as this might harm its property. You may not mate or partner with another without permission – or only in certain “approved” ways. The children you produce are not yours to raise. They must be raised as the state decrees, properly “educated” in ways the state approves.

And the Ninth and Tenth Amendments? A sick joke.

What “rights” has the federal government not arrogated unto itself? It forcibly injects itself into the most mundane and minute affairs of individuals; most recently, it has asserted that each of us must purchase health insurance – or else – and will shortly assert its “right” to micromanage our actual “health,” to include our personal habits and recreations – very probably, the opinions we hold.

So much for our rights.

They may continue to exist, of course. But they are not respected.

Hobby Lobby is a much simpler and less important case than it’s been made out to be, for reasons the Court clearly spelled out today. Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate had to fall under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (without even getting to the First Amendment) because it didn’t show – couldn’t show – that there’s no other way of achieving its goal without violating religious beliefs. Moreover, the fact that a for-profit corporation is asserting the statute’s protections is of no moment because neither the corporate form nor the profit motive undermines RFRA’s solicitude for the rights of humans – including owners, officers, and shareholders. In short, the mandate fell because it was a rights-busting government compulsion that lacked sufficient justification. Nobody has been denied access to contraceptives and there’s now more freedom for all Americans to live their lives how they want, without checking their freedom at the office door.

— Ilya Shapiro, “Of Course Government Can’t Violate Religious Liberty for No Good Reason”

I’m Noble: Give Me the Power to Protect Myself from Competition →



DOJ accelerates hunt for domestic terrorists

"Holder also noted that the task force will focus on individuals within our borders motivated by antigovernment sentiments…"

I wonder if these antigovernment extremists will be afforded any semblance of due process of law considering they’ll be the target of domestic counterterrorism efforts.

Love “your” government, or else.

The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those “doing wrong” – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. “Doing something wrong” in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat. …

All of the evidence highlights the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing.

This … invites passivity, obedience and conformity. The safest course, the way to ensure being “left alone”, is to remain quiet, unthreatening and compliant.


Glenn Greenwald explains that, from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys.” Don’t believe the argument that mass surveillance is only a problem for wrongdoers. Governments have repeatedly spied on anyone who challenges their power.

Files related to Cointelpro showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters and various rightwing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them.

Those revelations led to the creation of the Senate Church Committee, which concluded: “[Over the course of 15 years] the bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilate operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”

These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups”. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”. The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who “have done something wrong” should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.

The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners. …

[G]overnment plans to monitor and influence internet communications and disseminate false information online have long been a source of speculation. The GCHQ documents show for the first time that these controversial techniques have moved from the proposal stage to implementation.

Philosophy Professor Wants To Criminalize Scientific Dissent →

The War Against Truth →

Very much worth your time.

[The NSA Director is] flat out admitting — as many have noted — that his pet cybersecurity bills are dead right now because of all of the Snowden leaks, showing just how abusive the NSA has been. And his answer to that is not to fix the NSA, but to pass bills to stifle the free press from reporting on NSA efforts, which he then thinks will allow the government to pass legislation like CISPA.


Mike Masnik for Techdirt, on NSA Director Kieth Alexander’s argument that the government needs to figure out a way to “handle media leaks.” (via hipsterlibertarian)


These documents were some of the ones that I found most disturbing pretty early on, because they talk about how the British Government, and this is a presentation made to the NSA and three other allies about how the British government and its intelligence agency the GCHQ does things like “false flag operations” as they call it, where they post very incriminating things to the internet and then they attribute it falsely to someone whose reputation that they are trying to smear. Or they notify their friends or family or they disseminate the disruptive information about them.

They use “honey traps,” which is the use of sexually appealing women (whether fictionalized or real) to lure their targets into compromising situations. And it’s not just the normal spy craft. They’re [not just] doing it to the leaders of hostile countries, to the military or intelligence officials. It’s directed at people who are just dissidents. People with the group “Anonymous,” people they call “hacktivists,” and normal, criminal suspects that have been charged with no crimes.

They infiltrate online communities and intentionally disseminate deception throughout the internet, making the internet really an untrustworthy place to be. …

One of the things that the Obama administration and its apologists love to say in response to some of the NSA reporting that we are doing, is that there is no evidence of any sort of political targeting like there was in the 60s and 70s, and that is absolute false. Not only is the new story that I described an example of that, but so too is the one that you just referenced where they were monitoring people who visited the Wikileaks website which could be journalists, [this editor], supporters, people who are whistleblowers who wanted to give information. They used their access to fiber optic cables to collect very invasive information, including their IP address, which can enable the government to individually identify someone. You have groups like Wikileaks and Anonymous and hacktivists, and we published a story a couple months ago about using the porn habits of people that the government deems “radicals” to try and destroy their reputation.

In every era when the government targets dissidents, those dissidents are never popular. So a lot of people don’t like Wikileaks or hacktivists. Back in the 60s and 70s people didn’t like various civil rights leaders, they didn’t like anti-war groups. But the point is that you should not have the government being able to destroy people using covert means. That is why we have due process. There is a distinction, they are only able to punish people who they have charged and given a fair trial to and convicted.

— Glenn Greenwald: documents show intelligence agencies using “false flag operations” to discredit opponents

Over the past four years, one worrying trend has remained consistent: governments continue to ask us to remove political content. Judges have asked us to remove information that’s critical of them, police departments ask us to take down videos or blogs that shine a light on their conduct, and local institutions like town councils don’t want people to be able to find information about their decision-making processes.

These officials often cite defamation, privacy, and even copyright laws in attempts to remove political speech from our services.


Susan Infantino, Legal Director at Google

From January to June 2013, the search giant received 3,846 government requests to remove content from its search services, which represents a 68% increase over the second half of 2012. The United States made 545 requests detailing 3,887 items. Only Turkey has made more such requests.

Committee to Protect Journalists issues scathing report on Obama administration →

How can these Obama-supporters who hated Bush repeatedly excuse all the things they once abhorred? There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what some of them will condone so long as it’s one of their own calling the shots.

University of Florida LB barks at police dog, gets arrested →

Despite the fact that he’s a Gator and I’m a ‘Cane, I experience no Schadenfreude at the wanton abuse of power by the state.

His biggest mistake was not oinking.

Propaganda and Censorship: The Hollywood Industrial Complex →

It’s an open secret in Hollywood that before the MPAA reviews many movies, the Pentagon does. David Robb documents the practice in his book Operation Hollywood. Whenever movie producers want to use Pentagon equipment: helicopters, bases, submarines, etc. they send a request to the Pentagon, along with five copies of the script. The Pentagon replies with proposed changes to the script, which the producer must either accept, or forgo the equipment (which disinclines studios to finance the film, since it entails extra costs). Then, while the movie is shot, a “minder” hangs along, to ensure the director sticks to the script. Final approval comes from Pentagon brass who pre-screen and censor the film. …

Movies that garnered approval include Pearl Harbor, Top Gun and GoldenEye. Movies that had to due without include Forrest Gump, Platoon, Independence Day and Thin Red Line. Among the taboo subjects for the Pentagon: anything that will decrease recruiting, alcohol or drug use, aliens overpowering the military or any military personnel depicted in a negative light. Forrest Gump failed to procure funds for implying that the Army was staffed by “soldiers of limited intelligence” and for the scene in which Hanks moons the President. In the original GoldenEye script a Navy Admiral sells state secrets, the final version, it’s now a Frenchman. …

The Pentagon claims it aims to “portray the military as it actually is,” but don’t planes sometimes have technical difficulties? Doesn’t torture sometimes lead to bad information? Don’t soldiers come home with post-traumatic stress because the enemies are human, not vague abstractions? Does the Pentagon truly want to “accurately portray” history? Let’s examine two cases studies. The first is the 2000 movie, Thirteen Days, in which the military brass urges President Kennedy to engage Cuba militarily. David Robb recalls that Pentagon pushed the producers to tone down the implications, but they refused and went without military assistance – a risky move since, “most studio heads tell their producers, ‘We’re not going to make this film unless we get military assistance, because it would be too expensive. So you’d better make sure the script conforms to what they want.’” One such case is Charlie Wilson’s War, the movie about Charlie Wilson’s attempts to aid the Mujahedeen during our proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan. In the original script, says Matthew Alford, in an interview with Al Jazeera [30:00] “there is a very clear link between the U.S. arming the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the causes of 9/11. Now, we know from a CIA advisor who was on set, he says ‘we deliberately made sure we excised that film.’” I asked Alford, author of Reel Time: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, whether the Pentagon’s thumbs down had ever silenced a movie entirely. He cited Countermeasures, a 1994 movie that requested an aircraft carrier but was turned down because, “There’s no reason for us to denigrate the White House or remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair.” As to the “accurate portrayal” question, he replied, “Since when was it ‘realistic’ for the US military to go to war against Transformers?”

The CIA has recently gotten into the racket. The Los Angeles Times reports “The CIA has kept an entertainment liaison on staff only since 1996. At that point, the Cold War had ended, and the agency was fighting for its budget and its existence on Capitol Hill. The new mission was clear: to overcome the CIA’s image in popular entertainment as incompetent, evil or rife with rogue employees.” Bill Harlow, the CIA public affairs chief is quoted saying, “I made that a big priority, and we did a lot more with Hollywood than ever before.” Tricia Jenkins reports in her book The CIA in Hollywood that the CIA was “influenced” the production of Argo, which is why the movie is essentially an ad for the CIA. She reports that the underlying theme- that the public never finds about the CIA’s successes and only its failures- is one of the narratives that the CIA constantly encourages producers and directors to relate. 


Every time I look at this young man’s photo, my heart breaks apart for him and his family:


Cameron D’Ambrosio should not be in handcuffs.  He should not be in a court room.  He should not have been arrested, and he damn well sure should not have been accused of Communicating a Terrorist Threat, or threatened with 20 years in prison for making what amounts to poor word choices.

This entire case is shot through with injustice:

Before charges were even formally filed, local newspapers were already posting pictures from Cam’s facebook and pointing to “disturbing” posts like “Fuck politics. Fuck Obama. Fuck the government!” and “satanic” imagery (like some image from a metal band’s poster.) All of this is free speech that is 100% protected by the 1st Amendment.

And then there’s this:

Fox News went so far as to say that Cam’s facebook profile had images that they “couldn’t show on TV.” They and other media outlets frequently and intentionally printed only a small section of the lyrics that Cam was arrested for allegedly writing, and took them out of context to make rap metaphors sound like a real threat.

The media printed:

“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous”

The actual line is:

“(Expletive) a boston bominb wait till u see the (expletive) I do, I’ma be famous rapping”

Notice something? The context completely changes the meaning of the line. Suddenly something that sounds like a threat of violence is clearly just bragging about how good Cammy Dee is going to be in the rap game. Last we checked, teenage dreams of grandeur were not a crime.

Such omissions are scandalous.  You can see one example here (they also incorrectly stated that Cameron pleaded “guilty.”  He pled “not guilty.”).  The source above also reported that Cameron was arrested on a previous assault and battery charge, but neglected to mention that those charges were later dismissed.

This case involves a number of horrifying breaches of journalistic ethics, paired with a complete, utter failure to exercise prosecutorial discretion.  A young 18-year old man with his whole life ahead of him may spend the next 20 years of his life in prison for doing nothing more than posting uncouth status updates on his Facebook page.  As Rob D’Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University, said recently:

When I was young, calling a bomb threat to your high school because you didn’t want to go to school that day was treated with a slap on the wrist. Try that nowadays and you’re going to prison, no question about it. They are taking it more seriously now[.]

And then there’s this gem from the local police chief:

“There are no more threats that are high school pranks,” said Joseph Solomon, police chief, during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “If they’re thinking that way, they need to get their heads into 2013.”

This is the incarceration nation in motion.  The fear of legitimate threats is used to extend the scope of punitive executive scrutiny to cases that otherwise would’ve been dealt with outside the criminal justice system.  Stupid mistakes and ill-timed remarks become serious felonies with decades in prison as the penalty.

Cases like this highlight the need for people to push back against the overcriminalization of America.  We need to stop sending our kids to prison for dumb mistakes.  We need to stop traumatizing 18-year olds by making them do the perp walk, and then telling them they’re facing 20 years in prison for being oafish online.   None of this is necessary.  All of it is unjust, improper, and counterproductive.

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