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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Judge Alex Kozinski: 

The Fourth Amendment is Gone. "Welcome to the fish bowl."

Damon W. Root
Feb.23. 2010

Last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an en banc rehearing of the case United States v. Lemus, which dealt with a warrantless police search of a suspect’s home after he was arrested outside of it. As a result of the 9th Circuit’s denial, the search will stand, which has left Chief Judge Alex Kozinski none too happy.

In dissent, Kozinksi basically accused his colleagues of abandoning the Fourth Amendment:

This is an extraordinary case: Our court approves, without blinking, a police sweep of a person’s home without a warrant, without probable cause, without reasonable suspicion and without exigency—in other words, with nothing at all to support the entry except the curiosity police always have about what they might find if they go rummaging around a suspect’s home. Once inside, the police managed to turn up a gun “in plain view”—stuck between two cushions of the living room couch—and we reward them by upholding the search.

Did I mention that this was an entry into somebody’s home, the place where the protections of the Fourth Amendment are supposedly at their zenith?...

The opinion misapplies Supreme Court precedent, conflicts with our own case law and is contrary to the great weight of authority in the other circuits. It is also the only case I know of, in any jurisdiction covered by the Fourth Amendment, where invasion of the home has been approved based on no showing whatsoever. Nada. Gar nichts. Rien du tout. Bupkes.

Whatever may have been left of the Fourth Amendment after [United States v. Black] is now gone. The evisceration of this crucial constitutional protector of the sanctity and privacy of what Americans consider their castles is pretty much complete. Welcome to the fish bowl.

Read the whole thing here (.pdf). In our July 2006 issue, Shikha Dalmia interviewed Judge Kozinski about free speech, privacy, libertarianism, and more.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Terminal Lack Of Connection

Keith Farnish

It seems trite to say this, but the root of our destructive behaviour, as inhabitants of a planet on the cusp of ecological collapse, is that we are no longer connected: surely we are more connected than ever in our globalized, Internet-enabled, satellite ringed existence. Well, yes, but connection on whose terms? Everything has a price in the civilized world, and the price for our ability to connect to anyone we like at the click of a mouse button is our absorption into a system that values nothing that doesn’t make a profit and keep the industrial machine ticking over.

Real connection has nothing to do with profit: real connection is old, as old as humanity – it takes us to a place and a time where our lives were irrevocably bound up in the breath of plants, the migration of animals, the knowledge that kept us safe and nourished in a life that was full and of our own making. For hundreds of thousands of years, in countless places across the globe, in myriad different tribes and communities, humanity connected deeply to the land, the sea and the sky – it mythologised that which it didn’t understand, and respected everything that was essential to it’s continued existence, whether it understood it or not. Connection then, as now, is what keeps life going on Earth, and without it we would fall like a sack of rocks into a deep well.

Splash! As easy as that.

The reason we are pulling the plug on our life-support system is not because humans have a natural tendency to destroy; it is just that there are groups of people who have created a system in which the majority of its participants see only one way to live. If you perform a role that benefits the economy in some way, either directly through trade, or indirectly by the application of the many laws, systems and processes that keep Industrial Civilization growing, then you are a part of that system, and you are perpetuating that singular belief.

Industrial Civilization sells us a dream that has nothing to do with real connection.

The civilized dream is one of endless “progress” towards a future where the financialbenefits flow up the hierarchy, and the only aspiration of humanity is to live a synthetic life devoid of anything we haven’t manufactured ourselves. Industrial Civilization thrives on, and needs us to live, atomised, disconnected lives.

That is the foundation on which the solutions presented in Time’s Up! sit: most people are not ready to change, but the people who are ready to change can change in astonishing and fundamental ways, and with their experience, can start to take the next group of people with them – and so it must go on. Being human does not divorce us from our basic need to survive, but if we are to survive then we must remember what really matters doesn’t come from a shop; it doesn’t come on wheels; and it doesn’t come out of the mouths of politicians.

What really matters, is what matters to us.

So many environmental campaigners and groups take the view that we will be able to somehow turn around the vast tanker that is carrying humanity to its extinction, and in order to do so, everyone on board must start to move in a different direction, however small that change is. The truth is, we are not on a tanker: we never have been – we are individuals, families and communities each with our own means of propulsion, but caught in a rip current that is taking us to a place we must not go.

It’s surprisingly easy to get out of a rip current: just swim sideways.


Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution To A Global Crisis (Green Books) is available from Green Books (, Waterstones and many independent book shops. More information about the book can be found at Keith Farnish is a radical environmental writer, campaigner and father of two.


Ex-patrol superintendents allege political meddling

Political appointees hold too much sway over Ohio State Police agency, colonels say

By Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch
February 21, 2010

(USA-Ohio) Former Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendents say the agency’s reputation for independent, nonpolitical law enforcement is being tarnished by interference from political appointees. Seven of the eight living retired colonels who led the patrol from 1965 to 2009 have united to send their message to troopers, state leaders and Ohioans via a new Web site:

Secrecy surrounding the selection of a new superintendent, failure to investigate a case of “obvious fraud” by a state contractor and the scuttling of a planned sting at the Governor’s Residence prompted the ex-colonels to go public with their concerns.

"These concerns confirmed our suspicions that the long and corrupting tentacles of political interference at the operational levels and inner workings of the patrol had finally taken root,” said Thomas W. Rice, superintendent from 1989 to 1994.

The ex-colonels led the patrol for more than half of its existence, since troopers first were dispatched to Ohio’s roads in 1933.  They say that the patrol is being micromanaged and subjected to “external meddling” — the likes of which they never experienced under any governor, Democrat or Republican.

The retired superintendents said they received appropriate deference from their governors and public safety directors on operational decisions and investigations. "It’s heartbreaking,” said Paul D. McClellan, superintendent from 2003 to 2007. “It’s one of the pillars … the patrol follows the rule of the law and gets the job done without political influence.

The former leaders fear that confidence is dwindling in a force proud of its integrity, spit-and-polish military demeanor and adherence to doing things by the book.  While satisfied troopers on the road get the job done, the former patrol bosses worry about the direction of new leadership of the patrol and its parent, the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

They are not alone. Ohio Senate Republicans, Inspector General Thomas P. Charles and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien also have recently criticized patrol policies and decisions. In an extraordinary public grilling last week, the new patrol leader, Col. David Dicken, was questioned by Republicans at a Senate committee hearing.

They asked about Dicken’s destruction of patrol-account records, his role in a never-initiated criminal probe involving his former command, and the decision to not arrest a woman suspected of plotting to smuggle contraband to an inmate working at the governor’s home. Dicken denied any wrongdoing or bad calls.

Dicken and his boss, Public Safety Director Cathy Collins-Taylor, have refused to speak with The Dispatch since his appointment was announced on Dec. 23. They again declined to be interviewed, but the Public Safety Department provided a statement.

“Part of the problems and issues has been conflicts between the patrol and other divisions, or management of the department. Those conflicts no longer exist. We’ve moved past the issues that created them and because of that, do not believe it’s appropriate to continue to re-hash them publicly.

Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland said he has confidence that Dicken and Collins-Taylor, who was appointed in September, can lead the patrol beyond the “turf wars” between ousted Public Safety Director Henry Guzman and former Col. Richard H. Collins, who is not related to Collins-Taylor.

“I can assure you there has been no political interference in these matters from this office,” Strickland said.

The former No. 1 and No. 2 patrol leaders trace problems to Strickland’s 2007 appointment of Guzman and the team he assembled. “All of a sudden, we needed to be fixed. It was a daily thing. It is a daily thing,” said William Costas, who retired last month as a lieutenant colonel.

From promotions to discipline of troopers to restricting patrol leaders’ contact with legislators, Collins said he regularly clashed with Guzman, assistant director George Maier and department lawyer Joshua Engel.

Public Safety adopted a policy forbidding patrol investigators from consulting prosecutors or conducting criminal probes of state Public Safety workers unless authorized by the department director or Kent Markus, Strickland’s chief lawyer.

Although he never knew it to kill a probe, Collins chafed at political appointees gaining “green-light or red-light authority” over investigations and being required to constantly consult Engel. “It’s not appropriate. … We are the primary lawenforcement agency for investigating state government, and we need to do our job,” he said.

As headlines about infighting between Guzman and Collins mounted, the department sought to restrict the release of information to the public, Collins said. Guzman could not be reached for comment.

Public Safety employees were warned that they faced discipline if they disclosed the existence of public records or suggested the filing of a records request. Troopers were told that they could be fired if they talked to the news media without permission.

“They were more concerned about leaks (to the media) than our own responsibility to do the right thing” and release records and information, Collins said.  Collins said he met at least a half-dozen times with senior Strickland staff members to express concerns about the interference, but little changed.

Both Guzman and Collins were ousted in August by Strickland, who grew tired of their head-butting. Collins-Taylor, a former Columbus police officer in charge of state liquor agents, succeeded Guzman, picking the troopers’ union-backed Dicken as her superintendent.

McClellan called it “laughable” that Collins-Taylor told Dicken to warn — instead of arrest — a would-be courier to not drop off suspected drugs outside Strickland’s home last month.

“It not only is wrong, but impractical to have to go play ‘Mother, may I?’ with political appointees. It is a wrong direction for an organization sworn to uphold the law and follow the rule of law,” McClellan said. He dismissed Dicken’s assertion that the sting would have been “a gross violation” of officer safety. “It’s embarrassing to think it’s an officer-safety issue … That is what we are supposed to do, that is what we are paid to do — make arrests,” he said.

Robert M. Chiaramonte, 89, superintendent from 1965 to 1975, joined the patrol in 1941 and has followed the goings-on. “You have an organization that is dedicated to, and sworn to do, a job. They should be allowed to do it. I think we’re pretty much politicized now.”

Chiaramonte said the administrations of the governors under whom he worked — Republican James A. Rhodes and Democrat John Gilligan — never crossed the line to interfere in how the patrol operated or what it investigated. The old trooper said he told Rhodes, Gilligan and their staffs: “The patrol is like the Swiss Guard. We don’t care who the pope is; we do our job.”


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

American political system 'sucks'

CNN Politics
Feb. 16, 2010

Washington (CNN) - John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, can describe the state of Washington politics with a single word. And it's not a nice one.

Asked in an interview with the Financial Times to comment on "the health of American political system," Podesta responded: "Sucks."

Podesta made the remark with a chuckle, but the man who chaired President Obama's transition team expressed deep concern about the White House's ability to pass big ticket items in the current political climate.

He blamed much of the gridlock on Republicans and a newly "strengthened" conservative movement.

"I think the president is trying to re-engage with Republicans, but quite frankly he is not dealing with the party of Lincoln, he is dealing with the party of Palin and the party of McConnell and the party of Boehner," Podesta said in the interview, which was filmed and posted online Monday. "They have a political strategy, really, which is that fierce opposition, trying to say no to everything will endure to their political benefit, and so far it looks like that is working for them, so I don't see them changing all that much."

But he also reserved a healthy dose of criticism for the Obama administration, which he said focused too much on the inside game of Congress during the health care debate, instead of communicating their broader goals to the electorate, particularly to independent voters.

"All the concentration was on working the inside legislative process and I think they paid a price for that, in my mind, the administration paid a price for that because I think the narrative was all about the deals and not what was in it, what the substance of what the legislation was and how it connected to the broader project" of improving people's lives and strengthening the economy, Podesta said.

Podesta, who was also Bill Clinton's final White House chief of staff, said he is optimistic that a health care bill can still be passed, along with new energy legislation.

"I'm not as despairing as all that to think that he still can't move forward," he said of the president. "He still has avenues open to him."


Monday, February 01, 2010

China bugs and burgles Britain

By Dave Leppard
Times Online UK
January 31, 2010

THE security service MI5 has accused China of bugging and burgling UK business executives and setting up “honeytraps” in a bid to blackmail them into betraying sensitive commercial secrets.

A leaked MI5 document says that undercover intelligence officers from the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security have also approached UK businessmen at trade fairs and exhibitions with the offer of “gifts” and “lavish hospitality”.

The gifts — cameras and memory sticks — have been found to contain electronic Trojan bugs which provide the Chinese with remote access to users’ computers.

MI5 says the Chinese government “represents one of the most significant espionage threats to the UK” because of its use of these methods, as well as widespread electronic hacking.

Written by MI5’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the 14-page “restricted” report describes how China has attacked UK defence, energy, communications and manufacturing companies in a concerted hacking campaign.

It claims China has also gone much further, targeting the computer networks and email accounts of public relations companies and international law firms. “Any UK company might be at risk if it holds information which would benefit the Chinese,” the report says.

The explicit nature of the MI5 warning is likely to strain diplomatic ties between London and Beijing. Relations between the two countries were damaged last month after China’s decision to execute a mentally ill British man for alleged drug trafficking.

Earlier this month the United States demanded that China investigate a sophisticated hacking attack on Google and a further 30 American companies from Chinese soil.

China has occasionally attempted sexual entrapment to target senior British political figures. Two years ago an aide to Gordon Brown had his BlackBerry phone stolen after being picked up by a Chinese woman who had approached him in a Shanghai hotel disco.

The report says the practice has now extended to commercial espionage. It says Chinese agents are trying to cultivate “long-term relationships” with the employees of key British companies: “An undercover intelligence officer may try to develop a friendship or business relationship, often using lavish hospitality and flattery.

“Chinese intelligence services have also been known to exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships and illegal activities to pressurise individuals to co-operate with them.”

The warning to British businessmen adds: “Hotel rooms in major Chinese cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, which are frequented by foreigners, are likely to be bugged ... hotel rooms have been searched while the occupants are out of the room.”

It warns that British executives are being targeted in China and in other countries. “During conferences or visits to Chinese companies you may be given gifts such as USB devices or cameras. There have been cases where these ‘gifts’ have contained Trojan devices and other types of malware.”

China has repeatedly denied spying on Britain and the West. Its London embassy did not comment.

In 2007 Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, had written privately to 300 chief executives of banks and other businesses warning them that their IT systems were under attack from “Chinese state organisations”.

There have been unconfirmed reports that China has tried to hack into computers belonging to the Foreign Office, nine other Whitehall departments and parliament.

Last year a report by Whitehall’s joint intelligence committee said China may be capable of shutting down critical services such as power, food and water supplies. But the latest document is the most comprehensive and explicit warning to be issued by the UK authorities on the new threat. Entitled The Threat from Chinese Espionage, it was circulated to hundreds of City and business leaders last year.

The growing threat from China has led Evans to complain that his agency is being forced to divert manpower and resources away from the fight against Al-Qaeda. His lobbying helped to prompt the Cabinet Office to set up the Office of Cyber Security, which will be launched in March.