Lebanese protest anal exams on suspected homosexuals
Arab world’s leading LGBT group says tests on men suspected of homosexuality ‘shameful, illegal and irrelevant scientifically’
Dozens of people demonstrated outside the law courts in the Lebanese capital on Saturday to protest the use of anal “tests” on men suspected of homosexuality, which is a criminal offence in the Arab country.
The rally followed a July 28 police raid on a gay venue in a working class district of Beirut when 36 men were taken into custody and forced to undergo the examinations, reportedly to determine their sexual orientation.
Lebanon-based HELEM, considered the Arab world’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group, called for the rally under the slogan: “Stand up against the tests of shame, vaginal or anal.”
It also voiced solidarity with women subjected to so-called “virginity tests.”
“We’re here because we want a clear statement from the ministry of justice that these kind of tests should be completely abolished and punished by the law,” said participant George Azzi
“The syndicate of doctors has declared these tests are irrelevant scientifically and it’s illegal for doctors to do these tests, but that doesn’t mean police can’t still request it,” he said.
Men and women – ranging from gay and lesbian young adults to a father and daughter – chanted in unison and held banners that read: “United to abolish the tests of shame.”
Other homemade signs struck a more sarcastic tone: “Honorable minister, before you test my anus, at least take me out to dinner,” read one.
But for most, the tests were no laughing matter.
One sign read: “The cost of forensic rape: 125,000 Lebanese lira” (about $85), pointing out that the men subjected to the anal probes were being charged for the procedure.
Under Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, sexual relations “contradicting the laws of nature” are illegal and violators may be punished by up to one year in prison
Obama White House pays women less than men, records show
BY: Andrew Stiles –
Female employees in the Obama White House make considerably less than their male colleagues, records show.
According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).
Calculating the median salary for each gender required some assumptions to be made based on the employee names. When unclear, every effort was taken to determine the appropriate gender.
The Obama campaign on Wednesday lashed out at presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his failure to immediately endorse the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, a controversial law enacted in 2009 that made it easier to file discrimination lawsuits.
President Obama has frequently criticized the gender pay gap, such as the one that exists in White House.
“Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income,” he said in a July 2010 statement. “And with so many families depending on women’s wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole.”
It is not known whether any female employees at the White House have filed lawsuits under the Ledbetter Act.
The president and his Democratic allies have accused Republicans of waging a “war on women,” and have touted themselves as champions of female equality. Obama’s rhetoric, however, has not always been supported by his actions.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week that Obama believes it is “long past the time” for women to be admitted to the traditionally all-male Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters golf tournament.
But the president has demonstrated a strong preference for all-male foursomes in his frequent golf outings, a bias that extends well beyond the putting green and into the Oval Office.
“Women are Obama’s base, and they don’t seem to have enough people who look like the base inside of their own inner circle,” former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers told the New York Times.
In a 2011 article titled “The White House Boys’ Club: President Obama Has a Woman Problem,” TIME magazine’s Amy Sullivan detailed the president’s fondness for male-dominated environments.
“There’s a looseness to Obama when he’s hanging out with the boys club that doesn’t appear in co-ed gatherings,” she wrote. “The president blows off steam on the golf course with male colleagues and friends. He takes to the White House basketball court with NBA stars, men’s college players, and male cabinet members and members of Congress.”
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama was criticized for paying the women on his campaign staff less than the men, and far less than GOP opponent John McCain paid his female staffers.
For all the evidence of how the War on Drugs has failed society, there’s equally as much evidence of how it is a great success to those who continue to support it. The drug war has many advantages if you wish to control society and expand your empire. It also enriches several industries that would otherwise have a very difficult time staying solvent without it.
Here are ten ways the War on Drugs is a wild success:
Military-Industrial Profits: As the Vietnam War came to an end, it struck fear into the military-industrial machine that enjoyed great profits from that conflict. In a world where contrived enemies were needed to keep a constant funding of weapons, Richard Nixon declared drugs “Public Enemy Number 1”. Thus, domestic armies were erected to combat the illegal drug trade, delivering consistent cash flow to weapons manufacturers. These companies make money, not just from the needs of the DEA, border patrol, and local police forces, but also from drug traffickers. Win-win and profits all around.
Huge Boon to Private Prisons: The private prison industry thrives off long sentences for drug offenders. At least 25% of their profits come from these nonviolent criminals. A great number more are held on “drug related” charges that may have resulted in drug violence. However, the current trend shows that three-quarters of new inmates admitted to state prisons are nonviolent offenders. Private prisons clearly depend on arresting pot smokers and addicts of more severe drugs.
Prevents Higher Unemployment Rates: Imagine if the millions of American currently jailed on drug charges were released into a job market already suffering from real unemployment numbers over 20%. Additionally, if it wasn’t for drugs being illegal, countless people like DEA agents, court staff, prison guards, parole officers, drug dealers, etc would otherwise be unemployed. Thank goodness for the war on drugs, or the U.S. economy would look even worse.
Suppresses Minority Populations: It’s often said that the drug war is a war on minorities: “According to the ACLU, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.” So it is a huge success for those who wish to suppress minority populations.
Drives Up Prices: Making any substance illegal will result in much higher prices than a free market would dictate. Especially when there’s a high demand for that substance. In the case of the cannabis plant, which grows like a weed and requires very little value added, the dried flower would virtually be free if it wasn’t for the harsh restrictions and dangers involved in producing and distributing it. These high prices are terrific for drug dealers and even medical marijuana growers opposed legalization in California because it threatened their profits.
Drug Violence Justifies Tough Gun Laws: The violence generated from the prohibition of drugs is reminiscent of the extreme mob violence during the prohibition of alcohol. Prohibition of anything will always create black markets which require firearms to protect banned products. Recently, the U.S. government itself was caught red-handed supplying guns to Mexican drug cartels in their “Fast and Furious” scandal. It’s now proven that the ATF plotted to use Fast and Furious to push for new gun control regulations. Indeed, most street violence is due to turf wars over the drug trade, and tougher gun laws are proposed as the war escalates. It’s wonderful for those who blame violence on guns and wish to restrict them from law-abiding citizens.
Protects Big Pharma Monopolies: No one is happier about the war on drugs than Big Pharma. Their control over the FDA and monopoly of “controlled substances” would be threatened if all drugs were legalized. They want you addicted to their FDA-approved versions of heroin and cocaine, not something you can get on the black market. In turn, they also benefit greatly when the prices of street drugs increase, as they can then inflate the cost of their products. They love the drug war so much they’ve lobbied to extend it to vitamins and supplements.
Allows Proxy Armies: If you want to create an empire by force, but it’s politically disadvantageous to base your army in certain countries, then the global war on drugs is your ticket to supplying troops or creating proxy armies. One of the most recent examples is Costa Rica, a peaceful country in Central America without an army, where the U.S. bribed the government to allow the Navy and Marines to be stationed off the Caribbean coast to fight the war on drugs. In other nations where even this won’t be allowed, the CIA funds and arms one of the drug cartels who then act as their hired enforcers, or they’re used as an excuse for governments to accept U.S. help to combat the enemy they created. In either case, the U.S. sells more arms and trains soldiers to be used upon command.
Keeps Big Banks Flush with Cash: It has long been known that big banks happily launder money for the big drug cartels. According to The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “Up to 1.5 trillion dollars in drug money are laundered through legal enterprises, accounting for 5% of global GDP.” Take just this year and one bank, Wachovia; who had to pay a slap-on-the-wrist fine for laundering more than $420 billion for Mexican drug cartels. Imagine where the big banks would be without this money, given that they also needed a bailout of over $23 trillion for lack of sufficient deposits to pay for their gambling habits.
Funds CIA Black Ops: Do you ever wonder where the U.S. government gets all that money for their secret “Black Ops” like underground bases, secret wars, corporate takeovers and seed money, etc? It’s been proven over and over that the CIA (and Pentagon) controls a large majority of the illicit drug trade either directly or indirectly through proxies mentioned above. They’ve been caught in the act of shipping in massive amounts of cocaine, while the CIA now openly admits to protecting and facilitating the opium trade in Afghanistan. If it wasn’t for this tremendous profit, the CIA would not be able to build their secret shadow government.
So, as you can see, there are great benefits to the War on Drugs depending what side of the coin you’re on. If you’re a poor pot smoker, well, you’re out of luck. But if you’re the biggest heroin and cocaine dealer in the world and desire a monopoly . . . well, you’ve got the world right where you want it.
From crucial tracking evidence in the Scott Peterson murder trial to exculpatory call records in the Duke alleged rape case, cell phones have emerged as an important resource for both criminal investigators and defense lawyers. Now a small group of international forensic code breakers is working to go beyond the obvious and familiar — the call logs and address books — and tap deeper into our phones, into a hidden gold mine of personal information. Their work is prompting kudos from crime busters while raising concern among civil libertarians.
“Cell phones are ubiquitous in today’s world and nearly all crimes have a digital component to them,” says Rick Mislan, an assistant professor of computer and information technology at Purdue University. Mislan, a former U.S. Army electronic warfare officer, is one of a handful of experts working on forensic methods to access the inner secrets in cell phones. Twenty years ago it would have taken a police agency months of shoe leather and paper hunting to assemble the kind of information that is available on a cell phone’s internal memory and which can be extracted by a deep probe. Says Chris Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union technology and liberty program: “They contain a great amount of information that essentially is a subjective picture of our habits, our friends, our interests and activities, and now some even have location tracking.”
Most cell phone owners think simply removing a phone’s SIM card removes personal information, but the phone’s internal memory, even communication exchanged between the phone and its server, remain. Phone manuals detail how to perform multiple reset commands to erase personal information and some online recycling phone services offer command sets for specific phones, but most people never bother to go through the tedious process, Mislan says. For example, child predators who stalk “moblogs” — the cell phone equivalent of web blogs that are popular with young phone users — may believe they have deleted text messages and postings, but the evidence may still exist within the phone’s memory. Mislan recently examined the cell phone of an alleged child pornography ringleader and pulled off 250 “deleted” contacts from its memory.
However, few U.S. law enforcement agencies have the forensic tools at hand and criminals often exploit that advantage, stymieing investigators with simple if crude methods. Drug dealers, Mislan says, will buy throwaway phones, assign distinctive rings to customers or suppliers, and then destroy the screen, leading an arresting officer to believe the phone is broken or the phone’s information is inaccessible. (Old-style forensics often means laboriously photographing cell phone screen after cell phone screen to record evidence.)
Typically, law enforcement agencies rely on simply “thumbing through” a cell phone to retrieve data, says Sgt. Michael Harrington, a detective with the Michigan State police. Another tool, as anyone who has watched the nightly cable crime news shows knows, is “pinging” a phone to search for its location, helpful in missing-persons cases and in tracking suspects. A more complex forensic approach now available utilizes a command system developed in the late 1970s to initialize modems to ask the phone specific questions about the information it may be storing. Those commands, known as AT, were one of the tools 17-year-old hacker George Hotz used to unlock his iPhone from the AT&T network. “Coming into this project I didn’t know that cell phones used AT commands,” Hotz wrote on his blog last week, as he thanked his fellow hackers for their help.
But not all cell phones respond to modem-style commands and some cell phone developers are often loath to share their proprietary technology. Nokia phones are particularly hard to crack, Harrington says. In the U.S. alone there are over 2,000 models of phones — and even within one model line there may be a dozen phones using different codes for each function. “We are in a constant state of catch-up — a company rolls out new models every three to six months,” Mislan says. The Holy Grail for the cell phone code breakers is to develop a forensics tool — a “Swiss Army knife” as Harrington calls it —that can be used easily in the field.
Europe’s single, standardized GSM network, as opposed to the multi networks — GSM, CDMA and iDEN found in the U.S. — gave European forensics investigators an edge as they began to develop ways of accessing a phone’s internal memory. Two of the leading cell phone forensics experts are British — West Yorkshire Detective Constables Steve Hirst and Steve Miller. Like their American colleagues — “tinkerers” as Mislan calls them — the two spend their evenings buying up old cell phones on eBay, deconstructing and decoding them, and then sharing their research online with colleagues around the world.
In Europe, Constable Miller says, so-called “flasher boxes” are used to hold a cell phone’s memory while repairs are under way. The boxes are the size of a deck of cards and come with about 100 cables that can be connected to specific data points on different phones and offer direct access to memory. Flasher technology allows the investigator to do a “hex dump” of the cell phone’s memory — a large amount of hexadecimal code — and then write software to decode the information. It is not the 30-second process seen on the popular CSI television shows, but can take hours of downloading, followed by days and weeks of software development, but the results can be revealing. “You get a fingerprint of who the person is,” says Harrington. Recently, Dutch forensics experts were able to extract vital information via hex dump from the remains of a phone, shattered and soaked in blood and water. “Let’s talk about hex!” is the slogan on phone-forensics.com, a popular online forum where the code breakers chat.
Meanwhile, the demands on the code breakers exceed their ranks, despite a growing number of computer and cell phone forensics programs at U.S. universities. Recently, an Indiana state prison official handed Mislan a bag of smuggled phones confiscated from inmates who are suspected of using them to conduct criminal activities from behind bars, but Mislan says that because of other investigative work, it will be six to 12 months before he has the time to take a look at them.
The legal system also is not keeping pace with forensic investigation methods. There have been several conflicting appellate opinions on warrantless cell phone searches and the law is not “settled” at this point, ACLU’s Calabrese says. Just as emerging fingerprint and DNA technologies were challenged, cell phone evidence is under scrutiny. In the meantime, all of us — innocent citizen and criminals alike — continue to pump ever more data into cell phones and PDAs, those indispensable companions that have so much to say about us.
By choosing Joe Biden as their vice president, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET’s Technology Voters’ Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.
That’s probably okay with Barack Obama: Biden likely got the nod because of his foreign policy knowledge. The Delaware politician is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee who voted for the war in Iraq, and is reasonably well-known nationally after his presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008.
But back to the Delaware senator’s tech record. After taking over the Foreign Relations committee, Biden became a staunch ally of Hollywood and the recording industry in their efforts to expand copyright law. He sponsored a bill in 2002 that would have make it a federal felony to trick certain types of devices into playing unauthorized music or executing unapproved computer programs. Biden’s bill was backed by content companies including News Corp. but eventually died after Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo lobbied against it.
Sen. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, whose anti-encryption legislation was responsible for the creation of PGP.
A few months later, Biden signed a letter that urged the Justice Department “to prosecute individuals who intentionally allow mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks.” Critics of this approach said that the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, and not taxpayers, should pay for their own lawsuits.
Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans’ ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)
All of which meant that nobody in Washington was surprised when Biden was one of only four U.S. senators invited to a champagne reception in celebration of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hosted by the MPAA’s Jack Valenti, the RIAA, and the Business Software Alliance. (Photos are here.)
Now, it’s true that few Americans will cast their votes in November based on what the vice presidential candidate thinks of copyright law. But these pro-copyright views don’t exactly jibe with what Obama has promised; he’s pledged to “update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated.” These are code words for taking a more pro-EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) than pro-MPAA approach.
Unfortunately, Biden has steadfastly refused to answer questions on the topic. We asked him 10 tech-related questions, including whether he’d support rewriting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as part of our 2008 Technology Voters’ guide. Biden would not answer (we did hear back from Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Ron Paul).
In our 2006 Technology Voters’ Guide, which ranked Senate votes from July 1998 through May 2005, Biden received a mere 37.5 percent score because of his support for Internet filters in schools and libraries and occasional support for Internet taxes.
Privacy, the FBI, and PGP
On privacy, Biden’s record is hardly stellar. In the 1990s, Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and introduced a bill called the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act, which the EFF says he was “persuaded” to do by the FBI. A second Biden bill was called the Violent Crime Control Act. Both were staunchly anti-encryption, with this identical language:
It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.
Translated, that means turn over your encryption keys. The book Electronic Privacy Papers describes Biden’s bill as representing the FBI’s visible effort to restrict encryption technology, which was taking place in concert with the National Security Agency’s parallel, but less visible efforts. (Biden was no foe of the NSA. He once described now-retired NSA director Bobby Ray Inman as the “single most competent man in the government.”)
Biden’s bill — and the threat of encryption being outlawed — is what spurred Phil Zimmermann to write PGP, thereby kicking off a historic debate about export controls, national security, and privacy. Zimmermann, who’s now busy developing Zfone, says it was Biden’s legislation “that led me to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups.”
While neither of Biden’s pair of bills became law, they did foreshadow the FBI’s pro-wiretapping, anti-encryption legislative strategy that followed — and demonstrated that the Delaware senator was willing to be a reliable ally of law enforcement on the topic. (They also previewed the FBI’s legislative proposal later that decade for banning encryption products such as SSH or PGP without government backdoors, which was approved by one House of Representatives committee but never came to a vote in the Senate.)
“Joe Biden made his second attempt to introduce such legislation” in the form of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which was also known as the Digital Telephony law, according to an account in Wired magazine. Biden at the time was chairman of the relevant committee; he co-sponsored the Senate version and dutifully secured a successful floor vote on it less than two months after it was introduced. CALEA became law in October 1994, and is still bedeviling privacy advocates: the FBI recently managed to extend its requirements to Internet service providers.
CALEA represented one step in the FBI and NSA’s attempts to restrict encryption without backdoors. In a top-secret memo to members of President George H.W. Bush’s administration including Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and CIA director Robert Gates, one White House official wrote: “Justice should go ahead now to seek a legislative fix to the digital telephony problem, and all parties should prepare to follow through on the encryption problem in about a year. Success with digital telephony will lock in one major objective; we will have a beachhead we can exploit for the encryption fix; and the encryption access options can be developed more thoroughly in the meantime.”
There’s another reason why Biden’s legislative tactics in the CALEA scrum amount to more than a mere a footnote in Internet history. They’re what led to the creation of the Center for Democracy and Technology — and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s simultaneous implosion and soul-searching.
EFF staffers Jerry Berman and Danny Weitzner chose to work with Biden on cutting a deal and altering the bill in hopes of obtaining privacy concessions. It may have helped, but it also left the EFF in the uncomfortable position of leaving its imprimatur on Biden’s FBI-backed wiretapping law universally loathed by privacy advocates. The debacle ended with internal turmoil, Berman and Weitzner leaving the group and taking their corporate backers to form CDT, and a chastened EFF that quietly packed its bags and moved to its current home in San Francisco. (Weitzner, who was responsible for a censorship controversy last year, became a formal Obama campaign surrogate.)
The next year, months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of “terrorism” that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detection of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode “constitutional and statutory due process protections” and would “authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.”
Biden himself draws parallels between his 1995 bill and its 2001 cousin. “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” he said when the Patriot Act was being debated, according to the New Republic, which described him as “the Democratic Party’s de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism.”
Biden’s chronology is not accurate: the bombing took place in April 1995 and his bill had been introduced in February 1995. But it’s true that Biden’s proposal probably helped to lay the groundwork for the Bush administration’s Patriot Act.
In 1996, Biden voted to keep intact an ostensibly anti-illegal immigration bill that outlined what the Real ID Act would become almost a decade later. The bill would create a national worker identification registry; Biden voted to kill an Abraham-Feingold amendment that would have replaced the registry with stronger enforcement. According to an analysis by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the underlying bill would have required “states to place Social Security numbers on drivers licenses and to obtain fingerprints or some other form of biometric identification for licenses.”
Along with most of his colleagues in the Congress — including Sen. John McCain but not Rep. Ron Paul — Biden voted for the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act (which was part of a larger spending bill). Obama voted for the bill containing the Real ID Act, but wasn’t in the U.S. Senate in 2001 when the original Patriot Act vote took place.
In the Senate debate over the Patriot Act in October 2001, Biden once again allied himself closely with the FBI. The Justice Department favorably quotes Biden on its Web site as saying: “The FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists. To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What’s good for the mob should be good for terrorists.”
The problem is that Biden’s claim was simply false — which he should have known after a decade of experience lending his name to wiretapping bills on behalf of the FBI. As CDT explains in a rebuttal to Biden: “The Justice Department had the ability to use wiretaps, including roving taps, in criminal investigations of terrorism, just as in other criminal investigations, long before the Patriot Act.”
But Biden’s views had become markedly less FBI-friendly by April 2007, six years later. By then, the debate over wiretapping had become sharply partisan, pitting Democrats seeking to embarrass President Bush against Republicans aiming to defend the administration at nearly any cost. In addition, Biden had announced his presidential candidacy three months earlier and was courting liberal activists dismayed by the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping.
That month, Biden slammed the “president’s illegal wiretapping program that allows intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans without a judge’s approval or congressional authorization or oversight.” He took aim at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for allowing the FBI to “flagrantly misuse National Security Letters” — even though it was the Patriot Act that greatly expanded their use without also expanding internal safeguards and oversight as well.
Biden did vote against a FISA bill with retroactive immunity for any telecommunications provider that illegally opened its network to the National Security Agency; Obama didn’t. Both agreed to renew the Patriot Act in March 2006, a move that pro-privacy Democrats including Ron Wyden and Russ Feingold opposed. The ACLU said the renewal “fails to correct the most flawed provisions” of the original Patriot Act. (Biden does do well on the ACLU’s congressional scorecard.)
The ACLU also had been at odds with Biden over his efforts to censor bomb-making information on the Internet. One day after a bomb in Saudi Arabia killed several U.S. servicemen and virtually flattened a military base, Biden pushed to make posting bomb-making information on the Internet a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in jail, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
“I think most Americans would be absolutely shocked if they knew what kind of bone-chilling information is making its way over the Internet,” he told the Senate. “You can access detailed, explicit instructions on how to make and detonate pipe bombs, light-bulb bombs, and even — if you can believe it — baby-food bombs.”
Biden didn’t get exactly what he wanted — at least not right away. His proposal was swapped in the final law for one requiring the attorney general to investigate “the extent to which the First Amendment protects such material and its private and commercial distribution.” The report was duly produced, concluding that the proposal “can withstand constitutional muster in most, if not all, of its possible applications, if such legislation is slightly modified.”
It was. Biden and co-sponsor Dianne Feinstein introduced their bill again the following year. Biden pitched it as an anti-terror measure, saying in a floor debate that numerous terrorists “have been found in possession of bomb-making manuals and Internet bomb-making information.” He added: “What is even worse is that some of these instructions are geared toward kids. They tell kids that all the ingredients they need are right in their parents’ kitchen or laundry cabinets.”
Biden’s proposal became law in 1997. It didn’t amount to much: four years after its enactment, there had been only one conviction. And instead of being used to snare a dangerous member of Al Qaeda, the law was used to lock up a 20-year old anarchist Webmaster who was sentenced to one year in prison for posting information about Molotov cocktails and “Drano bombs” on his Web site, Raisethefist.com.
Today there are over 10,000 hits on Google for the phrase, in quotes, “Drano bomb.” One is a video that lists the necessary ingredients and shows some self-described rednecks blowing up small plastic bottles in their yard. Then there’s the U.S. Army’s Improvised Munitions Handbook with instructions on making far more deadly compounds, including methyl nitrate dynamite, mortars, grenades, and C-4 plastic explosive — which free speech activists placed online as an in-your-face response to the Biden-Feinstein bill.
Since then, Biden has switched from complaining about Internet baby-food bombs to taking aim at peer-to-peer networks. He held one Foreign Relations committee hearing in February 2002 titled “Theft of American Intellectual Property” and invited executives from the Justice Department, RIAA, MPAA, and Microsoft to speak. Not one Internet company, P2P network, or consumer group was invited to testify.
Afterwards, Sharman Networks (which distributes Kazaa) wrote a letter to Biden complaining about “one-sided and unsubstantiated attacks” on P2P networks. It said: “We are deeply offended by the gratuitous accusations made against Kazaa by witnesses before the committee, including ludicrous attempts to associate an extremely beneficial, next-generation software program with organized criminal gangs and even terrorist organizations.”
Biden returned to the business of targeting P2P networks this year. In April, he proposed spending $1 billion in U.S. tax dollars so police can monitor peer-to-peer networks for illegal activity. He made that suggestion after a Wyoming cop demonstrated a proof-of-concept program called “Operation Fairplay” at a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
A month later, the Senate Judiciary committee approved a Biden-sponsored bill that would spend over $1 billion on policing illegal Internet activity, mostly child pornography. It has the dubious virtue of being at least partially redundant: One section would “prohibit the broadcast of live images of child abuse,” even though the Justice Department has experienced no problems in securing guilty pleas for underage Webcamming. (The bill has not been voted on by the full Senate.)
Online sales of Robitussin
Around the same time, Biden introduced his self-described Biden Crime Bill of 2007. One section expands electronic surveillance law to permit police wiretaps in “crimes dangerous to the life, limb, and well-being of minor children.” Another takes aim at Internet-based telemedicine and online pharmacies, saying that physicians must have conducted “at least one in-person medical evaluation of the patient” to prescribe medicine.
Another prohibits selling a product containing dextromethorphan — including Robitussin, Sucrets, Dayquil, and Vicks — “to an individual under the age of 18 years, including any such sale using the Internet.” It gives the Justice Department six months to come up with regulations, which include when retailers should be fined for shipping cough suppressants to children. (Biden is a longtime drug warrior; he authored the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act that the Bush administration used to shut down benefit concerts.)
On Net neutrality, Biden has sounded skeptical. In 2006, he indicated that no preemptive laws were necessary because if violations do happen, such a public outcry will develop that “the chairman will be required to hold this meeting in this largest room in the Capitol, and there will be lines wandering all the way down to the White House.” Obama, on the other hand, has been a strong supporter of handing pre-emptive regulatory authority to the Federal Communications Commission.
ACLU Okay with Prayer in Public Schools (Muslim prayer that is)
by Ann-Marie Murrell
Carver Elementary school in San Diego is possibly going to allow Muslim students to pray in school.
Would someone please explain to me why the ACLU, who has fought all-things Christian for decades, is not only okay with this but is calling everyone who doesn’t agree ‘intolerant’?
According to Kevin Keenan, spokesperson for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, “Performing these prayers is widely—if not universally—recognized as one of the five essential ‘pillars’ of Islam. One of these prayer times will always fall during the school day at Carver when students are required by law to be at school.”
Um, Mr. Keenan, the Quran tells Muslims to do a LOT of things we don’t want them doing here in America. It isn’t a religion to them, it is a law.
Oh and also, Mr. Keenan, prayer for Christians is also a widely—if not universally—recognized essential of Christianity.
“Some ideological groups, who seem to prefer culture wars more than honoring constitutional standards for freedom of religion, are excitedly writing direct mail pieces to promote sectarian religious agendas,” Keenan wrote in a statement on the ACLU website. “It is important that the public be aware of some of the deep ironies and biases in some of their arguments.”
If you want to talk ‘ironies’ and ‘biases’, this is the same ACLU that has been fighting freedom of religion in public schools for decades by banning prayer in schools completely. This is the same ACLU that has (wrongly) asserted that it is unconstitutional to allow any type of prayer and/or religion in schools.
Yet they’re perfectly okay with children following whatever the violent Quran tells them to do?
Of course, the ACLU is doing their usual progressive thing by calling opposition to this issue “inflammatory rhetoric” and that people are using “prejudiced assertions” instead of stepping back and thinking, “Hey ACLU people, are we maybe being a tad hypocritical here?”
The ACLU—founded in 1920 by an anarchist/Socialist/Communist-leaning man named Roger Nash Baldwin—has been the end-all-be-all in public schools for decades. For whatever strange reasons, they seem to have the power to determine ‘right and wrong’ in public schools.
So ACLU people out there, if you determine it is okay for Muslims to pray in schools are you going to change your stance on Christian prayer as well?
But no, of course the ACLU isn’t looking at the irony in claiming everyone in the US is prejudice if they don’t think it’s fair for one “religious” group to be allowed to pray in public schools while other (real) religious groups may not. Of course they’re going to try to divert attention away from the actual subject. Of course they’re going to follow the rules of Progressivism 101 and lie, cheat and scam Americans into believing right is wrong, wrong is right, black is white, white is black…
And of course, the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations supports the Carver program. Sigh.
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.
Your rights as a photographer:
When in public spaces where you are lawfully present you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.
When you are on private property, the property owner may set rules about the taking of photographs. If you disobey the property owner’s rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. If you are arrested, the contents of your phone may be scrutinized by the police, although their constitutional power to do so remains unsettled. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves (it is unsettled whether they still need a warrant to view them).
Police may not delete your photographs or video under any circumstances.
Police officers may legitimately order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. Professional officers, however, realize that such operations are subject to public scrutiny, including by citizens photographing them.
Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.
If you are stopped or detained for taking photographs:
Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
If stopped for photography, the right question to ask is, “am I free to go?” If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something that under the law an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so. Until you ask to leave, your being stopped is considered voluntary under the law and is legal.
If you are detained, politely ask what crime you are suspected of committing, and remind the officer that taking photographs is your right under the First Amendment and does not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
Special considerations when videotaping:
With regards to videotaping, there is an important legal distinction between a visual photographic record (fully protected) and the audio portion of a videotape, which some states have tried to regulate under state wiretapping laws.
Such laws are generally intended to accomplish the important privacy-protecting goal of prohibiting audio “bugging” of private conversations. However, in nearly all cases audio recording the police is legal.
In states that allow recording with the consent of just one party to the conversation, you can tape your own interactions with officers without violating wiretap statutes (since you are one of the parties).
In situations where you are an observer but not a part of the conversation, or in states where all parties to a conversation must consent to taping, the legality of taping will depend on whether the state’s prohibition on taping applies only when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. But that is the case in nearly all states, and no state court has held that police officers performing their job in public have a reasonable expectation. The state of Illinois makes the recording illegal regardless of whether there is an expectation of privacy, but the ACLU of Illinois is challenging that statute in court as a violation of the First Amendment.
The ACLU believes that laws that ban the taping of public officials’ public statements without their consent violate the First Amendment. A summary of state wiretapping laws can be found here.
Photography at the airport
Photography has also served as an important check on government power in the airline security context.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) acknowledges that photography is permitted in and around airline security checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process. The agency does ask that its security monitors not be photographed, though it is not clear whether they have any legal basis for such a restriction when the monitors are plainly viewable by the traveling public.
The TSA also warns that local or airport regulations may impose restrictions that the TSA does not. It is difficult to determine if any localities or airport authorities actually have such rules. If you are told you cannot take photographs in an airport you should ask what the legal authority for that rule is.
The ACLU does not believe that restrictions on photography in the public areas of publicly operated airports are constitutional.