Sunday, November 06, 2005

Libertarian = Low Tax Wingnut

It has really amazed me over the last five plus years since 9/11 how many folks that are actually uber right-wing consistently use the term "Libertarian".

They use it so much that it has essentially become code talk for, "I'm pretty much a full blown crank job righty that doesn't go to Church every Sunday."

It is also always a convenient label when some proto-fascist starts whining that the GOP is not cruel enough to the poor and tries to absolve themself of any responsibility for deficit spending by saying, "well I'm a libertarian" -- this is quickly followed by a declaration of, "but Gore or Kerry would have been worse."

Pay attention some time, if you can bear it, to Limbaugh or Hannity or whatever variety of right-wingnut you have locally and they will play this canard.

One of the other favorite arguments I always here from these faux Libertarians is "well, tell me one way the Patriot Act" has affected anybody". As if the very essense of a governmental monitoring system of such scale has no effects at all upon their Libertarian philosophy.

Well, self-proclaimed Libertarian, you're as much of an intellectual poseur as ever:

The Connecticut case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice of domestic surveillance under the USA Patriot Act, which marked its fourth anniversary on Oct. 26. "National security letters," created in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, originated as narrow exceptions in consumer privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. The Patriot Act, and Bush administration guidelines for its use, transformed those letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U.S. residents and visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, President Bush signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined.


The House and Senate have voted to make noncompliance with a national security letter a criminal offense.


Career investigators and Bush administration officials emphasized, in congressional testimony and interviews for this story, that national security letters are for hunting terrorists, not fishing through the private lives of the innocent. The distinction is not as clear in practice.

Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."

That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.

"If you have a list of, say, 20 telephone numbers that have come up . . . on a bad guy's telephone," said Valerie E. Caproni, the FBI's general counsel, "you want to find out who he's in contact with." Investigators will say, " 'Okay, phone company, give us subscriber information and toll records on these 20 telephone numbers,' and that can easily be 100."

Bush administration officials compare national security letters to grand jury subpoenas, which are also based on "relevance" to an inquiry. There are differences. Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.


As the Justice Department prepared congressional testimony this year, FBI headquarters searched for examples that would show how expanded surveillance powers made a difference. Michael Mason, who runs the Washington field office and has the rank of assistant FBI director, found no ready answer.

This is per se an intrusion into the personal lives of thousands of innocent civilians. The violation is in the intrusion itself. There is no way that the government should have such ready, unimpeaded access to your personal information. Yet, few self-described, and proclaimed "Libertarians" seem to give a shit.

After all, they are white, relatively prosperous, self-satisfied pricks who just want to pay no taxes whatsoever, so how does this really affect them?

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