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Civil Liberties



All Reason.com articles with the "Civil Liberties" tag.



Published: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 01:51:48 -0400

 



Dumping DACA Will Likely Alter Census 2020 in Ways Favorable to Donald Trump

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 16:15:00 -0400

Today's controversial announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Trump administration in six months will rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program comes with a government information-sharing follow-up that could have wide-ranging effects on immigrant communities' cooperation (or lack thereof) with representatives from the state. According to Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast, the Department of Homeland Security released a memo today making clear that "Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will be able to use DACA recipients' personal information to deport them." Meaning, the people who voluntarily handed over their sensitive particulars to the federal government in the hopes of qualifying for non-deportation and a worker's permit may now see that same data used to boot them out of the country. "Information provided to [the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services] in DACA requests will not be proactively provided to [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] and [Customs and Border Protection] for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the requestor meets the criteria for the issuance of a Notice To Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria set forth in USCIS' Notice to Appear guidance," the statement read. More from Woodruff: "They're saying we will not give your information unless ICE tells USCIS they need it to deport you, which basically means we'll give your information out whenever ICE says it's necessary to deport you," said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who represents many DACA recipients. "That's the point." The United States Census Bureau is currently gearing up for its constitutionally mandated decennial survey of all U.S. residents, legal or otherwise, from which gets derived new legislative districts, formulae for government money-transfers, and—crucially—a rearranged headcount for the House of Representatives. Even prior to today's announcement, the Trump administration's hard line on immigration was making the 2020 task more challenging. "For immigrants, there's always been a fear that data could be shared with the immigration enforcement arms of the federal government," Arturo Vargas, a member of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations, told Vox in a piece published Saturday. "Assuring these families that their census data is going to be safe and confidential is going to be a particular challenge for the 2020 census." Such assurances will be all the more difficult to guarantee given the Bureau's own shameful history of assisting in the notorious World War 2 internment of Japanese-American citizens. In the October 1995 issue of Reason, Glenn Garvin wrote a prescient piece about how the inflammatory immigration politics of the time could quickly limit the freedoms of perfectly legal U.S. residents. "When the government stockpiles information," Garvin wrote, in reference to calls for a national identification card "no matter how benign the intent, there is inevitably a malignant mutation somewhere along the way": Even the supposedly apolitical head counters at the U.S. Census Bureau have been unable to keep their promises not to share their most intimate data with anyone else. During World War I, the Census Bureau provided the Justice Department with names and addresses of conscription-age young men to aid in the apprehension of draft dodgers. And in an even more infamous case, it helped carry out the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Each time a roundup of Japanese was planned in a new city, Census Bureau statisticians joined the meeting. They "would lay out on a table various city blocks where the Japanese lived and they would tell me how many were living in each block," recounted Tom Clark, the Justice Department's coordinator of alien control at the time. (Clark, later a Supreme Court justice, gave his account in an oral history for the University of California.) From there it was a simple matter for the U.S. Army to conduct block-by-block sweeps unti[...]



For Sake of Civil Liberties, Use of Word 'Terrorism' Should Be Restricted, Not Expanded

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:35:00 -0400

The deadly car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, has led some prominent politicians and former federal officials to label the assault an act of domestic terrorism. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) tweeted that the killing was "domestic terrorism" and urged President Donald Trump to "call evil by its name"; former Attorney General Eric Holder declared that had "ISIS rammed a car into a crowd this would be labeled quickly." That's true: It would. But after 16 years of a war on terror that has eroded civil liberties, we should be trying to roll back the broad use of the term terrorism to describe any sort of ideologically motivated violence, not expanding it. Holder was sometimes more appropriately cautious when he was actually attorney general, resisting calls to label various criminal acts terrorism before an investigation could even be started. Most prominently, the Department of Justice's approach to the Fort Hood shooting was criticized by those who wanted it labeled a terrorist attack. The FBI has specific legal criteria it uses to define international terrorism, domestic terrorism, and the federal crime of terrorism. To be terrorist, an act must appear to intend to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping." The federal offense is defined as a criminal act "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct." In political rhetoric, by contrast, the word is frequently deployed as a thought-terminating cliché—a way to promote the idea that some military or police activity should be permitted to occur outside of the constraints of the Constitution, particularly against certain classes of people. In the last few decades, and particularly since 9/11, those classes of people have tended to be Muslim. Republicans have made a lot of hay about Democrats refusing to "name the enemy" in the war on terror, but this misses the point spectacularly, conflating rhetoric and word choice with the policies they are meant to prop up. Similarly, when word spread earlier this year that the Trump administration might rename the federal government's Countering Violent Extremism program to something like "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," some on the left complained that this represented a victory for far-right extremists. Those critiques ignored the more salient point—that the program was ineffective, for much the same reason many counter-terrorism initiatives are. It aims its fire at "radicalization," leading to a kind of soft surveillance that former FBI agent Michael German told Reason's Jesse Walker was "intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and 'treatment' of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties." It's hard to understand the kind of person that would look at the extent of failures in the "war on terror"—a loss of civil liberties, a proliferation of terrorist safe havens around the world, and an increase in domestic "lone wolf" attacks, all at a great cost in blood and treasure—and decide that what America needs is a broader definition of the term. Since 2001 the militarization of domestic police has been accelerated. Constitutionally dubious law enforcement tools like the ones packaged in the PATRIOT Act have been systematically abused far beyond their originally declared scope. Drones have blurred the rules of war. The U.S. regularly launches "signature strikes," where the exact identity of the targets is unclear to the officials ordering the strikes. The U.S. has targeted and killed American citizens overseas without so much as indicting them in a federal court. This is the wages of terror. As Glenn Greenwald noted after the Charleston shooting, the refusal by many politicians and pundits to ca[...]



Rand Paul on Blocking Indefinite Detention and Saudi Arms Sales

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 11:14:00 -0400

When Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016, the self-described "libertarianish" senator from Kentucky vowed: "I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention." On Thursday, amid the hullaballoo of former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill, Paul brought a handful of libertarian reporters inside his Senate office to discuss his recent work on these projects.

Front and center is a new piece of legislation, introduced this week, to once and for all ban indefinite detention. With the working title of "The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act," Paul's bill "prevents any future military force authorization from being used to justify indefinite detention without trial," according to a summary prepared by his office. More from that:

Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act unconstitutionally declares that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. This means U.S. citizens apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.

The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act repeals section 1021 making it clear that no military force resolution can legalize indefinite detention without a trial and seeks to restore our constitutional commitment to individual liberty.

Emphasis in original. "You never know who could be in the White House," Paul explained Thursday. "Could someone be there that would actually take away all of our rights and begin arresting us for who we are, what we are, what we think, what we read? And so I consider this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that we'll put forward."

Also covered in the discussion: the senator's efforts to vote down the recent blockbuster arms sale to Saudi Arabia ("winning a battle like this would send a huge message out there"), the Trump administration's tough-on-crime posture ("I think there's very little of this attorney general, this Department of Justice, doing anything favorable towards criminal justice or towards civil liberties"), criticism of Paul's vote to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his reaction to the Comey hearing, which we teased out yesterday.

Produced and edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Krainin and Mark McDaniel.

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Rand Paul on Blocking Indefinite Detention and Saudi Arms Sales

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 10:55:00 -0400

(image) When Rand Paul dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016, the self-described "libertarianish" senator from Kentucky vowed: "I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy, and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention." On Thursday, amid the hullaballoo of former FBI director James Comey's dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill, Paul brought a handful of libertarian reporters inside his Senate office to discuss his recent work on these projects.

Front and center is a new piece of legislation, introduced this week, to once and for all ban indefinite detention. With the working title of "The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act," Paul's bill "prevents any future military force authorization from being used to justify indefinite detention without trial," according to a summary prepared by his office. More from that:

Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act unconstitutionally declares that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States. This means U.S. citizens apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.

The Sixth Amendment Preservation Act repeals section 1021 making it clear that no military force resolution can legalize indefinite detention without a trial and seeks to restore our constitutional commitment to individual liberty.

Emphasis in original. "You never know who could be in the White House," Paul explained Thursday. "Could someone be there that would actually take away all of our rights and begin arresting us for who we are, what we are, what we think, what we read? And so I consider this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation that we'll put forward."

Also covered in the discussion: the senator's efforts to vote down the recent blockbuster arms sale to Saudi Arabia ("winning a battle like this would send a huge message out there"), the Trump administration's tough-on-crime posture ("I think there's very little of this attorney general, this Department of Justice, doing anything favorable towards criminal justice or towards civil liberties"), criticism of Paul's vote to confirm Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his reaction to the Comey hearing, which we teased out yesterday.

Watch an edit of our exchange here:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZWadlrFil54" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Reason on Rand Paul here.




30 Days a Black Man: How Ray Sprigle Exposed Jim Crow in 1940s America [Reason Podcast]

Fri, 12 May 2017 11:00:00 -0400

In 1948, veteran newsman Ray Sprigle, best-known for having exposed Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black's membership in the Ku Klux Klan, published an explosive series detailing his month-long trip through the Jim Crow South. A white man, Sprigle altered his appearance and passsed as black so that he could experience firsthand a part of the country that most Americans either didn't know much or care much about. Traveling with the well-known NAACP activist John Wesley Dobbs, Sprigle (pronounced sprig-el) published 21 articles and a book that detailed the ways in which segregation was ruthlessly enforced at every level of interaction between the races. Party-line phone operators, for instance, would never address blacks as mister or missus on a call and shop owners would drape napkins or tissues over a black woman's head when she tried on a hat. Bill Steigerwald's powerful new book, 30 Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story That Exposed the Jim Crow South, documents Sprigle's expose and does a masterful job of recreating an America in which de facto and de jure segregation was the rule not just in the former Confederacy but much of the North as well. It's a deeply disturbing and profoundly moving account of what Steigerwald, himself a veteran newsman whose previous book forced the publisher of John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley to reclassify the supposed travelogue as fiction, calls "superstars" fighting for equality under the law (along with Sprigle and Dobbs, Steigerwald points to NAACP head Walter White, who chose to identify as black despite being able to pass as white, and Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady whose commitment to civil rights bore most of its fruit during the Truman years). "When anybody goes back in history," Steigerwald tells Nick Gillespie in the latest Reason Podcast, you learn that nothing is new, everything was worse, and what you thought was simple or true was not. When you look back at '48 and you see this stuff, and Ray Sprigle's reporting, he was a reporter. When he heard guys in Atlanta say, "Oh, Atlanta's a great city for black people. Nothing ever happens here." Well, he went down the courthouse and dug up some records and he came up with three cases in the last two years where young black males, this sounds a little familiar, were shot dead by cops or trolley conductors who were armed at the time and were able to shoot anybody. They were shot dead and the defense was always, "Oh, I thought he was reaching for a gun or something. I shot him dead," and they all got off. I mean, you could take those examples and put them in the paper today and people would say, "Well, yeah."... I have such a deeper appreciation for the punishment that black people received from their government for so long and the crass politics that perpetuated it. Read Sprigle's original series here. Produced by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/322279622&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! Archive here. Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to Reason magazine (print or digital) for just $15. This is a rush transcript. It has not been checked for spelling or errors—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Today we're talking with Bill Steigerwald. He's a longtime newspaper man, author of several books, most recently an incredible story called 30 Days a Black Man: The Forgotten Story That Exposed the Jim Crow South. Bill, thanks for talking to us. Bill Steigerwald: Hi. How are you doing? Nick Gillespie: You worked in Pittsburgh newspapers for a long time, and this news story is about a guy named Ray Sprigle who was at the [...]



Detroit Cops Raid an Innocent Family's Home at Gunpoint on Bogus Sex-Trafficking Tip

Thu, 11 May 2017 12:45:00 -0400

(image) In the high days of America's militarized war on drugs, baseless and botched home raids have become a defining feature—with often disastrous consequences. Now we're seeing the same sort of overzealous enforcement efforts in the fight against forced prostitution. This week, Detroit police raided an innocent family's home after receiving a faulty sex-trafficking tip and then seeing two teens enter the house.

One of the teens was the family's 13-year-old daughter, who lived there. She wound up face-down and handcuffed on the floor, along with the rest of her family, after cops cut through a locked gate outside the southwest Detroit home and entered with their guns drawn.

"Everybody's like, 'Don't move, don't move or we'll shoot you,'" Noel Navarete told local 4 News. His brother Isaias, 18, said he was in the bathroom when police kicked down the door.

According to family matriarch Maria Navarete, police told her to "shut up, you have no rights" when she asked what was happening. She claims police never showed her or anyone in the household a warrant.

Police apologized, explaining that a mysterious heroin-addicted woman in a local hospital said she and several underage girls had been held against their will and forced into prostitution; the woman (visually) identified the Navarete's place as where it went down. That night, police began observing the house, soon witnessing two girls get dropped off by an SUV and go inside. Apparently, that was enough to warrant a furtive, middle-of-then-night raid on the place.

"Everything that we did, I would see the officers executing the exact same way if we had to go again," Assistant Police Chief Arnold Williams told 4 News. He said the investigation into potential human-trafficking rings nearby was ongoing.

In efforts to catch imagined "pimps" and human traffickers, officials have long considered the liberty and rights of adult sex workers (and their customers) to be an acceptable sacrifice. The rest of us were really never far behind.




Rand Paul Doesn't Want a Special Prosecutor on Russia

Wed, 10 May 2017 14:48:00 -0400

In the wake of President Trump's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have both called for a special commission to investigate Russia's involvement in the U.S. presidential election. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) isn't having it.

"Lots of crocodile tears in DC," he tweeted this morning.

Paul elaborated in an appearance on FOX Business's Varney & Co.:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zRIc3P48Kkc" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going around," Paul said, pointing to Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) criticism of Comey from earlier this year and Secretary Hillary Clinton's recent claim that Comey's public disclosures about the FBI investigation into her private email server helped tilt the election to Trump.

Paul also shared his own reasons for not objecting to Comey's dismissal. "One of my concerns with Comey is that he was always up here on the hill advocating for more power for the FBI," Paul said on Varney & Co. "When I countered that and said, 'You could've done a better job investigating the killer in Orlando,' He would always respond, 'Oh, we just need more power to tap more phones of everybody and we'll get enough information to stop this.' And my point was they just need to do better police work when someone tips them off. A gun store tipped them off about the Orlando killer and they did virtually zero to investigate it."

When asked who should replace Comey, Paul said he wants "somebody who balances civil liberties with law enforcement." Whether Paul's preference will lead to him checking and balancing Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains to be seen. Reason's Peter Suderman is doubtful.




Trump's Executive Orders on Crime are More of the Same, Just More Intense Rhetoric, Says Harvey Silverglate

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 16:45:00 -0500

"Any notion that the Trump administration is going to be a radical shift from past presidencies is erroneous. These executive orders indicate more of the same, and the same is disastrous," says Harvey Silverglate—the famed criminal defense and civil liberties attorney, author of the seminal book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, and co-founder of the The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—in a phone interview with Reason. To be clear, Silverglate thinks the Trump administration has "no imagination" and that the harsh law and order rhetoric and wild exaggerations about the level of crime in the United States included in Trump's most recent executive orders are designed to "pamper" the law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the nation's laws. "I just had trouble understanding the Obama administration's claim to be a change agent, it really wasn't," Silverglate says. "You have to be—pardon me—smoking a lot of weed to believe that." "The Obama administration promised change, and then it turned out to be more of the same, more prosecutions," Silverglate adds. "And then at the very end, to save his name from historical infamy he issued a lot of pardons and commutations, but that doesn't change the fundamental nature of his two terms as president. Very little imagination, run by the bureaucrats. The law enforcement bureaucracy is not going to go away quietly and there's nobody trying to push them away except for a few libertarians." According to Silverglate, the intensity of the rhetoric in Trump's executive order is the most significant change to the federal approach to law enforcement. Trump's repeated assertions that we're in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave, despite data-based evidence to the contrary, is represented in the executive orders, but "we get more and more criminal laws every day, we get more prisoners every day. It's an industry, the law enforcement industry. And anyone who sees it as anything other than a cynical attempt to employ more law enforcement officers, incarcerate more people, and anything more than an opportunity for members of the government to grandstand on the law and order platform is misled." States who have legalized recreational marijuana or medical marijuana should probably expect a Justice Department crackdown under President Trump, and Silverglate also thinks "the marijuana laws are a very important component of the full employment program for law enforcement officers that has been in place for quite a few administrations. Constantly, we need more and more law enforcement officers to enforce these insane laws that criminalize personal behavior." Silverglate sees no hope for reform from the Trump administration, but thinks that a bipartisan goal for congress should be passing mens rea legislation. "If the laws are going to become more draconian and prison sentences are going to go up and there's going to be more law enforcement officers arresting more people, the least we can make sure is that the people sent to prison knew what they were doing was illegal," Silverglate tells Reason. "As a criminal defense lawyer, I'm willing to cut down my own business for the good of the public." Watch Reason TV's "When Everything is a Crime: Harvey Silverglate on the Overregulation of Ordinary Life" below: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SV9m9N8gP9c" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]



Don't Rebrand the 'Countering Violent Extremism' Program—Just End It

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:57:00 -0500

For the Southern Poverty Law Center, the move suggests that "President Trump wants the government to stop its efforts to prevent terrorism by far-right extremists." For Jezebel, it's "another victory in a long series of wins for Neo Nazis, the KKK, and other violent and terroristic groups." Salon calls it "pandering to white supremacists." The target of their ire: a plan to rebrand the federal government's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program. According to Reuters, which cites "five people briefed on the matter," the Trump administration wants to rename it "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism," or maybe just "Countering Islamic Extremism," and to focus its attention on Muslim terrorists rather than the various domestic right-wing kinds. In practice, CVE's efforts are already focused overwhelmingly on Muslims. But the big question here shouldn't be which groups ought to be the program's targets. It's whether the program should exist at all. No matter whether it's aimed at Islamists, white nationalists, or anyone else, the CVE approach has two big problems. First: It rests on the idea that the best way to root out terrorism is to fight "radicalization." This idea has support among both Democrats and Republicans, but the evidence supporting it is sparse. When investigators at the British think tank Demos (not to be confused with the U.S.-based liberal group of the same name) spent two years studying the differences between violent and nonviolent radicals, they found that while nonviolent radicalism can be a stepping stone to terrorism, it can draw people away from terrorism too. Meanwhile, there were other forces pulling people into terrorism that didn't have much to do with ideology at all. Other probes have reached similar conclusions. So the focus here is all wrong: Radical ideas do not usually lead to violent tactics, and violent tactics do not emerge only from radical ideas. Second: That focus can lead to some serious civil liberties problems. "Even though the agencies running the programs promised that they wouldn't use CVE for intelligence purposes (as they did in earlier iterations of it), the program itself is designed to teach community members, teachers, police, social workers, and religious leaders to identify and report to law enforcement people showing signs of 'radicalization,'" comments Michael German, a former FBI agent who now hangs his hat at the Brennan Center for Justice. So in practice, he argues, you get "soft surveillance," and that surveillance "is intended to suppress ideas, which is likely to cause more problems than solve them. It encourages the identification, reporting, and 'treatment' of people with bad ideas, which will only lead to misuse of security resources and deprivation of civil liberties." Needless to say, that sort of surveillance can itself radicalize people. So CVE also runs the risk of contributing to the very process it's meant to stop. Rebranding "Countering Violent Extremism" as "Countering Radical Islamic Extremism" won't solve any of these issues. Indeed, it could conceivably make the effort even less effective. (German points out that the new name could alienate many of the Muslim groups whose cooperation the program relies on, since they could construe it as a sign the program is "antagonistic to the community.") But neither would it be a good idea to expend more CVE attention on the radical right; all the same problems would be in place there too. Better to drop the approach. End it, don't mend it.[...]



Freedom Continues Its Decade-Long Retreat Around the Globe

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 15:30:00 -0500

Freedom House is a think tank devoted to promoting the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. Every year, the organization releases a report updating how political and civil rights are faring in 195 countries. In its latest report, Freedom in the World 2017, the group finds that freedom has been receding for a decade after it peaked in 2006 when 47 percent of countries were free, 30 percent partly free and 23 percent were not free. The Freedom House analysts are particularly worried about the increase in tribalism, uh, nationalist populism, in Europe and the United States and crack-downs by emboldened autocrats, especially Xi in China and Putin in Russia. Freedom House measures freedom in each country on a scale of 0 to 100. The countries with the worst aggregate civil and political liberties scores included Syria (-1), Eritrea, Uzbekistan, North Korea (3 each), South Sudan and Turkmenistan (4 each). The countries that received the highest scores are Finland, Norway, Sweden (100 each), Netherlands (99), Australia, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Uruguay (98 each). The United States' aggregate score was 89 points. In comparison, China and Russia scored 15 and 20 points respectively. In its 2006 report, Freedom House noted, "On the whole, the state of freedom showed substantial improvement worldwide, with 27 countries and one territory registering gains and only 9 countries showing setbacks. The global picture thus suggests that the past year was one of the most successful for freedom since Freedom House began measuring world freedom in 1972." The more somber 2017 report observes, "A total of 67 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties in 2016, compared with 36 that registered gains. This marked the 11th consecutive year in which declines outnumbered improvements." Overall, the percent of free countries fell to 45 percent and percent of not free countries rose to 25 percent and partly free countries held steady at 30 percent. Back in 2011, independent political scientist Jay Ulfelder told my Reason colleague Jesse Walker that after period of making major gains the global trend toward greater freedom had plateaued and experienced some "minor slippage." Now Ulfelder acknowledges, "It's now getting to the point that talking about the erosion of freedom around the world is valid." By rescaling and parsing the Freedom House data on a 10 point population weighted scale Ulfelder aims to quantify how the average individual on earth is faring with respect to civil and political liberties. He calculates that global freedom peaked at 5.321 points in 2005 and has now dropped to 5.098 points; that is about back to where it stood at the turn of the millennium. In a more hopeful contrast, the latest Economic Freedom of the World report (using 2014 data) from the Fraser Institute found that "the economic freedom rating for advanced countries with ratings since 1985 has increased from 6.9 to 7.7 in 2014. The average chain-linked economic freedom rating for developing countries with ratings since 1985 has increased from 5.0 to 6.7 in 2014." However, if autocracy and nationalist populism continue to rise, I predict that this trend will be reversed and more people will soon be both poorer and less free.[...]



Looking for a Left/Libertarian Alliance Against Trump? Maybe Rethink Reflexive ‘#DeleteUber’ Reactions

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 16:00:00 -0500

Everything went to hell over the weekend for the immigrants and refugees who had been legally approved to live and travel in the United States but were then caught up in President Donald Trump's terrible executive order banning them from returning back into the country. I watched through social media the outraged reactions across the political spectrum from friends and analysts alike. The reasons for the opposition varied. Some (especially on the left) thought the order remarkably cruel. Others acknowledged the president's authority to generally regulate immigration rules but recognized this executive order as being poorly drafted and illegal. There was a reason that when I blogged about the stay on Trump's order I pointed to the argument by the American Civil Liberties Union that the order violated due process. For much of Saturday it felt very much like a coming together of anybody who valued human liberty and the rule of law across the political spectrum. I found it so much more an important and positive development than the women's march because it was about something very concrete and fundamental to American values. I've gotten so used to the reflexive, condescending "This is not who we are" derision that President Barack Obama's administration used to try to shut down criticism. It was different to see people across the political spectrum in significant agreement (though, yes, there were some exceptions), even if not for the same reasons. Then "#DeleteUber" happened, and I threw up my hands and yelled, "Goddammit!" In New York City, taxi drivers organized a work stoppage to stop ferrying travelers to John F. Kennedy Airport for an hour in solidarity with those who were being detained there. I will admit that I was at first utterly mystified as to how refusing to transport people in New York for a while would help resolve any of this at all, but after reading their Facebook statement, I realized that it wasn't really a "strike" so much as taking an hour so that they could participate in the protests as well. Uber continued ferrying travelers and—interestingly—announced that it was ending its price surge. While Uber catches a lot of flak for having price surges at peak hours from people who don't understand basic supply-and-demand economics, they caught flak this time for continuing service. They were perceived as trying to "break" this strike. In addition, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has agreed to join Trump's economic advisory team (along with the likes of Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger). Despite a Facebook post from Kalanick declaring that Uber was going to do what it could to assist drivers who would be negatively affected by Trump's executive order, this apparently wasn't enough for some. A social media movement sprang up to encourage people to delete the Uber app from their phones and go with a rival like Lyft instead. Under normal circumstances and with other companies, this would merit a shrug from libertarians (it might still). Uber has a right to operate, but it doesn't have a right to customers. People have the right to choose with whom to do business and to use public pressure to influence company decisions. In this case, I don't think either side has behaved unethically or illegally. So why the frustration? First of all, we can't look at this protest in a vacuum. Uber is a company that is frequently targeted by protectionist taxi cartels and unions (and leftist supporters), and they're willing to use their power and influence to use government force to stop Uber's operations as much as they can. There is a bit of an obvious political trap going on here, and Uber kind of fell into it. Second, the response is symptomatic of a deeply entrenched desire to use a communal form of punishment against those who are perceived as straying fro[...]



Jeff Sessions Provides Slippery Answers at Confirmation Hearings, Thanks to Senatorial Decorum

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 12:25:00 -0500

The second day of confirmation hearings into the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general takes place today, beginning with a series of testimonials from witnesses who will then be questioned by members of the committee. Reason's Eric Boehm noted that Sessions got away with offering only "unclear, useless answers on marijuana" during the first day of hearings, and some liberals wanted a more contentious hearing with aggressive questioning from the committee's Democratic senators and less of the Senate's typically staid rules of decorum that often provides cover for evasive answers. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights told CNN, "The first day of Senator Sessions' confirmation hearing proved that the rushed nature of the confirmation process places senatorial collegiality over the advice and consent responsibilities that are the Senate's constitutional duty." Late in the first day of hearings yesterday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) noted that police unions adore Sessions, to which Sessions added he believes the Obama administration failed to provide adequate support for local police departments. Sessions promised that as attorney general, he would place fewer restrictions on federal financial assistance to local PDs (who sometimes lose federal grant funding for lack of compliance with federal law) and cut back on efforts designed to curtail police misconduct. Sessions also reiterated his skepticism of consent decrees—federally enforced reforms and monitoring imposed by the courts on cities with demonstrated records of police misconduct. Sessions hedged just a bit in his opposition to consent decrees, saying some consent decrees "could be a legitimate decision." In the foreward for a 2008 paper published by the Alabama Policy Institute, Sessions wrote, "One of the most dangerous, and rarely discussed, exercises of raw power is the issuance of expansive court decrees." Ex-Reasoner Radley Balko posted in his Washington Post column a series of excellent questions pertaining to civil liberties and federalism that Sessions should be asked (but likely won't): You said this in 2007: "The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation's security." Do you believe these two things are incompatible? If sworn in as attorney general, you'll take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. Let's say that once in office, you're faced with a situation in which you believe it is necessary to violate the Constitution in order to protect national security. Let's say that the actions you think you need to take aren't constitutionally ambiguous — you yourself believe they're unconstitutional. What would you do? ... You're also a strong advocate of "states' rights," or federalism. Many states whose legislatures don't share your view of civil asset forfeiture have passed laws to restrict or even end the practice. The federal government responded with its "equitable sharing" program, which allows police agencies in such states to call up a federal law enforcement agency such as the Drug Enforcement Administration when they want to confiscate some property. The investigation is then considered "federal," which means it's controlled by federal forfeiture laws, not the more restrictive state laws. This would seem to be a direct infringement on the intent of those states' legislatures, wouldn't you agree? The Obama administration has tried to limit the practice, though it hasn't ended it. Would you repeal the Obama reforms to equitable sharing, strengthen them or end them? Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization. You recently said that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and that the drug is "already causin[...]



Nat Hentoff, 1925–2017

Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:59:00 -0500

Nat Hentoff, the prolific critic, journalist, and civil libertarian, passed away yesterday at age 91. His son Nick reports that he "died surrounded by family listening to Billie Holiday," which I suspect is exactly how he wanted to go. Hentoff wrote many things, from young adult novels to the sleeve notes of an early Bob Dylan album. But he was most famous for two great passions: his defenses of the Bill of Rights, especially Amendment One, and his enthusiastic writing about music, especially jazz. When people talk about old-school liberals who'd defend to the death your right to say anything you want, chances are good that Hentoff is the fellow they've got in mind. In his columns for The Village Voice and The Washington Post and in articles for countless other venues (including Reason), he pounded away at the evils of censorship, and he didn't care if the censor had a left-wing agenda or a right-wing one. If anything, he seemed especially perturbed when people he expected to share his values started stomping on individual liberties. Hentoff was less likely to be called a liberal later in life. That's partly because his brand of free-speech absolutism was growing less common on the left, and it's partly because of his heterodoxy on abortion. (Hentoff was pro-life, arguing against abortion on the same grounds that he argued against capital punishment and war. Or, at least, against some wars—he eventually rended his seamless garment to support interventions in Rwanda and Iraq.) But you couldn't really cast him as a man of the right either: Besides his intense distrust for the police agencies that conservatives tend to revere, he was a longtime democratic socialist who held onto a lot of his leftist economic ideas in old age. It's not even quite right to call him an ACLU liberal, because he kept butting heads with the ACLU. (The nation's most prominent civil libertarian organization wasn't always civil libertarian enough for him.) Best to think of him as his own man, with at least a couple of views to offend pretty much anyone. He would have left a substantial legacy even if he had never written about politics at all, thanks to his work in the music world. His criticism covered several genres—one of my favorite articles of his was an appreciation of the country singer Merle Haggard—but his great love was jazz, a topic on which he wrote whole volumes. He produced several jazz albums too, by artists ranging from Max Roach to Cecil Taylor, and he had a hand in the great 1957 TV special The Sound of Jazz, which my colleague Kurt Loder once called "a landmark of televised jazz that has never been surpassed." (Watch it here.) But it was his political writing that left its biggest mark on me. I grew up reading Hentoff's attacks on censorship and surveillance, and whatever disagreements I sometimes had with him on other topics I learned a lot from his uncompromising consistency on those issues. For a taste of just how committed to free speech he was, I'll wrap up this obit with a video of him attacking the existence of libel laws, a hardcore position that even some of the fiercest civil libertarians aren't willing to accept. (For the record: I think he's right.) The video, shot in 1986, shows him debating the Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, who argues that we need libel suits to protect our "right to a reputation." When it came to regulations on speech, Nat Hentoff could make even a Randian look like a big-government guy by comparison: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ge57bIoTXoY" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">[...]



FDR's Wartime Violations of Civil Liberties Are Not a Good Precedent for Anything

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:45:00 -0500

Last night on The Kelly File, Carl Higbie, the spokesman for a pro-Trump PAC, defended the idea of a federal registry of Muslims by citing the World War II–era internment of Japanese Americans as a precedent, weakly adding "call it what you will, it may be wrong":

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/SkjCgb7K1ZQ" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

Megyn Kelly immediately leaped on this, and Higbie quickly declared that he did not in fact favor internment camps. The video then went viral.

The video also gave me a dose of deja vu. Last December, shortly after Trump started pitching the idea of keeping Muslims out of America, this exchange took place on Good Morning America:

(image) DONALD TRUMP: What I'm doing is no different than what FDR— FDR's solution for German, Italian, Japanese...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're for internment camps?

TRUMP: This was a president highly respected by all. He did the same thing. If you look at what he was doing, it was far worse. I mean, he was talking about the Germans because we're at war. We are now at war. We have a president that doesn't want to say that...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to press you on that, sir. You're praising FDR there. I take it you're praising the setting up of internment camps for Japanese in World War 2?

TRUMP: No, I'm not. No, I'm not. No, I'm not. Take a look at Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527—having to do with alien Germans, alien Italians, alien Japanese—and what they did. You know, they stripped them of their naturalization proceedings. They went through a whole list of things. They couldn't go five miles from their homes. They weren't allowed to use radios, flashlights. I mean, you know, take a look at what FDR did many years ago. And he's one of the most highly respected presidents by—I mean, respected by most people. They name highways after him.

The good news, I guess, is that Trump said he wasn't in favor of the camps. The bad news is that he thought Hey, at least it's not as bad as this stuff that FDR did! was a compelling argument, just as Higbie seemed to think It may be wrong, but it's a legal precedent! would be a compelling argument last night. Is this the way the next four years are going to go? "I'd like to point out that this bill is not nearly as restrictive as the Alien and Sedition Acts." "You may not like the Palmer Red Raids, but you must admit they showed this could be done." "Eisenhower was president when COINTELPRO started, and they've got a memorial to him right here in D.C.!"

You want some more bad news? Korematsu v. United States—the 1944 Supreme Court decision that declared the Japanese internment camps constitutional—is still technically the law of the land. Sleep tight, mates.

Bonus link: "America's Other World War II Internment Camps."




Prominent Civil Liberties Groups Anticipate Life Under President Donald Trump

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:03:00 -0500

Will President-elect Donald Trump be the autocratic leader feared by so many? Or is he all talk, and merely played the electorate using bluster and vulgarity as his means of shaking up the system? A number of pro-civil liberties organizations are willing to take Trump at his word, and have released statements indicating how they intend to resist any potentional assaults on American constitutional rights. Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm wrote of the next president's aversion to the First Amendment and promised to hold him accountable if he makes good on any of his threats to sue journalists and their employers, or to "open up libel laws" to enable such efforts. Timm also noted Trump "has blamed 'freedom of the press' for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has 'too much protection' under the First Amendment." (To be sure, Hillary Clinton said essentially the same thing, but she's not going to be president, Trump is.) Amnesty International's Salil Shetty wrote in a press release that "President-elect Trump must publicly commit to upholding the human rights of all without discrimination." Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth wrote that although Trump "found a path to the White House through a campaign marked by misogyny, racism, and xenophobia," he should push to uphold the rule of law and lead a U.S. government that "demonstrates a better record on issues like the rights of women and children, criminal justice, Guantanamo, drone strikes outside conventional war zones, and justice for torture." (The "drone strikes" mention seems like a subtle—and necessary—dig at a favorite Obama administration tactic.) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) outlined the many ways they plan to defend an assualt on civil liberties by the Trump administration, and its executive director warned the incoming president they "will see him in court" should he make good on a number of his proposed policies. Regarding Trump's plan to engage in the mass deportation of over 11 million undocumented immigrants, the ACLU says the government would have to arrest "more than 15,000 people a day on immigration charges, seven days a week, 365 days a year." To accomplish that would require actions which would "undoubtedly violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition 'against unreasonable searches and seizures.'" The ACLU asserts that Trump's dubious threat to ban Muslim U.S. citizens or legal residents from re-entering the country would violate "the Fifth and 14th Amendments from revoking an American's citizenship and banishing him based on the person's creed," adding, "any religion-based bar on lawful permanent residents trying to reenter the country would violate the due process clause." The ACLU's lawyers also concluded that "Trump's policies, if implemented, would lead to a heavy edit of the Constitution. The First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution would no longer protect certain people."[...]