Too many are ready to see others stripped of their rights.

Jun 23, 2009 by

watching-youIt seems another Democrat, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, has found a “terror gap” that must be filled. Democrats are always finding a gap or a loophole in existing laws and policies such that if the gap is not closed or the loophole eliminated “it will threaten our families and our communities.” The “terror gap” that Sen. Lautenberg has ferreted out refers to the government’s terrorist watch list.

The terrorist watch list is a list that is maintained by DHS that contains over a million names of supposed “terrorists” that are a threat to the security of the United States. If you are on the list you can be prevented from flying on a commercial jet and denied a visa. Now it seems that being on the list may prevent you from purchasing a firearm.

No matter that the list contains tens of thousands of names of people who were erroneously added to the list and have broken no laws or committed any acts of terrorism. According to the NRA chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, the “integrity of the terror watch list is poor, as it mistakenly contains the names of many men and women who have violated no law.” “In fact, a March 2009 report by the inspector general of the Department of Justice concluded that many people whose names were mistakenly placed on the list remain there even after their cases have been vetted and closed.”

Since 2004 963 background checks for the purchase of firearms using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System “resulted in valid matches with terrorist watch list records; of these matches, approximately 90 percent were allowed to proceed because the checks revealed no prohibiting information,” the GAO report says. Under current law, there is no basis to automatically prohibit a person from possessing firearms because they appear on the terrorist watch list. This according to the GAO’s director of homeland security and justice issues, Eileen R. Larence.

According to Sen. Lautenberg, this is “proof positive” that known and suspected terrorists are exploiting a major “loophole” in our law. The “loophole” that Sen. Lautenber is apparently referring to is something called the Constitution of the United States, specifically the 2nd amendment to the Constitution. As previously stated by the GAO, unless the person on the watch list has committed a crime or has some other factor that prohibits the purchase of a firearm under existing laws, the simple fact of being on the terrorist watch list does not prohibit you from purchasing a firearm. This is as it should be.

Sen. Lautenberg is introducing legislation that would give the U.S. attorney general “authority to stop the sale of guns or explosives to terrorists.” But the problem is that many of those who are on the terrorists watch list are not in fact terrorists at all. In most cases they are people who are vocal in their support of certain issues that run contrary to the current policies of the government. They are not terrorists, have not committed any crimes, and are protected by the Constitution as are all other citizens. Simply being on a watch list does not and should not strip you of your Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The legislation proposed by Sen. Lautenberg would deprive innocent people of due process as well as illegally strip them of their rights. I am sure that the existing laws and procedures that apply to all citizens when applying for the purchase of a firearm are more than adequate to prevent any real terrorists on the watch list from acquiring firearms, even if they were not on the watch list. All Sen. Lautenberg’s bill would do is deny everyone else on the list who is not a terrorist and has not committed a crime the right to purchase a firearm.

Lists of citizens who are “suspected terrorists” based solely on their political beliefs date back to the days of J Edgar Hoover. Hoover had extensive files on many Americans, including Elvis Presley, whose only crimes were that their political beliefs ran counter to what Hoover thought they should be. But the most disturbing thing to me about this whole issue is a CNN poll in which readers were asked whether people on the terrorist watch list should be allowed to purchase firearms. An amazing 89 percent thought it was perfectly acceptable to deny someone their Constitutional rights based solely on an inaccurate, outdated and politically motivated list maintained by an organization who is notorious for trampling on the rights of citizens.

I can only assume that the vast majority of citizens actually think that the terrorist watch list really contains the names of a million known terrorists who have committed crimes against the United States. Of course if this were true you would think that there would be a huge federal manhunt under way to apprehend these “threats to our families and our communities.” But the real facts are that the majority of the people on the terrorist watch list are our families and our communities and are no more a threat to the security of our nation than you or me. In fact I would submit that Sen. Lautenberg and AG Holder are more of a threat to this great Republic than most of those on the list. I hope that when I go to board my plane this August for our trip to Hawaii that my name does not show up on the list. After all, writing this article is probably grounds for being added to the list. (Not to mention being involved in 2 Tea Parties.)

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DHS – Now Department of Hassling and Shakedowns

Aug 2, 2008 by

The Department of Homeland Security has recently publicly disclosed  long standing policies regarding search and seizure at US borders. According to the newly disclosed policies federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for inspection for an unspecified time without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Officials can also share copies of the electronic devices contents with other agencies and private entities for translation, decryption or any other purpose they deem necessary.

DHS officials defended the policies as reasonable and necessary to prevent terrorism. The search and seizure policies include an alarming list of devices which can be taken and analyzed. Included in the list are:

hard drives, flash drives, cell  phones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover all papers and other written documentation, including books, pamphlets and written materials commonly referred to as pocket trash or pocket litter.

So apparently the DHS deems it necessary to search and seize your pocket lint. You never know where you might find jihadist literature or plans. Customs Deputy Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern said that efforts “do not infringe on Americans’ privacy.” Apparently when it comes to international travel Americans’ privacy rights have long be abrogated. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff opined that:

The most dangerous contraband is often contained in laptop computers or other electronic devices. Searches have uncovered violent jihadist materials as well as child pornography.

Notice the inclusion of the old red herring child pornography. Whenever a federal agency implements a new policy which takes away yet another of our rights the old child pornography defense is always used. I know child pornography is a serious issue but it has nothing to do with homeland security. Supposedly when a review of the confiscated equipment and its contents has been completed and no probable cause exists to keep it, any copies of the data must be destroyed. The problem here is that there is no governance of the DHS review of the data and whether probable cause exists or not. The DHS has become an agency with little or no oversight and no safeguards against abuse.

With over 400 million travelers entering the country each year, I fail to see the benefits of randomly selecting a traveler, based on no probable cause, and subjecting them to confiscation of their equipment and violation of their right to privacy. That is little more than a crap shoot. These policies are an enormous waste of resources with almost no prospect of any real benefits regarding securing our borders and defending our country against external threats. Common sense dictates that you have better odds of winning the lottery than you do of finding or stopping a terrorist with 1 in 400 million odds.

I know that some sacrifices have to be made in the name of security but if this is the best that the DHS can come up with then our country truly is at risk, both from the threat of terrorism and the risk of our society becoming one in which there are no civil rights and no possible expectation of privacy anymore. This is about as effective as the million name terrorist list that the TSA maintains. When we are stripped of the rights, liberties, and protections that have been afforded us for over 200 years by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence then the war on terrorism is over and we have lost.

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