Finding Common Ground In The Fight For Privacy

Sen. Rand Paul’s recent effort to force reforms on the National Security Agency’s data collection practices to protect the privacy of the American people has set off a firestorm of anger among the establishment of the Republican Party. From Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), there is a large parcel of the GOP that would eagerly sacrifice liberty for security. There is, however, one major push designed to limit the power of government that has a large base of support within the Republican establishment — the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act.

A bipartisan group of Senators are working diligently to pass the LEADS Act to overturn an extraordinary abuse of power by Eric Holder’s Justice Department. Led by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), these members are trying to establish rules balancing the needs of law enforcement to obtain the contents of electronic communications with privacy protections for citizens in the digital age. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking; and unless Congress acts quickly, only the Supreme Court will be left to restore rights that were taken by the government — if they even take the pending case.

The issue stems from an investigation by the Justice Department against an Irish citizen who stored information on a cloud computing system owned by an Irish company on servers stored on the island nation. If the information requested were a piece of paper instead of a byte of data, the DOJ would be forced, by treaty obligation, to request that the Irish government obtain a warrant on their behalf to obtain the information. Such requests among allies are commonplace and are not much of a hurdle for the government to jump over.

Rather than make such a request, the DOJ subpoenaed Microsoft and demanded they turn over the information because the Irish company is a subsidiary of Microsoft. Microsoft, in an effort to protect the privacy rights of their users, has rightfully refused to comply and filed a lawsuit against the government.

A federal district court in New York ruled for the government, suggesting that as an American company that wholly owns the Irish subsidiary, a simple domestic warrant is enough. Last July, the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court agreed; and in September, Microsoft asked to be held in contempt of the court so it could progress to the Supreme Court.

The ramifications of these decisions are critical for privacy rights, jurisdictional limitations of government power, and the ability of American companies to compete abroad.

Unless overturned by the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice’s argument that most anything stored on the cloud-based computer systems–even by foreign nationals on servers stored outside the United States–falls under their power will stand. Hence, the LEADS Act was introduced.

Support for the LEADs Act provides a perfect opportunity for members of the GOP to demonstrate support for privacy rights while limiting the power of the federal government.

From threatening to indict reporters who refuse to release their sources to Holder’s Department of Justice seizing two months worth of phone records from Associated Press reporters, the Obama administration will go down in history with one of the worst records for domestic civil liberties. The effort to grab control of the cloud computing systems is just the latest chapter in a sad era of the widespread violation of American constitutional liberties.

This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue with profound implications for the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. No matter who is in power, this legislation is a great way to clarify how the United States government wants Americans’ phone records to be treated by foreign nations. The natural right of privacy, and the right to police against law-breaking, are two interests that can be balanced in a way that makes sense and protects all Americans.

Privacy from government intrusion should be a conservative principle. Too many members of the GOP are willing to trust their privacy rights to bureaucrats in the NSA, the CIA, and the FBI. The LEADs Act is a small step in the right direction and creates a unique opportunity for the Republican Party to help restore some of the rights that have been trampled on by big government.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Exposed: Oregon’s Botched Attempt At Government-Run Health Care

Earlier this year, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) issued a letter to the disgraced governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, demanding any and all communications relating to the state’s troubled ObamaCare Exchange. Unlike other state exchanges that are just losing money, in the case of Cover Oregon there appears to be evidence of a crime and a massive cover-up attempt. Chaffetz’s letter is an effort to preserve the evidence and could be the start of a criminal investigation into the state’s handling of $300 million of taxpayer money.

The story of Cover Oregon reads like a dime-store political novel. Liberal Gov. John Kitzhaber decided to blaze a trail toward government-health care, embracing ObamaCare and requesting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to build his own state exchange.

Liberals were gleaming with hope and praise. Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) beamed that Oregon has “the governor best equipped to lead us to health care reform.”  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed for waivers from ObamaCare so Oregon could blaze its own health care trail.  A Washington Post profile asked if Kitzhaber’s reforms could “save American health care.” The progressive Center for American Progress invited Kitzbaber and ObamaCare architect Ezekiel (“I hope I die before 75″) Emanuel to speak about the lessons of Oregon’s approach to health care reform.

Lessons were learned, but not the ones liberals were hoping for.

Cover Oregon would be the envy of the liberal health care world. But things didn’t go as planned. The site was delayed, and Kitzhaber began taking fire from commentators and political observers.  He tasked the “Princess of Darkness,” his political advisor Patricia McCaig, to oversee all decisions on the project. Politics took precedent over technology and health care.

Faced with re-election, and being mocked even by liberal late night television hosts, McCaig made the fateful decision to smother Kitzhaber’s baby in the crib. She ordered that Cover Oregon be killed and folded the state health care exchange into the federal ObamaCare exchange. The $300 million spent on the program was just thrown away.

Whistleblowers then came forward, noting that the website was functional and working. It just needed more time to beta test. Then the inevitable cover-up began. Kitzhaber’s people began to order the destruction of emails and documents pertaining to the exchange. At the same time, they filed suit against the primary contractor on the project, trying to shift the blame for the failure of the program.

Federal and state prosecutors are scouring Oregon for evidence of crimes. It appears they won’t have to look hard. And now that Chaffetz and his staff are involved, a cover-up is unlikely.

Someone must be held responsible for the lost of over a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money. Let’s just hope Chaffetz demands an explanation from the Kitzhaber cohorts. I’ll even bet that the Kitzhaber crew answers fewer questions than Lois Lerner.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Steyer Ready To Run Over California Drivers

Liberal billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is crying crocodile tears over the fact that California drivers pay the highest gas prices in the nation. He is so concerned, he is proposing to jack up gas prices even further by enacting a $2 billion tax increase on oil companies that operate in the Golden State.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that government policies, not market forces, are responsible for the price consumers pay at the pump.

The state has the third highest gasoline tax in the nation. Consumers are then forced to pay sales tax on top of that.

The states mandates different blends of gasoline for different times of the year.

To make matters worse, California enacted a Cap and Trade system, which is driving gas prices up even further.

Of course, to liberal environmentalists, these factors play no role in gouging consumers. Instead, they argue a conspiracy is at hand.

Speaking to the state Democratic Party Convention, Steyer accused oil companies of manipulating the market to keep prices high. He failed to mention any of the real factors at hand.

No mention of the high gas tax. No mention of the sales tax on top of that. No mention of the costly mandated blends. And certainly no mention of the holy grail of environmentalism, the Cap and Trade tax which went into effect in January.

It is difficult to imagine that a man could make a billion dollars in the stock market with this type of thinking, but it just proves that anything is possible in America.

The real reason for Steyer’s push to punish drivers is it helps his bottom line. Steyer is heavily invested in alternative green energy schemes. The more people look toward battery operated cars and solar panels, the richer he gets.

Californians can’t afford another punch in the gut every time they go to the gas station. It’s driving them to the poor house.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Hillary Demands Censorship Of Her Critics

Hillary Clinton, taking a lead from socialist Bernie Sanders, has declared that if elected president, she will not appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court unless that person promises to overturn a Supreme Court case that allowed criticism of one Hillary Clinton.

The Citizens United case has become the bene noir of liberal politics. The case was about a citizens group that planned to release a movie during the height of the 2008 presidential campaign about Mrs. Clinton. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) said they could not. The Supreme Court, by the narrowest of margins, said they could.

At issue was the ill-convinced McCain-Feingold law that made it a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison to broadcast the movie or pay for advertising promoting sales of the movie during the 2008 election cycle solely because of its political content. During the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Justice Alito asked a simple question:  Could the government ban books if the content of the book was designed to promote a candidate? The Deputy Solicitor General replied: ‘Yes.’

In what should have been a unanimous decision, the court overturned the government’s effort to censor the movie, with the liberal wing of the court standing with the government in favor of restrictions on freedom of speech. Since then, the decision has been attacked uniformly by liberal partisans who have even gone so far as to submit a Constitutional Amendment to change the First Amendment for the first time in American history.

Now, Hillary has entered the fray. She has declared that any person she suggests for the Supreme Court will have to pass the Citizens United litmus test. In short, that nominee will pledge to allow the government to bar criticism of the President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Conservatives Demand Action To Protect Privacy

A number of national conservative groups have written a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees demanding quick passage of the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act), a bill that would reverse the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) attempt to grab jurisdiction of most every piece of data stored on cloud computing systems all over the world. 

The legislation was prompted when Eric Holder’s Justice Department demanded Microsoft turn over electronic communications of an Irish citizen that were housed on a cloud server of an Irish subsidiary of the company. Lawyers note that if the materials in question were written forms of communication, as opposed to electronic, the US government would be required by treaty to get the Irish government’s sign-off before they could get access to the material. Instead, DOJ sought to bypass Dublin and demanded Microsoft turn over the material without the Irish government’s approval.

Signed by representatives from Americans for Tax Reform, Digital Liberty, Citizens Against Government Waste, Let Freedom Ring, and other organizations, the letter states: “Until now, the U.S. Government has relied on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to reach data of foreign citizens stored abroad so long as the company storing the data had a presence on U.S. soil. This practice creates distrust of American businesses and encourages foreign citizens, companies and countries to stop doing business with U.S. companies operating overseas. Eventually, this will harm U.S. companies and threaten America’s leadership in cloud computing technology.”

The letter is a reminder that “the U.S. Government can obtain emails wherever stored simply by serving a warrant on a provider subject to U.S. process; nothing stops other countries – including China and Russia – from seeking to obtain emails of Americans stored on servers in the United States. The LEADS Act addresses these problems by amending ECPA to clarify that law enforcement may use a warrant to obtain electronically stored communications overseas if the account- holder is a U.S. person. This extends the traditional reach of a warrant beyond U.S. borders, but is appropriately responsive to the global nature of electronic data storage in the 21st Century. The legislation provides that the U.S. law enforcement cannot require disclosure of data stored abroad if the data is not associated with a U.S. person or if accessing that data would violate the laws of the country where it is stored. Instead, the U.S. must work with the host country to obtain the data.”

The LEADS Act, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Morino, R-Pa., is supported by a host of tech companies like Microsoft and IBM as well as groups like the Business Software Alliance.

Two lower courts have sided with the government, and the Supreme Court has been asked to take up the case. Should they refuse, and legislation is not enacted, the DOJ would assume jurisdiction of most of the Internet, marking another blow against privacy. 

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth