Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homeland Security Eliminates Probable Cause In Border Searches

Hoping no one would notice, Homeland Security tossed out the need for Customs and Border Protection agents to have probable cause when searching you computer or cellphone at the border.

According to an analysis of the documents (pdf) published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), DHS reversed certain elements of border search guidelines over a year ago without so much as a peep!!

According to Raw Story...
Where customs officers previously could only "glance at documents to see if they were merchandise," the latest policy allows officers to "review and analyze" any documents in a traveler's possession with no suspicion at all. Previous prohibitions on copying documents without a traveler's permission or probable cause also were eliminated, allowing customs to "detain documents or copies for a 'reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search.'" (Emphasis in original.)
The EFF and ALC are appealing for full disclosure on the new policies since what they were given was heavily redacted.

Some civil liberties activists worry that this new policy could be used to get around the Fourth Amendment by conducting searches that other agencies would be prohibited from doing.

You can (and should) read more about what DHS has been messing with over at EFF's site.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Did The American Taxpayer Just Get Screwed... Again?

We've all been watching agog as banks and financial institutions collapsed under their own greed... and how the American taxpayer was volunteered by our own federal government to bail them out.

Most of us don't understand the specifics. That's why these financial types can maneuver so well. No layman gets the intricacies of the economy. We just trust our leaders when they say the world financial system would collapse unless we fork over our tax dollars to wipe out their billions of debt.

But, like the fine print of a credit card application, this clause comes to light.
A "critical - and radical - component of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration" called Section 8 reads like this:
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Sounds an awful lot like the typical Bush move of consolidating all decision making power in the Executive Branch much like what happened with areas of the Patriot Act and the "War On Terror." (read more of these particulars over at The Huffington Post).

But how can I link terrorism and the economy, you ask? Well, ponder this for a moment... Naomi Klein, author of the book "The Shock Doctrine," has a point of view that makes the Section 8 clause that much more ominous. Here she is on Real Time With Bill Maher talking about "disaster capitalism".

Did Americans fall for the same kind of fear tactics twice? And if we did, are we to blame like Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic is more than insinuating? Sure people who irresponsibly took out loans to get homes they couldn't afford are complicit, BUT the banks saw their credit reports and signed off on the bad loans anyway.

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