Talking To Law Enforcement Without Consulting Legal Counsel First Is A Bad Idea

There was a lot of furor recently over whether President Trump should talk to Robert Mueller’s team.  I said on Twitter that it would be a terrible idea to do so.  I took some heat for that.  But after reading this story from The Intercept and doing a little internet research I think my call was correct.  I strongly suggest everyone read this Intercept story on Reality Winner.  Typically, when the Feds or local police show up at your door to discuss illegal activity they already have a very good reason for wanting to talk to you.  I’m pretty sure they’ve done their homework and want to see what new information they can get from you.  Even if they don’t have enough evidence to charge you with an underlying crime they might still be able to catch you in a lie and it doesn’t have to be a material lie, just an innocent mistaken recollection.  The case of Reality Winner as detailed in The Intercept story shows how they can use false trust and a relaxed setting to coax out incriminating information.

Law enforcement wants to make you relaxed so that you feel more like talking.  They may also take the opposite tack and subject you to undue stress to see what they can get you to say.  In either case it is extremely dangerous for you.  In the case of Ms. Winner she was not initially interrogated at the station under the bright lights.  They talked to her in her own house in comfortable surroundings.   The “You like dogs, so do I” kinda conversation ensued.  She did not fully realize the danger she was in and that isn’t surprising.  In the end they got what they wanted out of her.

“Winner was cornered, literally. The agents were interrogating her in a small room at the back of her house and were blocking the exit, according to a statement Winner made to the court in late August (the government claims the exit was not blocked). She did not feel free to leave the room or stop the interrogation.”

“The transcript shows the agents, as they coaxed Winner into purportedly confessing a crime, suggesting that the matter wasn’t all that serious.  “I don’t think you make it a habit,” Garrick told her, referring to leaking documents. “You just messed up.” Taylor downplayed it further. “What we both think is that maybe you made a mistake,” he said. “Maybe you weren’t thinking for a minute. Maybe you got angry. … If that’s the case, then that makes us feel a little better, knowing that we don’t have a real serious problem here.”

Most of us don’t have legal training and are unaware of how law enforcement operates.   It is human nature to respond to these authority figures by answering them as best you can.  If you don’t want to tell them something you may be tempted to leave it out of your statement or lie about it.  Bad idea.  Chances are they already know.  Silence from the start is the best approach.  Even if you are totally innocent of the underlying crimes they can still get you for a “process crime” like lying to the FBI if you make a mistake in recalling an event.  That is why they like to ask the same things over and over again at different times and in slightly different ways.  At some point you may answer differently and then you’re in trouble.  Good people can make bad decisions under pressure.  Also, in today’s world there are so many complex laws that you may not even be aware you have violated one.  That is why it is best to cool off and consult an attorney first.  Here is a good write up on why you should consult legal counsel before talking.  The author makes some very good points that everyone needs to know.  Please understand, I’m not against law enforcement at all.  They have a tough job and do it well.  But getting convictions is the job of the criminal justice system.  You have your interests and they have theirs.  It’s nothing personnel, it’s just how the game is played.  You need to play smart.

I love the Constitution.  Here is one of the reasons why.   The Sixth Amendment reads:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence”.[1]

Most countries around the world don’t offer their citizens these kind of protections.  Those of us living in the United States are very fortunate even if we don’t realize it because of all the accusations of police abuse.  But we have legal protections from the police and we should not throw them away.  People much smarter than you or I have gotten themselves prosecuted because they thought they could handle the questioning themselves.  My advice, don’t do it.  You don’t do your own surgery and you don’t rewire your house unless you’re an electrician.  So, why try to handle the law yourself?  Tell them you want a lawyer and don’t back down.

Another Dumb Law Attacking Free Speech Rights – VA Bill HB 1601

Here is another example of an elected government official using the law to intimidate and silence people engaged in unpopular speech.  The law sounds good to some on the service but when you dig deeper you see how awful it really is.  You see, after the recent unpleasantness in Charlottesville, VA many people are asking why certain groups are not designated by our government as domestic terrorist organizations.  Sounds like a reasonable question until you really start to think about it.  To make matters worse the ACLU has been intimidated by the Left into backtracking on it’s principles regarding free speech.  But that is another story.  In this particular case we have a state representative in Virginia who has decided it’s time to go after hate groups.  Delegate Marcia Price is trying to hatch this little gem in the state legislature.  Here is the link to the bill.  The bill seeks to define domestic terrorism and establish penalties.  Here is a summary:

Creates a new series of separate and distinct felonies and misdemeanors based on prohibited domestic terrorism activity and participation in such domestic terrorism activity. The bill provides a definition for an “act of domestic terrorism” and a “domestic terrorism organization.” The bill directs the Superintendent of the Department of State Police to promulgate regulations, to be updated annually, designating all organizations, groups, or associations meeting the definition of a domestic terrorist organization.

Most of the legal language was lifted from hate crime statutes and is nothing really new.  Since I’m not a lawyer I’ll let you read the bill for yourself and get right to my point.  Let’s look at why this is a free speech disaster.  It does several things to thwart the Constitution when misapplied.  And it will be abused – you can count on that.

  1. § 18.2-46.13.  Prohibition on assembly of members of domestic terrorist organizations.   

It shall be unlawful for three or more members of a domestic terrorist organization to assemble together with the intent of advancing some unlawful goal, mission, or purpose of the domestic terrorist organization.  Every person who participates in such an unlawful assembly shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.  If any member of a domestic terrorist organization carried, at the time of his participation in the unlawful assembly, any firearm or other deadly or dangerous weapon, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

2.  § 18.2-46.14.  Prohibited domestic terrorist organization participation; penalty

(A) Any person who actively participates in or is a member of a domestic terrorist organization and who knowingly and willfully participates in any act of domestic terrorism committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any domestic terrorist organization shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony.

3. § 18.2-46.15.  Prohibition on providing material support to a domestic terrorist organization.

(C) Whoever, by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and willfully provides or collects funds with the intention that such funds are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out an act of domestic terrorism, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.  For an act to constitute an offense under this subsection, it shall not be necessary that the funds were actually used to carry out a predicate act.

4. § 18.2-46.17.  Local law enforcement reporting of acts of domestic terrorism

This bill effectively shuts down any group unfortunate enough to get labeled as a terrorist organization.  But why is this a problem you may ask?  Don’t we hate terrorists?  Well, what exactly does it take to get you labeled a terrorist?  I won’t ever bother to argue the obvious, that this is an anti-Richard Spencer, anti-Alt Right bill.  So, let’s try and see what makes a terrorist in the eyes of Delegate Price.

Act of domestic terrorism” means (i) an act of violence, as defined in § 19.2-297.1 or (ii) any violation of §§ 18.2-5218.2-52.118.2-5318.2-53.118.2-56.118.2-5718.2-8318.2-108.118.2-11918.2-12118.2-12718.2-12818.2-13718.2-13818.2-14618.2-147,18.2-186.418.2-27918.2-28218.2-282.118.2-287.418.2-28918.2-30018.2-308.118.2-308.218.2-308.2:0118.2-31218.2-42318.2-423.0118.2-423.118.2-423.2, committed against a person or his property with the intent of instilling fear or intimidation in the individual against whom the act is perpetrated because of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, or that is committed against such person for the purpose of restraining that person from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States.”  

Now how is the going to be enforced?  Let’s see..

Act of domestic terrorism” means (i) an act of violence.. committed against a person or his property with the intent of instilling fear or intimidation in the individual against whom the act is perpetrated because of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability or that is committed against such person for the purpose of restraining that person from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States.”  

Congratulations, you just locked up Antifa and anyone else whose rally turns into a brawl.   The language in this bill can be interpreted to apply to almost any group involved in violent clashes, even leftist groups.  Violence used to shut down Constitutionally protected rights, like speech, can land the protesters in hot water.  This would apply, in my opinion, to groups like Antifa.  The intent is to use C’ville as a reason to label people (on the right never the left) as violent terrorists.  However, any time two opposing groups get together violence has a potential to develop especially when the police stand by looking like they did in C’ville.  So, a group shows up to say provocative thing about race or religion (protected by the 1st Amendment) when they suddenly clash with counter protesters.  Violence flairs up and an innocent person is harmed or killed.  Now you have calls to make the offending group holding the rally (not those who may or may not have initiated the violence – it can be hard to tell who threw the first punch so to speak) a “terrorist” organization.  Anyone who gave money or support or  joined the group is now a felon or facing felony charges at least.  The group or even offshoots of the group will be unable to rally, organize, or raise money.  Americans could then be imprisoned for the groups they join or give money to even if they themselves have done nothing violent and committed no crimes.  The actions taken by others in your group can make you a criminal.  This law is unnecessary at the very least.  Current law works well in our free and open society.  It keeps groups like the Klan from openly organizing, funding, and carrying out violence.  They may inspire it, but it’s usually carried out by lone actors independent of any organized group.  The hate groups know that if they facilitate the violence they will be held criminally and civilly liable.  Attempts to punish groups for “inspiring” violence run into 1st Amendment problems.  If there is no direct call to violence only a vague insinuation open to interpretation then the law should be on the side of the speaker.

Bills like this are what authoritarians want to enact into law around the country to criminalize their opponents and silence the opposition.  I fully expect to see more bad law like this proposed in the coming years.  Let’s hope the Courts throw this nonsense out before we find ourselves living in a police state where freedom of association and speech exists on paper only and in reality can land you in prison.

We Are Almost There

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

George Orwell   1984

The memory hole pulls us forward hour by hour day by day.  It so tempting to simply flush the unpleasant things that history has left us, things that make us uncomfortable.  Even principled people fall victim to the temptation when they see the world changing around them, urging with some grand collective group think to “get on board” and join the “right side of history.”  Standing up to such pressure is not easy and I admire people like of Ayn Rand for seeing the nobility of the individual and the beauty of rational truth.  Big decisions should be made with quiet deliberation, sound judgement, and a regard for truth and perspective not mob pressures.  I have little respect for otherwise intelligent people who swallow hard and go along to get along compromising their integrity and deliberately misrepresenting historical facts.  It seems to be human nature to want to give up and give in.  The totalitarian impulse in society is strong and I fear we may one day give in to it completely because we can no longer justify to ourselves why we should fight or even make an effort. When a people lose their integrity, the will to live free and be true to themselves, the end of liberty has arrived.

As Orwell reminds us at the end of his book:

He gazed at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache.  O cruel, needless misunderstanding!  O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast!  Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose.  But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.  He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother.

Money And Civil Society

“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss – the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery – that you must offer them values, not wounds – that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade – with reason, not force, as their final arbiter – it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability – and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money.

“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality – the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors.

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another – their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

“When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: ‘Account overdrawn.’

“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world?’ You are.

 “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns – or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other – and your time is running out.”

—  Ayn Rand

No further comment needed.

The Logan Act and Democratic Hypocrisy

The media has been up in arms the last week or so over Mike Flynn’s supposedly intercepted phone call with the Russian Ambassador over Obama Administration sanctions.  Also, let’s not forget that this phone call was supposedly obtained through Signals Intelligence (aren’t there rules about intercepting such calls when Americans are present?) and its release is a major felony.  But back to the main point.  Did Mike Flynn violate the Logan Act?  Well, what the hell is the Logan Act?

According to Wikipedia The Logan Act is:

The Logan Act (1 Stat. 613, 18 U.S.C. § 953, enacted January 30, 1799) is a United States federal law that details the fine and/or imprisonment of unauthorized citizens who negotiate with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States. It was intended to prevent the undermining of the government’s position.[2] The Act was passed following George Logan‘s unauthorized negotiations with France in 1798, and was signed into law by President John Adams on January 30, 1799. The Act was last amended in 1994, and violation of the Logan Act is a felony.

Now, can someone tell me how the hell the Democrats didn’t violate the hell out of this act in the 1970’s and 1980’s?  A quick and dirty internet search turns up the following:

From the New York Times:

MEXICO CITY, May 26— A delegation of Democrats opposed to the Reagan Administration’s policies in Central America met today with Mexico’s Foreign Minister and gave their backing to a peace initiative being promoted by Mexico and three other regional governments.

A spokesman for the group said the trip had been approved by Representative Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., Democrat of Massachusetts, the Speaker of the House, and by other leading Democrats. ”This trip is planned as one of a series of meetings on Central America,” a group member said. ”The idea is to try and find another concept to support without confronting President Reagan.”

From Wikipedia:

April 1974, [Teddy] Kennedy travelled to the Soviet Union, where he met with leader Leonid Brezhnev and advocated a full nuclear test ban.

From Forbes:

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers.

First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.

Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. … The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”

Kennedy would make certain the networks gave Andropov air time–and that they rigged the arrangement to look like honest journalism.

I wonder how many more such instances one could find if one really tried. Sounds to me like the media’s sudden self righteous indignation over Flynn’s unauthorized phone conversation regarding Obama Administration sanctions is more than a little political.  Maybe Flynn did violate the spirit if not the letter of the act but he seems to be in good company.

Lest anyone think I’m just mindlessly defending Trump, I’ll also add that if it turns out the the Trump team was having extensive secret negotiations with Russian Intelligence officials before and immediately after the election then a thorough and complete investigation should be done.  Anyone caught breaking the law (not just flirting with the Logan Act) should be fully prosecuted.


The 5th Amendment and Your Computer

I’ve always felt that being forced by a court to unlock a safe or decrypt a computer drive was a violation of the 5th Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.  Whether you produce a physical key/combination or a password is irrelevant in my mind.  It seems that the EFF feels the same way.  The case of Francis Rawls brings this issue to the forefront and also highlights an interesting peer-to-peer network called Freenet.  Mr. Rawls is being held indefinitely on contempt of court charges for refusing to decrypt his two external hard drives.

Since I’m not a lawyer I won’t try to hash out complex legal issues.  The legal issues are laid out here and you can read them for yourself.  The EFF filed a friend-of-the court brief in this case that states their position on the issue.  Read it if you so choose.  My take-a-ways are these:

1. The courts and the law need to recognize that technology has changed how we humans interact with one another, with how we order our lives, and how we store our private and personal papers, thoughts, and inner most secrets.  We have moved into a digital world while the law is still stuck in the old world of physical keys, hard copy papers, and physical vaults.  In the case of forced decryption you must use the contents of your mind to render intelligible what is currently unintelligible (encrypted data).   I view this as a 5th Amendment violation.  In my opinion the law needs to catch up to the way we currently use encryption to protect the important contents of our lives which are now kept on computers and smartphones.  It needs to bring 18th, 19th, and 20th century civil rights protections into the 21st century.

2.  What if you really do forget your password?  Can you really rot in jail in the USA for years on end without a trial?  What if someone plants an encrypted device on your person or property and tips off the police that you’re hiding illegal content?  That could get very ugly very fast.  Even if you are eventually cleared you may still loose your job and reputation.

3.  In my opinion peer-to-peer networks like Freenet can give a false sense of security to people and lead to disastrous consequences.  If you are conducting sensitive activities and aren’t using the anonymity of the Tor network then you are making a mistake.  The case of Mr. Rawls begs the question – if Freenet is so secure and anonymous how did Mr. Rawls get caught?  To quote from the site itself:

Communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are routed through other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is.

Users contribute to the network by giving bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive (called the “data store”) for storing files. Files are automatically kept or deleted depending on how popular they are, with the least popular being discarded to make way for newer or more popular content. Files are encrypted, so generally the user cannot easily discover what is in his datastore, and hopefully can’t be held accountable for it. Chat forums, websites, and search functionality, are all built on top of this distributed data store.

Note the sentence – “Files are encrypted, so generally the user cannot easily discover what is in his datastore, and hopefully can’t be held accountable for it.”  Hopefully???? Really???  ‘Hopefully’ you won’t be held accountable for someone else’s illegal content??????  ‘Hopefully’ you won’t go to prison for decades because of someone else’s stuff??   WTF??   Based on that sentence alone I would never install such software on my computer.  Folks, I can’t tell you what to do but please use some common sense when engaging in sensitive, anonymous activity, whether you’re a dissident, journalist, student, or member of a vulnerable group. Anonymity is hard and if you let others put something on your computer you may be called to account for it.  Knowing what’s on your computer and keeping it safe can be the difference between life in the real world and life in prison.

More thoughts on computer privacy and anonymity

Given the contentious 2016 election and the renewed debate over government surveillance I decided to post a new page to the blog about how to maintain privacy and anonymity on the internet.  Follow this link to see the page.  The political environment in the US and around the world is not and has not been friendly to the privacy rights of individuals.  While total anonymity is impossible there are at least some steps everyone can take to secure sensitive data and make themselves harder to track.  Most people aren’t very technical and don’t think much about securing their private data when using computers and smart phones.  I’m hoping I can help those non-technical folks who are interested in protecting their privacy to do so. I really love what the EFF has to say about surveillance and I hope more people will read it.

It’s not just journalists or important people who should take their online privacy seriously.  The average citizen and political activists of all kinds should have a real interest in protecting themselves online.  The DNC hack/phishing attack in 2016 drives that point home.  In fact, anonymous speech can be crucial to a vibrant democracy.  When political and social pressure is brought to bear it can drive people to self censorship.  Social media makes it easy to find people with unpopular opinions and then ostracize or harass them.  Who wants to go out on a limb with a new idea if they know opponents of that idea will attack them personally?  If ideas are presented anonymously then maybe the idea will be judged without prejudice toward the originator of the idea.  The Federalist Papers were initially published anonymously to minimize personal discrediting attacks that might be leveled against certain individuals.  The Anti-Federalist Papers were done the same way.  Imagine that – a battle of ideas and arguments not personal attacks on individuals and their private scandals.

Private individuals should feel free to contribute to the public discourse and make their ideas known without fear of online harassment.  Knowing how to defend oneself online will boost confidence and lead to more political involvement.  Knowledge is power and technical knowledge is no exception.  In the times we live in such knowledge is paramount.  Educate yourself and engage with the online world in full force.  The bottom line is that if your are a political or social activist you owe it to  yourself to make your data secure and keep your private life private.

Fascist USA?

Seems like the word “Fascist” is being thrown around more and more since the election.  But just what the hell is a Fascist anyway?  To some it’s “whoever disagrees with me.”  To others it’s “Republicans in general.”  But seriously, what do they mean when they warn us of Fascism?  Well, it seems there is more than one definition floating around out there.  In his message to Congress regarding monopolies FDR defined it this way –

“…the first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself.  That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

His definition sounds suspiciously like an oligarchy which is “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.” I think this definition is inaccurate.

Let’s visit the writings of Mr. Fascist himself, Benito Mussolini.  Mussolini wrote an entire book on the subject called “The Doctrine of Fascism.” OK, it is short and book might not be the best word to use but you get the idea.  After all, he founded the Fascist Party.  He called it both “practice and thought” and “an organic conception of the world.”  Whoa. Sounds all encompassing to me, not at all friendly to the libertarian mind. The main takeaways are that it is anti-individual, authoritarian, realistic (as opposed to utopian) in outlook, and Statist.  It is for the individual so long “as he coincides with the State, which is the conscience and universal will of man in his historical existence.”  It opposes liberty and classical liberalism since they put the individual’s interest before the State’s interest. In essence, man is subservient to the State.  He says “...outside the State there can be neither individuals nor groups..” He calls it the “giver of laws, ” the “educator of spiritual life,” and says that it should enter “in the spirits of men and there govern unopposed.”

In short, Fascism (like totalitarian Communism) belongs to the cult of the State.  In no way does this resemble the current Democratic or Republican parties in the United States.  Fascism is not compatible with individual liberty or human freedom.  It cannot allow Religion or anything else to come between man and the all powerful State.  The end result of any authoritarian system of government is war, prisons, and concentration camps. Force and terror become the only way to protect the status quo. Note that nowhere is it said to be built on racism although the two often go together.

Fortunately, the United States has a government in place that is designed to resist authoritarian impulses.  The State serves the people not the other way around.  Power is not concentrated in one man or Party.  The individual is free to act according to his conscience and worship God however he chooses.  The individual has value and is NOT subordinate to a Party, his ethnic or social group, a government, or any other mass movement.  Remember that the next time someone tells you there is no God and man is subordinate to the will of the people (whatever that means).  If there is no power higher than man then every conceivable evil under the sun can be justified by popular vote.  Our government recognizes the inalienable rights of men – rights that can’t be undone by the next election.  The people’s representatives in Congress make the laws, levy taxes, and create budgets but only as allowed by the Constitution.  Their power is not unlimited.  The President executes the laws and enforces them.  The Supreme Court keeps check on both to make sure the Constitution and the law is not violated.  It is a system built to be inefficient.  The Founders were students of history and feared tyranny.  We should be mindful of why we have the system we do before trying to radically alter it.  Our system will only work as long as it is respected by the people of the country.  The Founders recognized the need for peaceful change.  The Constitution is amendable.  The system we have is designed to protect freedom and individual liberty.  It is a good and strong system and will even survive Donald Trump. Let’s remember that the next time our outrage over social injustices reaches a boiling point.  Our system is designed to give voice to the people, allow for protest, and allow for peaceful change so that problems aren’t suppressed until they explode in revolution.  Metaphorically speaking, when the pot boils, take off the lid.  Clamping it down tighter invites an explosion.

The Security Of Our Voting Machines Needs To Be Taken More Seriously

I’ve often wondered if foreign governments (Russia or China for instance) or maybe just angry hackers have plans to hack our voting systems in an attempt to influence the outcome of our elections.  The presidential election is right around the corner so the issue of voting machine security is on the radar.  Voter fraud and intimidation have occurred in the past many times.  Voting is a fundamental right and fraud threatens the integrity of our democratic system.  No one wants to talk about the security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines.  Especially not the companies that make them or government officials.  But they can be hacked in different ways.  The recent flap over the DNC hack just confirmed my suspicions.  The more we try to make voting convenient and easy using modern computer technology the more we open ourselves up to attack.  When I came across this article the other day it reminded me just how vulnerable we are.  Please read it.  It is well worth your time.

Along these same lines, The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology published a good paper detailing how easy it is to hack these machines and steal voter data.  We need to treat voting machines as critical national infrastructure.  Security features of the machines need to be standardized across the country.  This is a national issue and demands a nationwide response.  At the very least we need the machines to have redundant paper backups that can be audited and compared to the electronic totals to verify accuracy.  It is time we take election security much more seriously.



Don’t Make Yourself So Easy To Track

Most technically proficient people know that our smartphones are very good personal tracking devices that record where we go and how long we are there.  A great article at The Verge reminds us that law enforcement is wise to this and getting more and more search warrants to pull Android user location data.  To many non-technical people these location tracking features might come as a surprise.   The article points out that police recently used Android location data to solve a bank robbery.  The police originally went to the suspect’s wireless carrier, AT&T, but the information obtained there was less precise (and useful) than data obtained from Google.  You see Google has a nice little location history feature in the phone that uses GPS data.  The wireless carriers use cell tower data that is less precise than GPS.  According to the article:  “Location History uses the phone’s location data to build a persistent portrait of where a user has traveled with their phone, a history that can be viewed or edited in the Timeline tab of Google Maps. Every time the phone establishes a strong enough location point, the system makes an entry in the user’s Timeline history, establishing that the user was in that place at that time.”  Remember, this data can go back years.  This sounds like a bonanza for law enforcement, journalists, hackers, and divorce lawyers.  It is also a detriment to people’s privacy.  Being tracked to this degree is not what most people have in mind when buying a smartphone.  For more information on how law enforcement uses this information, read this article from The Intercept.  Fortunately, you can turn the location history off by going to Android’s settings menu, under “Personal”, and selecting “Location.”  The toggle Location off.  That should stop the phone from recording your location and tagging photos with GPS data.  You can also go to Google’s Account Privacy page and turn it off there and view other Google settings related to your privacy and web history.  Don’t make yourself so easy to track.  Think about those default settings and what they do.  Are they benefiting you or someone else?  You have a right to privacy, but you need to actively defend it.  You can’t rely on companies that obtain their revenue through targeted advertising to do it for you.