Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Mary Fallin puts an end to Oklahoma’s drone privacy bill

fallin dronesKaye Beach

March 13, 2013

House Bill 1556 authored by OK Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, working in conjunction with the Oklahoma ACLU,  would have required law enforcement to get a warrant before using drones for surveillance and prohibited civilian drones from carrying weapons.

But today the Governors office put an end to this bill.

Reported by KFOR-TV March 13, 2013;

Bill on drone surveillance put on hold

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would have required law enforcement to get a warrant before using a drone for surveillance has been put on hold.

House Bill 1556 will be held over for the next session.

. . . The move comes as a result of opposition from Gov. Mary Fallin.

Read more and watch the video report at KFOR http://kfor.com/2013/03/13/bill-on-drone-surveillance-put-on-hold/

Enjoying a groundswell of popular support that notably spans the political spectrum, HB1556 appeared to have a great chance of being passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives until the Governor’s office decided it was time to intervene.

Citing concerns that pending legislation would hurt Oklahoma’s chances to be one of the six states chosen by the FAA to be a testing site for drones, Governor Fallin’s office took issue with the bill.  However, upon closer inspection of the FAA”s application by the bill’s author and the Dir. Of the OK ACLU, Ryan Kiesel, it was found that the FAA is explicitly does not automatically treat pending legislation as a negative.  

This fact, when raised made no impact on opposition to HB1556 by the Governor’s office which begs the question: Why would the Governor be opposed to the passage of this very modest bill?

This unanswered question takes me back to the press conference that I attended that was held by Gov. Fallin, along with her Secretary of Science and Technology,  Stephen McKeever,  and drone industry representative Michael Toscano, the president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International on Jan 16, 2013 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.


When it came time to take questions from members of the press, not surprisingly, the very first question asked was in regards to privacy and civil liberties.  At that time the Stephen McKeever made it crystal clear that they were not amenable to any statutory or even policy level changes that might protect the privacy rights of Oklahoman’s.  McKeever was quite clear in his statements explaining that while it was not unreasonable to have some concerns about drones and privacy, he was opposed to any real efforts to secure our privacy rights for fear that it might hinder  the drone industry in some way in our state.

That is when I knew that any legislation to advance the protection of our rights was going to be an uphill battle to say the least. 

Recently, the Congressional Research Service issued a report;  “Integration of Drones into Domestic Airspace: Selected Legal Issues”

The report states that “perhaps the most contentious issue concerning the introduction of drones into U.S. airspace is the threat that this technology will be used to spy on American citizens.” 

That this is an issue is not a surprise to anyone. Yet with all of the time, money and effort invested by this state to ensure that Oklahoma becomes drone central, USA,  nothing has been done to hear the concerns of Oklahoma citizens or ensure the rights of Oklahomans are protected.

There has been years of groundwork laid in making Oklahoma the premier state for the drone industry.

In 2009 the Unmanned Systems Alliance of Oklahoma (USA-OK) was created to promote the emerging unmanned systems industry in Oklahoma.

In 2011, Gov. Fallin issued an Executive Order to create the Unmanned Aerial Systems Council and appointed 13 members to her Unmanned Aerial Systems Council.  The council was to advise the governor on ‘all issues related to UAS, including education, economic development, job creation and investments’ so that Oklahoma could become a national leader in the UAS industry. 

This Council was created to advise the Governor on “all issues related to UAS”

How surveillance technology laden drones might infringe upon our Fourth Amendment rights has not been a primary or even secondary issue worth considering when officials were obviously working so hard at covering all the bases.

In all of the materials covering Governor Fallins efforts to develop the drone industry in Oklahoma that I have read, I have found  but one brief mention of the fact that drones present a real threat to our civil liberties.  It is in the Report of the Governor’s Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council, released on July 8, 2012.   This recommendation made by the Oklahoma UAS Council, a small as it was, is one that should have been given some attention.  It wasn’t.

The Oklahoma UAS Council stated that  “The growth of UAS has the potential for enormous good and economic benefit for all residents, introducing new capabilities simply not possible at present. As with any new technology, however, new capabilities come with the potential for abuse. The state of Oklahoma takes these issues and concerns seriously. We support calls for thoughtful and informed dialogue to address these concerns and for the industry to work with privacy advocates, policymakers and legislators to provide the necessary protections against misuse.”  Source: Report of the Governor’s Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council  A Strategic Plan for the Development of an Unmanned Aerial Systems Enterprise in the State of Oklahoma 

To my knowledge, no one from the drone industry or the Governor’s office reached out to the ACLU, OK-SAFE, or any other organization that is known for privacy advocacy in the state.

No.  It was not until HB1556 gained real traction and only after a last minute attempt by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce to kill the bill in committee did the Governor’s office make any effort to connect with anyone and that was to put the brakes on the bill.

Rep. Wesselohoft worked openly and diligently to address any possible concerns by law enforcement or any others over the language in the bill.  Nevertheless, he was sideswiped by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce shortly before the bill was to be heard in the House Aerospace and Energy committee when a Chamber representative told him that her organization was unhappy with the bill but refused to specify exactly what was problematic denying the Representative any opportunity to address their concerns.  The Chamber representative then proceeded to pass out to all committee members what was described as a ‘hit piece’ on the bill in an attempt to kill the legislation.

Despite this last minute attempt by the Chamber to sink HB1556, the bill passed the committee by a vote of 23-4.

To protect the rights of the people of the state of Oklahoma is the first duty of our elected representatives,  especially the Governor.  In reality, protection of our rights has registered dead last on Governor Fallins drone ‘to do’ list and this is unacceptable!

Another example of what I consider to be bad faith on the part of the Governor regarding the drone issue is her studied lack of forthrightness on the nature of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s RAPS program currently active in Oklahoma.

On June 29, 2012 Gov. Fallin announces Oklahoma is the first state chosen by the Dept. of Homeland Security as a testing site for small unmanned aircraft (drones) in the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program.

Gov. Fallin assures the public that ‘drones for use by the military or police investigations will not be tested at the Oklahoma site.’

Source: NewsOK, June 29, 2012, Oklahoma chosen as test site for drones http://newsok.com/oklahoma-chosen-as-test-site-for-drones/article/3688386

However, the Dept. of Homeland Security’s own documentation describes the RAPS program to include; “real-time law enforcement tactical operations support, and crime scene situational awareness.”

DHS explains that “Typical test scenarios include search and rescue missions, fire and
hazardous material spill responses, and simulated law enforcement tactical operations.”

Source: Privacy Impact Assessment for the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) Project http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/privacy/PIAs/privacy_pia_st_raps_nov2012.pdf

And then on Dec. 31, 2012 we get a real New Year’s surprise from a news article describing the first RAPS tests taking place in Oklahoma as a SWAT policing exercise.

FORT SILL — The small, winged drone quietly soared overhead as SWAT team members closed in on a building at Fort Sill.

When a suspect sprinted from the structure, the drone banked through a cloudless afternoon sky in an effort to track the person.

A few miles away, two Lockheed Martin technicians sat in a converted bedroom of a ranch-style house using a laptop computer to control the drone’s movements. They followed the action on a video relay.

The simulated chase this month was among the first test flights in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program designed to evaluate the possible civilian use of “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

Source: NewsOK, Dec. 31, 2012, Wary eyes shift to the skies as unmanned aircraft are tested in statehttp://newsok.com/wary-eyes-shift-to-the-skies-as-unmanned-aircraft-are-tested-in-state/article/3741815

Governor Fallin misrepresented this program.  That is very concerning to me.

What is it that the drone industry plans on doing in Oklahoma that makes a simple piece of legislation protecting basic rights so offensive to Governor Fallin?

Here is the bottom line for the grassroots activists who are rightfully outraged by the governors direct role in quashing this bill; it is up to you to make sure that such actions by our governor politically painful enough that she will think twice about disrespecting the rights of the people of this state which she has sworn to defend.

First, call her office and register your opinion of her actions.

The Office of Governor Mary Fallin

Local: (405) 521-2342
Fax: (405) 521-3353

Don’t forget.  You can also connect with Governor Fallin on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GovernorMaryFallin

And Twitter https://twitter.com/GovMaryFallin

No need to be rude or threatening but tell her this is truly a blatant example of profits over people and she needs to get her priorities straight!

Contact the news stations and ask them to investigate the relationship between the industry and state officials.  Ask them to cover the ire of the people of this state about the amount of investment in this industry and the lack of attention to our concerns about privacy and arming the drones with weapons.  Do your own research and see what you can uncover.

Find out where Governor Fallin is speaking and show up with signs to let people know how little she respects them.

And last but not least, when she runs for re-election, make this issue a campaign issue that she will have to answer to!

Be creative –  but please do something to expose this problem!  If we don’t make this an issue-no one else will!

Texas Students Face Repercussions for Refusing RFID Tracking

Kaye Beach

Oct. 9, 2012

Are you OK with tracking kids via active RFID chips at school?  Some kids and parents in Texas are NOT OK with it and they are holding their ground. (article below)

Here are some of the objections parents and students might have against wearing and RFID tracking device (from Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools dated August 21, 2012 signed by a wide variety of civil liberties advocates);
• Dehumanizing uses: While there is an expectation of supervision and guidance in schools, monitoring the detailed behaviors of individuals can be demeaning. For example, RFID reading devices in school restrooms could monitor how long a student or teacher spends in a bathroom stall.
• Violation of free speech and association. RFID tracking software can monitor associations of RFID tags, which could dissuade individuals from exercising their rights to freedom of thought, speech and association. For example, students might avoid seeking counsel when they know their RFID tags will document their presence at locations like counselor and School Resource Officer (SRO) offices.
• Violation of conscience and religious freedom. Many individuals object to RFID systems on the basis of their deeply held philosophical or religious beliefs. Schools are required to make accommodations for students on the basis of these beliefs.
• Unauthorized use. While RFID systems may be developed for use in a school, the RFID tags may be read covertly anywhere by anyone with the right reading device. Since RFID reading devices work by silent, invisible radio waves and the reading devices can be hidden, unauthorized or covert uses can be nearly impossible to detect. In addition, information collected on systems could be shared or compromised without individuals’ knowledge or consent. For example, a student’s location could be monitored from a distance by a jealous
girlfriend or boyfriend, stalker, or pedophile. Individuals run this tracking risk any place they carry or wear a school-issued RFID tagged item—even miles from the campus.

Read more of the Position Paper on the Use of RFID in Schools

Texas School District Reportedly Threatening Students Who Refuse Tracking ID, Can’t Vote For Homecoming

Posted Oct. 8, 2012 at the Huffington Post

Weeks after Northside Independent School District in San Antonio rolled out its new “smart” IDs that tracks students’ geographic locations, the community is still at odds with the program.

The “Student Locator Project,” which is slated to eventually reach 112 Texas schools and close to 100,000 students, is in trial stages in two Northside district schools. In an effort to reduce truancy, the district has issued new student IDs with an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip that tracks the location of a student at all times.

The program officially launched October 1 at John Jay High School and Anson Jones Middle School. Without the badges — required to be worn around the neck — students cannot access common areas like the cafeteria or library, and cannot purchase tickets to extracurricular activities. WND reports that the district has threatened to suspend, fine or involuntarily transfer students who fail to comply and officials have noted that “there will be consequences for refusal to wear an ID card as we begin to move forward with full implementation.”

Read more

DHS ‘fusion centers’ “pools of ineptitude, waste and civil liberties intrusions”

Kaye Beach

Oct. 3, 2012

Maybe the civil liberty violations alone weren’t enough to get the kind of attention on these hometown spy centers deserve but add to that the shocking lavish spending, waste and ineptitude. .  .well finally!

Thanks to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Oklahoma’s own Senator Tom Coburn for their great work on this eye opening report on DHS’ Fusion Centers. (Read the report)

Close them down!

The Washington Post’s Robert O’Harrow reports;

Oct. 2, 2012An initiative aimed at improving intelligence sharing has done little to make the country more secure, despite as much as $1.4 billion in federal spending, according to a two-year examination by Senate investigators.The nationwide network of offices known as “fusion centers” was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to address concerns that local, state and federal authorities were not sharing information effectively about potential terrorist threats.But after nine years — and regular praise from officials at the Department of Homeland Security — the 77 fusion centers have become pools of ineptitude, waste and civil liberties intrusions, according to a scathing 141-page report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations.

Read More

2011 Growing the Surveillance State

Kaye Beach

Jan 5 2012

This excellent article covers some of the most disturbing developments over the last year that impact our civil liberties,  GPS tracking, drones, the TSA’s antics and more.  I selected just a few sections that I think are particularly important  You can read the entire article, 2011: A Civil Liberties Year in Review, by John Whitehead  here


More powers for the FBI. As detailed in the FBI’s operations manual, rules were relaxed in order to permit the agency’s 14,000 agents to search law enforcement and private databases, go through household trash, and deploy surveillance teams, with even fewer checks against abuse. FBI agents were also given the go-ahead to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect individuals, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing. These new powers extend the agency’s reach into the lives of average Americans and effectively transform the citizenry into a nation of suspects, reversing the burden of proof so that we are now all guilty until proven innocent. Thus, no longer do agents need evidence of possible criminal or terrorist activity in order to launch an investigation. Now, they can “proactively” look into people and groups, searching databases without making a record about it, conducting lie detector tests and searching people’s trash.

Patriot Act redux. Congress pushed through a four-year extension of three controversial provisions in the USA Patriot Act that authorize the government to use aggressive surveillance tactics in the so-called war against terror. Since being enacted in 2001, the Patriot Act has driven a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights, violating at least six of the ten original amendments – the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments – and possibly the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well. The Patriot Act has also redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations and civil disobedience are considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

Terrorism Liaison Officers. In another attempt to control and intimidate the population, the government has introduced Terrorism Liaison Officers (TLOs) into our midst. TLOs are firefighters, police officers, and even corporate employees who have received training to spy on and report back to government entities on the day-to-day activities of their fellow citizens. These individuals are authorized to report “suspicious activity” which can include such innocuous activities as taking pictures with no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements and drawings, taking notes, conversing in code, espousing radical beliefs, and buying items in bulk. With the Director of National Intelligence now pushing for a nationwide program, you may soon see these government-corporate agents in a town near you.

Fusion centers. TLOs report back to so-called “fusion centers” – data collecting agencies spread throughout the country, aided by the National Security Agency – which constantly monitor our communications, everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected – the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police – a relationship which will make a transition to martial law that much easier. As of 2009, the government admitted to having at least 72 fusion centers. A map released by the ACLU indicates that every state except Idaho has a fusion center in operation or formation.

Read more

Democrats and DNA Databases




The Democratic Party has long gained political capital and much of its identity by holding itself out as a champion of civil liberties. From supporting free speech to protecting individuals’ privacy, Democrats have presented themselves as defenders of the basic principle that government should protect fundamental rights, and certainly not trample them. Yet recent developments suggest that this commitment to civil liberties may be wavering in one important respect: DNA databases.

Three recent political maneuvers highlight a troubling trend: Democrats’ endorsement of giving government unprecedented powers to expand the size of DNA databases by lowering the bar for collecting and retaining individuals’ DNA samples. Earlier this year, President Obama voiced his support for storing the profiles of those arrested but not convicted of certain crimes in DNA databases, saying “it’s the right thing to do.”

Along similar lines, Governor David Paterson of New York has introduced legislation — initially conceived by former Governor Eliot Spitzer, also a Democrat — that will roughly double the size of the state database by including not only individuals arrested for felonies, but many convicted of low-level misdemeanors. This would make New York the first state to widen the net in this fashion.

But perhaps most consequentially, the United States House of Representatives recently passed legislation that creates millions of dollars in incentives to encourage states to mandate taking DNA samples from individuals arrested for (but not necessarily charged with or convicted of) certain crimes. This provision (H.R. 4614) is part of the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2010, named after the tragic rape and murder of a young New Mexico woman. The bill provides a 5% bonus in federal money granted to states under a justice assistance program for “minimum DNA collection,” which includes taking DNA samples from felony arrestees of specified major crimes. A 10% bonus would be given to states that partake in “enhanced” collection, which includes the extra step of taking DNA from those arrested for specified lesser crimes.

AxXiom for Liberty Show Guests Howard Houchen and GW Shultz

G.W. Schulz joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008 and covers homeland security.
Prior to that time, he wrote extensively about politics, municipal corruption, workplace safety, criminal justice and the changing national landscape in news media for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Urban Tulsa Weekly here in Oklahoma.


Howard Houchen is running for Congress in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District

Howard W. Houchen is a proud Oklahoman, a Reagan Conservative, and a constitutionalist. In recent years Howard has discovered a deep disdain for current government and its direction. The lack of integrity and complete disregard for the “rule book”, The US Constitution, has motivated and inspired him to take on the immoralist of government and put America back on the level.
Raised in SE Oklahoma, there is a love for the land he calls home.


Ex-Oklahoma County jail guard pleads guilty in abuse

Ex-Oklahoma County jail guard pleads guilty in abuse
Man faced reduced misdemeanor charge of violating county jail inmate’s civil rights


Published: December 3, 2009

Christopher Beckman, 34. The inmate died after a struggle with guards at the Oklahoma County jail in 2007.

A fired guard once blamed in a felony charge for an Oklahoma County jail inmate’s death pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor instead.

Justin Mark Isch The former Oklahoma County jail guard pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating an inmate’s civil rights.

35.4696 -97.5257

Justin Mark Isch, 22, of Edmond, faces up to a year in federal prison when he is sentenced in a few months.

Another fired guard, Gavin Douglas Littlejohn, 26, of Oklahoma City, still faces trial Monday on the felony charge. Prosecutors on Tuesday revealed they have a secret recording of Littlejohn admitting to hitting the inmate.

A third former guard, William Ira Hathorn, 29, of Oklahoma City, pleaded guilty Wednesday to lying to investigators about the inmate’s death. Hathorn faces up to three years in federal prison.

Isch and Littlejohn were fired from the Oklahoma County sheriff’s office Feb. 2 after a federal grand jury indicted them over the inmate’s death. Grand jurors alleged the two violated the inmate’s civil rights on May 26, 2007, by using so much excessive force that the inmate died.

Defense attorney Mack Martin said prosecutors reduced the civil rights violation against Isch to a misdemeanor after determining through further investigation that his conduct was not “in any way” to blame for the death.

The inmate, Christopher Beckman, 34, of Choctaw, died May 28, 2007, two days after struggling with guards. The struggle began after he reportedly had seizures in his cell. He had been arrested on complaints of driving under the influence, driving under suspension, two counts of drug possession and failure to show insurance verification.

An autopsy concluded Beckman died from blunt force head trauma severe enough to cause brain swelling.

Read more:

Ed Geary’s Legal Blog

Oklahoma Jail Guards Charged with Murder – Homicide

The indictment claims Isch used Beckman’s head to open a steel door and Littlejohn repeatedly struck Beckman about the head and face.  The Oklahoma County Sheriff fired both men when the indictment was unsealed.  The Sheriff’s office issued a statement that read, “The OCSO is disappointed that these two former employees have found themselves in this situation.”

Notice how that statement puts a distance between the Sheriff and these two employees now as “former employees?”  They were certainly employees at the time of the death.  And notice the use of the passive voice about the men “finding themselves in this situation?   No mention of any wrongdoing, alleged or otherwise.  No mention of regretting the death, much less the alleged act of murder.  No mention that still another person has had his life taken while in the custody of the Oklahoma County Sheriff, this one making it more than 40 in number since January 2000.  No wonder the federal government moved all its prisoners out of that jail.

Christopher Beckman died May 28, 2007, at St. Anthony’s Hospital.  The state medical examiner’s office reported the death as a homicide in June, 2008, and the indictment followed eight months later. Defendants Isch and Littlejohn have not yet come to trial on the indictment.

At the time of the death, sheriff’s spokesman Mark Myers claimed Beckman suffered his injuries during a seizure while being transferred from his cell to a medical wing. Myers said he was being taken from the second floor to the first “when he fell face first to the floor and began convulsing.”  Then, Myers claimed, Beckman became “combative with officers at that point and suffered several cuts to his face.”  Myers said there was a video recording of the incident and said “at no time is there any evidence that any detention officers struck the victim.”

Obviously the Sheriff’s complete denial at the time of death was not enough to overcome the medical examiner’s report that concluded there was no possible way the victim could have died from anything but a homicide.  Obviously, the United States Attorney believed the medical examiner rather than the Sheriff.

read more;


Rightwing in the Crosshairs: HR 2159

Excellent piece that takes the concept of “Information Fusion” and unravels it to reveal the flawed, liberty killing core.

Hat Tip to;

“Periculosa on Civil Liberties and Privacy” Blog

Rightwing in the Crosshairs: HR 2159, “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2009”

Friday, July 13 2009

By amica jeffersoni

We are missing the point. MIAC and DHS have released reports such as “The Modern Militia Movement” and the “Domestic Extremism Lexicon,” which have targeted such groups as antiabortionists, Constitutionalists, military veterans, and supporters of Ron Paul and third party Presidential candidates as potential dangerous terrorists. Yes, it’s true that a few of us have been roughed up during airport security screenings and police traffic stops. But that is not the point. These reports are a tool, a means to a larger end.

If HR 2159 is passed, those who dare to openly question their government will not be able to obtain a firearm from a federally licensed dealer.

On the surface, the goal of this bill is laudable–who wouldn’t want to deny firearms and explosives to dangerous terrorists? This bill would amend the US Code, expanding the discretionary rights of the Attorney General to “deny the transfer of a firearm…if…the transferee is known (or appropriately suspected) to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism.” Definitions aside, how does the government determine who is a terrorist?

Before we answer this question it is important to understand how a person obtains a firearm through a federally licensed dealer. These kind of purchases can only occur in the United States after the applicant submits to a criminal background check. Persons federally licensed to sell firearms can access the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a database maintained by the FBI. The NICS fact sheet makes this appear to be–pardon the constitutional pun–a well regulated database. Most checks occur within thirty seconds. Those checks which result in denial go automatically to a NICS Examiner who will make a determination within three business days. If still denied, the applicant still has the right to appeal this denial. In nearly all cases–whether the applicant was approved or denied–NICS will destroy all documentation related to the transaction by the end of the next business day. (Unsuccessful applicants, if their denial is overturned, may choose to have their documentation retained to prevent future denials). This is not only for security purposes; it is to prevent the federal government from maintaining a national gun registry, which many gun owners strenuously oppose.

Where does the FBI obtain the information needed to decide who can legally acquire a gun? According to the NICS fact sheet, this can come from databases such as the Interstate Identification Index, the NICS Index, and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Let us begin with the NCIC. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), this is the largest criminal justice database in the United States. This database not only contains information about crimes and suspected criminals, it also lists information about persons with outstanding warrants, missing persons, stolen vehicles, and, yes, suspected terrorists. Trouble is, the information contained in the NCIC is not always accurate. Many cases of false arrest and even imprisonment–sometimes involving the same individual–have resulted from incorrect information contained in this database. This is in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 which requires the maintenance of “all records which are used by the agency in making any determination about any individual with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual in the determination.

Full Article

Getting Cozy with Etzioni Communitarian Guru

Amitai Etzioni, author of Rights and the Common Good: The Communitarian Perspective and The Limits Of Privacy is a man we should all get to know a little better.

 Amatai Etzioni-short bio-http://amitaietzioni.org/

Also The Instutute for Communitarian Policy Studies

His logic is hard to pin down which makes me question whether there is any real logic to his arguments at all.  That’s not to say that certain elements of Etzioni’s philosophy are not reasonable or even appealing.  Quite the contrary.  Many Americans will find themselves attracted to what at first glance may appear to be a sensible “middle ground”  Especially those that are thoroughly disgusted with the polarizing politics of today and herein lies the danger.

Amitai Etzioni promotes “Communitarianism” or the “Third Way”-both his chosen terms to describe and promote this belief system and he has been doing just that very effectively for some time.  I heartily recommend that anyone that finds his line of reasoning to be enticing, to apply a little “bottom line” thinking before they buy stock in it. 

Amitai Etziono is a former member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Etzioni’s signature pops up on resolutions passed by the PNAC (Project for a New American Century) and various elite international conferences on global policing. Etzioni co-founded the new science of socio-economics with the former President of the Soviet Union (Mikhail Gorbachev, Green Cross International). Self-labled as a “guru” of communitarian morality, he also lectures and performs government “studies” for the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, hosted by George Washington University (GWU) in Washington D.C. –Niki Raapani


 When reduced to its essence, the Third Way asks us to lose our attachment to respecting the inherent rights of the individual, an ideal we have never fully realized, but one that we ought never abandon either. 


I’m in agreement that we are all in this together and prefer to work in a harmonious and cooperative environment, just like most sensible folks.  But when conflict arises there are a few things that I am not willing to compromise on.  Life, Liberty and Property sum up nicely that which I consider mine alone not subject to the brand of “compromise” Mr. Etzioni espouses. 

The Democratic Leadership Council that gushes about the glory of Third Way thinking also adores the idea of “Universal Service” In a manically excited promo for the book “How America can Win” they posted;

One of the book’s contributors, William A. Galston, even suggests making national service compulsory, like the wartime draft. Marshall and Magee, in the chapter excerpted here, argue for keeping the program voluntary, but using the Selective Service System as one of its recruiting devices. http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm?kaid=115&subid=145&contentid=253462

Voluntary service is so fabulous that they don’t mind the thought of making it mandatory or at the very least, a coerced committment.  I have some fabulous ideas too, ones that have enriched my life immensely but the thought of forcing you to adopt my salvation is singularly abhorrent!  Communitarians have no such qualms.  Read it yourself.  I cannot stop gagging over that into long enough to be receptive to any of the merits of their proposals. 

When speaking of the exalted “community” which is nothing more that a collection of individuals, I have yet to experience a situation when one or more members of my “community” pushed my generosity so far as to demand that I must give to them any of my three most essential possessions.  I have willingly shared these treasures at times but never have I allowed them to be taken from me.  The members of my “community”  barring a fit of madness, would not dare to attempt to cadge a cup of my life, liberty or property because A) they do operate on the good old fashioned Golden Rule and hesitate to ask for more that they would be willing to give and B) fear the consequences of pushing the issue too far.  By contrast, the only ones who have the audacity to demand such sacrifice from me is the faceless “groups” and non-persons we call “government”  This does not represent  what I consider my community rather it represents a coercive force, a band of empowered thieves and ruffians.  What Etziono couches in soothing language is the idea that our essential, human rights must be limited or sacrificed for the good of this mythological “community”  Please see that the very real and present group of individuals that you work and live with is not the “community’ this man speaks of.  he is asking you to sacrifice the essential elements of your humanity to an armed collective that has no claim or connection to your very real grouping of peers.

Etzionis “community” is a false front for the same old, tired band of would be tyrants our forefathers risked all to remove themselves from.  The cold, unfeeling and distant rulers who caused such awful strife of spirit that they were willing to risk their physical life for the chance of shedding.

For any person that knows that there is no humanity in being denied there right to exercise their judgment over their own life direction and to keep the property traded for their labor and ingenuity, the Third Way will not bedazzle their eyes at all, but for the people who have not realized the essence of their humanity or who have internalized their own victimization to the degree that they believe themselves to be truly without power, it might appear to be the deal of a lifetime.

Read the Communitarian’s Platform Position regarding Domestic Disarmament;


In any event, be sure to give this re-furbished Faustian bargain a thorough, intellectual trial run before you take it home because it operates on a “no returns” policy.

No matter what you believe in, this concept will ultimately usurp your right to live according to your beliefs.  Communitarians assume the moral high ground and their goals do not bow to quaint notions of individualism.  As readily as any can find a stance taken by advocates of the “Third Way” that they agree with, a major point of contention will emerge in the next sentence they utter.  One can only conclude that any policy that disrespect the rights of any will certainly pose a threat to all-in time.

Partisanship got you down? Etzioni Reccomends a “Third Way”


“In short, the conservatives’ well of ideas may well have run dry, but the American majority has hardly turned liberal. True, many of the conservatives are fiscal and not social conservatives; hence stem cell research, women’s rights, and the environment may do well. However, a return to grand social programs for the poor and the minorities, of extensive regulation of capitalism (Wall Street, the oil companies, and banks for instance), the liberalism of Kennedy and Johnson, not to mention of Humphrey and Como, faces many more hurdles. “

“Is there a third way that may guide the new administration? Could the most compelling ideas be neither conservative nor liberal but communitarian?”


Back in 1997 this exceptionally perceptive Brit examines Etzioni and asks the question;

Should we Live this way?

You can tell.  She ain’t buying.

              Communitarians say we have too much freedom. Joan Smith takes issue with their guru

Joan Smith

Sunday, 22 June 1997

He has met Tony Blair, lunched with Paddy Ashdown and dined with Conservative MPs. Newspapers, notably the Times and the Guardian, give him generous space to air his views and promote his book, out on Tuesday.* When he took part in a discussion earlier this month at the London School of Economics, where he has just completed a visiting lectureship, the event was chaired by Geoff Mulgan, director of the think-tank Demos and a Blair insider.

Without being a household name, Amitai Etzioni is a man with friends in high places. Of course, listening is not the same as doing, but some of his admirers, including his publisher, Profile Books, claim his influence is visible in the re-writing of Clause IV of New Labour’s aims and values. This may be overstating the case but its reference to “community” and “common endeavours”, and anemphasis on duties as well as rights, is much in line with Etzioni’s thinking.

So who is Amitai Etzioni? A German-born sociologist, he is a professor at George Washington University. He is best known, however, as one of the founders of communitarianism. He set out his philosophy four years ago in a best-selling book, The Spirit of Community Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda, which got fawning reviews in America, not least from President Clinton.

“Thank you very much, Dr Etzioni,” Clinton gushed, and promptly appointed him policy adviser – overlooking the fact that Etzioni held a similar post in 1979, a year before Jimmy Carter lost the Presidency. “Thank you for the inspiration that your work has given to me and to so many others, [and] for your wonderful book. There are no institutions really for bringing us all together, across the lines that divide us, in our common cause of building what is good about America and building up what is good within the character of our people.”

Communitarians are keen on this kind of language, although here it has uncomfortable echoes of doomed crusades like Moral Re-armament in the 1930s. Indeed, Etzioni’s Italian-sounding name is his own invention and reflects his commitment to moral values. He was born Werner Falk in 1929, shortly before his family fled from the Nazis to the Middle East. His father was a Zionist businessman and the name his son chose combines an almost comical high-mindedness – amitai is the Hebrew word for truth – with the name of a region of Israel whose central four letters spell out the family’s creed (EtZIONi).

As a teenager, Etzioni smuggled Jewish refugees into Palestine, joined the Israeli commandos and fought against the British in 1948 – an experience he recalls as embodying communitarian ideals of decency and the common good: “I have no grim memories of my time in the Haganah fighting the British. We had a lot of gentlemen’s agreements in the way that we waged that conflict. When my unit of the Haganah blew up the British radar station at Haifa, we warned them beforehand so they could evacuate it.”

Etzioni studied under Martin Buber, whose books advocate co-operation and limits on self-interest, at university in Israel before arriving in the US to study philosophy in 1957. He married and had five sons, though he became a de facto single parent after his wife was killed in a car crash when the youngest child was 11. His formative years in an embattled culture with a strong emphasis on family values, and in a nascent state surrounded by enemies, go a long way towards explaining his apocalyptic vision – and remedies which his critics regard as authoritarian in effect, if not in intention.

Etzioni’s analysis of what has gone wrong in the West is a classic example of fin-de-siecle moral panic: we are suffering from “rampant moral confusion and social anarchy. We often cannot tell right from wrong – or cannot back up what we do believe in.” His argument is that we have too much freedom and not enough responsibilities: “We should, for a transition period of, say, the next decade, put a tight lid on the manufacturing of new rights,” he writes.

If this sounds like a peculiarly American analysis, a reaction to expensive lawsuits over spilt coffee, it has to be said that it has resonance in Britain. In Connexity, Geoff Mulgan argues that “in much of the world today the most pressing problems on the public agenda are not poverty or material shortage… but rather the disorders of freedom: the troubles that result from having too many freedoms that are abused rather than constructively used”; a message he is well placed, from his new office in the No 10 policy unit, to urge on members of the Government.

Communitarians disdain economic explanations for bad behaviour, whether we are talking about high crime levels or “the fact that people with sufficient spending power tend to overeat”, to take one of Mulgan’s idiosyncratic examples. They focus instead on moral decline and the collapse of the family. Etzioni’s big idea is the “parenting deficit”, which has allegedly led to most of the ills that beset us.

Imagine parenting as an industry, Etzioni writes. “Over the past 20 years, millions of American mothers have sharply curtailed their work in the parenting industry by moving to work outside the home.” This exodus, he claims, has had dire effects, a failure of “effective personality formation” in infants and a reliance on child care facilities which are sometimes no more than “kennels for kids”. Teenagers brought up like this are unable to say no to drugs, alcohol and premature sexual activity.

So it’s back to the home for women, and a 1950s-style division of labour? Etzioni denies it, extolling instead something called “peer marriage” – a two-parent family in which both parents have the same rights and responsibilities. But who is going to stay at home with the children, and for how long? Who pays? What if both parents want to work and believe their child care arrangements are satisfactory? Etzioni’s response is to list a series of “pro-family practices and policies”, including extended “family leave” of up to two years after a child is born. He also wants the law to be changed “not to prevent divorce, but to signal society’s concern”.

The latter is a typical fudge, and it is on this issue – how far society can go in enforcing its moral codes – that cracks begin to show. Etzioni is keen to talk about persuasion, reticent about what happens when exhortation fails. What he advocates is a social order in which the community identifies the “common good” and encourages its members to work towards it: safe driving, for example. Yet it is possible to imagine other examples in which a community endorses values like racism or homophobia.

Then there is the question of dissent. What happens when a community fails to persuade its members to conform to ideals like marriage-for- life and two-parent families? Etzioni’s answer, in his LSE lecture, was that certain arguments will succeed because they have moral force. The Chinese, he said, can laugh off comments about their failure to use knives and forks, whereas criticism of their record on human rights strikes home – a naive argument which suggests that the Second World War would not have been necessary if only someone had pointed out to Hitler that genocide is not very nice.

When Etzioni advances absurdities like these, it is hard to realise that anyone takes his work seriously. So I rang Profile Books and asked whether they could name a government policy which had been implemented as a direct result of his advice. “In the States, community policing in a pretty broad sense. In the UK, he’s had most influence on stakeholding and the new Clause IV,” was the answer.

I would have put this question to Etzioni myself, but he refused to speak to me. Two weeks ago I was invited to dinner with him where the other guests included Geoff Mulgan. When I was introduced to Etzioni, I asked whether his policies would not reinforce traditional gender roles. His reaction was volcanic. “How would you feel if I called you a fascist?” he demanded. “You’re stupid and ignorant and I’m not going to talk to you.” He stalked off, in search of more congenial companions. Communitarians, I decided, don’t prefer blondes.



Salon doubts the logic of Etzioni in 1999 


Privacy pleas

Maybe Etzioni is right about the relative weight of the threat to privacy posed by corporations, and it’s true that civil liberties groups tend to focus more on the threat posed by government. But this is because the Bill of Rights is, after all, a set of limitations on government action — in the United States at least, civil libertarians and privacy advocates have fewer legal tools they can use when the issue is commercial or nongovernmental intrusions on privacy.

In practice, this means that advocacy groups like the Privacy Rights Clearing House and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are forced to rely less on litigation and more on public statements and moral suasion when corporations act in ways that threaten privacy. (It was such public outcry/education strategies by public interest groups that compelled Intel to promise customers a way of concealing the serial numbers of PIII chips, and that forced Microsoft to provide a means of erasing the serial-number document stamp imposed by recent editions of Office.)

But even when Etzioni has a point, it’s hard to get past his paternalistic communitarian agenda. You get the feeling as you read “The Limits of Privacy” that Etzioni is only casually concerned about privacy issues per se; what he’s really interested in is vindicating the role of government. This is particularly apparent in the chapter promoting government access to encrypted communications. Here, the knowledgeable reader will find much that casts doubt on Etzioni’s understanding — not only of encryption but also of the other issues he addresses in this book.

As someone who’s been contributing to the public debate about encryption and wiretapping policy over the last seven years, I was startled to find that Etzioni gets some of the most basic details of the crypto debate spectacularly wrong. Most notably, he confuses key recovery (the holding of decryption keys by the government, sometimes referred to as “key escrow”) with public-key cryptography (crypto schemes like PGP, or Pretty Good Privacy, that depend on paired keys, one of which is freely available to the public). Absurdly, he keeps referring to the government’s policy as one of “public key recovery.” If the keys are public already, you don’t need a policy to enable the government to “recover” them.

But even if you ignore a howler like that one, you’ll be troubled by the quality of Etzioni’s analysis, which is grounded in two approaches: a) attempting to cast doubt on every argument advanced by crypto proponents and b) accepting uncritically every argument the government advances in favor of guaranteeing governmental access to private encrypted communications — especially those arguments couched in terms of the threat posed by drug dealers and terrorists who may use encryption to escape detection. (One can imagine a vastly different, vastly better, book whose author was equally skeptical of both sides of the encryption debate.)

This one-sided approach results in some peculiar blind spots. At one point Etzioni writes that “events that have a very low probability but a very high disutility (such as the terrorist scenario depicted) deserve as much public attention as those that have a relatively high probability but a relatively low disutility (e.g., the acts of individual drug dealers or pedophiles).” Here Etzioni embraces what I have called the Pascal’s Wager fallacy of the anti-encryption contingent. This fallacy derives from factoring an infinitely terrible event (the terrorist detonation of a nuclear device in Manhattan, say) into your risk calculations. The result is that, regardless of how low the probability of such an occurrence is, any measure that might prevent it is pseudomathematically justified. For all Etzioni’s talk of “balancing” rights against the collective good, he doesn’t seem to get that the balancing doesn’t work when the government gets to put its finger on the scale.

[. . .]The hidden assumption here is that the government means well, so its guaranteed access to our private communications and data is somehow more acceptable than the mere possibility (unsupported by actual evidence) that programs like Pretty Good Privacy may have a back door.

But of course that assumption is the whole ballgame. If there’s been a common theme in American political life over the last quarter-century, it has been the growing consensus on both the left and the right that the government, even when it indisputably means well, can’t be trusted with too much power.



Fears over privacy as police expand surveillance project

Fears over privacy as police expand surveillance project

  • The Guardian, Monday 15 September 2008
  • Database to hold details of millions of journeys for five yearsThe police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years, the Guardian has learned.
  • A national network of roadside cameras will be able to “read” 50m licence plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.

    Police have been encouraged to “fully and strategically exploit” the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.

    But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might have access to the material.

    The project relies on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pinpoint the precise time and location of all vehicles on the road. Senior officers had promised the data would be stored for two years. But responding to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office has admitted the data is now being kept for five years.cctv460x276

    Thousands of CCTV cameras across the country have been converted to read ANPR data, capturing people’s movements in cars on motorways, main roads, airports and town centres.

    Local authorities have since adapted their own CCTV systems to capture licence plates on behalf of police, massively expanding the network of available cameras. Mobile cameras have been installed in patrol cars and unmarked vehicles parked by the side of roads.

    Police helicopters have been equipped with infrared cameras that can read licence plates from 610 metres (2,000ft).

    In four months’ time, when a nationwide network of cameras is fully operational, the National ANPR Data Centre in Hendon, north London, will record up to 50m licence plates a day.

    The Home Office said in a letter that the Hendon database would “store all ANPR captured data for five years”. The photograph of a person’s licence plate will, in most cases, be stored for one year.

    Human rights group Privacy International last night described the five-year record of people’s car journeys “unnecessary and disproportionate”, and said it had lodged an official complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the government’s data watchdog.

    In a statement, the ICO said it would take the complaint “seriously” and would be contacting police “to discuss proposed data retention periods”. “Prolonged retention would need to be clearly justified based on continuing value not on the mere chance it may come in useful,” it said.

    In 2005 the government invested £32m to develop the ANPR data-sharing programme after police concluded that road traffic cameras could be used for counter-terrorism and everyday criminal investigations. Senior police officers have said they intend the database to be integrated into “mainstream policing”.

    Half of all police forces in England and Wales have now been connected to the network, reading between 8 and 10m licence plates a day. The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said the database would be linked to ANPR systems run by all but two police forces by the end of the year. The database will be able to store as many as 18 bn licence plate sightings in 2009.

    The Acpo ANPR strategy document, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, envisages the database will be used at all levels of policing. The document, which sets policy up until 2010, states that police forces should “fully and strategically exploit” the database.

    Officers can access the database to find uninsured cars, locate illegal “duplicate” licence plates and track the movements of criminals. The Acpo adds that the database will “deter criminals through increased likelihood of detection”.

    “Experience has shown there are very strong links between illegal use of motor vehicles on the road and other types of serious crime,” said Merseyside Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, who leads Acpo’s ANPR policy.

    The director of Privacy International, Simon Davies, said last night the database would give police “extraordinary powers of surveillance”. “This would never be allowed in any other democratic country,” he said. “This is possibly one of the most valuable reserves of data imaginable.”

    Peter Fry, of the CCTV User group, said that licence plate images captured by CCTV are generally retained for 31 days. “There’s not a great deal of logic to explain keeping the same images for five years,” he said.