Our Cute Democracy

“Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.”

Two lessons from the Megaupload seizure

BY GLENN GREENWALD

Two events this week produced some serious cognitive dissonance. First, Congressional leaders sheepishly announced that they were withdrawing (at least for the time being) two bills heavily backed by the entertainment industry — the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House –  in the wake of vocal online citizen protests (and, more significantly, coordinated opposition from the powerful Silicon Valley industry). Critics insisted that these bills were dangerous because they empowered the U.S. Government, based on mere accusations of piracy and copyright infringement, to shut down websites without any real due process. But just as the celebrations began over the saving of Internet Freedom, something else happened: the U.S. Justice Department not only indicted the owners of one of the world’s largest websites, the file-sharing site Megaupload, but also seized and shut downthat site, and also seized or froze millions of dollars of its assets — all based on the unproved accusationsset forth in an indictment, that the site deliberately aided copyright infringement.

In other words, many SOPA opponents were confused and even shocked when they learned that the very power they feared the most in that bill — the power of the U.S. Government to seize and shut down websites based solely on accusations, with no trial — is a power the U.S. Government already possesses and, obviously, is willing and able to exercise even against the world’s largest sites (they have this power thanks to the the 2008  PRO-IP Act pushed by the same industry servants in Congress behind SOPA as well as by forfeiture laws used to seize the property of accused-but-not-convicted drug dealers). This all reminded me quite a bit of the shock and outrage that arose last month over the fact that Barack Obama signed into law a bill (the NDAA) vesting him with the power to militarily detain people without charges, even though, as I pointed out the very first time I wrote about that bill, indefinite detention isalready a power the U.S. Government under both Bush and Obama has seized and routinely and aggressively exercises.

I’m not minimizing the importance of either fight: it’s true that SOPA (like the NDAA) would codify these radical powers further and even expand them beyond what the U.S. Government already wields (regarding SOPA’s unique provisions, see Julian Sanchez’s typically thorough analysis). But the defining power that had everyone so up in arms about SOPA — shutting down websites with no trial — is one that already exists in quite a robust form, as any thwarted visitors to Megaupload will discover. There are two points worth making about all of this:

(1) It’s wildly under-appreciated how unrestrained is the Government’s power to do what it wants, and how little effect these debates over various proposed laws have on that power. Contrary to how it was portrayed, the Obama administration’s threatened veto of the NDAA rested largely on the assertion that they did not need a law vesting them with indefinite detention powers because they already have full power to detain people without a trial: not because any actual law expressly vested that power, but because the Bush and Obama DOJs both claimed the 2001 AUMF silently (“implicitly”) authorized it and deferential courts have largely acquiesced to that claim. Thus, Obama argued about indefinite detention in his NDAA veto threat that “the authorities codified in this section already exist” and therefore “the Administration does not believe codification is necessary,” and in his Signing Statement the President similarly asserted that “the executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody” accused Terrorists “and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate.” In other words: we don’t need any law expressly stating that we can imprison people without charges: we do it when we want without that law.

That’s more or less what happened with the SOPA fight. It’s true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn aroundthe very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable:Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.

(2) The U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine. That is not hyperbole. Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient. And now here is Megaupload being completely destroyed — its website shuttered, its assets seized, ongoing business rendered impossible — based solely on the unproven accusation of Piracy.

It’s true, as Sanchez observes, that “the owners of Megaupload don’t seem like particularly sympathetic characters,” but he also details that there are difficult and weighty issues that would have to be resolved to prove they engaged in criminal conduct. Megaupload obviously contains numerous infringing videos, but so does YouTube, yet both sites also entail numerous legal activities as well. As Sanchez put it: “most people, presumably, recognize that shutting down YouTube in order to disable access to those videos would not be worth the enormous cost to protected speech.” The Indictment is a classic one-side-of-the-story document; even the most mediocre lawyers can paint any picture they want when unchallenged. That’s why the government is not supposed to dole out punishments based on accusatory instruments, but only after those accusations are proved in an adversarial proceeding.

Whatever else is true, those issues should be decided upon a full trial in a court of law, not by government decree. Especially when it comes to Draconian government punishments — destroying businesses, shutting down websites, imprisoning people for life, assassinating them — what distinguishes a tyrannical society from a free one is whether the government is first required to prove guilt in a fair, adversarial proceeding. This is a precept Americans were once taught about why their country was superior, was reflexively understood, and was enshrined as the core political principle: “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It’s simply not a principle that is believed in any longer, and therefore is not remotely observed.

* * * * *

On a different note: both Jeffrey Goldberg and David Bernstein have posts about my arguments on the smearing of CAP that rest on the same premise: namely, that to point out that someone has “dual loyalties” is an accusation of disloyalty to their own country or even worse. As I explainhere, that premise is false. There’s nothing inherently wrong with dual loyalties: those are common among many groups, especially in a country of immigrants, and are typically benign. What’s menacing is to smear those who discuss its existence and the way in which it influences our politics. For more on this, see The Atlantic‘s Robert Wright: “How to Smear a Washington Think Tank.”

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald
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Oath Keepers Fights SOPA

But I assure you they haven’t lost sight of the NDAA…

http://oathkeepers.org/oath/2012/01/17/oath-keepers-joins-the-fight-against-sopa-blackout-of-oathkeepers-org-jan-18/

January 17th, 2012

Oath Keepers Joins the Fight Against SOPA – Blackout of Oathkeepers.org Jan. 18

On January 18th, 2012, from 8am to 8pm Eastern, the Oath Keepers website will go dark to protest the looming SOPA (House) and PIPA (Senate) Bills. We are joining with many other websites across the internet who are also going dark in protest.

On Jan 24th, Congress will vote to pass internet censorship in the Senate, even though the vast majority of Americans are opposed. We need to kill the bill – PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House – to protect our rights to free speech, privacy, and prosperity.

Our First Amendment protected right of free speech is now directly under assault by a berserk U.S. Congress and White House. Our voluntary black-out is being done in conjunction with countless other websites to help the public understand the serious dangers in SOPA and related bills awaiting passage in Congress right now.

SOPA and PIPA are to the First Amendment what the NDAA military detention and trial provisions are to the Fourth, Fifth, And Sixth Amendments – allowing for the “black bagging” and “disappearing” of websites on a mere accusation alone. If such laws are enacted, the following may as well be posted by the government when they shut sites down:

“NOTICE: THIS SITE HAS BEEN DECLARED AN UNLAWFUL BELLIGERENT SITE BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OR ONE OF ITS CORPORATE PARTNERS. THIS SITE HAS BEEN BLACK BAGGED AND DISAPPEARED IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY, AND IS NOW INTERNED IN GITMO.

Your attempting to access and associate with this site has been noted, your IP address has been recorded, and you too are now being evaluated as a possible candidate for unlawful belligerent designation. Have a nice day.”

That is the kind of Orwellian world the internet will have become, under SOPA/PIPA or other such nonsense.
The First Amendment is first for a reason.

Without it, peaceful redress, correction, and removal of oath breaking officials becomes impossible, leaving you with only the Second Amendment to secure your rights. The internet is our most powerful weapon of free speech, which is exactly why the powers that be want to shut it down. With a free internet, they no longer have a monopoly on the exchange of ideas and the spreading of information, and that scares the hell out of them. So, we can expect them to do all they can to find a way to shut the internet down or to tightly control it.
Thus, the same “bi-partisan” pack of traitors and useful idiots who passed the NDAA now want to kill the internet. We must defend it with as much dedication as we would defend our right to bear arms.

Over the weekend, the Obama administration issued a statement on the blacklist bills, saying it would oppose PIPA and SOPA as written, and said that it “will not support” any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet” (whatever that means – surely the people pushing this will not admit it does those things). But remember, Obama said he would veto the NDAA, and then turned around and signed it. By dong so, he joined in on the treason of Congress. Obviously, if he cannot be trusted to keep his oath when it comes to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments (or the Article Three, Section 3 Treason Clause), he should not be trusted to protect the First Amendment either. Do not rely on such promises from Obama or from any of your congress-critters. And even if they “table” these bills for now, you can bet they will try to cram them through under some other name, or buried within some other bill (like the NDAA). Keep the heat on them all and get the word out.

This will be an ongoing fight, until all of these oath breakers are removed from office. Read more about this issue at EFF.ORG

And spread the word! We must defend all of the Bill of Rights, for all Americans. Period.

Stewart Rhodes
Founder of Oath Keepers

PS – our members forum will still be online during this blackout, and you can discuss SOPA/PIPA there.

We do this now? Yes? We do this tomorrow? Yes? Will they ever stop trying? Not till we replace them…

http://act.fightforthefuture.org/page/m/2e1f2083/1d04ab39/71f5e465/f863ed7/3109325458/VEsF/

SOPA IS NOT DEAD

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Embed the countdown on your website:

The January 24th Senate vote is our best chance to stop SOPA. We need 37 more senators to take our side before then. In-person meetings really work. We’ll show you how:

americancensorship.org / sopacountdown.org

Fight for the Future will email you about meetings and townhalls in your state and related campaigns. Privacy policy to widgets and top section.

http://assets.tumblr.com/iframe.html?10&src=http%3A%2F%2Fsopacountdown.com%2F&lang=en_US&name=sopacountdown

WHAT HAVE WE BECOME?

They codified the Police State when Obama signed the NDAA bill on New Year’s Eve. Now they are pushing through a disgraceful internet censorship bill. Currently Barack Obama’s Department of Commerce is spending our taxes and resources creating an Internet ID system.  Both of my senators voted for the NDAA, and one of them is co-sponsoring PIPA.  I voiced my concerns before the vote on the NDAA, where is my representation?  How does this help my state?  What citizens can my representatives claim to be supporting? Why is this happening?

What has happened to America?

Word Press on The Protect IP ACT (also known as Stop Online Piracy Act)

http://wordpress.org/news/2012/01/help-stop-sopa-pipa/

Help Stop SOPA/PIPA

Posted January 10, 2012 by Jane Wells. Filed under Community.

You are an agent of change. Has anyone ever told you that? Well, I just did, and I meant it.

Normally we stay away from from politics here at the official WordPress project — having users from all over the globe that span the political spectrum is evidence that we are doing our job and democratizing publishing, and we don’t want to alienate any of our users no matter how much some of us may disagree with some of them personally. Today, I’m breaking our no-politics rule, because there’s something going on in U.S. politics right now that we need to make sure you know about and understand, because it affects us all.

Using WordPress to blog, to publish, to communicate things online that once upon a time would have been relegated to an unread private journal (or simply remained unspoken, uncreated, unshared) makes you a part of one of the biggest changes in modern history: the democratization of publishing and the independent web. Every time you click Publish, you are a part of that change, whether you are posting canny political insight or a cat that makes you LOL. How would you feel if the web stopped being so free and independent? I’m concerned freaked right the heck out about the bills that threaten to do this, and as a participant in one of the biggest changes in modern history, you should be, too.

You may have heard people talking/blogging/twittering about SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act. The recent SOPA-related boycott of GoDaddy was all over the news, with many people expressing their outrage over the possibilities of SOPA, but when I ask people about SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, PIPA (Protect IP Act), many don’t really know what the bills propose, or what we stand to lose. If you are not freaked out by SOPA/PIPA, please: for the next four minutes, instead of checking Facebook statuses, seeing who mentioned you on Twitter, or watching the latest episode of Sherlock*, watch this video (by Fight for the Future).

Some thoughts:

  • In the U.S. our legal system maintains that the burden of proof is on the accuser, and that people are innocent until proven guilty. This tenet seems to be on the chopping block when it comes to the web if these bills pass, as companies could shut down sites based on accusation alone.
  • Laws are not like lines of PHP; they are not easily reverted if someone wakes up and realizes there is a better way to do things. We should not be so quick to codify something this far-reaching.
  • The people writing these laws are not the people writing the independent web, and they are not out to protect it. We have to stand up for it ourselves.

Blogging is a form of activism. You can be an agent of change. Some people will tell you that taking action is useless, that online petitions, phone calls to representatives, and other actions won’t change a single mind, especially one that’s been convinced of something by lobbyist dollars. To those people, I repeat the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

We are not a small group. More than 60 million people use WordPress — it’s said to power about 15% of the web. We can make an impact, and you can be an agent of change. Go to Stop American Censorship for more information and a bunch of ways you can take action quickly, easily, and painlessly. The Senate votes in two weeks, and we need to help at least 41 more senators see reason before then. Please. Make your voice heard.

*Yes, the latest episode of Sherlock is good. Stephen Moffatt + Russell Tovey = always good

Have we Crossed The Rubicon?

Eric Peters says yes.
Article below, After reading I recommend visiting the site and reading the comments, which are equally good.

http://epautos.com/2011/12/14/we-have-crossed-the-rubicon/

“We Have Crossed the Rubicon

December 14, 2011

By

Do you suppose cows have any idea what’s coming as they’re marched down the chute? Or do they stare with bovine indifference at the tail and hind quarters in front of them, until they’re suddenly – and very briefly – startled by the man with the nail gun?

Perhaps Americans will – likewise too late – ask themselves What Happened in the very near future. Perhaps just after the midnight knock comes and they are taken away into the night.

It is not an exaggeration.

America is now on the cusp of becoming a state that does exactly such things; things exactly like the things done by 20th century horror shows such as NS Germany or Stalin’s USSR. Literally. Not “this is where it might lead” or “the tendency is similar.” Exactly, literally, the same thing. The only difference is that it awaits being done on a mass scale. But the power to do it openly – brazenly – has been asserted.

And is about to be sanctified by law.

The National Defense Authorization Act will make it official. It will confer upon the executive branch and the military (increasingly, the same things) the permanent authority to snatch and grab any person, U.S. citizens included, whom it decrees to be a “terrorist” – as defined or not by the executive or the military –  and imprison them, indefinitely, without formal charge, presentation of evidence or judicial proceeding of any kind. These “detainees” will have neither civilian rights in the civil court system, nor – crucially – even the minimal rights to due process and decent treatment conferred upon prisoners of war. (And we are allegedly “at war,” are we not?)

The language of the bill specifically includes American citizens “caught” within the borders of the United States – aka, the “battlefield.” It is claimed by sponsors that only those awful them – you know, the enemies of freedom The Chimp and his successors like to reference as they systematically gut our freedoms – need worry. But read the actual document, and be afraid. The wording is such that any shyster lawyer for the government will be able to draw up a memorandum at some point in the near future equating, say, criticism of the federal government’s policies in the Middle East with “substantially supporting” the enemies of the United States. As defined by the United States.

That is, as defined by the government.

At its whim. At the personal discretion of whomever happens to be the Maximum Leader, or even one of the ML’s duly appointed minions.

As the always excellent Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone recently observed, what happens when some nutjob who attended a few Tea Party meetings tries to bomb a federal building? Will the Tea Party itself – and anyone who “substantially supports” it be thus transformed into an “enemy combatant”? How about the OWS protestors? How about this web site – and this author – which have on several occasions called bullshit on the federal government’s usurpations and follies? How hard will it be, really, to describe such actions – such thoughts expressed in an article or an interview – as “substantially supporting” whatever the government decides amounts to “terrorism” or the threat thereof against itself?

Surely, the door is now wide open for such an interpretation by some John Woo or Dick Cheney waiting in the wings. Prospective jefe Newtie is practically turgid at the prospect of getting his hands on such power. And there is no longer (or soon won’t be) any legal means available to contest a one-way trip to Treblinka in Topeka – or wherever it is they will send you.

Taibbi writes:

“The really galling thing is that this act specifically envisions American citizens falling under the authority of the bill. One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law ‘basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield’ and that people can be jailed without trial, be they ‘American citizen or not.’ New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that ‘America is part of the battlefield.’ ”

Graham further stated:

“It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next. And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’ ”

The key thing being, it is entirely up to the government to decide what constitutes “helping” al Qaeda. It can be nothing more than a vague assertion. Indeed, no evidence of any kind whatsoever is necessary to “hold them as long as it takes” in order to “find intelligence” (not defined, either) by any means it wishes to employ.

As Taibbi notes:

“If these laws are passed, we would be forced to rely upon the discretion of a demonstrably corrupt and consistently idiotic government to not use these awful powers to strike back at legitimate domestic unrest.”

The Fuhrer (oops, President Obama) is about to sign this latter-day Enabling act and when he does, it will mark the moment that America’s coffin is nailed shut. The corpse has been on view since 9/11. But there was always some hope that, perhaps, it might be jolted back into life. Now we know the awful truth. Death is permanent.

And it’s coming for us.

Throw it in the Woods?

This entry was posted on December 14, 2011 at 11:50 am and is filed under Features, Politics, Slide Show. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.”