Archive for the ‘fourth amendment’ Category

Real World Graduation, Question 97: Domestic Spying

RealWorldGraduation_Question_97_Domestic_Spying   <– PDF

Consider the following sequence of events. On 11 Sep 2001, adherents of Osama bin Laden hijacked U. S. airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.  All of the following information was taken from newspaper and magazine articles, but, for the sake of argument, assume all of what follows is true.  Once the federal government figured out who was behind the attacks, it engaged in a series of actions to combat terrorism.  One of those actions was that President George W. Bush, in 2002, signed a secret directive authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct email searches and make recordings of phone calls within the U. S. without a warrant, so long as one end of the party was overseas.  Normally a warrant to conduct this kind of surveillance is required under the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  Some government officials were concerned about the legality of the program (since it was authorized by presidential order instead of by Congress), and secretly provided information about the secret program to reporters working for the New York Times.  Because of the sensitive nature of the program, the New York Times agreed not to disclose its sources.  The administration learned about the disclosure of the program, and asked the New York Times not to publish the story.  The New York Times held off for about a year, but then went public with the information on 16 Dec 2005 [1].  The revelation led to debates in Congress, and a law was subsequently passed in Aug 2007 allowing the NSA to continue to perform this function.  Prior to the passage of the new law, the President withdrew the authorization for it, according to a letter by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 17 Jan 2007.  It was later learned that Thomas M. Tamm, an employee of the Justice Department, was one of the people who revealed the NSA program to the New York Times reporters in 2004, although he was not directly involved in its execution (he was never “read into” the NSA program) [2].  Apparently he learned about it indirectly while working on unrelated programs in and around the same offices where the NSA surveillance was being conducted.  Mr. Tamm subsequently lost his job at the Justice Department, apparently due to an unrelated issue.  Although his house was searched, Mr. Tamm has not been arrested.  Assuming all of the preceding is true, what is likely to happen next?

a) James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the reporters for the New York Times, will be arrested and tried for endangering national security.

b) The New York Times will be shut down for publishing a story that endangered national security.

c) Michael Isikoff, the columnist for Newsweek, who revealed the identity of the leaker, will be prosecuted for interfering in an investigation.

d) Thomas M. Tamm, the person who leaked the program to the New York Times, will be prosecuted for revealing the classified methods used by NSA to conduct domestic surveillance.

e) Both a) and d).

[1]        James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Warrants”, The New York Times, 16 Dec 2005.  See

[2]        Michael Isikoff, “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle”; Newsweek, 13 Dec 2008.  See

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Real World Graduation: Question 29

RealWorldGraduation_Question_29   <– PDF

Article 2, Section 1 of the U. S. Constitution requires the President to take the following oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

An integral part of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution is preserving the rights of the people. The rights of individuals specifically called out in the Constitution and its first ten amendments are:

1) Habeas corpus (right to challenge detainment)

2) Freedom of speech

3) Freedom of the press

4) Freedom of religion

5) Freedom to keep and bear arms

6) Freedom from bearing the expense of quartering soldiers

7) Freedom from arbitrary search and seizure (searches require warrants signed by a judge, with testimony under oath by the officials seeking the warrant)

8) Federal indictment only by grand jury

9) No double jeopardy (a person can only be tried once for the same crime)

10) Immunity from self-incrimination

11) Due process of law

12) Compensation for property allocated for public use

13) Speedy and public trial

14) Cross-examination of witnesses in criminal trials

15) Counsel for defense in criminal trials

16) Trial by jury

17) Facts found by a jury not reviewable by a court

18) Prohibition of excessive bail

19) Prohibition of excessive fines

20) Prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.

Also, rights not specifically mentioned are reserved to the people (individuals) or to the states. Based on your understanding of American history, which three would you rate as the worst Presidents with regard to preserving the rights of the people?  The letter after their name indicates their part affiliation (F refers to Federalist, R indicates Republican, N indicates None, D indicates Democrat, D-R indicates Democrat-Republican, which later became the Democratic Party in the 1820’s).

a) Alexander Hamilton (F), Aaron Burr (F), and Benjamin Franklin (F)

b) Richard M. Nixon (R), Gerald R. Ford (R), and George Washington (N)

c) George H. W. Bush (41) (R), James E. Carter (D), and Thomas Jefferson (D-R)

d) Walter Mondale (D), Barry Goldwater (R), and Alf Landon (R)

e) Three among those listed in groups b) and c)

(The answer is on p. 2 of the PDF.)

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Posted in Benjamin Franklin, Bill of Rights, critical thinking, fifth amendment, First Amendment, fourth amendment, government powers, habeas corpus, Real World Graduation, Second Amendment, sixth amendment, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »

Barack H. Obama’s Legacy, Part 2

PDF —>  ObamaLegacyPart2

The “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare”, does exactly the opposite of what its title claims, as is typical of many government initiatives.  It promotes evil more than most legislation: it violates several provisions of the Constitution, and it fails to achieve even its most basic objectives.

It violates the Constitution in several ways.  First, it contains provisions by which a taxpayer has to prove to the IRS that he has purchased health insurance; that is a violation of the right to free entry into contracts because the government is forcing a citizen to buy something even if he would rather not.  Under the Tenth Amendment, contracts issues reside solely within the power of the States.  Secondly, every IRS employee has access to these records in violation of the Fourth Amendment freedom from arbitrary searches.  Third, by failing to provide the proof of insurance, the citizen is liable to pay a penalty, later ruled a tax by the Supreme Court.  That apparently innocuous ruling made the entire section unconstitutional since the ACA originated in the U. S. Senate, whereas all tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives.  This proves, if it proves anything, that even members of the Supreme Court cannot or will not respect the Constitution.  Fourth, the ACA requires the citizen to buy coverage for a product which may violate his religious beliefs, since every insurance package meeting the ACA requirements must provide coverage for abortion and birth control expenses.  Thus, since insurance is merely pooling risk, everyone has to share in the cost risks of abortion in violation of the First Amendment respect for religion.  Fifth, doctors are permitted to ask patients about firearm ownership and include their responses in their permanent medical history; another clear violation of the Fourth Amendment as well as being prejudicial to the Second Amendment.  In the future, said records may constitute the basis of an arbitrary sweep to confiscate all privately owned firearms.  Sixth, it does not apply to every citizen equally since many exemptions, exclusions, and benefits have been given to some categories of individuals and groups while depriving the other citizens; this violates the equal protection portion of the Fourteenth Amendment.

It should come as no surprise the ACA has and will continue to fail in achieving its claimed objectives.  It contains the seeds of its own destruction the same as every other welfare legislation.  In typical welfare legislation, a non-working citizen and politicians decide how much a third person, the working man, is to pay in taxation to support those who are not working.  There is no end to demands made by the non-working, and welfare benefits have traditionally increased over time, with commensurate tax obligations.  Likewise, ACA has no effective cost containment: the doctor and patient decide how much a third entity, the insurance company, is to pay, nor a fourth entity, the working person with health care is to pay in taxes to provide subsidies to the others.  Secondly, there is no requirement for doctors and hospitals to publish their prices for routine procedures, or even room costs; hence the costs are different depending on what type of insurance one has. Secret pricing will always tend to increase costs.  Third, it restricts competition because a citizen can buy insurance only from those companies operating within a State despite the fact that the mandate itself is of federal nature.  Restricting competition will always increase costs.  Fourth, some people simply cannot afford to buy health insurance, and they must (and should be) be treated at public expense; the ACA does not eliminate the charitable and publicly-funded institutions and the costs thereof.   The combined effects of these came about as expected: fewer choices of plan as insurance companies exit the program; constantly increasing insurance premiums, steadily increasing deductibles, and fewer choices of doctors and hospitals.  The ACA is on the cost and quality death spiral; some claim that it was done deliberately in order to make the excuse for universal government-run health care.  If you like what has been happening at the Veterans Administration, you’ll like universal care.

But the most pernicious aspect of the ACA is that it can never be repealed or significantly modified.  History shows that once a welfare provision is granted, it cannot be taken back.

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Posted in fourth amendment, U. S. Constitution | No Comments »