Eliminating Due Process

time-machineWe’re going back to 2009!

Talk about preventing “terrorists” from acquiring firearms is in the news again proving that everything old is new. With the shooting in San Bernardino in recent memory several politicians have taken the opportunity to introduce an amendment to a bill that would, amongst other things, prohibit people on the terrorist watch lists from buying firearms. This maneuver is being heralded as a tool to prevent terrorists from acquiring firearms but, as I noted back when this shit was being argued in 2009, the terrorist watch lists are secret lists. How do you end up on one of the lists? Who knows? It’s a secret. Are you already on one of the lists? Who knows? It’s a secret. All we do know is that the lists exist and a lot of names are on them.

Prohibiting people on the terrorist watch lists from buying firearms isn’t about prohibiting terrorists from buying firearms. It’s about removing due process before prohibiting people from buying firearms.

Unlike many people my support for due process isn’t dependent on whether or not an accused party shares my philosophical beliefs. I oppose any punishment issued without due process. Do you know why? Because not performing a full investigation and trial leads to shit like this:

A Guantanamo Bay prisoner locked up for 13 years has been found to be a victim of mistaken identity, originally thought to be a member of al-Qaeda.

Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri was kept in a secret prison camp for 13 years without charge because somebody mistook him for somebody else. The only reason this is known is because some kind of hearing was finally held. In that hearing it was determined that he was just some low level schmuck and not the evil mastermind trainer he was originally sold as. Of course some may point out that he was still a fighter in al-Qaeda so his incarceration was justified. To that I would point out that no such fact was known because no investigation or hearing had been conducted. All we know is he was locked in a secret prison camp for 13 years based on accusations so weak no charges were even filed against him. That’s the kind of shit that happens when you don’t have due process.

I’m not going to mince words. Anybody who endorses their philosophical and political opponents being punished by governments without requiring any manner of due process is an asshole. They are what’s wrong with the world. They are the reason we can’t have nice things. I’d consider rounding them all up and putting them in a secret prison camp for the good of humanity but, you know, I believe in due process so I could never support such a thing.

Interrogation Trump Card

Shortly after the 2016 presidential election an ISIS member is captured. After extensive sleep deprivation and waterboarding he still refuses to talk. He’s sitting in the same unfurnished interrogation cell that has been his home for the last two weeks awaiting more of America’s worst. Suddenly the door opens and in comes an a person he hasn’t seen before. At first the ISIS member believes the mystery man is another interrogator. “Let him do is worst,” the ISIS member thinks, “I can withstand any pain.” The mystery man stares at the ISIS member for a few silent minutes then squats down. From his suit coat he pulls out a small photograph and slides it to the ISIS member. Picking it up the ISIS member sees it is a photograph of his family standing in front of their house. No words are spoken but the message is quite clear.

Unproductive Is Better Than Undoing Productivity

Since the news has hit national headlines I’m assuming most of you reading this blog are aware of the Black Lives Matters protest at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Fourth Precinct. If not here is your thumbnail storyline.

Two members of the MPD were involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark. A lot of questions surround the shooting, including the conflict of interest of having law enforcers investigate law enforcers. The protesters are demanding any video footage of the shooting be released for public scrutiny and the investigators are refusing claiming it could hinder the investigation. Although the protest has remained mostly civil five people were shot one night last week.

As with any protest there are both advocates and opponents. Of the two I find the opponents most interesting. Not because the protesters shutdown Highway 94 during rush hour one night but because they keep saying the protesters need to get jobs and be productive members of society. It’s the same argument the tough on crime crowd tends to fall back on whenever people are protesting police.

For me this brings up an interesting question. Is it better to be productive or to undo productivity? Even though many of the people at the protest are employed let’s consider their productivity. Although the protesters have not completely shutdown the precinct they are interfering with its day to day operations to some extent. A lot of officers are on duty guarding the precinct instead of driving around hoping to issue some petty traffic citations. And therein lies my issue. Even if the protesters are being productive the police are actually undoing previous productivity.

Consider what happens when an officer witnesses somebody driving above the arbitrarily posted speed limit. First the officer will turn on his bright flashy lights that divert everybody’s attention to them and cause epileptic people to have a seizure. Then the officers race down the highway and demand the offending motorist pull over to the side of the highway. Because of the way Minnesota’s traffic laws are written other people driving down the highway need to either merge over a lane or slow way down when passing the cop car. While motorists are creating legally mandated conditions that are more likely to cause an accident the officer is walking over to the pulled over car to write him a citation. Most people view the citation as a dollar amount but it really should be viewed as hours of a life. That citation effectively undoes a number of hours of productivity of the motorist. Instead of being able to, for example, buy a new television the motorist now has to give that money to the State.

Traffic citations are just one of many ways police actively undo productivity. Raiding cannabis growers results in a lot of already grown cannabis being destroyed. Civil forfeiture laws result in a lot of productivity being stolen in the form of property an office claims is related to a drug crime.

To me the protest is, at worst, a debate between unproductive people (although I don’t actually see the protesters as unproductive) and people who undo productivity. I’d much rather have a group of unproductive people than a group of people who are working to set back my productivity any day of the week.

What The FBI Demands When It Sends A Gag Order

The first rule about National Security Letters (NSL) is you don’t talk about NSLs. If you do the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) gets to put you in a cage. But a resent lawsuit has allowed us to get the first glimpse of an NSL. Specifically what the FBI demanded an Internet service provider (ISP) hand over about one of its customers:

The National Security Letter (NSL) is a potent surveillance tool that allows the government to acquire a wide swath of private information—all without a warrant. Federal investigators issue tens of thousands of them each year to banks, ISPs, car dealers, insurance companies, doctors, and you name it. The letters don’t need a judge’s signature and come with a gag to the recipient, forbidding the disclosure of the NSL to the public or the target.

For the first time, as part of a First Amendment lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the release of what the FBI was seeking from a small ISP as part of an NSL. Among other things, the FBI was demanding a target’s complete Web browsing history, IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with, and records of all online purchases, according to a court document unveiled Monday. All that’s required is an agent’s signature denoting that the information is relevant to an investigation.

This looks like a fishing expedition more than an investigation. Investigations are supposed to involved people who are suspected of specific crimes and any information demanded from investigators should be specific to those suspected crimes. What the FBI demanded in this case was basically all information the ISP could have about their customer and some information it probably didn’t have (such as a history of online purchases). Such a vast amount of unspecific data would be useful if the FBI wanted to find evidence of a crime and charge the target based on that. Because of the secrecy of NSLs it’s impossible to know the exact motives of the FBI so there’s really nothing stopping it from going on fishing expeditions.

I’d like to see more NSLs disclosed because I’m betting most of them will look more like fishing expeditions than investigations.

Consider Estonia When Starting An Online Business

When people tell me they want to start a white market business in the United States I strongly encourage them to think twice. Between the never ending rules and restrictions and the high taxes the United States is a terrible place to start an above the ground business. Fortunately we live in a world where those imaginary lines on maps are becoming less relevant. A while ago Estonia announced it’s e-residency program, which allows people to become virtual residents of Estonia. In an article discussing Estonia’s new deal with BitNation I noticed the e-residency program might include some real benefits:

Estonia, a country at the forefront of modern e-government, has been offering efficient online services to its citizens for more than a decade.

“By offering e-residents the same services, Estonia is proudly pioneering the idea of a country without borders,” proudly states the e-residency website. In particular, e-residents can digitally sign, verify and encrypt documents and contracts, establish an Estonian company online in 24 hours with a physical address in Estonia provided by an external service, and administer the company from anywhere in the world.

Currently, establishing an Estonian bank account for the company requires one in-person meeting at one of the banks that recognize e-resident smart ID cards – currently LHV, Swedbank and SEB – but once the account is established e-residents can manage e-banking and remote money transfers from anywhere in the world.

An appealing feature of e-residency for entrepreneurs is that, in Estonia, company income is not taxed. Therefore, compliance is simplified and all income is available for re-investment. However, since e-residency doesn’t imply tax residency, e-residents are supposed to pay taxes at home for the money that they take out of the company.

The question here is how much information does the Estonian government voluntarily provide other nations. If it hands over all business information upon request this e-residency program probably isn’t going to be that useful. But if it’s unwilling to hand over information and instead relies on business owners voluntarily providing their home countries tax information this could be a boon.

I bring this up because I believe it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for good deals. My preference is for underground businesses but I know a lot of people want to operate in the white market because it’s easier. Just because you want to operate in the white market doesn’t mean you have to play by the United States’ draconian rules or fund its insatiable war machine. E-residencies are likely to become more commonly available as other governments realize the wealth they could steal by offering denizens of foreign countries a better deal. After all, many great conquers managed to sign up a lot of foreign nationals by offering to steal far less from them. There’s no reason you can’t profit a bit by taking such offers when they’re made.