From The “Ethics Isn’t Easy” Files: The FBI, Child Porn, And “Playpen”

key-computerIn order to probe “the dark web” and to apprehend those partaking of the pleasures of child pornography, the FBI emulated the illegal conduct of hackers, using a warrant to surreptitiously place malware on all computers that logged into a site called Playpen. When a user connected, the malware forced his computer to reveal its  Internet protocol address. Next a subpoena to the ISP  yielded his real name and address, and a another warrant allowed a subsequent search of the user’s home. Incriminating evidence, indictments and trials followed.

The problem of tracking computer related crime is far ahead of the law, and in the vacuum, ethical principles are being nicked, mashed, or ignored. Ahmed Ghappour, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, says, “It’s imperative that Congress step in to regulate exactly who and how law enforcement may hack.” If hacking is illegal, and wrong as an uncontested intrusion on privacy, when is it ethical, and thus legal, for law enforcement to do it? Continue reading

“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?”: New York State Assembly Candidate Charles Barron (D) and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis (R)

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave...

Barron (top); Ardis (bottom). Do your civic duty and vote: cyanide will be handed out when you leave…

(“How Can People Consider Voting For Candidates This Unethical?” or HCPCVFCTU for short will flag the worst of the worst, the really awful politicians  whose lack of ethics should be a source of humiliation to all who support them.)

I have pledged to keep this category balanced between Republicans and Democrats, and since the first candidate featured was a Democrat and the utterly horrific candidate who came to may attention this morning also belonged to that party, I am featuring two politicians this morning to avoid the inevitable accusations that I take my orders from Glenn Beck and Fox News:

  • Charles Barron (D)  Barron is a New York City Councilman who is expected to coast to an easy victory after winning a Democratic primary for an open seat on the New York State legislature. He is an outspoken fan of Third World military dictators, Communist thugs and murderers, among them the late Libyan leader Muammar el-Quaddafi and former Cuban President Fidel Castro. “All my heroes were America’s enemies,” Barron proudly told the New York Observer in a recent interview. One of his favorite role models is Zimbabwe’s repressive President Robert Mugabe, whom he compares to Nelson Mandela. “I would love for him to come to Albany. I would love for him to come anywhere in the United States, really,”  Barron says. “I think he’s a shining example of an African leader on the African continent.”

Continue reading

Re: Obama’s NSA Speech—Ralph Lopez Is Right. So Was James Otis. So Why Aren’t More Liberals, Progressives And Democrats…Wait, Didn’t I Just Write This?

James-Otis-Quotes-1A political writer from the alternative media wrote a clear, well-researched, pretty much irrefutable 0p-ed for the Digital Journal , crystallizing an issue that should have been obvious all along. The NSA’s incursions on the privacy of U.S. citizens are a bright line violation of the Fourth Amendment, one of the bulwarks of American individual rights. Yesterday, President Obama rationalized and embraced those unconstitutional acts and policies. The writer, Ralph Lopez, is angry and outraged. Why isn’t everybody?

In particular, why isn’t the very same group that compared the less obtrusive Patriot Act measures imposed by the Bush administration to “1984” and fascist regimes screaming bloody murder? That group would be, in case you’ve forgotten, liberals, progressives and Democrats. The technical terms for this are “hypocrisy,” “absence of integrity,” “dishonesty,” “blind loyalty,” “misplaced priorities,” and “foolish.” The technical term for the consistent Republicans who support the NSA’s over-reach is “wrong.”

Unfortunately, Lopez’s piece is burdened by a ridiculous title (“Should Obama be tried for treason after his NSA speech on Friday?,” indicating that either Lopez or his headline writer has been infected by the signature delusion of this President and his enablers—that giving a speech is the same as doing something), but its main points are as solid as granite:

  • “The language of the amendment, which embodies the sentiment in Patriot speeches of the American Revolution that “a man’s house is his castle,” is beautifully crystalline in clarity as all the Founding Fathers’ declarations were. The Fourth Amendment guarantees:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

“In modern times, electronic communications such as emails and telephone calls have been held to be an extension of a person’s “papers and effects,” from a time when the only non-verbal communication was written letters, i.e. “papers.” This means, quite simply, that all private communications of private citizens are none of the government’s damned business, unless it can show “probable cause” that they involve a crime, and the government can prove it to a judge. In the real world judges already tend to give wide latitude to police and prosecutors who are convinced they have “probable cause,” a fairly low standard which might consist of a mere hunch based on the most circumstantial of evidence, like a man rooting around in a dumpster where, the day before, the cops found a cache of drugs.” 

In his speech yesterday, the President said, …in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.”

Really? They are collecting private data that can allow them to do that when and if they choose, and that is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Continue reading