You can tell a lot about a nation by the condition of its infrastructure. Therefore, what does our infrastructure say about us? It says that we are in a very advanced state of decay. At this point, much of America is being held together with spit, duct tape, and prayers. Our roads are crumbling and thousands of our bridges look like they could collapse at any moment. Our power grid is ancient and over a trillion gallons of untreated sewage is leaking from our aging sewer systems each year. Our air and seaports are clogged with far more traffic than they were ever designed to carry. Approximately one-third of all of the dam failures that have taken place in the United States since 1874, have happened during the past decade. Our national parks and recreation areas have are being significantly neglected and our railroads are a bad joke. Hurricane Katrina showed how vulnerable our levees are, and drinking water systems all over the country are badly outdated. Sadly, at a time when we could use significant new investment in infrastructure, our spending on infrastructure is actually way down. Back during the 50s and the 60s, the U.S. was spending between 3 and 4 percent of GDP on infrastructure. Today, that figure is down to about 2.4 percent. Of course, we don't have any extra money to spend on infrastructure because of our reckless spending and because of the massive amount of debt that we have accumulated. While the Obama administration is spending more than half a million dollars to figure out why chimpanzees throw poop, our national infrastructure is literally falling apart all around us. Once upon a time, nobody else on the planet could match our infrastructure, and now we are in the process of becoming a joke to the rest of the world. We are becoming a 3rd world nation at just the right pace that the people have slept around it. We need to wake up, open our eyes, and question the government. We need to fix the track before we are too far gone.
The following are 21 facts about America's failing infrastructure that will blow your mind....
#1 The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America's crumbling infrastructure an overall grade of D.
#2 There are simply not enough roads in the United States today. Each year, traffic jams cost the commuters of America 4.2 billion hours and about 2.8 million gallons of gasoline.
#3 It is being projected that Americans will spend an average of 160 hours stuck in traffic annually by the year 2035.
#4 Approximately one-third of all roads in the United States are in substandard condition.
#5 Close to one-third of all highway fatalities are due to “substandard road conditions, obsolete road designs, or roadside hazards."
#6 One out of every four bridges in America either carries more traffic than originally intended or is in need of repair.
#7 Repairing all of the bridges in the United States that need it would take approximately 140 billion dollars.
#8 According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our decaying transportation system costs the U.S. economy about 78 billion dollars annually in lost time and fuel.
#9 All over America, asphalt roads are being ground up and replaced with gravel roads because they are cheaper to maintain. The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt roads into gravel roads, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.
#10 There are 4,095 dams in the United States that are at risk of failure. That number has risen by more than 100 percent since 1999.
#11 Of all the dam failures that have happened in the United States since 1874, one-third of them have happened during the past decade.
#12 Close to half of all U.S. households do not have access to bus or rail transit.
#13 Our aging sewer systems spills ,ore than a trillion gallons of untreated raw sewage every single year. The cost of cleaning up that sewage each year is estimated to be greater than 50 billion dollars.
#14 It is estimated that rolling blackouts and inefficiencies in the U.S. electrical grid cost the U.S. economy approximately 80 billion dollars per year.
#15 It is being projected that by the year 2020 every single major container port in the United States will be handling at least double the volume that it was originally designed to handle.
#16 All across the United States, conditions at many of our state parks, recreation areas, and historic sites are deplorable at best. Some states have backlogs of repair projects that are now over a billion dollars....
More than a dozen states estimate that their backlogs are at least $100 million. Massachusetts and New York's are at least $1 billion. Hawaii officials called park conditions "deplorable" in a December report asking for $50 million per year for five years to tackle a $240 million backlog that covers parks, trails and harbors.
#17 Today, the U.S. spends about 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure. Meanwhile, China spends about 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure.
#18 In the United States today, approximately 16 percent of our construction workers are unemployed.
#19 China has plans to build 55,000 miles of highways by the year 2020. If all of those roads were put end to end, it would be longer than the total length of the entire U.S. interstate system.
#20 The World Economic Forum ranks U.S. infrastructure 23rd in the world, and we fall a little bit farther behind the rest of the developed world every single day.
#21 It has been projected that it would take 2.2 trillion dollars over the next 5 years just to repair our existing infrastructure. That does not even include a single penny for badly needed new infrastructure.
Where did we go wrong? Well, one of the big problems is that we have become a very materialistic society that is obsessed with short-term thinking. Investing in infrastructure is something that has long-term benefits, but these days Americans tend to only be focused on what is happening right now and most politicians are only focused on the next election cycle.
Another major problem is that there is so much corruption and waste in our system these days. The government certainly spends more than enough money, but very little of that money is spent wisely. A lot of the money that could be going toward rebuilding our infrastructure is being poured down the toilet instead.
Unfortunately, it is probably appropriate that our infrastructure is decaying because we are decaying in just about every other way that it is possible for a society to decay. We are decaying economically, politically, mentally, emotionally, physically, morally, and spiritually. We are a complete and total mess. So why shouldn't this be happening to our infrastructure? Isn’t it logical that what is happening on the outside match what is happening to us as a nation on the inside?
Sadly, we simply do not have the money that we need for infrastructure because of all the debt that we have piled up. The federal government, our state governments, and our local governments are all struggling to stay afloat in an ocean of red ink, and unfortunately, that means that spending on infrastructure is likely to be cut even more in the years ahead.
So get used to our rotting, crumbling, and decaying infrastructure. What you see out there right now is only just the beginning.
It was a weekend on the corner of 6th and Main in Downtown Boise. While observing the standard routine of officers arresting aggressive drunk people at China Blue, a local Nightclub. A feeling in my gut told me that I needed to use the camera on my cell phone. I was not able to hear the situation all that well due to a group of Mexican Men shouting "Get the White Guy!" One gentleman wearing a light blue shirt was initially being pushed by Police for being too close. As the man stood next to the intersection fuse box, I could observe him pointing to a group of officers in anger; a gesture that did not present a clear and present danger to the officer involved. The Officer then appeared to lunge for the man in the light blue shirt in order to take him down. Although understanding certain situations call for an arrest/use of force; see the officer did not appear to be in clear and present danger with the gesture the man took.
Mark Reinhardt, Idaho Calling
In response to an online petition sponsored by the White House, Obama's Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske has finally responded explaining why we cannot let American farmers grow industrial hemp. It is written in rather plain language, but nonetheless portrays either appalling ignorance or rank dishonesty on the part of our nation's top drug policy official.
Unfortunately, while President Obama's misleading claim about medical cannabis policy has generated considerable attention, the drug czar's recent comments about hemp have gone almost completely unnoticed and unreported. This is his entire response, which apparently took many months to prepare.
Official White House Response to Allow Industrial Hemp to be Grown in the U.S. Once Again:
By Gil Kerlikowske
America's farmers deserve our Nation's help and support to ensure rural America's prosperity and vitality. Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The Administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety. [WhiteHouse.gov]
The drug czar oddly begins by declaring that, "federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances," which is simply irrelevant in the context of hemp. Hemp is not a Schedule I controlled substance, and it can legally be consumed, distributed, and possessed in a variety of forms. Hemp soap and hemp foods can be bought at many grocery stores without fear of arrest. The drug czar's failure to even acknowledge this basic fact makes his statement terribly confusing in its entirety, but it actually gets worse.
The central issue here, and the whole point of the petition, is that the DEA won't let American farmers grow hemp for the purpose of manufacturing the various legal products that are made from it. As a result, all hemp products in the U.S. are made from imported hemp, eliminating a lucrative economic opportunity for American farmers. Instead of explaining why that is, the drug czar persists in blurring the distinction between hemp and pot, even implicitly implying that hemp can get you high:
“While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance.” Here, the drug czar implied that hemp and marijuana are separate parts of the same individual plant, as if to suggest that allowing hemp cultivation would require that psychoactive marijuana be produced as a byproduct. This is false. Though both are types of cannabis, the hemp plant is genetically different from marijuana plants that produce the drug. In other words, the plant that is used to make soap won't get you high, and the plant that gets you high isn't used to make soap. This is basic stuff, but the drug czar's statement mischaracterizes it to the point of complete incoherence.
Thus, through this series of gratuitous mischaracterizations, we arrive at the drug czar's conclusion that there is a "need to protect public health and safety" from the hemp plant, but there just is not. It is not even a drug in the first place, which may in fact help to explain why a professional anti-pot propagandist like the drug czar shows up for this debate armed with arguments even more impotent and embarrassing than we have come to expect from our nation's official drug war cheerleader.
That is no excuse though; remember that this conversation started because a petition on the president's own website earned enough votes from the public to meet the threshold for an official response. The White House asked us to bring important topics to their attention. That is how this began, and the public was encouraged to participate with the expectation that their policy concerns would be taken seriously.
Instead, we have been handed a statement that is pitifully brief, shamefully dishonest, and plainly unresponsive to the actual issues and arguments we raised. The fact that the drug czar or anyone at the White House would consider this answer sufficient is an insult to our intelligence and an affront to the spirit of democratic political participation underlying the petition process itself.
After all, it is the drug czar's job to communicate with the public about drug policy. He should be able to answer the questions people are asking; especially when it comes to seemingly insane policies like banning something just because it looks like something else. If the drug czar cannot provide forthright responses to legitimate public policy concerns, then he may be accused of being a rather crappy public servant.
The greatest shame in all of this remains the federal policy on hemp cultivation itself, an act of drug war idiocy so arbitrary and absurd that it took the drug czar seven months to draft five desperate sentences in defense of it. At its core, the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp is a simple matter of agriculture and economics that has nothing to do with drug policy at all, and should not even be tied to the otherwise raging debate about marijuana laws in America.
The fact that our drug policy decision-makers insist on confusing hemp with marijuana may not be their worst mistake by any means, but is certainly a vivid exhibit in the drug war idiocy that still grips our political leadership. If these are their best arguments against hemp, one shudders to think what manner of madness a longer response could have contained.
The Obama Administration, through the Department of Justice, has given the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms or ATF the authority to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abusers.” Effectively, those convicted of alcohol and/or controlled substance abuse will have their right to bear arms revoked. Through misuse of the civil-forfeiture doctrine, constitutional rights may be circumvented while the owner of the property can have it taken without recourse.
He Department of Justice, in 2010, published a document entitled “Investigating Terrorism and Criminal Extremism” wherein the definition of “constitutionalist” has been reworked to reflect a generic term for members of the “patriot movement.” Now it is also often used to refer to members of the sovereign citizen or common law court movement.
This document attempts to down play the term New World Order by explaining it as a term “used by conspiracy theorists to refer to a global conspiracy designed to implement worldwide socialism.” This ideal is “targeted by right-wing extremists” as bad; yet those types are afraid that “Jewish people ultimately will control the world.
The FBI surmises that “Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or sovereign from the United States. As a result they believe they don’t have to answer to government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement.” And that these citizens are a domestic terror threat.
Brian Loftus, a member of Oathkeepers, was unduly harassed for purchasing a few boxes of ammunition while former US Marine Brandon Raub was indefinitely detained in a VA psychiatric hospital for speaking out against the US government on Facebook.
Raub’s attorney John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute has stated that he is receiving correspondence from people throughout America reporting that US veterans are being detained in psychiatric hospitals for simply speaking out against the US government.
Because of the Department of Homeland Security’s report entitled “Rightwing Extremism” the US government is coming after veterans; decrying them as domestic terrorists, extremists, and white supremacists.
July of this year, Obama vowed to curb violence in American cities by including so-called reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. As a senator, Obama supported and pushed for anti-gun legislation (I will give mine up if the government gives up theirs’ first). He admonished congress back then for being “slow to act” on the issues he felt were imperative.
During the “Fast and Furious” scandal, it was revealed that the ATF was exposed in emails to have been part of the covert operation that was designed to justify a new gun regulation called “Demand Letter 3” which would require gun shops and owners to report multiple gun sales of individuals.
In a speech to the National Urban League, Obama eluded to the US government defining and declaring who is mentally stable enough to have the right to gun ownership. Some psychiatrists are even asserting that there needs to be a national healthcare approach to the issue of allowing 2nd Amendment rights to stand. Furthermore, propaganda studies into gun ownership claim that alcohol causes the likelihood of gun-related violence to rise; this is according to Dr. Garen Wintermute, professor of emergency medicine at the Prevention Research Program.
Banning assault weapons would control the amount of rounds a person would be able to effectively fire off, while on the other hand police officers would still be allowed to tout automatic pistols. Restricting gun sales to include minor misdemeanors as well as convicted felons would curb about 40% of gun sales; and with the classification of gun support as a mental disorder, there would be a virtually unlimited control placed on who could ultimately own a firearm.
TSA, DHS, CIA, and countless other security agencies have been established to keep America safe from terrorist attacks in post-9/11 America. How far beyond that does the feds’ reach really go, though?
The attacks on September 11, 2001 were instrumental in enabling the US government to establish counterterrorism agencies to prevent future tragedies. Some officials say that they haven’t stopped there though, and are now spying on everyone in America; all in the name of national security.
Testimonies delivered in recent weeks by former employees of the National Security Agency suggest that the US government is granting itself surveillance powers far beyond what most Americans consider the proper role of the federal government.
In an interview broadcast on Current TV’s “Viewpoint” program, former NSA Technical Director William Binney commented on the government’s policy of blanket surveillance, alongside colleagues Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe, the agency's respective former Senior Official and Senior Analyst.
The interview comes on the heels of a series of speeches given by Binney, who has quickly become better known for his whistleblowing rather than his work with the NSA. In their latest appearance this week, the three former staffers suggested that America’s spy program is much more dangerous than it seems.
In an interview with “Viewpoint” host Eliot Spitzer, Drake said there was a “key decision made shortly after 9/11, which began to rapidly turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for dragnet blanket electronic surveillance.”
These powers have previously defended themselves through claims of national security necessity, but Drake says that it doesn’t stop there. He warns that the government is giving itself the power to gather intel on every American, that could be used in future prosecutions unrelated to terrorism.
“When you open up the Pandora’s Box of just getting access to incredible amounts of data, for people that have no reason to be put under suspicion, no reason to have done anything wrong, and just collect all that for potential future use or even current use, it opens up a real danger; and to what else what they could use that data for, particularly when it’s all being hidden behind the mantle of national security,” Drake said.
Although Drake’s accusations seem astounding, they corroborate allegations made by Binney only a week earlier. Speaking at the “Hackers On Planet Earth” conference in New York City earlier this month, Binney addressed a room of thousands about the NSA’s domestic spying efforts. But in a candid interview with journalist Geoff Shively during HOPE, the ex-NSA official candidly revealed the full extent of the surveillance program.
“Domestically, they're pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you're doing. So the government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it's a very dangerous process,” Binney said.
Drake and Binney’s statements follow the revelation that law enforcement officers collected cell phone records on 1.3 million Americans in 2011. More news articles are emerging every day suggesting that the surveillance of Americans, off-the-radar and under wraps, is growing at an exponential rate.
S 3187 was signed into law just weeks ago, and already it’s had an impact on the herbal incense industry. I’m sure some of you have already noticed effects. Vendors like Mr. Nice Guy have gone from thriving to nothing, only a blank and empty website stands where their company once was.
What exactly did S 3187 do? Let’s step back to the beginning with HR 1254. HR 1254 crept into view in November 2011 and put the industry on alert. Smart vendors began preparing for inevitable ban. They had already been through this song and dance before, but HR 1254 was different, it sought to hurt the industry in a broader sense by adding a rather long list of synthetic cannabinoids to Schedule I of the controlled substances act. HR 1254 was a bee in the bonnet of nearly every incense vendor, and to the near applause of the entire industry, HR 1254 stopped progressing forward and became dead in the water. That near cheer never got actualized though. The content of HR 1254 was lifted from the now-dead bill and put into S 3187, under a section entitled “Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.” With a wave of his pen, Obama signed S 3187 into law, and shit began to hit the fan.
Remember the smart vendors who began preparing early? These are the guys who read up on the law, anticipated the changes, and got new blends into gear and prepared for market. While some manufacturers were still relying on old tech to brew their aromas, others had prepped for the storm, and it’s a damn good thing. Long before S 3187 became law, possibly alongside the congressional journey of HR 1254, the Drug Enforcement Agency began prepping for something called Operation Log Jam.
Operation Log Jam was a nationally coordinated and strategic attack on herbal incense retailers and manufacturers. While the exact numbers are a bit of a mystery, at least 100 people were arrested last week, 5 million packets were confiscated, and dozens of manufacturing facilities were shut down. While information on exactly which players in the industry were hit the hardest is still coming in, a quick visit to your favorite vendor might shed some light on whether or not they were hit.
Back to the smart vendors who were preparing for this attack? Those vendors still have websites flying strong. Waiting and anticipating the effects of HR 1254 and later S 3187, they stopped using synthetic cannabinoids months ago; if they were even using them to begin with.
Despite it all, there is more than a mere glimmer of hope for these manufacturers to maintain their lifestyles; in fact there are probably a few buckets of optimism to be found. Some manufacturers are still running smooth. UR-144 and FUR-144 showed up in a number of incense before the ban went into effect, and these compounds remain unaffected by S 3187, however, every compound is at risk of being banned at the state level. Kansas has already declared a temporary ban on UR-144, and it’s only a matter of time before other states jump on board.
At a federal level, the true effects of Operation Log Jam remain to be seen. Those 5 million satchels of incense the DEA confiscated; they’ve come out and admitted that not all of the packets seized contain a banned compound. This means they seized some perfectly legal blends, blends that contain UR-144 and other similar compounds. UR-144 is a cannabimimetic, but its structural class is so sufficiently different that it’s not covered under S 3187. Prosecutors however are hoping it might be covered under the Federal Analog Act of 1986. Under this law, compounds with a chemically similar structure to schedule I drugs are to be treated the in same way. The catch is that the compound must have been intended for human consumption; we know that is NOT the case. Ultimately, the courts will have to decide, and it’s going to come down to a judge and jury decision. If the analog act extends far enough to include UR-144 and all theoretical synthetic cannabinoids, the implications will be far reaching. They could be so far reaching as to accidentally ban some pharmaceutical drugs; bye bye Morphine drip. There’s a can of worms waiting to be opened here, but only time will unveil the whole story.
Although the DEA is clearly going after distributors and manufacturers, and not patrons, you need to play it safe out there. Unsurprisingly, gas stations were hit hard by Operation Log Jam, as they were notorious for knowingly selling incense that contained illegal compounds. Their safety standard is the lowest, and the clerk behind the counter probably doesn’t even know what that little foil packet was. Get to know your vendor of choice, and request lab reports. Look for transparency and professionalism and ask questions! If your favorite vendor is still kicking, they’ve definitely done something right. S 3187 caused some real growing pains, but it’s separated the serious vendors from the ones just looking to make a quick buck. To the manufacturers and vendors in the field, S 3187/HR 1254 was no surprise, serious players saw this coming from miles away and they planned for the ensuing chaos.
From here on out, companies will have to strive for transparency to remain legal. Siegel & Wright Strategic Legal Counsel has made it clear that herbal incense clearly marketed as not for human consumption, are not illegal analog chemicals as the DEA has made them out to be. Siegel & Wright aren’t just making this stuff up either, but are basing their information on chemical analysts, and independent lab tests. Trusted vendors and manufacturers should be doing the same, as the common notion amongst law enforcement is all incense are illegal until proven else wise. When the burden of proof is on the manufacturer, you better believe that manufacturers and vendors are going to have to offer the kind of transparency that gives consumers the confidence that they can safely place an order.
This isn’t the end of the herbal incense industry; however it does mark a change, and a distancing away from shoddily designed websites and mystery ingredients. Information is key here, and vendors should be happy to share it with you. If they’re not, consider it a warning sign and look elsewhere. New vendors and manufacturers will rise from the ashes of their fallen brethren as sure as the suns shall rise tomorrow; it’s just a waiting game at this point. Stay patient and stay safe fans, and these dark days shall pass us by unscathed.
A bill that would open up previously secret Federal Reserve deliberations to scrutiny by members of Congress passed the House of Representatives today. The measure, authored by longtime Fed critic Rep. Ron Paul was approved on a vote of 327 to 98. The Fed opposes the bill, which would allow audits of the central bank's monetary policy operations. The Fed now releases a summary of its interest rate-setting meetings after three weeks, but does not release a full transcript for five years. The measure faces long odds in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Ron Paul's Final Act Could Be His Greatest success Story: Audit the FED Hits House Floor for Vote Today!
Earlier this month Ron Paul announced that he will not be seeking reelection after 24 years in Congress. Paul said he will now focus the rest of his time on his presidential bid, but will serve out the rest of his term through December 2012. On the “off chance” that he doesn’t win the presidency, will retire.
Ron Paul definitely knows how to go out with a bang; 2012 has been a banner year in Paul’s career, in which his transformation from a fringe Republican whose hardcore Libertarian ideals rendered him largely irrelevant in the national dialogue to a Grassroots Leader that created a bona fide passionate political movement. Paul is still the only candidate in 2012 to have raised the same kind of grass-roots enthusiasm that Obama did in 2008.
As Politico notes, today marks something of a swan song for Ron Paul: his Audit the Fed bill finally hits the floor of the House for a vote.
Ending the Fed entirely has been a pillar of Paul’s economic prescriptions for the country which includes returning to the gold standard for years. Although he may not be successful in his bid to actually end the Fed, today’s vote on Audit the Fed represents a triumph for Paul. He is finally having his ideas take hold in the mainstream Republican establishment.
Part of this, of course, is good timing. Since Obama’s election Paul has benefitted from a cultural shift of the country’s right, which has leaned more toward the Libertarian principles of limited government and free-market purism.
To that end, Politico points out that many Democrats are unsettled by Audit the Fed. “There is an audit of the Fed done every year,” says Rep Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). “It’s not what Dr. Paul prefers, but I think the public has been misled in believing there’s no accountability.”
Audit the Fed means to increase transparency and oversight over how the Fed makes monetary policy in order to keep it on a tighter leash. Rep Whip Steny Hoyer said, “It will undermine the independence of the Federal Reserve and will, therefore, undermine the competence in the Federal Reserve, which plays a significant role in stabilizing the economy and addressing the creation of jobs.”
Politico also notes that while the bill is likely to pass in the House with 270 sponsors, it doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid won’t entertain bringing it up for a vote.
Earlier this month, acknowledging his legislative fights would have to endure after his retirement, he said “I’d like to say that we’re on the verge of total victory, we’re not. We’re on an incremental victory.”
Still, Audit the Fed represents a moment in the spotlight not only for Paul but for the influence his ideals have gained.
Imagine a world where the people that run the radio, the phone, the internet, and the TV have the right to enter your home without permission…Stop imagining because it’s real; if you have a wireless router, cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor, cellphone, or any other device that uses RF energy in your house, the FCC claims they have right to enter your home without a warrant at any time, day or night, in order to inspect it.
That’s the upshot of the rules this agency has followed for years in their monitoring of licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. The commission maintains that the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.
“Anything using RF energy; we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.
The FCC makes its claim that it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934. However, the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in court. That’s largely because the FCC has had little to do with average citizens for most of the last 75 years. During this period home transmitters were largely reserved to ham-radio operators and CB-radio aficionados. As of 2009 though, nearly every household in the United States has multiple devices that use radio waves, falling under the FCC’s purview, and making the commission’s claimed authority ripe for a court challenge.
“It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. “When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna; the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.”
George Washington University professor Orin Kerr, a constitutional law expert, has also questioned the legality of the policy. “The Supreme Court has said that the government can’t make warrantless entries into homes for administrative inspections,” Kerr said via e-mail, referring to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that housing inspectors needed warrants to force their way into private residences. Kerr added that the FCC’s online FAQ doesn’t explain how the agency gets around that ruling.
The rules came to attention when an FCC agent investigating a pirate radio station in Boulder, Colorado, left a copy of a 2005 FCC Inspection Policy on the door of a residence hosting the unlicensed 100-watt transmitter. “Whether you operate an amateur station or any other radio device, your authorization from the Commission comes with the obligation to allow inspection,” the statement says.
The notice spooked those running “Boulder Free Radio,” who thought it was just tough talk intended to scare them into shutting down. According to one of the station’s leaders, who spoke to Wired.com on condition of anonymity. “This is an intimidation thing,” he said. “Most people aren’t that dedicated to the cause. I’m not going to let them into my house.”
Refusing the FCC admittance can carry a harsh financial penalty though. In a 2007 case, a man from Corpus Christi Texas got a visit from the FCC’s direction-finders after rebroadcasting an AM radio station through a CB radio in his home. An FCC agent tracked the signal to his house and asked to see the equipment; Donald Winton refused to let him in, but did turn off the radio. Winton was later fined $7,000 for refusing entry to the agent. The fine was reduced to $225 after he proved he had little income.
Administrative search powers are not rare, at least as directed against businesses. Fire-safety, food and workplace-safety regulators, and health inspectors generally don’t need warrants to enter a business. And despite the broad power, the FCC agents aren’t cops, says Fiske. “The only right they have is to inspect the equipment,” Fiske says. “If they want to seize, they have to work with the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
But if inspectors should notice evidence of unrelated criminal behavior, perhaps a cannabis plant or stolen property, a Supreme Court decision suggests the search can be used against the resident. In the 1987 case New York v. Burger, two police officers performed a warrantless administrative search of one Joseph Burger’s automobile junkyard. When he couldn’t produce the proper paperwork, the officers searched the grounds and found stolen vehicles, which they used to prosecute him. The Supreme Court held the search to be legal.
In the meantime, pirate radio stations are adapting to the FCC’s warrantless search power by dividing up a station’s operations. For instance, Boulder Free Radio. consists of an online radio station operated by DJs from a remote studio. Miles away, a small computer streams the online station and feeds it to the transmitter. Once the FCC comes and leaves a notice on the door, the transmitter is simply moved to another location before the agent returns.
A military judge refused on Thursday to dismiss the most serious charge against an Army private accused in the biggest leak of government secrets in U.S. history.
Col. Denise Lind rejected a defense motion to dismiss the charge of "aiding the enemy" during a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; Manning still faces 21 other counts.
In seeking dismissal of the most serious offense, defense attorney David Coombs had argued that the charge didn't properly allege that Manning intended to help al-Qaida when he allegedly sent hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war reports and State Department diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Manning stated in an online chat with a confidant-turned-informant that he leaked the information because, "I want people to see the truth."
Prosecutors had argued that Manning knew the enemy would see the material when it appeared on WikiLeaks, regardless of his intentions.
Lind said Thursday that prosecutors must prove during trial that Manning had knowledge he was giving information to the enemy. If they fail to do so, Lind said she would entertain further motions from the defense.
Manning hasn't entered a plea to any of the charges. He also hasn't yet decided whether he will be tried by a judge or a jury. His trial is set for Sept. 21 through Oct. 12.
Earlier Thursday, Lind rejected a motion to consolidate some charges that the defense said were duplicative. She said the defense could raise the motion again for sentencing purposes if Manning is convicted.
She denied another defense motion seeking to dismiss a count on the grounds that it was improperly charged. That count alleges that Manning wrongfully and wantonly caused intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing it would be accessible to the enemy.
Lind also heard arguments on a government motion to bar any discussion at trial of whether the leaked material harmed U.S. interests. Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein said the government must prove only that Manning leaked the material knowing it could cause harm, regardless of whether it did.
The motion appeared to be aimed at blocking the defense's attempts to obtain classified reports compiled by the departments of Defense, State and Justice assessing the damage done by the WikiLeaks disclosures. Defense attorney David Coombs said the reports probably say the leaks did little or no damage; otherwise, he said, the prosecution would be eager to discuss them.
Fein said that since the government doesn't have to prove damage, any courtroom discussion of damage assessments would waste the court's time. "Just because a damage assessment might say damage did occur or didn't occur, it's completely irrelevant" to proving the charges, Fein said.
The 24-year-old Oklahoma native was ordered court-martialed after he was accused of downloading the war logs, cables, and video clips; then sending them to WikiLeaks. He was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad when authorities say he copied classified material from government computers in late 2009 and early 2010.
The material WikiLeaks published included cockpit video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack that killed a number of civilians, including a Reuters news photographer and his driver. The U.S. government says the civilian deaths were accidental.
Prosecutors acknowledged in court Wednesday that the helicopter video was not classified, although he allegedly got it from a military computer network reserved for classified material. He is charged with "having unauthorized possession" of the video clip.
Manning has been in pretrial confinement since he was charged in May 2010. He has been held since last April at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
His earlier treatment at a Marine Corps base caused support for him to swell. The Quantico, Va., brig commander kept Manning confined 23 hours a day in a single-bed cell, citing safety and security concerns. For several days in March 2011, he was forced to sleep naked, purportedly for injury prevention, before he was issued a suicide-prevention smock.
Manning's supporters have raised funds to place posters in the Washington Metro subway system this week portraying him as a whistleblower, patriot, and hero.
Original story courtesy of the Asso