2013 Favs: Michael Hastings’ Too Convenient Death

Michael Hastings was a journalist who had a penchant for writing the stories no one else would touch.

His reporting shook things up, exemplified by his stories on General Petraeus and General McChrystal. His latest piece, “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans,” promised to be another important contribution to Americans’ growing understanding of how our government is destroying our civil liberties through the combined use of bad laws and technology.

If Michael Hastings had died without mystery, in his bed from a diagnosed illness, his journalistic fame, along with widespread public interest in him, would probably have died along with him. But Michael Hastings died in a way that ensures his life, work and death will be a matter of public interest for a long time to come.

This administration, along with most members of Congress in both parties, are clearly implicated in the worst spying and civil liberties violation scandal in the history of this Republic. They have been monitoring the private conversations and emails of millions upon millions of innocent American citizens who not only have committed no crime, they are not under any sort of suspicion of committing a crime.

The legal basis for this activity is the badly misnamed “Patriot” Act. The excuse given for this is that without spying on virtually the entire American populace, the dimwits in Washington would be unable “to keep Americans safe.” According to our leaders, the only way to “keep Americans safe” is to put the entire country under surveillance.

The official reaction to leaks that let the American people know that their civil liberties are being trampled  by their government is to crank up the media machine in attacks against Edward Snowden, the man who made this public. The government is going at Mr Snowden with everything they have. This isn’t about “keeping Americans safe.” It’s about protecting their own selves.

Their rage at being exposed stems from one fact. These things needed to stay secret because it would get  them in trouble if it didn’t. All this blab about “security agreements” and “national security” boils down to one thing: They didn’t want the American people to know they were spying on them; not because we needed to be in the dark to “keep Americans safe” but because members of Congress and overreaching bureaucrats needed our ignorance to keep themselves safe.

The reason I’m going through this background is to explain why the untimely death of a journalist named Michael Hastings is suddenly such big news.

Michael Hastings had his finger in the spying-on-the-American-people pot, and he was evidently stirring it a bit. Given his reportorial skills, it seems possible that he might well have been jangling a few official nerves that were already raw. Just as it is imperative for the government to make an example of Edward Snowden because he let us know they were spying on us, they need, for the sake of keeping their jobs, for the story to stop stirring.


As I said, if Michael Hastings had died in his bed of a diagnosed disease, things would be different. However, he did not.

He died in a car crash into a tree that caused the car to blow up, tossing what looks in the video below like the car’s transmission about a block down the road. A few moments before the crash, he was spotted and recorded on a news video going through an intersection at high speed.

An eyewitness to the whole thing has come forward to describe what happened.

The scene is familiar to all of us. We’ve seen similar car crashes in movies and they weren’t accidents. They were assassinations. We know our government has tortured people. We also know our government lies to us and that they do it a lot.

Did Michael Hastings die in an accidental car crash caused by too much speed on a city street? Or, was he murdered?

I don’t know the answer to that question. None of the commenters who are speaking with such certainty on one side of this story or the other knows, either. They are just taking the position which will most benefit the political party they push.

What is certain is that a significant number of Americans think it’s possible that he was assassinated because of what he was writing. No matter the facts of Michael Hasting’s death, that extraordinary level of distrust in our government is a serious matter, all by itself.

The question, What do we need to “keep us safe” from all those faceless people we’ve been told “want to kill us” must be juxtaposed with the question, What do we need to keep us safe from the loss of all our freedoms.

We have lived over two hundred years in freedom. It has become almost impossible for Americans to imagine any other way to live. But the price of freedom is, and always has been, eternal vigilance. We need to remember that at least some of this eternal vigilance needs to be focused on the excesses of our own government.

I do not know what happened to Michael Hastings beyond the fact that he died in a horrible car crash. But I do know that our government is spying on all of us and that the entire Congress took part in giving shadowy agencies a blank check to do this.

What I do know is reason enough for concern.

Here are two videos I found about Michael Hastings’ death.

The first is from the LoudLabs News who spotted him speeding and followed him. The second is an interview with an eye witness to the crash. They’re the best, unbiased information I could find.

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Judge Calls NSA Spying ‘Almost Orwellian’

A federal judge has ruled that the government’s latest sally into police statism is unconstitutional.

Calling the practice of sweeping every phone conversation of every American into a government database “almost Orwellian,” Judge Richard Leon ruled that it also violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Here, for those who’ve forgotten, is the Fourth Amendment:

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.

Reading that amendment, I can’t help but wonder if the founding fathers might not have agreed with Edward Snowden, the much-maligned, man-without-a-country whistleblower who made the American people aware of what was being done to them. Who, in the final analysis, is more dangerous to our freedoms? Is it Mr Snowden? Or, is it the people in our own government who are building a huge storage facility in Utah to house the data they’ve accumulated from turning every American citizen into a suspect?

Governments all over the world have complained about NSA spying on their citizens. But until Judge Leon stepped into the fray, the only one who was willing to take the risk of speaking up for the American people was one lone whistleblower.

From the Guardian:

A federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the US constitution, in the most significant legal setback for the agency since the publication of the first surveillance disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Judge Richard Leon declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was “almost Orwellian” in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be “aghast” at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans’ communications data.

The ruling, by the US district court for the District of Columbia, is a blow to the Obama administration, and sets up a legal battle that will drag on for months, almost certainly destined to end up in the supreme court. It was welcomed by campaigners pressing to rein in the NSA, and by Snowden, who issued a rare public statement saying it had vindicated his disclosures. It is also likely to influence other legal challenges to the NSA, currently working their way through federal courts.

The case was brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, father of a cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. His son worked for the NSA and carried out support work for Navy Seal Team Six, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden.

In Monday’s ruling, the judge concluded that the pair’s constitutional challenge was likely to be successful. In what was the only comfort to the NSA in a stinging judgment, Leon put the ruling on hold, pending an appeal by the government.

Leon expressed doubt about the central rationale for the program cited by the NSA: that it is necessary for preventing terrorist attacks. “The government does not cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack,” he wrote.

How Does Spying on Pope Francis Keep Americans Safe?

 

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According to the Telegraph, the United States government spied on Pope Francis during the conclave preceding his election as pope.

I can think of only one reason to do something like this and that reason is schoolboy voyeurism. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again right now: We have elected people who do not belong in office.

Things have gotten so bad that the United Nations put out a story saying that the United States has pledged not to spy on them and the NSA is now saying that President Obama didn’t know they were spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Uh-huh. And Bill Clinton didn’t have sex with that woman, and Richard Nixon had no idea what was on that 18 minutes of blank tape.

Even some members of Congress are upset about all this spying on our allies.

Interestingly, even as the government skitters around, trying to cover its garbage, the spin machine is already beginning to churn out explanations as to why we are going to keep on doing it to “keep Americans safe.”

Boy in papal chair

Of course none of this explains why these dead-from-the-neck-ups need to spy on Pope Francis. Babies aren’t even afraid of Pope Francis. Little kids steal his chair and intellectually challenged people take over his popemobile.

Pope boy popemobile

There is no reason to be spying on Pope Francis, except, perhaps, his predilection for standing up for peace and the rights of poor people all over the world. That Jesus stuff can be, in fact always has been, revolutionary.

But, as the Communists learned when they bugged Cardinal Wojtyla in Poland, spying doesn’t intimidate the Holy Spirit.

I imagine these idiots have thoroughly embarrassed themselves by spying on the Pope. I also imagine that they will keep it up.

I don’t think they are going to stop until the people who pay the bills and write the laws stop them. That, in case you don’t know, would be Congress.

What’s missing in this whole thing is the representation that we the people deserve from those we have elected.  Nobody is speaking out for the American people. Why aren’t the people we sent to Washington to represent us in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives speaking up for our rights to privacy?

Why is it ok for our government to build a huge … spy thing … in Utah to house the information it has gleaned from listening in on our cell phones and reading our emails?

How long are we the people going to stand for this?

From The Telegraph:

The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.

The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.

The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.

The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.

 

At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.

To read another perspective, check out Frank Beckwith and Kathy Schiffer.

Update: NSA denies spying on Pope Francis.

Who Will Call Obama for Us?

Obamaphone

Would you like to call President Obama and demand that he stop tapping your phone?

Some people have done just that.

According to a New York Times article, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dialed up the president and angrily demanded assurance that he was not tapping her cell phone. French President Francois Hollande summoned the American Ambassador and expressed “extreme approbation” over NSA spying on French citizens.

It’s too bad we the people don’t have someone to make a similar call to the president for us.

Oh wait.

We do have someone.

We have our elected representatives in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. The only trouble is that they’re in the bag on the plans to spy on us, right along with the Orwellian press.

So … does that mean we don’t have anyone to speak out for us?

Yes. It does.

From the New York Times:

BERLIN — The diplomatic fallout from the documents harvested by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden intensified on Wednesday, with one of the United States’ closest allies, Germany, announcing that its leader had angrily called President Obama seeking reassurance that her cellphone was not the target of an American intelligence tap.
Washington hastily pledged that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, leader of Europe’s most powerful economy, was not the target of current surveillance and would not be in the future, while conspicuously saying nothing about the past. After a similar furor with France, the call was the second time in 48 hours that the president found himself on the phone with a close European ally to argue that the unceasing revelations of invasive American intelligence gathering should not undermine decades of hard-won trans-Atlantic trust.
Both episodes illustrated the diplomatic challenge to the United States posed by the cache of documents that Mr. Snowden handed to the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Last week, Mr. Greenwald concluded a deal with the eBay founder Pierre Omidyar to build a new media platform that aims in part to publicize other revelations from the data Mr. Greenwald now possesses.The damage to core American relationships continues to mount.
Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil postponed a state visit to the United States after Brazilian news media reports — fed by material from Mr. Greenwald — that the N.S.A. had intercepted messages from Ms. Rousseff, her aides and the state oil company, Petrobras. Recently, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which has said it has a stack of Snowden documents, suggested that United States intelligence had gained access to communications to and from President Felipe Calderón of Mexico when he was still in office.


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