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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Terrorists and pedos

Barack Obama used military drone weapons to kill reputed terror leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who happens to be American-born. I have little doubt that al-Awlaki was a very bad guy, and I do not mourn his passing. But this assassination of an American citizen was extrajudicial and illegal. He received no trial. We don't really know the true nature of the evidence against him; we must take the government's word.

Hate to admit it, but Ron Paul is right about this one.
"Al-Awlaki was born here, he's an American citizen, he was never tried or charged for any crimes," Paul said. "To start assassinating American citizens without charges - we should think very seriously about this."
Whenever government officials decide to erode the protections of due process, they always begin by targeting someone genuinely detestable. Anyone who criticizes the assassination of an al-Awlaki may stand accused of being a terrorist sympathizer.

Much the same thing occurs when the government uses "Big Brother" tactics to spy on (or to entrap) a pedophile.

Terrorists and child molesters. Those are the big, scary monsters used to goad us into giving up our civil liberties.

Americans are asked to accept, and even to applaud, the end of the rule of law and the right to privacy, because terrorists and child molesters are just so damned evil that any counter-measures are justified. Well...yes. They are evil. But if we do not extend legal protections to our worst citizens, then very soon those protections will be denied to everyone, especially to those whose only real crime is dissent.

Republican congressman Peter King defended Obama's action against al-Awlaki:
"It was entirely legal. If a citizen takes up arms against his own country, he becomes an enemy of the country..."
Those very words could be used to justify the assassination of militia members -- or even the assassination of G. Gordon Liddy, who once counseled his listeners to fire "head shots" at federal officers. They could even be used to target Ron Paul, who has flirted with advocating secession. (Al-Awlaki was not accused of literally bearing arms against the U.S.; he offered advocacy, instigation and planning.)

On a related note: A couple of days ago, a Florida customs official was arrested for possession of child pornography on his computer. Most people read such news stories and automatically presume the charge to be true. Frankly, so do I -- in this particular case.

But step back for a moment. How do you really know that the charge is true?

In the 1980s (according to an oft-told story), a gang lord stood accused of being involved with the cocaine trade. The government proved that cash in his possession tested positive for trace evidence of the drug. The defense countered by proving that all folding money contains trace evidence of cocaine.

Similarly, perhaps your computer has kiddie porn imagery nestled somewhere on it. Perhaps most computers do.

We all download freeware programs -- including the firewall ZoneAlarm, which is provided to you gratis by people who are at least rumored to be connected to Israeli intelligence. There are numerous other free apps out there: Video converters, music players, anti-spyware, registry utilities, so on and so-forth.

How do you know -- how can you be 100% certain -- that these apps do not place a tiny illegal image in some deeply hidden folder on your system? Perhaps the program automatically erases the illegal image seconds after placing it on your computer. The image would still be visible to a cop or federal agent doing a forensic analysis of your system.

From the standpoint of a totalitarian ruler, it would be very useful to engineer a society in which nearly everyone can (potentially) be proven in court to be a lawbreaker. Let's posit that the "Occupy Wall Street" movement whelps up an actual leader. To discredit him, the government need merely gin up an accusation of pedophilia -- and lo, the evidence will appear on his system. The forensic computer detective who examines the drive will believe that he has made a legitimate find.

Something similar happens on the streets everyday. In most places, the cops tolerate a flow of traffic about five m.p.h. above the posted speed limit. This situation turns everyone into a lawbreaker -- and that, in turn, gives cops the right to pull over anyone they choose, for reasons that have nothing to do with speeding. (Such as "driving while black.")

The Florida customs official referenced above was probably a legitimate threat to society. I feel confident that al-Awlaki was an evil bastard.

Nevertheless, I advise my readers to question everything.

You should even question me.
Recently I had a chance to use a small amount of personal experience to gently chide a conspiracist...We were two strangers, far, far, from Chicago, talking about long ago Mayor Harold Washington. My new acquaintance noted: "You know, I think they had him killed." Now I was working in an ER on the South Side at the time of his death. Washington was downtown at the mayors office that morning. (We thanked God it was Northwestern that got him and not us.) I knew the guys who tried to rescusitate him, I knew the guys who put him on the bypass pump. Maybe someone secretly tried to shorten his lifespan but from the way things went down I am perfectly satisfied that it was Twinkies, not the white establishment that did this great mayor in. Mayor Washington was a massive heart attack waiting (which it didn't) to happen.

So I suppose that out there somewhere is someone who has had enough personal experience to tell me that, in fact, al-Awlaki got everything he had coming to him. But come on, the guy gave interviews on CNN. To me he looks to be a government plant whose "death" serves to keep the whole Al Qaida charade at a simmer.
Last two posts very thought-provoking.

Bear in mind sex offenders include teenaged boys barely over the majority, with girls their age, barely under "consent."
@prolerzee...teenage boys don't fit the whole boogeyman idea. The middle aged man who might kidnap your little son or daughter and molest him/ her does. Those guys titillate and grab the eyeballs of the public, teenage boys titillate and grab the eyeballs of cougars.
I had the same thoughts, a user could download an app that had photos and a program to email them to anyone in the address book. Not a government plot but that of a malicious prankster.

Locally there was a case of sexting that ended up with the kids involved in real trouble. They were charged with a felony.
I love this quote.

"It was entirely legal. If a citizen takes up arms against his own country, he becomes an enemy of the country..."

Its so obviously bogus reasoning that the idiot who uttered it needs a slap in the face and some media attention. Why do people say dumb stuff like this? Why do people let them?

If something is legal, then show me the law. Its simple. If you dont cite law you are talking bull.

We absolutely agree on the question of al-Awlaki. I was stunned when Obama put out the kill order on the man. And now the press and political rah-rah men are cheering the hit.

It's certainly not because I think al-Awlaki was a good guy or even that I've entertained the conspiracy edge but because every time we kick the Rule of Law to the curb, we become weaker. If we rely on the capricious Rule of Men [or Women], it's all over but for the weeping.

Btw, I heard yesterday on the radio that the Administration could have stripped al-Awlaki of his US citizenship for plotting against the country, thereby squeezing within the Law. Guess they didn't feel the need to even go through the motions.

Peggy Sue
Aleealee, I meant consenting teenagers are sometimes caught up in the net of "sex offender" and then are tarred for life... the "boogie man" theme does make people judge without thinking. Eventually, tho, when the overreaching reaches a critical mass, perceptions change. The "war on drugs" is an example.
The U.S. government has no problem killing its own citizens. The first people ever lynched (by Judge Lynch)were white Southerners judged Loyalist by their neighbors. Tens of thousands of citizens were killed in the Civil War, long before anyone was called an enemy combatant. The due process of today is being labelled an enemy combatant.
I feel confident that al-Awlaki was an evil bastard.

Well I feel confident the guy was jerk. Don't you think calling Awlaki an "evil bastard" sort of plays into the whole propaganda line of government? My bet is most of what the public has been told about the guy is total bullshit.

The profitability of the entire industrial military terrorism fighting complex rests largely on the reputation of a handful of evil madmen.

Regarding Al-Alwaki, where's the evidence? The US government arbitrarily upgraded his rank in Al-Qaeda right after they assassinated him. Surely that's only the tip of the propaganda iceberg.

I think everything about this guy's alleged infamy deserves to be challenged. Where's the evidence? Since he's dead now, surely they can present "beyond a reasonable doubt" evidence sufficient to convict on capital offense charges.

Hats off to Jack Tapper of ABC News:
Thanks, Joe, as always, for saying what others fear to say. We all need to diligent about covering our tracks online and keeping an open mind when other people's suspicious tracks are uncovered.
Jotman, spot on. Everything, and I mean everything we supposedly know about al-Awlaki comes from "the administration" or "government sources". No judge has seen any evidence, neither has any media figure (at least, none has indicated they've seen any hard evidence). We are expected to just take the government's word that is was for the best that this guy was assassinated without any trial, without even any formal charges. I don't see why anyone would trust the government on this one. The founding fathers didn't trust government, that was why they created all the checks and balances they did. Obama has eliminated those in this case, to become judge, jury, and executioner. I can't believe more people are not appalled by this development.
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