“It’s Just A Name”

Publius, Junius, American Farmer, Common Sense, Silence Dogood, Caesar, Senex, Phocion, Historicus, The Sons of Liberty

If these names had been connected to individuals, the American Revolution may have never happened. If these names had not written letters, handbills, columns and essays under pseudonyms, the public may not have come together against the tyranny of the British crown.

John Adams estimated that his cousin Samuel Adams used between 50 and 100 pseudonyms from the beginning of the American Revolution to its end. Samuel Adams himself said there were too many to count. If the pen is mightier than the sword, anonymity is its shield. Transparency is the key to accountability in government and law-enforcement. If that accountability can only come through the anonymity of a whistle-blowing citizen, then so be it. How many dissidents in Iran wish to have their names connected to their Twitter accounts right now? There is no difference between an anonymous blogger and someone handing out paper 245 years ago. The Fourth Amendment was written for this reason.

If I was a gun maker in revolutionary America, a list of my customers would be valuable information for the British. Would that list be included in my “papers and effects”? What makes the same information recorded by computer on a hard drive any different? The founding fathers demanded warrants be issued with very specific instructions because they had been subjected to the tyranny of inspections and seizures without cause or notice. New technologies do not require the reduction of old protections.

The Attorney General’s office has been twisting arms on the senate floor in a full court press to get HB150 through. The way this bill has been rammed through the House and committee meetings is evidence in itself that something is askew. Representatives of the AG’s office have not only discounted that I am the only Internet Service Provider protesting this bill, they have insinuated that I knowingly harbor child pornographers.

The last line of defense from the AG is that HB150 is actually good for Internet Service Providers. That ISPs can easily refuse an administrative subpoena and fight it in court. I’m not sure how going to court to defend my customers’ Fourth Amendment rights is actually easier than law-enforcement following the letter of the Constitution. I can tell you the latter costs me a lot less time and money.

Enlarging law-enforcement powers by writing a bill with “child predators” at the top is an easy task. What legislator in their right mind is going to stand against that? They aren’t going to be praised for upholding our constitutionally protected liberties, they’re going to be eviscerated for being soft on the lowest form of criminal. This is how these administrative subpoenas snuck out of government as an internal tool between departments and into our daily lives as a bypass of U.S. and Utah Constitutions. The justification is made that this type of information request has been upheld in the courts as constitutional. The Fourth Amendment is a single sentence made up of 54 words. In spite of these judicial opinions, I read warrantless requests for any amount of information as otherwise. With the constant cry that activist judges are shredding our constitution, it is up to our legislature to affirm our rights. They have repeatedly done so on the 2nd and 10th Amendments this session. They cannot turn around and punch a hole right through the 4th just because the Attorney General claims it’s easy.

Thank you to The Eagle Forum, The Sutherland Institute, The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board and The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for publicly opposing this bill.

If you do one thing today, call or write the Utah Senate.

HB150 to the Senate EDUCATION Committee

What I don’t know about the sausage-making on capitol hill could fill a book, but if you were to ask me where a bill regarding law enforcement powers would be heard in the Utah Senate, it would be a Judicial Committee, just like when it was first heard in the Utah House. However, this bill is instead headed for the Senate Education committee. I’m sure there is a perfectly understandable reason as to why this might be. Maybe the Judicial Committee has more believers in Fourth Amendment protections than the Education Committee.

In any case, it will be heard tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM in 415 State Capitol.

Call and write the committee members now.

Senator Curtis S. Bramble Cell: (801) 361-5802
Senator Margaret Dayton Home: (801) 221-0623
Senator Brent Goodfellow Cell: (801) 556-4871
Senator Lyle Hillyard Office: (435) 752-2610
Senator Scott Jenkins Office: (801) 621-5412
Senator Howard Stephenson Office: (801) 972-8814

HB150 Passes House

Today the bill that extended warrantless demands for customer information from Internet Service Providers, HB150, was brought back as a substitute bill. It narrowed its scope to two crimes, child kidnapping and cyberstalking and threw some dogfood to ISPs who are afraid they might actually be held responsible for their actions.

It still remained a violation of Fourth Amendment rights, discriminatory against small ISPs, and filled with potential for abuse. All you need to be investigated for is cyberstalking before you are exposed on the Internet in Utah. Whistle blower? Political dissident? Afraid of discrimination? Pray your enemies don’t claim you are a cyberstalker in Utah, for the bill passed out of the House today, 48 – 20.

A representative who voted for the bill stated, “Crimes against kids that are happening through the Internet are not easy to combat because we can’t find who has these Web sites.” “All we’re asking for is the information so we can find out who we’re investigating — then we can pursue warrants.” Where does getting a warrant fail in getting information about ownership of websites? I can tell you one way, when it isn’t in the United States, otherwise a warrant works just fine. How about a minor’s identity on the Internet? Should that be open to any law-enforcement agent who can fill out a form? Is law-enforcement prescient about who is and who is not a minor on the Internet? Is that otherwise not worth protecting? Is it entirely possible that “information” about website ownership could harm a law-abiding citizen? This information is worth protecting, and it is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

This bill now goes to the senate. It will come before the Judiciary Committee, but I do not know when. I will post that here when I know. It also wouldn’t hurt to give your senator a heads-up on this bill and how you feel about it.

I extend my thanks to the courageous representatives who resisted the attorney general’s fear mongering and remembered that getting a warrant for information from anyone is an essential protection of our U.S. Constitution. You should thank them too: Trisha Beck, Laura Black, Rebecca Chavez-Houck, Stephen Clark, Tim Cosgrove, Susan Duckworth, James Dunnigan, Neil Hansen, Wayne Harper, Lynn Hemingway, Brian King, Todd Kiser, John Mathis, Marie Poulson, Stephen Sandstrom, Jay Seegmiller, Mark Wheatley, Larry Wiley, and Carl Wimmer.

As for the rest, mail them a copy of this and keep them in your memory around election time.

ISP Immunity for Violating Your Privacy!

HB150 is back on the floor in the form of a substitute. As far as I can see, the primary difference aside from including the modifications and amendments is this text:

113        (7) There is no cause of action against any provider or wire or electronic
114 communication service, or its officers, employees, agents, or other specified persons, for
115 providing information, facilities, or assistance in accordance with the terms of the
116 administrative subpoena issued under this section or statutory authorization.

Which essentially means they won’t hold the ISP liable for violating your privacy without a warrant. How sweet of them. However, this was not in any of my original concerns. It remains unconstitutional and should not be passed.

Get A Warrant

HB150 was defeated yesterday, but its originators are not taking “Fourth Amendment” for an answer. A representative wrote me today with this information:

“Brad Daw and the AG’s office spoke to me late in the afternoon about their desire to bring HB 150 back in a slimmed down version that they believe will get the votes to pass. Instead of expanding the scope of the investigative activities to all felonies, they want to include two specific crimes above and beyond what the current statute includes: kidnapping of a child and cyberstalking.”

My response is, “Fine, get a warrant.” What part of the Fourth Amendment do Representative Daw and Attorney General Shurtleff not understand? These crimes are surely heinous, but do not preclude the need for a warrant. Judges are available 24/7 to sign warrants for information. Why are they insistent on sidestepping the Constitution to get information from Internet Service Providers?

Legislature Flier Against HB150

Representative Brian King, the sole committee vote against HB150, asked me to bullet point the problems with HB150 so he could distribute it in the legislature. This is what I wrote for him. Feel free to refer to this when calling and writing your representatives.

VOTE NO ON HB150

1. It is unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit Court has ruled that lack of a proper warrant and probable cause for the disclosure of email from an Internet Service Provider is unconstitutional. To whit from Warshak v. United States, “facially violates the Fourth Amendment by simple virtue of the fact that it authorizes the seizure of personal e-mails from commercial ISPs without a warrant and on less than a showing of probable cause. “ HB150’s disclosure of IP address and email address of customers without warrant could be considered the same as email disclosure, since an email carries this information regardless of content and is the only place that information can usually be retrieved from.

2. It is ripe for abuse. The Fourth Amendment was written to protect the innocent. Its purpose has been repeatedly demonstrated in the face of overreaching government and those who abuse power. HB150 expands the reach of government.

3. There is no accountability. Under HB150 an Internet Service Provider is required to turn over customer information to law enforcement agencies without judicial oversight. The argument that “new technologies” requires “new techniques” is not an excuse to violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans. HB150 does not require a law enforcement agency to keep copies of their individual subpoenas, only the “number” of supoenas are reported to a third party, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

4. It is anti-business. Burdensome regulation against Internet Service Providers, making them a wholesale detective arm of law-enforcement is punitive against small ISPs and favors large ISPs with more resources. There are no nationwide ISPs headquartered in Utah and this law will help drive the already struggling small Utah-based ISPs under. Yahoo has already published their price list for violating your personal privacy. Smaller ISPs are more likely to protect your privacy as long as the law stands with them, they don’t have the money to fight a court battle in your favor.

5. The current system works. Internet Service Providers are currently required to respond to proper search warrants, as is any other business or individual. HB150 is a bill in search of a problem, which instead creates a much larger anti-Constitutional violation. Even more concerning, criminal evidence gathered under HB150’s guidelines are subject to “suppression” (exclusion in a court case) due to the lack of proper warrant and may give opportunity for real criminals to walk free.

VOTE NO ON HB150
Thank you! – Pete Ashdown – XMission
pashdown@xmission.com

No Warrant Needed

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems to be so narrowly interpreted by some, I have to wonder what they think it is supposed to protect. “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.”

Some believe that because your email may not be actually stored in your house, that it is freely available to any government or law-enforcement agency to inspect. I however, continue to understand that your email, although not something considered a “paper” of the original framers of the U.S. Constitution, is equivalent. I have held this belief in running my business, and have sent many non-warranted requests for customer information packing.

Representative Brad “Ban All Free Wireless Internet” Daw and our Constitution-thumping Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff believe otherwise. They believe that your Internet Service Provider should “turn over the names, addresses, phone numbers, and bank information of customers using an Internet address or cell phone number at a given time” without probable cause or need for a pesky time-consuming warrant. Daw, Shurtleff, and the 10 committee members who sent this atrocity to the house believe that “new crimes” require “new techniques”. However, I still believe that the 4th Amendment overrides their desire to invade your privacy. We’ll see in the coming days exactly how much of the Constitution our Republican dominated legislature really believes in. I suggest you let them know what you think.

Bill text here.

Good Job Senator Hatch

During my 2006 campaign, I criticized Senator Hatch for not having town-hall meetings. In the last year, I received two pathetic “telephone town-hall” calls from Representative Chaffetz and Senator Bennett. I think it takes a lot of courage for our elected public servants to come and “face the music” in front of their constituents who may angrily attack them personally. However, our democracy suffers when they don’t, instead remaining out of touch a couple thousand miles away. I continue to push for the use of the Internet to bring transparency and better communication to the process of government, but it is still refreshing to see someone doing it the old fashioned way, face to face.

Therefore, I congratulate Senator Hatch on holding a real town-hall meeting. Please keep it up Senator. I’ll be the first in line when you do one in Salt Lake County.

David Culp Speaking in Salt Lake City

David Culp, Legislative Representative, Quaker Nuclear Disarmament Program, will be speaking in Salt Lake City on “Utah’s Important Role in Permanently Ending Nuclear Weapons Testing”

SLC Events: A renewed national discussion about the role and future of nuclear weapons is underway in the United States. President Barak Obama, and his administration, along with a distinguished group of national security experts, including former Secretaries of State Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, believe that the United States should significantly reduce the role of nuclear arms in our national security strategy and work towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Congress will be the forum for a number of nuclear weapons policy debates, including whether to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). David will be making three public presentations in Salt Lake City. He will provide some general information about the state of affairs with regard to nuclear weapons – how many exist, who possesses them, and what some of the key policy debates are. These presentations will further explore the role of members of the Utah congressional delegation in these debates, and how and why this is relevant to Utah voters, and how they might get involved.

  • Sunday, Jan. 24, 11:30am, Quaker Meeting House,171 E. 4800 S., SLC
  • Tuesday, Jan. 26, 10:45am, Hinckley Institute Forum, University of Utah
  • Tues., Jan. 26, 6:00pm, United Nations Association of Utah, Apple Spice Junction, 6520 S. 900 E., SLC – ($13 charge for dinner)

Presenter: David has 15 years experience on nuclear arms control and disarmament legislation. He was instrumental in the passage of the nuclear testing moratorium in 1992; the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997; and the defeat of a new nuclear warhead, or nuclear “bunker buster” in 2004. Previously he was a lobbyist at the Indiana legislature for a statewide citizens group. He is one of six registered lobbyists on nuclear disarmament on Capitol Hill. The Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers) is the oldest religious lobbying group in the country.

Sponsor: The Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (UCAN) was formed in early 2007 to educate and involve Utahns in the effort to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. For more information regarding the mission of the organization, please log onto our web site http://utahcan.org.

Contact: Please telephone Deb Sawyer, UCAN Spokesperson, at (801) 364-2971 or email dsawyer@xmission.com if you have any questions about the events or UCAN.

Representative Matheson and the Democratic Party

When I ran for Senate in 2006, Representative Jim Matheson was kind enough to meet with me more than once to offer help and advice. I met with him in both his Salt Lake City office and his Washington D.C. office. In one of those meetings he reflected upon the anger that some of Democratic party have for his conservative votes. He stated to me that he often votes this way to satisfy his conservative base, but when it comes to voting for helping the poor, he has always been there. I don’t know how how his vote against the House healthcare bill fits into that definition, but I won’t try to explain it for him either. Personally I think the healthcare bill is a bloated mess. Instead of 2000+ pages, it really only needs to be two words, “Single Payer”. I blame the Democrats for this failure due to the three “I”s – ignorance, incompetence, and influence. That is another journal entry altogether.

Nevertheless, Representative Matheson had the chance to help write the ACES bill in favor of Western renewable energies, but chose not to do so. His vote against the healthcare bill only exacerbated Democrats who have long hated his middle-of-the-road positions. As a result, a number of people, driven by Tim DeChristopher, have been pushing for me to run against Jim Matheson. Here is why I won’t.

  1. A Democrat who is more to the left than Jim Matheson could probably easily win a primary, maybe even settle this in convention, but in the end would lose the general election. I can think of no other county that exemplifies this more than Carbon County. This was traditionally a Democratic stronghold in Utah, but has gone Republican over the past decade. In 2006, Jim Matheson received 3,658 votes in Carbon County. In spite of canvassing Carbon County extensively and knocking on a few thousand doors, I received 2,255 votes. Conversely, Orrin Hatch rarely visits and received 2,408. I don’t see how deposing Jim Matheson would endear me to 1400+ people who otherwise voted for Senator Hatch.
  2. I don’t live in the 2nd Congressional District. There is is nothing legally preventing me from running to represent a district I don’t live in. Thanks to the Utah Legislature, I can cross all three of Utah’s congressional districts on my morning run, because I live in Salt Lake City. Representative Jason Chaffetz was able to oust Chris Cannon on the Republican side without living in the 3rd district. However for a Democrat, this would be fuel on the fire for the GOP challenger living in the district.
  3. In spite of Matheson’s votes, he is still warming a seat on the Democratic side of the aisle. 2010 is going to be Republicans trying to capitalize against President Obama’s agenda. Although I haven’t ruled out running in 2010, I don’t want to be contributing to the inevitable losses the Democratic party is going to face. If I was running instead of Matheson, the national GOP would pour resources into the race not because they care about Utah, but because they want their majority back.
  4. In 2006, the Deseret News ran a poll on favorability ratings of Utah politicians. Matheson came out #1, higher than then Governor Jon Huntsman. Having him in office is a good thing for other Utah Democrats trying to get elected.
  5. The Matheson family remains committed to Democratic causes and candidates here in Utah. I want to receive their help rather than their scorn when I run again.

One individual who asked me to run wanted my opinion as to whether it is a waste of time to try and oust Matheson. Being concerned and active with your government is never a waste of time. However, I think there are bigger fish to fry for Utah Democrats than one who still claims he is in our party.