Holder seeks to avert mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level drug offenders

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is set to announce Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences.

The new Justice Department policy is part of a comprehensive prison reform package that Holder will reveal in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco, according to senior department officials. He is also expected to introduce a policy to reduce sentences for elderly, nonviolent inmates and find alternatives to prison for nonviolent criminals.

Good. Better if they end the drug war entirely, but I’m happy for baby steps in that direction. (Credit where credit is due.) Via Holder seeks to avert mandatory minimum sentences for some low-level drug offenders – The Washington Post.

Silent Circle Preemptively Shuts Down Encrypted Email Service To Prevent NSA Spying

“We knew USG would come after us”. That’s why Silent Circle CEO Michael Janke tells TechCrunch his company shut down its Silent Mail encrypted email service. It hadn’t been told to provide data to the government, but after Lavabit shut down today rather than be “complicit” with NSA spying, Silent Circle told customers it has killed off Silent Mail rather than risk their privacy.

The Silent Circle blog posts explains “We see the writing the wall, and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now.” It’s especially damning considering Silent Circle’s co-founder and president is Phil Zimmermann, the inventor of widely-used email encryption program Pretty Good Privacy.

Silent Circle’s other secure services including Silent Phone and Silent Text will continue to operate as they do all the encryption on the client side within users’ devices. But it explained that “Email that uses standard Internet protocols cannot have the same security guarantees that real-time communications has.” With too many opportunities for information and metadata leaks in the SMTP, POP3, and IMAP email protocols, the company believes there was no way to live up to its promise of total privacy.

“We wanted to be proactive because we knew USG would come after us due to the sheer amount of people who use us- let alone the “highly targeted high profile people”. They are completely secure and clean on Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Eyes, but email is broken because govt can force us to turn over what we have. So to protect everyone and to drive them to use the other three peer to peer products- we made the decision to do this before men on [SIC] suits show up. Now- they are completely shut down- nothing they can get from us or try and force from us- we literally have nothing anywhere.”

The Feds don’t like it when you try to keep your communications private. The police state is here. Via Silent Circle Preemptively Shuts Down Encrypted Email Service To Prevent NSA Spying | TechCrunch.

T.S.A. Expands Duties Beyond Airport Security

With little fanfare, the agency best known for airport screenings has vastly expanded its reach to sporting events, music festivals, rodeos, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Not everyone is happy.

T.S.A. and local law enforcement officials say the teams are a critical component of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts, but some members of Congress, auditors at the Department of Homeland Security and civil liberties groups are sounding alarms. The teams are also raising hackles among passengers who call them unnecessary and intrusive.

A free man, unaccused of any crime, without any articulable suspicion against him, should be free to travel unmolested in his own country. This is the authoritarianism of a police state, and it is here now. Via T.S.A. Expands Duties Beyond Airport Security – NYTimes.com.

Subway Stabbing Victim Can’t Sue NYPD For Failing To Save Him

A man who was brutally stabbed by Brooklyn subway slasher Maksim Gelman two years ago had his negligence case against the city dismissed in court yesterday, despite the fact that two transit officers had locked themselves in a motorman’s car only a few feet from him at the time of the attack.

Gelman stabbed Joseph Lozito in the face, neck, hands and head on an uptown 3 train in February 2011, after fatally stabbing four people and injuring three others in a 28-hour period. Lozito, a father of two and an avid martial arts fan, was able to tackle Gelman and hold him down, and Gelman was eventually arrested by the transit officers. Lozito sued the city, arguing that the police officers had locked themselves in the conductor’s car and failed to come to his aid in time.

The city, meanwhile, claimed that the NYPD had no “special duty” to intervene at the time, and that they were in the motorman’s car because they believed Gelman had a gun.

The police have no duty to protect you. At best, they prevent before and clean up after. Protecting you during an attack is not their job. You need to be prepared to defend yourself and others if necessary. Having a gun makes that easier. Nobody is coming to save you; you will have to save yourself. Via Subway Stabbing Victim Can’t Sue NYPD For Failing To Save Him: Gothamist.

If You Don’t Want the Government to Spy on You, Move to Montana

… HB 603 passed without much fanfare in the spring. At the time, the law might have seemed extraneous, or even paranoid. But knowing what we know now, the law seems prophetic (not unlike the way Shia LaBeouf warned us about spying back in 2008) and is getting some new-found attention. The law is pretty straightforward—the government can’t spy on Montanans through their electronic devices unless they obtain a warrant …

And “electronic device” is meant to encompass laptops, cell phones and tablets …

That effectively makes Montana the first state in the country’s history to pass an electronic privacy law that protects you from the government. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, and Montana’s lawmakers outpaced all the states in the country when it comes to privacy—Texas signed an email privacy bill into law last month, and Massachusetts and a handful of other states are considering their own privacy laws when it comes to electronic surveillance and wiretapping.

Of course, the question now is, how do you enforce that? Still, it’s a good symbolic move. Via If You Don’t Want the Government to Spy on You, Move to Montana – Alexander Abad-Santos – The Atlantic Wire.

Schneier on Security: Blowback from the NSA Surveillance

… when countries like Russia and Iran say the US is simply too untrustworthy to manage the Internet, no one will be able to argue.

We can’t fight for Internet freedom around the world, then turn around and destroy it back home. Even if we don’t see the contradiction, the rest of the world does.

via Schneier on Security: Blowback from the NSA Surveillance.

IRS Training with Assault Rifles

A bureaucracy is bad. A politicized bureaucracy is worse. A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil. There is no reason in a civilized society why the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Paperwork should have his own SEAL Team Six.

The police state is not “coming” — it’s *here*. Abolish the IRS and replace it with the Fair Tax. Via When Your W-2 Meets an AR-15 | National Review Online.

Government is never “us.” It is always “them.”

Repeat after me: Government is power. Government is not to be trusted. Ever. Even if you believe that some government is and will always be necessary, that ‘necessary’ piece of government should always be regarded as a prudent lion tamer regards the big carnivorous cats that are ‘necessary’ for him to make a living. To imagine that seemingly subdued purring lions can be trusted to be dealt with in any ways that do not include the use of strong cages, leashes, ceaseless and deep suspicion, and escape hatches is the height of romantic absurdity – wishful thinking of the most extreme and inexcusable sort. Government is by its very nature a dangerous, untrustworthy, dishonest, arrogant, slippery entity – characteristics that are by no means reduced anywhere near to insignificance by a wide franchise, regular elections, and sturdy ink-on-parchment documents called “constitutions.”

Unless you are a high-ranking government official, government – no government – is ever “Us.” It is always “Them.” And They are not to be trusted. Ever.

via Some Snowden Links.

We should know much about *public* servants; they should know little about *private* citizens.

The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what they do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals.

This dynamic – the hallmark of a healthy and free society – has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That’s the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.

(Emphasis in original.) Via On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

“I am not here as a serf or vassal. I am not begging my lords for mercy.”

“I’m a born free American woman, wife, mother and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well-being, and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty. And you have faltered.”

Via Althouse. Go to the link for video; the quoted part begins at 2:45. This is not a Your Team vs My Team issue; this is a Government vs Citizens issue; or, if you like, a Tyranny vs Liberty issue.