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Mike German was fired by the FBI for exposing their cover up. He now works for the ACLU and is speaking out about how the government targets people based on religion and politics, with little oversight.  (Source: Network World)
Feds have little respect for your privacy, Constitution

The police are watching you.  If you're the wrong religion, they'll spy on your every move.  If you voice the wrong political opinions they'll be watching you.  According to Mike German, a 16-year veteran with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations, this is happening right in the U.S.

Mr. German has become the FBI's worst nightmare.  Fed up with the abuses of privacy he was seeing, he complain to higher authorities and was promptly fired by the FBI.  Recently he became the ACLU's Policy Counsel on National Security, Immigration and Privacy [press release]. And he's speaking up about what he witnessed.

States Mr. German in a recent interview with Network World:

The most disturbing thing we've uncovered is the scope of domestic intelligence activities taking place today. Domestic spying is now being done by a host of federal agencies (FBI, DOD, DHS, DNI) as well as state and local law enforcement and even private companies. Too often this spying targets political activity and religious practices. We've documented intelligence activities targeting or obstructing First Amendment-protected activity in 33 states and DC.

He says that this Orwellian atmosphere could leave the U.S. a far different beast than the proud beacon of freedom it once was.  He states, "The biggest threat is that the increase surveillance of political activity will create a chilling effect that will dissuade people from exercising their rights, which will cause significant harm to participatory democracy."

He states that the "War on Terror" will continue to serve as an excuse for federal agencies to trample civil liberties.  He says that there are no clear-cut guidelines as to when you get put on a "watchlist" and are spied on by federal agents.  It's impossible to find out if your on a list and equally impossible to dispute or ask to be removed from a list.  

He also blasts TSA "enhanced pat-down" procedures and body scanners, calling them "unreasonable invasions of privacy that do not enhance security."

Given the Supreme Courts interpretation that privacy is a fundamental human right and thus Constitutionally protected by the Ninth Amendment, and given the First Amendments protections concerning freedom of speech and religion, Mr. German's claims are alarming.  Are U.S. federal employees deliberately spying on citizens and violating their rights, without the slightest legal accusation?

It'd be easy to dismiss Mr. German's claims as the words of a disgruntled employee.  But consider Mr. German's story of his departure from the agency:

I left the FBI when the DOJ Inspector General failed to investigate an FBI cover-up of a failed FBI counterterrorism investigation I reported, or protect me from official retaliation that resulted. I reported the information to Sen. Grassley and resigned. Grassley put pressure on the IG, so almost two years later the IG issued a report that showed the FBI falsified and backdated records about the case and retaliated against me for reporting it. I joined the ACLU two years later because I knew from my counterterrorism work that protecting civil liberties and keeping law enforcement accountable is what keeps America safe from terrorism and other crime.

Mr. German was clearly vindicated in the case that led to his dismissal.  The fact that the FBI tried to cover up its own wrongdoing and then punished Mr. German certainly damages its credibility and offers support for Mr. German's claims.

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By Schrag4 on 2/8/2011 11:19:22 AM , Rating: 2
I'd just like to point out that Jared Loughner's political views leaned extremely left. As much as you want to blame Sarah Palin and TP'ers for voilence, it just doesn't pan out. There are crazies on both sides, and to single one side out over the other is just childish.

I suppose you think people who share your views should be allowed to have guns but nobody else. Is that correct? Or should only the elite politicians be able to defend themselves? Please enlighten us on who deserves the right to defend themselves and who does not. (keep in mind that felons are already forbidden by law from being near a gun)

By The Raven on 2/8/2011 11:55:14 AM , Rating: 2
From what I understand he was neither a lefty nor a righty. I understand that he is just a plain old fruit loop.
And it really shouldn't matter, since it is equally likely that a homicidal whackjob could be of either persuasion.

But I think one thing that is universal is that be you crazy or sane, when you feel your freedoms are being taken away, you get more crazy and do something rash. Let's just say for argument's sake that this guy was with the GOP (since he shot a Dem). It seems that he did so because he feared the gov't monitoring his thoughts and what not. Then you have the gay dude who kills himself because he doesn't feel free to live as he chooses.

In both cases, the killer felt a lack of freedom which drove them to do what they did. Of course the AZ killer was just insane to begin with but I hope you get my point.

If the gov't wouldn't take away our freedoms then our lawmakers wouldn't have to worry about assasination as much.
But since we have voted to have the gov't control our lives in both social and economic aspects we have these problems to deal with.

(Oh and for all the people with their heads in the sand unexposed to natural law, you should've pointed out that felons still find ways to get guns.)

By dgingeri on 2/8/2011 12:56:13 PM , Rating: 2
The government takes away nearly half of what I earn already and gives much of it to people who don't deserve it: both welfare recipients and bureaucrats who do nothing. Granted, there are people who need help, but it is not the place of the government to provide for them by taking away from others.

Some of the taxes I pay do go for needed things, I admit that, but when federal bureaucrats are making 20% more than their equal or near equal positions in private enterprise, with nearly no worry about being fired for incompetence or laziness, then I have issues with that.

you want to know what their taking away from me? My hard earned money. My lifestyle. I don't want to be rich, I just want to be able to pay for my 700sq ft apartment, drive to work and back, have my tv and internet, buy new computer parts once in a while, and eat. That's what I've been doing for the last 6 years. However, recent government activity have reduced the value of the dollar I earn, (making my rent, food, and computer parts increase in price) increased the taxes I pay, increase my energy costs substantially (my summer electric bills used to be $100 and now they're $160, and my winter electric bills have gone up from $70 to $110, all because of this renewable energy mandate) and substantially increased the cost of my gas for my car. (While the cost of oil is a part of the cost of gas, so is the production capacity of the refineries in this country, and 2 have been shut down while plans for 3 new ones to increase capacity have been shelved due to new federal rules and regulations, thus reducing the capacity of production by almost 10% while demand increased by more than 15%, increasing the cost substantially.) In addition, new government taxes on businesses is limiting their ability to increase the pay of their employees. My company has been on a pay freeze for the last two years, and is unlike to raise it in the next two, despite inflation being as high as it is.

In short, the government is taking away my life. I want to keep it. I have no spare money anymore, even though my income is equal to what it was 2 years ago when I had plenty.

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 1:14:51 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry they'll just keep taxing you until you too need government assistance to provide for yourself.

If you look at the health care bill, that's exactly what it does to some. They're taxing certain health plans as "cadillac" plans. Well then you may not be able to afford the plan you used to have so now you need the governments help to pay for it. Thus increasing their influence over you. And most people don't have the willingness to vote for someone that says they're going to end a benefit you need to get what you used to have or think you should have.

By eggman on 2/8/2011 2:53:33 PM , Rating: 2
What is your solution for the health care cost crisis? For the last 10 years my health insurance has gone up 3 times faster than my salary, and the plans get worse and worse.

By dgingeri on 2/8/2011 4:39:48 PM , Rating: 2
I have a solution for that:

1. have malpractice cases tried before a panel of volunteer doctors. common people don't know when a doctor could have seen something coming and when they couldn't. Other doctors could. In addition, the doctors can declare the suit "frivolous" and charge the suer and his lawyer for the court costs. Trying a malpractice case in front of a regular jury is the biggest malpractice of all. malpractice insurance is the fastest growing cost to health care by a wide margin, usually taking as much as 60-80% of the doctor's take home pay. My uncle is a general medicine doctor, and pays $396,000 per year in malpractice insurance in Indiana. He takes home a little over $500,000. Making malpractice claims actually fair for both the doctor and the patient, instead of the decidedly one sided system we have now, and that cost will go down rapidly.

2. force the insurance companies to have a declared statement of covered procedures. If it is covered by a policy and the paperwork is filled out correctly, then they cannot deny the claim. If they deny the claim and all the paperwork is filled out correctly and the procedure is covered, they face fines on the order of 10 times the cost of that claim. Many insurance companies practice "deny first, have them resubmit before paying" practice. This increases the overhead costs in getting claims paid by the insurance company, and doesn't serve any purpose. Some idiot manager in an insurance company somewhere came up with this idea so they could keep their money for longer and earn more interest on it before paying the claim, but in the end it only serves to increase costs for everyone. This practice needs to be stopped.

3. have all insurance companies use all the same forms. Have all the insurance companies send 3 delegates to a conference to establish the paperwork, not to exceed 4 pages, for all claims to be processed. Then have them meet ever 5 years to update the forms. This reduces the complexity of training required to fill out the forms, reduces the number of people required to fill out the forms, and reduces the error rate of the claims. This, in turn will reduce costs. The second fastest climbing cost in healthcare is forms and claims processing.

Do these things, which Obama didn't touch, and the costs of health care will fall quickly.

By eskimospy on 2/8/2011 8:23:24 PM , Rating: 2
Holy crap you're wrong. This is so false I don't even know where to start. The median malpractice cost for a GP in 2008 was $12,500; your figure was inflated by approximately 3168%. If your uncle is paying $396,000 a year, it's because he's Dr. Frankenstein.

The idea that doctors should be the jury at malpractice trials is the same idea as that police should be the jurors in police brutality cases. ie: an insanely terrible idea.

By FITCamaro on 2/9/2011 10:40:35 AM , Rating: 2
It depends on where you live. The article even states this. If you live in an area with a lot of trial lawyers with nothing to do, you'll pay drastically more since you'll have to carry a few million dollars in insurance. Trial lawyers have driven many good doctors out of the Orlando area. You now have to go to Tampa for many operations.

Doctors shouldn't be the jury at a malpractice trial. Just the damages on malpractice lawsuits should be capped. The doctor should pay to correct whatever he did wrong. Then if the mistake actually impacted the persons ability to work, they should compensate the person for the lost wages. That's it. There should be no such thing as damages for crap like "distress".

Now if the person died as a result of the malpractice, compensate the family for around 10 years of the persons salary. It shouldn't be a blank check essentially so the husband/wife never has to work again.

If the malpractice forever took away the persons ability to work, then fine, you can compensate them for that. But very few malpractice suits are this extreme.

By dgingeri on 2/9/2011 10:40:54 AM , Rating: 2
So what you're saying is that all those states where doctors are in short supply because malpractice insurance is too expensive, like Ohio, Florida, California, New York, are all just imagining it. There really isn't a shortage of doctors. We shouldn't be having problems finding doctors.

Have you ever tried to find a GP in Denver? It's like pulling teeth. In my last attempt, I called 8 offices in my area to find out they weren't accepting new patients. I have to drive over 20 miles, halfway across town, to get a doctor, and he's not very good.

You're also saying that regular people are capable of knowing better about what can be done to heal the human body and who can and can't be saved than doctors who have to go through 12 years of education and mentoring by other doctors.

My uncle happens to have never been sued directly in his 30 years of practice. (His office has been sued twice in suits that just tacked his name on the list because he ran the office, and a hospital he worked for was sued and his name was tacked on just because he was in the department.) Those numbers are what he told me a little over a year ago.

He also has 14 people in the billing department, 4 in the records department, 6 nurses, and three doctors in the office. his billing department costs the office $740k per year and the doctors cost them $850k per year, before he gets his pay. It's pretty sad that billing staff cost almost as much as two doctors.

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 6:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
So you agree with a solution to raise that cost even further through taxes and mandating coverage for certain things you may not need or want?

Yeah that makes sense.

By eggman on 2/9/2011 4:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
I did not say anything like that.

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 1:11:10 PM , Rating: 3
Well to start we can look at the $14,000 in taxes I paid last year. While at the same time half the population paid absolutely none. And a portion of that even got money back that they didn't pay. Furthermore, chances are those people, like yourself, think that people like me should pay even more so that they get more benefits that they don't have to pay for.

I don't mind paying taxes to fund legitimate functions of government. But given that we're spending well over a trillion a year we don't have, I think we've gone well past the legitimate functions of government that the constitution spells out. Not that someone like yourself respects said document.

By dgingeri on 2/8/2011 1:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
I only paid $5000 in federal income taxes last year. However, I also paid over $3000 in federal excise taxes on gas, and $7000 in social security and medicare I will never see again. I bet you paid a lot more in both of those than I did. Don't forget about their hidden taxes.

If they don't get you one way, they'll get you another.

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 1:29:50 PM , Rating: 2
How do you only pay $5000 in federal income tax and $7000 in Social Security?

And my $14,000 figure was all taxes combined. Social Security I'll never see again. So I group it in with income tax. Same with Medicare.

By dgingeri on 2/8/2011 5:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
I got a $2500 credit for going back to college, and it was SS and medicare together. 15% of taxable income minus $2500 for the income tax and a straight 7.65% without deductions comes out that way. :)

By eggman on 2/8/2011 2:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
What do propose as a solution?

By dgingeri on 2/8/2011 6:26:02 PM , Rating: 2
For taxation? I haven't put much thought into it except to think it is too complicated and too many back door taxes you don't see coming.

My biggest wish would be for congress to be more straightforward and honest in taxation. Cut out all the little various tax BS and keep it to one tax system. Each tax system has its own overhead, and having a bunch of little taxes like we have today is far, far more overhead than a couple big taxes.

However, congress wants to hide their tax increases so they can keep getting elected, so they spread them out all over the place. This takes more people to keep track of them, and that costs more money to keep those people around. Simplifying the tax system would remove loopholes and make it easier on everyone. We'd reduce government spending and by extension reduce our own tax burden.

I'm good at thinking up solutions, but few people actually do anything with them.

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 6:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
Fair tax. So everyone pays taxes. And the poor don't get taxed on gas or food.

By CowKing on 2/8/2011 7:33:22 PM , Rating: 2
I never thought I'd see you advocate a progressive tax system.
i.e. people with more money pay more than people with less.

By FITCamaro on 2/9/2011 10:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
A fair tax isn't a progressive tax system. It is a set rate that EVERYONE pays. Progressive means that the more you make, the higher the tax rate you pay.

Under a fair tax system, just because I make more, doesn't mean I pay more in taxes. If I make a million dollars a year but only buy food, gas, some clothes, and thats about it, I'll still pay less taxes than the guy who does all that plus goes and buys new rims for his car, a new flat screen, etc.

A fair tax is just that. Fair. And the best part is, no IRS and no income tax returns to worry about filing. Of course it'll never happen at the federal level because you can't redistribute wealth through a fair tax since there is no Earned Income Credit with one. Or a child tax credit, EV credit, Solar power tax credit, etc.

By eggman on 2/9/2011 4:57:08 PM , Rating: 2
I agree.

By The Raven on 2/8/2011 1:17:34 PM , Rating: 2
Here's a few (I'm not writing a dissertaion here):

Rights denied (Party responsible):
Gay marraige (R)
Polygamous marraige (D/R)
Free speech (mostly R, decency laws)
Substance use (R/D with the exception of weed)

Then there is the taxation without (true) representation.

It is just a mob rule situation now where the majority feels that it is ok to make the minority do what they think is right.

Why am I taxed to pay overpriced tuition? Overpriced healthcare? Overpriced houses? Why, why, why?

And these lists are nowhere near exhastive. So spare me the "oh wow, cry me a river" BS. And also remember that thought many people might be fine with the way things are now, they are still wary of how it got this way, and how that could take us to a very bad place (a la "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" type of outlook)

By Schrag4 on 2/8/2011 12:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
I will admit that on some issues he appeared far right, but he claimed to dislike Giffords because she was a "fake." Giffords was "targeted" (yes, with a bullseye) on lists of candidates that the extreme-left wanted defeated in favor of more-left-leaning candidates, after all. If I remember correcly, he lists The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf as favorites on his YouTube channel.

At any rate, I will grant you that he was first and foremost a homicidal whackjob. Political affiliation doesn't matter, and isn't required, to motivate someone like him to kill. My personal opinion is that he's an unstable individual who acted out and got "punished" in the form of being fired from jobs or suspended from school time and time again, until he couldn't take it anymore. Poor Giffords was merely an easy way for him to show the world that he didn't like being pushed around. (easy because she was local, accessible, and she "matters")

By FITCamaro on 2/8/2011 1:26:26 PM , Rating: 3
Apparently you've never heard of a guy named William Ayers who helped bomb police stations. You know helped run a group called Weather Underground? Oh yeah and helped educate a young man named Barack Obama.

And the guy who shot that Congresswoman was a mentally ill person who voted DEMOCRAT . He was not a Tea Party member. Please show me anyone who has identified with the Tea Party who has killed anyone in the name of the Tea Party. Sure there are anti-government types out there. That doesn't make them Tea Party activists.

How about all those liberals who said Sarah Palin who should be killed after the shooting in Arizona? How about all the liberals who threaten to beat up people like Ann Coulter when they come to a college campus. How about all the violent rallies that take place when liberals are angry? Show me a Tea Party rally that has been violent. You can't. One only has to browse Youtube to find examples of violence on the liberal side of things. I heard audio yesterday of liberals at a rally saying Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court should be sent back to the fields or killed. Same goes for Roberts and Scalia.

But yeah its the Tea Party that is racist and hateful. We just want Obama to not win the next election. As well as people who think like him. No one is saying to kill him. But this kind of stuff doesn't make Keith Olbermann's show so it didn't happen right?

By The Raven on 2/8/2011 2:00:35 PM , Rating: 2
Dan White shot Harvey Milk. They both were Ds just like the AZ shooting.

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