Posted by Brad @ 5:43 pm on July 9th 2009

More Bushian Thinking from the Obama Inner Circle

I’m not one to roll out the “Obama is going to take away our guns!” canard, as frankly if Obama can’t be arsed to show some cojones on detainee rights and health care and other central tenets of his campaign, with a 60 vote majority, I have no expectation that he’s going to put one scintilla of political will behind battling the gun lobby, save maybe signing stuff that Congress puts in front of him. Nor do I think the following clip is all that germane to the Obama administration. It is a clip of then-congressman Rahm Emmanuel in 2007, and frankly he’s a political actor, not a policy one, and I would be surprised if this specific issue has ever even come up for conversation in the Oval Office. I certainly don’t expect it will ever be seriously proposed.

But still, I pass it along because it does give a little window into the kind of thinking that Republicans and “centrist” or national security Democrats have about anything relating to terrorists. Namely, apply the word terrorist, and constitutionalism, to say nothing of common sense, no longer applies.

Here, we have Rahm Emmanuel making the argument that the one million people on the “terrorist watch list”, for which their is no process or overview as to getting on or off it, have, by virtue of being on that mysterious list, inherently lost their 2nd amendment right to bear arms. Because they are “not part of the American family.”

So, as with all things terrorist related, the mere accusation alone, made in secret with no due process or overview, not just warrants but demands a stripping away of all due process and even unrelated constitutional rights. And, according to Rahm, that’s a no-brainer.

Marvel.

People say I’m paranoid to believe we’re slippery sloping into a police state.

Here’s the thing: we already live in a police state. I don’t know what else to call it when the government can designate anybody they want as legal non-entities for whom our entire system of justice and government no longer applies. The state can make this designation at any time, for anybody, for whatever reasons they choose, and there is no appeal or even day in court.

If not a police state, what would you call that? Certainly not a nation of laws.

H/t: Liberty Papers

19 Comments »

  1. I take it that this surprises you?

    Comment by James — 7/9/2009 @ 9:07 pm

  2. Here’s the thing: we already live in a police state. I don’t know what else to call it when the government can designate anybody they want as legal non-entities for whom our entire system of justice and government no longer applies. The state can make this designation at any time, for anybody, for whatever reasons they choose, and there is no appeal or even day in court.

    Welcome back.

    Comment by James — 7/9/2009 @ 9:09 pm

  3. You’re the one who’s new to police state town Jamesy. You used to pen screeds titled “Come on, seriously” in which you asked people to list how Bush personally violated their rights.

    You can’t be an apologist for the police state for 8 long years and then start complaining about it just because you lost an election. For you, civil liberties have been a tool, not a principle.

    If you are willing to treat civil liberties as a consistent principle needing consistent defense, people will be more willing to listen to you. But, until then, it’s hard because we know your motives aren’t genuine.

    And that goes for all tea party conservative activists that have suddenly discovered the constitution in the last seven months.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/9/2009 @ 10:54 pm

  4. That being said, in the issue above if one is a terrorist or a criminal with a violent record, should one be allowed to buy guns?

    These people get their votes taken away in many states, which I think is a greater infringement upon the individual’s participation in the society, which doesn’t have the justification that the people engaging in voting pose a potential threat to the society.

    Criminals and terrorists buying guns do pose a threat and the rising gun violence in Central America (mainly Mexico) can be traced to the flow of gun traffic from American buyers to Mexican drug gangs.

    Therefore, our problem shouldn’t be the desire to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and violent criminals, it’s how we construct the list of those people.

    That issue does need reform and the gun issue should be separate since, if and when the list process has been reviewed and improved, it’s a desirable goal to keep guns away from the people on it.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/9/2009 @ 11:22 pm

  5. No, it’s not.

    Leaving aside the people on the terrorist watch list who are foreign nationals, a “terrorist watch list”, in any way I could conceive of it, is inherently a “suspicion” list. There is no citizen class, in America, of “suspicious” people, nor should there ever be, under any circumstances. If they are terrorists, of course, it is not a “watch” list, it is a warrant. Arrest them. (I will leave aside people who were found guilty of some terrorism-related charge, served their time, and are now legally released, which goes to the felon angle rather than the terrorist one). If it is people you cannot prove to be guilty of terrorism but “suspect”, you run into the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, which is the absolute foundation of all Western criminal justice and is not a foundation that can be infringed upon in any way.

    As to the felon thing, I think taking away voting rights to felons is one of the most obnoxious regularly-accepted violations of the precepts of America and our criminal justice system, for all the reasons you mentioned and more. As to taking away their gun rights, I can understand and to some extent be willing to compromise on it, in that I think it’s wrong but I’m sort of willing to turn a blind eye to it. However, two quick problems with it is the imperfect nature of the felon list. I am not sure that society has any great need to protect itself from, say, tax cheats or pot growers or even armed child molesters. I can sort of accept taking away gun rights for felons who committed felonies involving guns, or even those convicted of violent felonies (not usually how the laws are written, btw), but the second problem I run up against is the underlying assumption and what strikes me as the organizing principle of the impulse that firearms have no function beyond violence and crime, which I don’t entirely buy. Because, of course, if firearms had no function beyond that, why uphold the second amendment at all? If you grant that firearms have a function beyond that, and that the second amendment is based on those functions, what overriding interest does the government have in taking away the rights of felons to, say, go hunting, sport shoot, or protect themselves?

    I guess what bothers me about is is the same thing that bothers me about a lot of non force or fraud criminal prohibitions. Namely, it’s a criminalization not of an act we deem unacceptable, but the chance of an act we deem unacceptable perhaps occurring sometime in the indefinite future. Now that I think of it, that ties in sort of nicely to the terrorist watch list. Taking guns away from felons who are otherwise altogether “square with the house” in terms of their legal status strikes me as criminalizing suspicion. You may or may not do something wrong, but since you may, you lose right X and right Y preemptively.

    Like I said, I am sort of willing to compromise on making the loss of second amendment rights part of the punitive result of a violent felony, but beyond that, I just get a bad taste in my mouth whenever the government starts talking of rights in the context of undesirable-but-otherwise-legal citizens.

    Comment by Brad — 7/10/2009 @ 12:28 am

  6. Although, having just written that, it only now occurs to me that I might be confusing the “No Fly List” with the “Terrorist Watch List”. I am, frankly, not sure what either is exactly.

    I take some solace in the hunch that, after consulting wikipedia, I am now fairly confident that nobody else is either. But by all means, let’s start making constitutional protections contingent on…you know, whatever the hell that is or those are.

    Comment by Brad — 7/10/2009 @ 12:33 am

  7. If it is people you cannot prove to be guilty of terrorism but “suspect”, you run into the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, which is the absolute foundation of all Western criminal justice and is not a foundation that can be infringed upon in any way.

    I would go along with this. If they are under suspicion for crimes, they should be arrested for those crimes where the evidence can be presented and argued.

    However, if someone is Wanted but not yet arrested, then their gun rights may be apprehended until such time that they are arrested and put through the process due.

    And yeah, the no-fly list is a pile of crap and should be scrapped immediately. There should be no list unless it’s of people under arrest or intend to arrest based on evidence, a list with pictures or passport numbers to prevent false positives.

    An interesting article on gun trafficking:
    http://washingtonindependent.com/48542/dems-miss-bulls-eye-on-arms-trafficking-reform

    87% of guns seized in Mexico in the last 5 years come from the US.
    57% of guns used in crime come from 1.2 percent of “legal” gun dealers in 1998.

    A couple of steps in the way of gun control and gun information sharing would not be such a bad thing.

    And I’m, of course, a long time big proponent of gun licencing and mandatory gun insurance. The same costs we assume for car use should apply for gun use.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 1:16 am

  8. However, if someone is Wanted but not yet arrested, then their gun rights may be apprehended until such time that they are arrested and put through the process due.

    It might be helpful to ask what does wanted mean? If they’re wanted in the classic sense (Wanted Poster, FBI Most Wanted, ect.) they would have an arrest warrant which would lead directly to the established criminal justice system. Checking gun purchases against to see if the purchaser has a pending arrest warrant is legitimate because of the above board nature of an arrest warrant. Since capture with an arrest warrant leads to arrest there’s a defined procedure in place to protect the rights of the arrested individual.

    This system doesn’t exist with terrorist watch lists or no fly lists. As Brad mentioned there’s no mechanism of innocent until proven guilty to protect the people on these lists. There’s no mechanism to clear their names if they are not arrested. If they’re not arrested there’s no trial and no conviction. Since individuals have no means to remove themselves from lists like these the list acts outside the realm of justice.

    Imposing restrictions upon the freedom of people who are placed on a list but are charged with no crime is analogous to conviction without trial. All roads must lead to a courtroom. If the government does not have sufficient evidence to arrest and charge an individual then there should be no harassment or restriction of the rights of that citizen.

    Nebulous lists that exist without enough evidence to make an arrest on the people contained on the list are hallmarks of police states. These sorts of activities are the nature of secret police. Does this government really want us to live in a system where justice is administered without the public light of a courtroom trial? Restrictions upon the freedoms of people on lists like these can start small with things like gun purchases or commercial airline flight but can easily morph into restrictions of other sorts – with no legal system protecting the accused.

    the rising gun violence in Central America (mainly Mexico) can be traced to the flow of gun traffic from American buyers to Mexican drug gangs.

    87% of guns seized in Mexico in the last 5 years come from the US.

    Bullshit.

    The figure is 17%. Your number is not the number of guns seized but rather the the percent of the number of guns seized which the Mexican government asked the US to trace and which came back as originating from the US. The reason the number is so high is because Mexican cops recognize that guns which have serial numbers can often be traced by American authorities. The vast majority of other weapons aren’t manufactured or intended for distribution on US soil and don’t have serial numbers. Those weapons are part of the larger global arms trade which is not based in the US.

    So where do most of the guns come from? One of the most surprising is that a whole bunch come from the Mexican Army, ‘liberated’ by some of the 150,000 defectors of the last six years. Some of the other sources:

    — The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.

    — Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.

    – South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.

    — Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.

    — The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.

    — Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America’s cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town.

    Comment by Cameron — 7/10/2009 @ 2:11 am

  9. Imposing restrictions upon the freedom of people who are placed on a list but are charged with no crime is analogous to conviction without trial. All roads must lead to a courtroom. If the government does not have sufficient evidence to arrest and charge an individual then there should be no harassment or restriction of the rights of that citizen.

    I agree with this. It’s what I meant by Wanted as in arrest pending, warrants issued, but not yet appended.

    Bullshit

    Not entirely. I’ll admit that the wording of the claim is sloppy, leading to the reader (me) drawing a wring conclusion.

    Yes the quote “87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last 5 years originated in the United States, according to data from Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)” makes one focus on the seized part and not so much the traced part giving one the impression that “87% of all guns seized” come from the united states.

    However, when you go back to the GAO report:
    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-709

    Available evidence indicates many of the firearms fueling Mexican drug violence originated in the United States, including a growing number of increasingly lethal weapons. Available evidence indicates a large proportion of the firearms fueling Mexican drug violence originated in the United States, including a growing number of increasingly lethal weapons. While it is impossible to know how many firearms are illegally trafficked into Mexico in a given year, around 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the past 5 years originated in the United States, according to data from ATF.
    Around 68 percent of these firearms were manufactured in the United States, and around 19 percent were manufactured in third countries and imported into the United States before being trafficked into Mexico.
    According to U.S. and Mexican government officials, these firearms have been increasingly more powerful and lethal in recent years. For example, many of these firearms are high-caliber and high-powered, such as AK and AR-15 type semiautomatic rifles. Many of these firearms come from gun shops and gun shows in Southwest border states, such as Texas, California, and Arizona, according to ATF officials and trace data. U.S. and Mexican government and law enforcement officials stated most guns trafficked to Mexico are intended to support operations of Mexican DTOs, which are also responsible for trafficking arms to Mexico.

    It appears there is uncertainty over the exact numbers due to problematic international agency co-operation

    In addition, U.S. assistance has been limited due to Mexican government officials’ incomplete use to date of ATF’s electronic firearms tracing system, known as eTrace, which is an important tool for U.S. arms trafficking investigations in the United States. The ability of Mexican officials to input data into eTrace has been hampered partly because a Spanish language version of eTrace under development for months has still not been deployed across Mexico. Another significant challenge facing U.S. efforts to assist Mexico is concern about corruption among some Mexican government entities.

    but the report does detail evidence of a problem.

    Are you going to argue that gun traffic between the US and Mexico isn’t a problem, that it’s mostly other countries’ faults?

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 2:48 am

  10. Thimbles, I think the 87% figure was pretty well demolished, and the GAO report you site is using the same 87% figure derived with the same unfortunate wording. This makes me question the 1998 “57% of guns used in crime come from 1.2 percent of “legal” gun dealers in 1998” statistic in the same article. Was it derived from equally spurious and limited data? Are the dealers represented by those 1.2% simply the largest dealers in the country selling in the highest crime density areas? No idea.

    As to your ending challenge/question: Is the gun traffic betwen the US and Mexico a problem? No, it isn’t. The creation of a massively profitable black market by making drugs illegal is the problem, and the gun violence is but one of the many and varied consequences. Is it mostly other countries’ faults? No, the responsibility for the international drug trafficking problem rests almost entirely with the US.

    Comment by Jack — 7/10/2009 @ 8:39 am

  11. I said as much, but that we can’t claim it’s 87% doesn’t mean we can’t claim it’s a high percentage, nor that it’s not a problem. The GAO report states that on the data it has, which is incomplete because the tracking program is not deployed in spanish and not throughout mexico, 87 percent of captured weapons are US in origin.

    The demolishing comes from “Reason” Magazine and Fox News, so when it comes to non-partisan non-fact making up reporting, I’ll take the GAO report thanks.

    The 57% percent claim was from another report in the same newspaper article, the source being likely this:
    http://www.usdoj.gov/archive/opd/Strategy.htm
    and it suffers from the same language trick:

    Our National Strategy relies heavily on ATF’s regulatory oversight of FFLs (Firearm Federal Licencees) as a means to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Significantly, recent tracing analysis has shown that a small proportion of dealers account for a large proportion of the firearms traced from crimes.(14) Just 1.2 percent of dealers-1,020 of the approximately 83,200 federally licensed retail dealers and pawnbrokers-accounted for over 57 percent of the crime guns traced to FFLs in 1998. To reduce illegal trafficking, ATF is making crime gun trace analysis available to criminal investigators, and is targeting regulatory enforcement and inspection resources at these dealers.

    my bad.

    As to your final point, I do believe that drug legalization is a valid way to break up the problem.
    At the very least, possession should be decriminalized and I believe a class of light drugs for things such as marijuana and possibly ecstasy should be as free for use and distribution as tobacco and alcohol.

    And I think that the trafficking of weapons to criminal gangs is as big a problem and requires as much attention as the trafficking of weapons to terrorists.
    I hope that doesn’t make me a radical.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 11:24 am

  12. Well, while I use “consider the source” as a legitimate reason (pun intended) for skepticism, I am just as likely to apply that attitute toward government-generated reports that unsuprisingly endorse increased regulatory power and requirements for the government. But that is as far as it goes: skepticism to the claim. Once the claim is made AND backed up with significant data, and that data reveals a glaring problem in your normally preferred source material, then you become a bit more obliged to actually, you know, answer the charge rather than just assume your facts are still fundamentally correct, if mildly exagerated.

    In this case, the dreaded Reason has not merely put into question the 87%, it has demonstrated pretty thoroughly the gross statistical abuse taking place. They only submitted weapons for US tracing that the already thought were US manufactured. The obviously foreign weapons did not go into the mix. The statistic isn’t just mildly off, its completely wrong and useless.

    Comment by Jack — 7/10/2009 @ 11:44 am

  13. Reason used a fox news report for its basis:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/02/myth-percent-guns-mexico-fraction-number-claimed/
    In which this is the pertinent part:

    In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced — and of those, 90 percent — 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover — were found to have come from the U.S.

    But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

    In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

    Now if I’m and the GAO are the bad guys for stating 87% of guns traced were from the United States, then the same can be said of Fox News for stating “68% of the guns recovered were never submitted for tracing” to make the false implication that these guns could not have come from the US. As stated earlier, there are problems with agency co-operation and e-trace program availability. What we do know is that there is a body of guns which have been traced a large percentage of which came from the US, and a body guns which haven’t.

    And then you delve into the basic math, which is wrong (11000 guns submitted / 29000 guns total = 38%. 1 – .38 = 62% not submitted)

    And when I see mistakes in basic math, I start to question their basic sources, a lot more work than I intended.

    The GAO has a respectable reputation from all accounts and yes there is some unfortunate wording on the 87% stat, but the general gist of the report is that a large amount of arms trafficking is taking place between Mexico and the US which has become a large proportion of the narco gangs’ weapons cache.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 1:33 pm

  14. Well now. I did some basic leg work on the sources, specifically ATF agent William Newell. KABOOM!:
    http://www.factcheck.org/mobile/article.php?id=941&page=2

    If that’s true, then the guns given to ATF for tracing constitute a badly biased sample of all crime guns seized in Mexico. But the ATF officials we contacted don’t confirm that. What an ATF spokesperson would say is that the agency could trace more than 90 percent of all the guns submitted by Mexico to the U.S. – they either originated in this country or were imported here before heading south.

    However that may be, the Fox figure of 17 percent is based on a misreading of some confusing House subcommittee testimony by ATF official William Newell. The Fox reporters come up with a figure of 5,114 guns traced to U.S. sources in fiscal 2007 and 2008. That figures to 17.6 percent of the 29,000 figure for guns seized in Mexico, as given by the country’s attorney general.

    The 5,114 figure is simply wrong. What Newell said
    http://www.atf.gov/press/speech/2009/032409_newell-testimony.htm
    quite clearly is that the number of guns submitted to ATF in those two years was 11,055: “3,312 in FY 2007 [and] 7,743 in FY 2008.” Newell also testified, as other ATF officials have done, that 90 percent of the guns traced were determined to have come from the U.S. So based on Newell’s testimony, the Fox reporters should have used a figure of 9,950 guns from U.S. sources. That figures out to just over 34 percent of guns recovered, assuming that the 29,000 figure supplied by Mexico’s attorney general is correct…

    Given the lack of hard data from Mexico, we can’t calculate a precise figure for what portion of crime guns have been traced to the U.S. Based on the best evidence we can find so far, we conclude that the 90 percent claim made by the president and others in his administration lacks a basis in solid fact. But we also conclude that the number is at least double what Fox News has reported, based on its reporters’ mistaken interpretation of ATF testimony.

    Whether the number is 90 percent, or 36 percent, or something else, there’s no dispute that thousands of guns are being illegalIy transported into Mexico by way of the United States each year.

    I feel generous. You all wanna call this one a draw?

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 1:48 pm

  15. Oh do me no favors, Mr triumphalist. Your 87% figure lies in the garbage. I, on the other hand, stated no figure, while also pointing out that you should stop using it, or even implying that its close, as your posts continued to do. I do, however, appreciate your hunting efforts, since now we have a much more likely number to work with.

    Comment by Jack — 7/10/2009 @ 2:00 pm

  16. I put the “87% of all seized” figure in the garbage the moment I checked the wording in the original report.

    The minimum percentage is 36% and, due to uncertainties in the environment listed by Fact Check and the GA..Zzzz. psnorckl11

    You know what? I’m tired and my forehead has keyboard imprints on it now. It’s a draw and I’m going to bed.

    Comment by thimbles — 7/10/2009 @ 2:37 pm

  17. back to the original subject, ka1igu1a has this to say:

    The most offending part of that statement is not the explicit reference to the loss of the right to bear arms, but the larger implication that inclusion in some bureaucratic enemies lists casts you out “the American Family” altogether, which I suppose means you could henceforth become eligible to be black-bagged by the Indefinite Detention Squad.

    Comment by Brad — 7/10/2009 @ 3:10 pm

  18. Update on the “guns out of criminal hands” debate, New York claims to be suffering a problem of out of state guns showing up in their criminal’s hands. Looks like New York is doing something about it in the spirit of O’Keefe’s pimping. I present Gun Show Undercover:
    http://www.gunshowundercover.org/
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-bloomberg/gun-show-undercover_b_312339.html

    Now, why is the Mayor of New York City investigating gun shows in places like Ohio, Tennessee, and Nevada? Good question. And the answer is: because I have no other choice.

    Even though New York is the safest big city in the country, and safer than most mid-sized cities, and even though we have the nation’s toughest law against illegal possession of a loaded handgun, drug dealers and criminals continue to obtain guns from inter-state traffickers.

    According to ATF, 89% of guns used in crimes in New York City last year originated out of state. Many cities around the country find themselves in the same situation. It is clear that we can’t solve this problem by working only within our state. We need leadership from Washington to close loopholes that criminals exploit, and we need stronger enforcement of the laws already on the books.

    Congress should pass legislation requiring that all sales at gun shows be subject to criminal background checks — a measure that has the support of Sen. John McCain, President Obama and 83% of gun owners. It is also time for Congress to support the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) with the resources it needs to crack down on illegal sales at gun shows.

    Impressions?

    Comment by thimbles — 10/9/2009 @ 2:06 am

  19. No, New York. Your decision to impose laws restricting civil liberties does not obligate the rest of us to accomodate your preferences.

    If you find your laws to be unenforceable, that is a problem with the law, not with the operations of the universe in which the law is enacted.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/9/2009 @ 12:05 pm

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