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Tag: legislation

Federal Incentives for Seizing Assets Encourages ‘Policing for Profit’

frozen-cash2By Editorial Board
Sentinel & Enterprise

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan have introduced legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture, a practice by which law enforcement agencies seize the property and assets of individuals with minimal due process.

The practice has encouraged “policing for profit,” distorting the mission of police agencies toward revenue generation to the detriment of the property rights of Americans. Paul’s and Walberg’s bill should unite those concerned with upholding constitutional rights and justice more broadly.

The FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, previously introduced by Paul in 2014, seeks to shore up the rights of Americans facing civil asset forfeiture proceedings and curb the perverse profit incentives that underline the practice.

“The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime,” said Paul. “The FAIR Act will protect Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights from being infringed upon by ensuring that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process.”

Under current practices, federal agencies, often in partnership with state and local police departments, may seize a person’s cash, home or vehicle simply upon the suspicion that such assets were connected to criminal activity. One need not even be charged or convicted of a crime to have personal assets permanently seized.

All the government needs to do is meet the relatively low standard of a preponderance of the evidence to prevail in court — while innocent owners have the burden of trying to prove their innocence and bearing the costs of legally opposing government authorities.

This has created a situation where the federal government has seized billions of dollars in assets under questionable circumstances. According to the Institute for Justice, from 2001 to 2014, the forfeiture funds of the Department of Justice and Treasury Department took in nearly $29 billion. This provides financial incentive to both federal agencies and state and local partners, who get a cut of the money through “equitable sharing,” to increasingly focus on cases with revenue-generating potential.

To read more click here.  

Senators Introduce Bill Aimed at Increasing Number of Border Patrol Agents

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

File photo of a Border Patrol agent.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Heidi Heitkamp introduced legislation aimed at increasing the number of Border Patrol agents at ports of entry.

The legislation, the Customs and Border Protection and Hiring Retention Act, is deigned to eliminate recruitment obstacles and help retain agents, the Republican and Democrat said in a press release

“Arizona can’t afford for its ports to go on strained and understaffed,” Flake, R-Ariz., said in the release. “By tackling CBP’s hiring problems head-on, this bill will help strengthen border security and facilitate the cross-border trade that is critical to Arizona’s economy.”

The senators said Border Patrol is short of about 1,000 agents.

The legislation would provide incentives for Border Patrol agents to stay on the job and not go to other agencies.

“In my visits with border security officials and personnel in Portal last month and Pembina last year, a key concern I heard over and over from agents on the ground was about their abilities to both attract and retain quality workers to best protect our communities – and it’s those challenges that our bipartisan bill would work to address. This effort expands on my work in the U.S. Senate to make it easier to hire and retain federal employees, like border patrol agents, at remote locations such as at the Northern Border. And my bipartisan bill to assess threats to the Northern Border and examine employee recruitment and retention issues is expected to soon be signed into law. Our border patrol agents work to keep our borders protected, and they need to have the resources and support to keep our communities safe,” said Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Other Stories of Interest

Lawmakers Consider Proposal to Require Lyft, Uber to Undergo FBI Background Checks

uberBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Some lawmakers are considering a proposal that would require drivers of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft to undergo FBI background checks.

Taxi companies, which have been hit hard by the lower prices of Uber and Lyft, said they are subject to FBI background checks and so should drivers for ride-sharing services, the Las Vegas Sun reports. 

Supporters of the ride-sharing services say background checks are a nonstarter and intended to bump Uber and Lyft off the roads.

“There’s a lot of interest in the background check because of public safety,” said John Mowbray, a lawyer who represents Frias Transportation Management, which operates one of Las Vegas’ largest cab companies.

Left and Uber are not fans of FBI checks because they are costly and can months to process. The companies, instead, rely on commercial background checks.

Other Stories of Interest

Senator Delays Bill to Allow FBI to Obtain Internet Records without a Warrant

congress copyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A bill that would expand the FBI’s authority to use secret surveillance to obtain some Internet records was held up because of privacy concerns.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., placed a hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act, saying it would lead to a “dramatic erosion” of privacy rights, Reuters reports. 

A provision in the legislation would allow the FBI to hand over certain Internet records using national security letter, which do not require a warrant.

“Convenience alone does not justify such a dramatic erosion of Americans’ constitutional rights,” Wyden said on the Senate floor.

Senate Rejects Legislation to Allow FBI to Search Internet Records without Warrant

computer-photoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Senate rejected a measure Wednesday that would allow the FBI to search e-mail records and Internet browsing histories of Americans without a warrant.

The USA Today reports the Senate was two votes short of the 60 needed to pass the legislation. The final vote was 58-38.

Last week, the House rejected legislation to ban warrantless surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications.

“In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando, it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations and track ‘lone wolves,’ or (Islamic State)-inspired terrorists who do not have direct connections to foreign terrorist organizations but who seek to harm Americans,” Sen. John McCain said.

But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the bill “won’t make our country safer, but it will take away crucial checks and balances that protect our freedom.”

“FBI agents will be able to demand the records of what websites you look at online, who you email and chat with, and your text message logs, with no judicial oversight whatsoever,” Wyden said. “The reality is the FBI already has the power to demand these electronic records with a court order under the Patriot Act. In emergencies, the FBI can even obtain the records right away and go to a judge after the fact. This isn’t about giving law-enforcement new tools, it’s about the FBI not wanting to do paperwork.”

Senate Report Cites ‘Inferior’ Whistleblower Protections for FBI Agents

whistleBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has a habit of punishing its own whistleblowers.

That may change soon under the proposed FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, the Washington Post reports. 

“Whistleblowers play a critical role in keeping our government efficient and honest, yet they also risk retaliation from their employers, sometimes being demoted, reassigned, or fired as a result of their actions,” says a report issued in support of the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

The legislation would strengthen protections for whistleblowers who expose fraud, waste and abuse.

It also would allow employees to report abuses to their own supervisors.

“This has left protections for FBI whistleblowers inferior to those of other Executive Branch employees …” the report said. “Unlike all other Executive Branch employees, including employees in the intelligence community. … FBI employees enjoy no legal protection for making reports of wrongdoing to supervisors or others in their chain of command.”

U.S. Supreme Court Gives FBI Authority to Hack More Computers

hacking By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave the FBI more authority to hack into computers beginning in December.

Until then, Congress can adopt legislation to undermine the court’s decision, the Intercept reports. 

Before the ruling, magistrate judges were prohibited from approving a warrant request to search a computer unless the computer was inside the judge’s jurisdiction.

Under the ruling, the FBI would be able to gain a warrant to search a computer anywhere in the country, regardless of jurisdiction.

Privacy advocates weren’t happy.

“Whatever euphemism the FBI uses to describe it—whether they call it a ‘remote access search’ or a ‘network investigative technique’—what we’re talking about is government hacking, and this obscure rule change would authorize a whole lot more of it,” Kevin Bankston, director of Open Technology Institute, said in a press release.

Other Stories of Interest

Ex-ATF Agent: Let’s Stop Pretending Lawmakers Are Regulating Lethal Firearms

gunsBy Former ATF Jay Wachtel
for Washington Post

When it comes to regulating firearms, we only pretend to legislate. And even when we do legislate, we only pretend to make them safer. Think that I’m exaggerating? Read on.

In 1994, the federal assault weapons ban outlawed a host of firearms by make and model, including the popular Colt AR-15 and several “AK” style rifles. More broadly, the law also prohibited the manufacture and sale of any semi-automatic rifle that could accept a detachable ammunition magazine (for quicker reloading), and had two or more external features such as a folding stock (to make a gun more compact), pistol grips and barrel shrouds (to help steady one’s aim) and a flash suppressor (to hide a shooter’s position). Caliber wasn’t affected but magazine capacities were limited to ten rounds. Existing weapons and magazines could continue to be possessed and transferred.

How did the gun industry respond? With cosmetic fixes. Colt renamed the AR-15 the “Sporter,” stripped off its flash suppressor and bayonet lug and modified the magazine. Other manufacturers and importers took similar measures, renaming guns and making minor tweaks.

Everyone was pleased. For liberals, the law’s passage was a victory. What got lost in the orgy of self-congratulation, though, was the purpose of the ban.

One assumes that assault rifles were picked on because they are particularly lethal. Key attributes that make them so include accuracy at range, rapid-fire capability and, most importantly, fearsome ballistics. In their most common calibers – 7.62 and .223 – these weapons discharge bullets whose extreme energy and velocity readily pierce protective garments commonly worn by police, opening cavities in flesh many times the diameter of the projectile and causing devastating wounds.

None of these real threats were addressed by the ban. Yet when the statute expired ten years later, Democrats in Congress voiced outrage and promised to secure its renewal.

Last week, a young Southern California couple armed with two pistols and two .223 caliber assault rifles viciously murdered 14 people and wounded 21, some critically. All four guns were purchased from licensed gun retailers in California, the state whose assault weapons law has been touted as the nation’s most restrictive. But as the officers who responded to the massacre in patrol cars and armored vehicles can attest, their state’s vaunted measures (its supposedly stiff provisions require, for example, that magazines be fixed in place, yet provide an easy workaround) proved hopelessly ineffective.

California, the state which gun enthusiasts love to hate, seems no more anxious to take real action against highly lethal firearms than the reticent Feds.

What makes this so? For a clue we can turn to District of Columbia v. Heller,the landmark 2008 Supreme Court case that slapped down a law prohibiting the possession of handguns. In its ruling, the Court held that the Second Amendment grants individuals the right to have firearms for “traditionally lawful purposes” such as self-protection. Going beyond handguns, the majority also endorsed the concept that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess firearms “in common use.”

What’s missing from Heller is a comparison of guns at the time the Second Amendment was written and now. Had the Framers time-traveled to a contemporary gun store, they probably would have been astonished at just how lethal firearms would become. They might have even graced the Second Amendment with an additional clause that placed limits on the madness.

But they didn’t. Neither did the Heller justices, who completely ignored the stark contrast between then and now. One wishes that a law clerk looked up Section 921(a)(16) of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which exempts weapons with antique ignition systems or that do not use fixed ammunition – in other words, the guns of the Framer’s era – from the definition of “firearm.”

To read more click here.