The Conversation

Freedom Fest 2014 Panelists: Yes, Big Brother Is Here and Watching You

Freedom Fest's first major panel of the conference opened with the question: "NSA, TSA, IRS: Are Big Brother and The Thought Police Here?" And the question didn't mean "here" as in watching the conference, it meant "here" like in the face and life of every American citizen.

The panel was moderated by Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of Reason and the panelists addressing the question were Radley Balko of the Washington Post, Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works, and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots.

Martin discussed the targeting of Tea Party groups by the nation's most feared agency, the IRS. Referring to the applications made by tea party groups around the nation for c-4 status from the IRS, she discussed the invasive questions to which the IRS demanded answers along with access to protected parts of their internet websites.

Kibbe, author of the book Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manfesto, had a strong answer. "Yes, they are stalking you, if you have made a phone call since 2006."  He referenced the dangerous expansion under the Obama administration of a "data hub" that integrates all the data among government agencies.  He said, "Yes, we know from Lois Lerner, they are willing to pick winners and losers." He asked the audience, could your political activity have an effect on the health care the government will approve for you and your family?  But, he added optimistically, the best defense against this, a defense against the bureaucratic class, is people. People who are able to connect with one another through the same kind of electronic means the government is using to collect information on citizens.

Balko, with an impressive resume that includes time at CATO, Reason and Huffington Post along with a book entitled Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of Americas Police Force, focused on the protected class of bureaucrats who violate the civil liberties of citizens and suffer no penalties for doing so. Although certain activities are considered illegal, because there are no consequence for the government and its agents for doing such activities, they are defacto legal. He listed several disturbing examples. 

Just one example, was an incident in New Mexico where a driver was pulled over for a rolling stop. The officer who pulled him over claimed he appeared to be "clenching" his butt, so he concluded that the gentleman was hiding marijuana inside his anal cavity. The police got a sign off for a warrant that included several anal cavity searches and a forced colonoscopy (for which he was billed) and yet no marijuana was found.  The victim was ultimately rewarded with a $1.6M judgement in a civil case that will be paid for by the taxpayers. But, a judge approved the search warrant, a clear violation of the fourth amendment, of the victims body "up to and including [his] anal cavity."

Gillespie asked if the panelists thought that civil liberties would be the next youth cause. Both Balko and Kibbe agreed that in some way the civil liberties issues transcends the typical right/left divide. The younger generation has watched as their guy Obama has done things that "Bush/Cheney wouldn't dream of doing."


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