August 30, 2012

Brandon Raub interview

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:59 pm

Retired Marine Brandon Raub, who was forced to go to a psychiatric hospital because he posted radical, pro-liberty ideas on Facebook, gave an interview with his lawyer, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, which you can watch above or on YouTube. After being detained for a week without charge and forced to undergo mental health evaluations, a judge ordered his release.

“The idea that a man can be snatched out of his property without being read his rights, I think should be very alarming to all Americans… It made me scared for my country.

I think that if the average American were to sit down and be told, Hey, do you know that the federal government is saying that they have the power to take your property, to seize control of industry in this country, to seize control of communications, of media [and] now the internet – It reeks of 1984.”

Hat tip: RT

August 21, 2012

Veteran forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation over Facebook posts

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 7:26 am

In a disturbing violation of human dignity and individual rights, a veteran was recently detained for posting libertarian-leaning messages on Facebook. According to ABC News:

Brandon J. Raub, 26, has been in custody since FBI, Secret Service agents and police in Virginia’s Chesterfield County questioned him Thursday evening about what they said were ominous posts talking about a coming revolution. In one message earlier this month according to authorities, Raub wrote: “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.”

Police — acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional — took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.

A Virginia-based civil liberties group, The Rutherford Institute, dispatched one of its attorneys to the hospital to represent Raub at a hearing Monday. A judge ordered Raub detained for another month, Rutherford executive director John Whitehead said.

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon,” Whitehead said.

I completely agree. Regardless of what you think of Raub’s views or the way he expressed them, he has every right to voice his opinions without punishment… let alone a punishment as severe as being entirely deprived of his freedom for over a month and labeled as mentally ill.

Support Brandon Raub on Facebook

Free Brandon Raub petition on Change.org

April 8, 2012

Philip Markoff and online privacy

Filed under: Internet,law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:39 pm

The Boston Phoenix recently did an interesting front-page article about the police investigation into the “Craigslist killer” case three years ago. Among the most noteworthy (and creepy) things that came out in the article was the Boston Police Department’s subpoena of presumed (although never actually found guilty in court) killer Philip Markoff’s Facebook account.

The documents sent to the cops include all the wall posts that Markoff made, all the photos he uploaded or was tagged in, a list of his friends, and all of the times he ever logged in and IP addresses he used. What makes it even worse is that, if the Markoff case is any example, subpoenas don’t just invade the privacy of the person under investigation, they also reveal information about that person’s friends, who most likely have nothing to do with the suspected crime.

As Chris Matyszczyk at CNET points out,

“The joy of Facebook — for those who find it joyous — is that it provides a vehicle for the sheer spontaneity of communication. You want people to make contact with your life, your friends, your happenings, your feelings, even. You want them to do it as soon as possible.

However, it’s not like normal human spontaneity, which can dissipate and become a memory. It’s recorded.”

Facebook does not notify users when their information is subpoenaed, nor is it even willing to say how many subpoenas it has received or responded to over the years. In other words, law enforcement could be poring through your Facebook data right now, and you wouldn’t even know it.

April 7, 2012

Dishonorable discharge for Armed Forces Tea Party founder?

Filed under: Internet,personal liberty by Victoria Liberty @ 10:59 pm

If a military board gets its way, Sgt. Gary Stein will receive an “other-than-honorable” discharge from the Marine Corps just months before his enlistment is set to end. He will lose all of his military benefits, will be banned from re-enlisting or even entering a military base, and his reputation will be forever tainted. What did he do to deserve this? He criticized President Obama on Facebook. According to the New American:

Stein attracted the scrutiny of his superiors after he created an “Armed Forces Tea Party” group on Facebook in 2010. According to prosecutors, he used the group to post “contemptuous” comments and images of Obama — including a picture of the President superimposed on the “Jackass” movie poster…

Stein also used his Facebook account to blast Obama as a “coward” and an “economic and religious enemy” of America, according to the prosecutor. He allegedly sold “Nobama” bumper stickers from a personal website, too.

Military policy bans soldiers from publicly making partisan political comments or expressing contempt for the Commander-in-Chief. But Sgt. Stein’s lawyers argued that his comments were protected by the First Amendment because they were made in his personal capacity as opposed to him speaking on behalf of the military. He posted while off duty, and the Facebook page contained a disclaimer stating that the Armed Forces Tea Party is not affiliated with the military.

“Think about how dangerous this could be if the U.S. government can prosecute you for something you say on your private Facebook page,” said his lawyer, Capt. James Baehr. “How can we expect Marines to participate in citizenship if they cannot join political discussions?”

He makes a good point. I believe that people should be able to work at the job that they choose without having to sacrifice their First Amendment rights. Of course there can be some limits to what employers allow their employees to post via social media. It is justifiable for an employee to be fired for divulging confidential information or publicly criticizing their co-workers or bosses. If Sgt. Stein had used Facebook to criticize the soldiers he worked with, then it would make sense for him to be dishonorably discharged. Similarly, it would make sense for him to be fired if he was working as a personal advisor to Obama, or for his re-election campaign, and made the anti-Obama comments that he made. But with the exception of people who work in an explicitly political job, everyone should be able to express their political views without retribution from their employer. What a person does on their own personal time is not their employer’s business. This definitely includes the soldiers who help to defend the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.