The United States is in the middle of a pandemic of racist police violence that shows no sign of abating. For many police officers, expressing verbal opposition to a police killing, police tactic or police budget, is itself an act of unreasoning aggression no sane person could endorse. So it’s at protests against police violence that you see the most police violence; it’s the very expression of the idea that police should submit themselves to the rule of law, that arouses their lawless fury.
For decades, elected officials from both major parties have treated police and the military like a special class. Congressmembers, councilors, mayors and legislators have approved their budgets and acquisitions without question. Till this year, it has been almost politically unimaginable to treat their requests with the same skepticism afforded to other funding requests. Courts, too, have enshrined enormous deference to police and the military into law, through abusive concepts like “qualified immunity.” Drastic change is necessary to change the culture, not only of the police, but of our political system as a whole.
A restored Fourth Amendment requires that people, their communications and their effects be searched or seized only subject to probable cause of involvement in an actual crime. The actual practice of both police and federal agencies is to over-surveil, over-criminalize, over-seize and over-detain, and the law improperly allows them to escape accountability for these violations.
The Restore The Fourth board hereby endorses the following seven specific measures to reduce police violence:
Abolish federal civil asset forfeitures, which enable police to steal people’s cash, vehicles, and even homes with impunity, through passing the FAIR Act. At the state level, pass bills similar to the model legislation from the Institute for Justice.
Reduce jail churn by reducing arrests: Police should refrain from arrests for misdemeanor quality-of-life crimes, “resisting arrest”, protest-related trespassing, and crimes associated with being homeless. Rather than setting cash bail, judges should implement pretrial detention only where there has been a finding of dangerousness after a hearing.
Abolish DHS, making its constituent agencies independent again; it was a bad idea from the get-go. Among its constituent agencies, abolish ICE, and revert to a unitary agency for both documented and undocumented immigrants.
Pass surveillance oversight ordinances and facial recognition bans at the local, county and state levels, to restrain the police from deploying surveillance without review and consent by local elected officials.
In relation to coronavirus pandemic enforcement, we believe that governments should involve the police only secondarily and as a last resort, such as if someone assaults or murders a member of the public or public health worker trying to enforce a coronavirus-related restriction, or for education and handing out masks. Drones and robots should not be used for enforcement, and contact tracing apps should be used only under tight constraints.
We thank the volunteers of Restore The Fourth, Critical Resistance, the Cato Institute, and the protesters, activists and scholars engaged with Black Lives Matter, for inspiring us to identify and support these measures. If you’d like to help make this platform a reality, contact Restore The Fourth here.
Restore the Fourth previously reviewed the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. With that nomination having been essentially settled with the choice of former Vice-President Biden (rated D-), and with President Trump (rated F) facing no significant opposition to becoming the Republican nominee, voters primarily concerned about surveillance and privacy should also be considering the candidates from smaller parties. This means that our next task is to evaluate the Libertarian Party candidates. That nomination will be decided by delegates from each state at the 2020 Libertarian National Convention, tentatively scheduled (coronavirus permitting) for May 22nd in Austin, TX.
As with the Democratic candidates, we attempt to evaluate the Libertarian candidates according to seven factors: (a) NSA surveillance; (b) FBI surveillance of domestic dissent; (c) DHS border surveillance; (d) police accountability; (e) commercial privacy and online publisher liability; (f) encryption; and (g) attitude to national security whistleblowers.
We also felt it would be helpful to add information on (h), the candidates’ attitude towards the coronavirus pandemic and government measures taken to stop it, as a new and key issue for civil liberties-minded people to navigate. We added points for those candidates who had articulated a position on coronavirus response that dealt with some of the civil liberties issues involved; we subtracted points for candidates who denied or minimized the severity of the pandemic.
One of the key ways libertarians distinguish themselves from both conservatives and liberals is through ingrained skepticism about the military, the police, and the intelligence services. So it’s not surprising that the Libertarian candidates tend to score higher than most of the Democratic candidates did. However, this should not be construed as an endorsement by Restore The Fourth of any candidate in particular, or of the Libertarian Party in general, because the same could also be said of other parties and candidates.
This scorecard covers only five of the candidates listed on the Libertarian Party website, focusing on those who provided feedback to us on their positions. For the full list, please go here.
Many of the Democratic candidates have held elected office, giving us a rich seam of prior votes to mine for their actual positions. Necessarily, as none of the Libertarian Party candidates have been members of Congress, we must give heavy weight to the candidates’ statements on the topics we’re interested in. By far our most detailed response was from John McAfee, so we provide the full video and his selected comments on surveillance in a separate article.
Candidate: John McAfee
John McAfee is an antivirus software pioneer, cryptocurrency promoter and current fugitive on tax fraud charges. He opposes surveillance by the NSA, CIA, FBI and local police surveillance cameras, describing himself as “probably the most surveilled American outside of America. During his interview with RT4’s Ed Quiggle, McAfee expressed concerns about the CIA, FBI and NSA, particularly their influence over electoral processes; Google, surveillance cameras, license plate readers, retargeted ads, unconstitutional income taxes. He says, “Laws that cannot be enforced are not laws and should be ignored.” He expressed support for privacy coins like Monero and stablecoins, but not for encrypted services like “CIA-owned” Tor. He argues that “Christ almighty, [end-to-end] encryption is useless” when used on smartphones, because what you type is visible to the authorities before being encrypted in transit, so he sees government efforts to subvert such encrypted systems as a “smokescreen.” He therefore believes that “We don’t win by fighting them, we win by leaving them.”
On the coronavirus, McAfee underestimates its severity, comparing it to diarrhea; doubts the efficacy of lockdowns in preventing coronavirus; believes that anti-pandemic measures have “no legal basis”; and believes that the number of coronavirus cases is overstated.
Hornberger is a former trial attorney and 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves. He founded the Future of Freedom Foundation in 1989, and has authored 17 books on libertarianism.
His perspective from his campaign website is that “The conversion of the federal government to a national-security state was a watershed event in U.S. history. That’s how we got the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and an ever-growing military-industrial complex that has embroiled us in forever wars, interventions, occupations, and alliances with dictatorial regimes. It’s also how we ended up living under a system that our American ancestors rejected, one in which the federal government wields the omnipotent power to arrest, incarcerate indefinitely, torture, secretly spy on, and assassinate people, including American citizens, without due process of law. It is impossible to reconcile a national-security state with the principles of a genuinely free society. It is time to dismantle the Pentagon, military-industrial complex, CIA, and NSA and restore a limited-government republic to our land.” He also specifically calls out the problem with “warrantless trespasses, searches, and seizures.”
On coronavirus, Hornberger supports the abolition of the CDC, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, saying that “the free market produces the best of everything.” He does not dispute the existence or the severity of the virus, but says that “Unleashed from government control, planning, and regulation, the healthcare industry would be mobilizing, advising, recommending, testing, and more quickly coming up with cures and treatments. It would be a spontaneous order, as Friedrich Hayek termed it, one in which people would be putting their faith in liberty and a free market healthcare system rather than in healthcare socialism and the state.”
Vermin Love Supreme is a performance artist and activist from Massachusetts. He has aligned himself more than any other candidate with anarchist traditions, and previously ran as a Democrat in 2012 and 2016 and as a Republican in 2008. Though his campaigns are often satirical in nature, he has announced that his 2020 campaign for the Libertarian nomination is a serious one.
“It is my belief that I stand 100% with you on these issues.” Vermin said in a message to Restore the Fourth when asked about NSA surveillance and other 4th amendment issues.
His campaign website states:
“Through satire and humor, I present real issues with fantastical context, in-depth analysis, and a dose of much-needed humor in the political sphere. With thought provoking activism, I stand against the tyrannical duopoly, the violent police state, and all forms of overreaching government. I seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and are not forced to sacrifice their values for the benefit of others. I believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized. Consequently, I will always defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world I seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams, in their own ways, without interference from the government or any other authoritarian power. With honesty, empathy, courage, and free ponies for everyone, I will lead past, present, and future America to the pinnacle of freedom under the rule of the one and only Tyrant You Can Trust”
Mr. Supreme’s solution to the coronavirus, as to much else, is ponies. In this instance, the pony would apparently breathe fire and trample the virus under its mighty hooves. Good to know!
Behrman, running on the slogan “Taxation Is Theft”, is a video producer and software engineer from Los Angeles. “On domestic surveillance – the government has no right. We are not their property to be monitored, they are our employees. If there was ever a national threat to be surveilled, they would need to do so with our consent, not by passing secret surveillance measures that the people who ultimately fund it, the taxpayers, are completely unaware of,” the presidential candidate told RT4 in a message. “On police accountability – Around 2014, when I learned that many Americans were unable to file complaints about police misconduct, I founded Accountable Authority. This was designed to be a public database for police corruption and tracking. To take things further, I proposed a bill called the Accountable Authority Act which would level the playing field by giving citizens equal power to investigate and file criminal charges against their own employees. Other measures meant that instead ofthe taxpayer getting stuck with the bill, corrupt officers would be unemployable as law enforcement and would have to pay for the damage they caused with their personal assets.” As policy, this would effectively deal with the issue of police receiving “qualified immunity” against lawsuits for abuses.
On the issue of encryption, Behrman observes, “Everything should be encrypted, and the government should not stand in the way of letting that happen. Holding one person liable for the speech made by someone else is a violation of the first amendment, and it is not an acceptable policy. Forcing companies to use encryption methods which leave a back door for the companies themselves or the government is a violation of the citizens right to privacy.” Behrman ended his message to RT4 by saying, “Civil asset forfeiture is a violation of the Fourth and Fifth amendments, a violation of due process, and a legalized criminal act.”
On the pandemic, Behrman strongly opposes police fines and arrests for violating lockdowns, and advocates instead measures to increase healthcare system capacity and deregulate entry to the health professions.
Kokesh is a radio host and author campaigning for the orderly dissolution of the entire federal government. As such, he inherently opposes the surveillance programs of the NSA, CIA, FBI, and other member agencies of the intelligence community.
Kokesh calls the pandemic a “legitimate healthcare crisis, but a small one”, saying that it’s less severe than the 1919 flu pandemic or the locust swarms in East Africa; but argues that minimizing hospital overload is a concern and that vigilance about sanitation and self-care are important.