Repeal the Patriot Act

Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand

On October 26th, 2001, George W. Bush signed into law The Patriot Act, which was written in the wake of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and has been obscuring the rights of American and foreign citizens ever since. The Patriot Act is a “security law” which tremendously broadened the search and surveillance powers of the United States government, allowing law enforcement to access the emails, phone calls, browsing history, and spending habits of private citizens all in the name of counter-terrorism. According to the United States government, the future possibility of danger outweighs the ongoing and present subjugation of the rights to privacy and personal autonomy.

To restrict any citizen’s freedoms requires a very good reason, and for some, the “threat of terrorism” is enough. But with this agreed idea in mind, a few things need to be at the forefront of the conversation. Is there a clear and present danger relating to terrorism which is persistent enough to warrant the restriction of rights? Is the possibility of an attack enough to warrant the restriction of rights? Does The Patriot Act work in practice? And is The Patriot Act moral in theory?

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Government Surveillance Is Terribly Threatening

Government surveillance
By Teagan Fair | United States

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This is a notorious quote by Benjamin Franklin, useful in many arguments advocating for liberty. Commonly, gun advocates use it to oppose gun control However, there are many other situations where this quote is appropriate. For example, it is also pertinent while advocating against government surveillance. Supposedly, surveillance is “purchasing” a little bit of temporary safety: a very small amount, in trade for our liberty.

An Insignificant Statistic

A common argument in favor of government surveillance is that it supposedly protects us from terrorists. But according to Business Insider, since 9/11, only six Americans have died per year from Islamic terrorists, both foreign and domestic. The article also provides a handy chart comparing the probability of this to other causes of death.

BI Graphics_Odds of Dying

As you can see, there are many obscure causes of death that are far more probable. So no, this should not be a concern of the general public in the first place. In any other situation, such an insignificant number would be laughable.

UN: U.S. Government Surveillance Is Symbolic

While talking about the practicality of surveillance, even the UN has stated that it is essentially a show of gesture-politics, rather than result-oriented. Or in other words, the UN states that government surveillance is based more on symbolism and symbolic gestures rather than a good outcome. And as for the ‘results’ surveillance does come with:

“[The FBI general counsel] defined as useful those [leads] that made a substantive contribution to identifying a terrorist, or identifying a potential confidential informant. Just 1.2 percent of them fit that category.”

Thus, surveillance does not protect us from terrorists nearly as much as supporters would like you to believe. Yet, there are still some clear detriments that surveillance allows for.

Authoritarian Regimes

For example, many oppressive regimes use mass surveillance on their citizens, much like in the U.S. In many cases, they claim to care for security and the good of the people. But some countries that practice this include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba. Clearly, the good of the people can be a lie.

In the modern day, in fact, mass surveillance systems are quite popular among authoritarian regimes. Regardless of whether you would classify the U.S. as authoritarian, its government has certainly increased intervention in the lives of citizens. Surely, this in itself is a concerning realization.

Going beyond simple ineffectiveness and harmful effects, it is also worth examining the morals of government surveillance. Although we hear surveillance is for our own good, many Americans would disagree. In fact, 57% say it is wrong for the government to monitor its own citizens.

A common argument for surveillance is ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.’

Funny. This quote sounds awfully familiar. It’s almost like it was propaganda for another authoritarian regime. Yes, that’s right: Nazi Minister Joseph Goebbels used the line to pacify Germans in 1933.

Similar Situations

Edward Snowden, a man notorious for exposing NSA records, also has an intriguing quote against government surveillance. He states the following: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

He is spot on with this quote; the ‘nothing to hide’ argument is deeply flawed.

Protecting your information from the government has a number of parallels. Would you want your private texts, emails and phone calls to be available to co-workers you don’t know? No, of course not. The majority of people would agree that this is an invasion of privacy.

Government action is hardly different. One of the only things dissimilar, in fact, is that the government can act upon what you do and say, potentially harming you for nonviolent action. This is far more dangerous. Obviously, many of us get weirded out when somebody leans over our shoulder to view our texts. This is what is happening in our government, but at mass levels.

The Right to Privacy

You also do not need a reason to exercise a right in order for it to exist. For example, the 1st Amendment protects the right to assemble, even if you do not feel you need it. Perhaps you will never feel the need to assemble publicly. However, this does not give the state the right to take that ability away from you. The same goes for privacy. Whether or not you ‘need’ privacy is irrelevant: it is always wrong to take it away.

Our government is stripping our liberties, especially privacy. For what? Essentially nothing. If anything, government surveillance allows the state to take further control over our lives. Perhaps it’s time to get more serious about our right to privacy and take a stand.

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US-Russian Cybersecurity: Espionage at Home and Afar

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

Ever since the creation of the internet, people have constantly been concerned with hacking, privacy, security on and offline, protection from malware and viruses, etc. This is what gave way to many industries being started, revolving and evolving alongside the internet and its continual development. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, cybersecurity is the measure taken to protect a computer, or computer system, on the internet against unauthorized access or attack. In the US, and among many countries in the world, cybersecurity drastically changed post 9/11 due to supposed worry for further terrorist attacks on the US and respective countries. These changes threw out Liberty in the name of protectionism, and have changed national and international relations, especially when dealing with cybersecurity.

After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, in the US, the USA PATRIOT Act, also known simply as the “Patriot Act,” was passed on October 26th, 2001.The acronym stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” As pertaining to cybersecurity, Title VIII of the Patriot Act granted the US government the ability to essentially spy on civilians within the US who were showing signs of possible terrorism, cyberterrorism, racketeering, etc., via communication through the internet on computers and phones.

However, the National Security Agency (NSA) who headed the Patriot Act program, also collected metadata from everyone within the US. According to the NSA, their “role in U.S. cybersecurity includes its primary information assurance mission: serving as the National Manager for National Security Systems. National Security Systems include U.S. systems that contain classified information or are otherwise critical to U.S. military or intelligence missions.” The NSA also uses a system known as PRISM, also known as SIGAD, which collects internet communications from various U.S. internet companies rather than directly from the targeted individuals. Laws allowing such software are easily passed since many in the US feel it is okay to monitor, regulate, and collect information and data from companies.

Nevertheless, the Patriot Act failed miserably to thwart terrorist acts and hacking in cyberspace, but it successfully helped to usher in a constant police state of government surveillance and the collection of digital information over the web. Without NSA whistleblowers such as Perry Fellwock, Russ Tice, Mark Klein, William Binney, Thomas Tamm, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and others, much of this overreach of government would have continued unknown by the masses, and many of the Patriot Act’s policies would have continued without interruptions. But despite their heroism, the police state via cybersecurity and spying continues within the US and the world.

We know it is an overreach of US government as Title II of the Patriot Act allowed mass surveillance and collection of information without a warrant or specified reasons for individuals, thus an infringement on the US Constitution’s 4th Amendment which stipulates that it is, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Additionally, former US President, George W. Bush, also passed the Protect America Act which was an amendment on FISA to also allow warrant-less searches and surveillance on digital platforms. These warrant-less and unrelenting search additions have been extended to at least December 31st, 2023, under FISA Article VII, section 702. Yet, under the ruse of ‘protection,’ government has trampled the Constitution in order to increase cybersecurity within the US and the world.

Once the Patriot Act expired in 2015, the USA FREEDOM Act was implemented. It is also an acronym meaning Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act. Also known simply as “the Freedom Act,” it was really an extension of the Patriot Act, but the public image was perceived as a little less Big Brother since supposedly metadata collected was only stored for six months as opposed to indefinitely. Still yet, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 underlies both the Patriot Act and Freedom Act, granting permission to the US government to physically and electronically spy on foreign powers within the US and out, as well as any agents of foreign powers; after the development of the internet, these measures now include the careful watch through cybersecurity.

Of course, prior to the Patriot Act and Freedom Act, there have been US and world organizations such as ECHELON, also known as the Five Eyes abbreviated as ‘FVEY,’ which most likely started around 1941. This is an intelligence alliance between the US, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. This agency collects information of people all over the world as a response to a post-WWII world, when these countries had an unofficial and secret agreement known as the BRUSA Agreement in 1943, and officially signed under the UKUSA Agreement in 1946.

According to many documents released by Edward Snowden, “The Five Eyes is a supra-national intelligence organization that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries,” and since it is outside countries spying on citizens of other countries, they are able to step around regulations and restrictions, as the organization acts outside of the law. Included in their acquisition of information, via the internet through smartphones and computers, cybersecurity is a key component, especially in the world we live in today which almost requires communication through the internet. Suffice it to say, whether the US or other governments publicly announce that they are taking measures of spying and various acts of cybersecurity, they have been and will continue to do so off the record.

The ongoing record keeping through spying via cybersecurity is performed not only by the NSA and the Five Eyes, but also through the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to name a few. While the DIA focuses on federal level defense and military topics, the CIA focuses on more general intelligence needs of the President. This grants the DIA more special privileges to assist the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Combatant Commanders, to act outside of normal protocol. The DIA works directly with the Five Eyes through their own network known as “Stone Ghost,” with the same aforementioned countries, furthering the perpetual international collection of information in the name of security.

In May of 2011, the White House released the “International Strategy for Cyberspace: Prosperity, Security and Openness in a Networked World.” This was an Obama White House cybersecurity policy stating the following:

 “Natural disasters, accidents, or sabotage can disrupt cables, servers, and wireless networks on U.S. soil and beyond. Technical challenges can be equally disruptive, as one country’s method for blocking a website can cascade into a much larger, international network disruption. Extortion, fraud, identity theft, and child exploitation can threaten users’ confidence in online commerce, social networks and even their personal safety. The theft of intellectual property threatens national competitiveness and the innovation that drives it. . . . Cybersecurity threats can even endanger international peace and security more broadly, as traditional forms of conflict are extended into cyberspace.”

In February of 2013, “The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation,” approved by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, released his version of cybersecurity policy stating the following:

Russia will act according to its national interests in providing national and international information security, preventing political, economic and social security threats emerging in cyberspace, to fight terrorist and other criminal kinds of criminal activity. Russia opposes military-political use of information technologies that contradict international law, including actions aimed at interference in domestic affairs, as well as that kind of using IT that pose threat to international peace, security and stability.”

However, by April of 2013, The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland addressed ongoing US-Russian cybersecurity relations that seemed to be building conflict between the two countries. For a few years prior, Russia had been accused of cyberattacks around the world, especially on the US. Of course, the US’ cybersecurity is primarily concerned with the US and its closest allies, especially those of the Five Eyes and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO’s cybersecurity programs were born out of the concerns of NATO members who accused Russia of being complicit in cyberattacks on their critical infrastructures years prior. In response to these eventually dismissed allegations, Russia led efforts to adopt international collective cybersecurity measures in Shanghai’s Cooperation Organization and with the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Furthermore, Russia also initiated a discussion about a “Convention on International Information Security,” which would help detect the basic threats to international information security and confirm threats.

This School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland report summarized the issues and US-Russia cybersecurity relations as follows:

“Threats to cyberspace and to information security are emerging as central elements of Russian-U.S. security relations. As much as U.S. officials have expressed concerns about Russian-sponsored cyber-activities, Russia is equally concerned about U.S. military intentions in the cyber domain. Differing definitions of what activities pose a threat complicates relations on this issue. While the United States is concerned primarily with threats to technology and economic well-being, Russia is also concerned about activities that threaten interference in Russian sovereign affairs. Russian concerns have been heightened by repeated U.S. rebuffs on draft U.N. resolutions to address some threats. U.S. and NATO pronouncements about the need for collective defense against cyberattacks have raised similar concerns. Ongoing Russian-U.S. cooperation at the highest level demonstrates that the states recognize the common interests at stake, but officials will have to work on a mutually beneficial basis to make any level of cooperation work.”

In June of 2013, under the Obama administration in contractual agreement with Russian President Putin, the two countries signed a cybersecurity agreement. The Obama White House released the following statements:

Recognizing the extraordinary growth in the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), the United States and the Russian Federation have engaged in dialogue over the past two years on international security in this new and crucial area.  Our two nations now are leading the way in extending traditional transparency and confidence-building measures to reduce the mutual danger we face from cyber threats.” “The United States and the Russian Federation are creating a new working group, under the auspices of the Bilateral Presidential Commission, dedicated to assessing emerging ICT threats and proposing concrete joint measures to address them.” “The United States and the Russian Federation have also concluded a range of steps designed to increase transparency and reduce the possibility that a misunderstood cyber incident could create instability or a crisis in our bilateral relationship.  Taken together, they represent important progress by our two nations to build confidence and strengthen our relations in cyberspace; expand our shared understanding of threats appearing to emanate from each other’s territory; and prevent unnecessary escalation of ICT security incidents.”

In 2014, US Secretary of the State, John Kerry, released a statement that included specified goals of the US’ cybersecurity platform entitled “Pillars of The International Strategy for Cyberspace.” The policy added promoting norms and building international security, fighting cybercrime, strengthening internet public policy and internet governance, supporting internet freedom, performing internet due diligence, and developing the Internet and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for economic growth. The official US policy contained the following statement:

“The Secretary’s Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues works to implement the International Strategy for Cyberspace, which outlines the U.S. vision for the future of cyberspace, and sets the agenda for partnering with other nations and peoples to realize it. As described in the International Strategy, the United States seeks a cyberspace environment that rewards innovation, empowers individuals, strengthens communities, builds better governments, expands accountability, safeguards fundamental freedoms, enhances personal privacy, and strengthens national and international security.”

In May of 2018, the DHS released their latest in cybersecurity policies including seven guiding principle- Risk Prioritization, Cost-effectiveness, Innovation and Agility, Collaboration, Global Approach, Balanced Equities, and National Values. The policy went on, stating the following:

Through our efforts to accomplish seven identified goals across these five pillars, we work to ensure the availability of critical national functions and to foster efficiency, innovation, trustworthy communication, and economic prosperity in ways consistent with our national values and that protect privacy and civil liberties.”

            The DHS cybersecurity policy of 2018 includes five pillars and seven goals.

  • Pillar I – Risk Identification

Goal 1: Assess Evolving Cybersecurity Risks.

We will understand the evolving national cybersecurity risk posture to inform and prioritize risk management activities.

  • Pillar II – Vulnerability Reduction

Goal 2: Protect Federal Government Information Systems.

We will reduce vulnerabilities of federal agencies to ensure they achieve an adequate level of cybersecurity.

Goal 3: Protect Critical Infrastructure.

We will partner with key stakeholders to ensure that national cybersecurity risks are adequately managed.

  • Pillar III – Threat Reduction

Goal 4: Prevent and Disrupt Criminal Use of Cyberspace.

We will reduce cyber threats by countering transnational criminal organizations and sophisticated cyber criminals.

  • Pillar IV – Consequence Mitigation

Goal 5: Respond Effectively to Cyber Incidents.

We will minimize consequences from potentially significant cyber incidents through coordinated community-wide response efforts.

  • Pillar V – Enable Cybersecurity Outcomes

Goal 6: Strengthen the Security and Reliability of the Cyber Ecosystem.

We will support policies and activities that enable improved global cybersecurity risk management.

Goal 7: Improve Management of DHS Cybersecurity Activities.

We will execute our departmental cybersecurity efforts in an integrated and prioritized way.


Despite all of these policies, departments spying nationally and internationally, software for constant watch in cyberspace, during the 2016 US Presidential elections, it has been stated by the US government that Russia mingled in the election process, hacked the Democratic Party’s (DNC) servers and computers, including Hillary Clinton’s emails, and many believe they possibly got Trump elected as US President. However, the official report claims that no tampering with the vote count took place. On July 13th, 2018, twelve Russian agents were indicted as being the conspirators and hackers. This group worked with Russian Federation’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, also known as GRU.

On July 16th, 2018, Trump met with Putin and they discussed a number of things including Trump questioning Putin if Russia committed those acts, to which Putin denied. Trump and Putin went on to assert that they both believe their countries should work together to ensure cybersecurity for both countries and the world. Yet, due to the supposed hacking and mingling in the election process, many in US Congress have said that Trump’s offer to work with Russia and Putin is near treasonous and wrong.

However, as stated earlier, during Obama’s administration the Russians had been accused of supposedly committing cyberattacks and cyberterrorism in the US and other countries, Obama also met with Putin, and the two countries signed agreements to work with one another in cybersecurity. The contradictions and hypocrisy of Congress and those in the media is just as perplexing as the amount of cybersecurity the US and Russia already have, and yet these supposed acts of cyberattacks and hacking continue. This is not a statement in support of Trump, rather, things do not add up.

During the 2016 US Presidential Campaign, it was stated by Trump repeatedly that Hillary Clinton had rid her computers and servers of thousands of emails that included illegal activities by Clinton. If Clinton caused the problem with the servers and emails, the federal government or Congress would not want that information out because it would jeopardize the legitimacy of the government and the DNC. If Trump colluded with the Russians to gain election, it would undermine the election process, while also questioning the legitimacy of Justice within the government.

Also, if Trump advocated for the hacking of the DNC in order to gain private or secure information on Clinton, it undermines legal processes and the cybersecurity of the US. Both accounts would call into question the cyber capabilities of the US government. The best case scenario for the federal government is to point to outside countries rather than internal. If Trump says he does not believe Putin or that he does believe the tampering occurred, this puts Trump at a more trustworthy stance with the US and world than that of Putin and Russia. Equally, Trump agreeing that the Russians did perform the attacks and hacks would give his former running opponent, Hillary Clinton, a means to save face. In the end, all of this may be evidence of faux diplomacy more than actual cyber threats.

As for the ongoing spying, hacking, and watch of the US government, the Five Eyes, Russia, and others, via cybersecurity, there is not much that can be done at this point, until politicians and the civilians of these countries begin making changes. Although the US and Russia have signed cybersecurity agreements, it does not seem to be helping or it is all a ruse. Until changes have been made, it is good that whistleblowers like Snowden and others are willing to risk everything to point out the wrong being done by governments, and it behooves every individual to protect themselves in cyberspace.

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Trump’s President, Shouldn’t Snowden Be Home By Now?

By Francis Folz | United States

Does anyone remember 2013? To be fair, it was a long time ago. Barack Obama was president and Hillary Clinton was relevant. However, the former real estate mogul tweeted in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, “All I can say is that if I were President, Snowden would have already been returned to the U.S. (by [our] fastest jet) and with an apology!” I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Donald Trump’s been president for over 500 days, and nothing’s changed for Snowden. What changed for Trump?

Trump’s Snowden Flip

I don’t think anyone can say for sure, but Trump’s shift in perspective of the NSA whistleblower happened somewhere between Summer 2013 and Spring of the next year. In April of 2014, Mr. Trump tweeted disdain for Mr. Snowden saying, “[He] is a spy who has caused great damage to the U.S. A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed”. 

Talk about a 180. To date, Mr. Trump hasn’t specified how Mr. Snowden’s leaked information about the NSA has caused “great damage” to our nation. It’s also important to note that a spy has to possess an allegiance to another country. Mr. Snowden has only held an allegiance to the U.S. and the American public. This makes him a courageous champion of human rights and civil liberties, not a spy.

There is yet another level of irony in this situation. President Trump has a record of contradicting himself in many ways. While Mr. Trump was a presidential candidate, he promised to drain the swamp, condemned our nation’s failed neocon foreign policy agenda, and even expressed love for Wikileaks at one of his rallies.

However, since his election, Mr. Trump has flipped on those positions at times. For example, despite President Trump stating the Iraq War was a failure, he has embraced further conflict in the Middle East by bombing Syria and aiding Al-Qaeda forces in the area. 

In addition, he has partnered with the Saudis, despite calling them an evil empire in the past, to commit human rights violations in Yemen.

A Cabinet of Neocons

Mr. Trump has appointed deep-state neocons John Bolton, Gina Haspel, Jeff Sessions, and Mike Pompeo to various positions within his office. Pompeo has called Wikileaks a “hostile intelligence service” and has called Mr. Assange a coward. Sessions has stated that Mr. Assange’s arrest is a “priority” for the Trump administration. Both Pompeo and Sessions have expressed disdain for Snowden. It would seem like these men and their rhetoric directly contradict the president. However, since Trump’s inauguration, he no longer shows support for Wikileaks.

Considering how President Trump has altered many of his former perspectives, it should be no surprise that the President reauthorized an even more watered-down version of the FISA Amendments. Those same laws may have been used to spy on his own campaign. Prior to Trump reauthorizing the FISA Amendments, the president had tweeted displeasure with the programs Snowden revealed back in 2013, placing himself on similar ground with the NSA whistleblower before bowing to the Swamp.

Edward Snowden’s Fate

Although nobody can say for sure what Snowden’s fate will be during this administration, the Russian government has insisted Mr. Snowden’s future is self-determined. This contradicts a statement from Donald Trump on the campaign trail which he stated if he was president, the Russian government would hand over Edward Snowden. But for now, Russia’s foreign minister has stated that Mr. Snowden is the master of his fate and that it is unlikely his name will come up at the Helsinki Summit.

President Trump has made headlines for using his presidential power to pardon individuals, many of whom having committed nonviolent offenses. It is time for the president to heed his words of yesteryear, pardon Edward Snowden, and bring the human rights defender home to safety, despite the objections of the neocons in his administration.

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Arvin Vohra Will Pardon Snowden and Ulbricht of Victimless Crimes as President

By Arvin Vohra | United States

A few days ago, I announced that on the very first day of my presidency, I would take on the role of Pardoner-in-Chief. I would first pardon Edward Snowden and Ross Ulbricht, then continue to all those in prison for non-violent offenders. That includes all in jail for drug use, sales, or networking (like Ulbricht), cryptocurrency law violators, those with only gun possession charges, sex workers, clients of sex workers, and many other victimless criminals. I have also declared my intention to encourage others to use the power of the jury for similar purposes, by saying “not-guilty” to cases involving victimless crimes.

The response has been about what I expected. Many have furiously declared that such large scale pardons would violate the will of the courts, the Constitution, the will of the people, and even moral principles. On each of these areas, my detractors are wrong.

Today, ill-considered mandatory minimum and three strikes laws block the will of the courts. Judges have lost the legal ability to give comparatively reasonable sentences. Many have spoken out against the harsh sentences that the state legally forces them to hand out. In the current legal climate, government ignores the will of the court and replaces it with bizarre, draconian penal requirements.

Also, my plans for large-scale pardons are in no way unconstitutional. In fact, the Constitution directly grants the president the legal ability to pardon. Our past presidents have used this power. Perhaps they have done so on a much smaller scale. Still, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution grants this power without limitation.

In fact, I would argue that the Eighth Amendment nearly creates a constitutional requirement to pardon. This amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Today, those in prison for victimless crimes are in danger. They face the constant and all-too-common threats of assault and rape at the hands of other inmates. While this is not the legislated punishment, it has certainly become a de facto one. The existence of this environment, in my eyes, is a clear and blatant violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Do large scale pardons violate the will of the people? Absolutely not. I have made my intentions clear, over two years in advance of the election. There is no bait and switch here. If the people elect me, they will do so knowing that I will pardon those the state convicts of victimless crimes.

Ultimately, however, this is a question of conscience. I cannot, in good conscience, stand by while the state unjustly imprisons my fellow Americans. I cannot, and will not, do nothing while those who have harmed no one are locked in cages under a constant threat of sexual assault.

In the eyes of many, those people are the bottom rung of society. Perhaps they are. But, that doesn’t mean that their rights matter less, that their freedoms matter less, that they matter less.
While I am not a religious person, I draw great inspiration from the world’s religions. I do believe that whatever the state does to the least of us, it does to all of us. I have no intention of doing nothing while the state unjustly imprisons people in my name, with my money.

To those of you currently imprisoned wrongfully: I don’t seek your vote, as I know you cannot vote. I only ask you to keep fighting, to not give up hope. I know you feel that most of America has abandoned you. Believe me when I tell you that there are more of us than you can imagine, working to set you free, to let you live with dignity. We are going to keep trying. It is not over until we win, until every one of you is free.

To those who enjoy freedom, I ask you to become Pardoners-in-Chief in your own right, but using the power of the jury. As a juror, you have the ability to say “not guilty” if you believe that a law is unjust. Such a process is called “jury nullification” and is a fully legal option for all juries. Essentially, this means that the jury declares the person on trial guilty, but the law unjust. Thus, there is no sentence. That idea isn’t new. It’s the reason we have freedom of the press in America. The famous Zenger trial was decided based on judging the law itself: the defense admitted that John Peter Zenger broke the law, but the law itself was wrong.

As St. Augustine said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” I stand by my pledge to pardon those convicted of victimless crimes on my first day, and ask you to apply the same principle through jury nullification.

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