DUI Book: On sale this week

Warren’s new book is on sale this week.

Fair DUI: Stay safe and sane in a world gone MADD includes practical strategies to avoid drinking and driving, advice on how to handle police encounters, and policy suggestions to protect the innocent and make our roads safer.

Get the details at FairDUI.org.

DUI Book July 4th Sale

Snowden Charges Should Be Dismissed: Legal Analysis

edward-snowden 320Charges have been filed against Edward Snowden in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Snowden is the world’s most famous fugitive of the moment. The most comprehensive reporting on his story can be found at The Guardian, thanks primarily to Glenn Greenwald.

At the outset, it’s difficult to fully analyze the charges because the affidavit referred to in the Complaint remains sealed. The details of what Snowden did have been highly publicized, but it is of course possible that there is more to the story. Going on what we do know, dismissal is appropriate.

Here is the charging section of the complaint:

The first section Snowden is accused of violating is Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 641 (18 USC 641). This is the language that describes what’s prohibited:

Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof …

This is the federal “embezzlement” statute. Reading from the Justice Department’s own website, it is clear that this statute does not apply to Snowden because a key element of the offense requires that the alleged thief “acted with the intent to deprive the owner of the use of this property.”

There is no indication that Snowden has prevented the federal government from using any “record, voucher, money or thing of value” he may have taken. Indeed, there’s no suggestion that he took any money or vouchers, so those are out. He may have taken records, such as the sealed FISA court order, but obviously the government still has access to that document. It’s also unclear what value if any would be placed on anything Snowden took. If the value is less than $1000, the maximum sentence is one year and people facing charges like that routinely get no jail time.

Considering the magnitude of the charge (larger offenses carry a maximum sentence of ten years), if the value was greater than $1000, that should have been included in the complaint itself. As such, it is a small enough offense that it would not normally justify extradition.

Before getting into the next statute, it should be noted that the same statute purports to criminalize the journalist:

Whoever receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted

The second statute Snowden allegedly violated is 18 USC 793(d):

(d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document … relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates … the same to any person not entitled to receive it ….

Breaking this down, it is clear that Snowden had access to certain documents, and that he willfully communicated them to journalist Glenn Greenwald. However, it is far from clear that these documents related to the national defense, nor that Snowden believed they could be used to the injury of the United States.

The key issue here is that there is no definition of the term “national defense.” I did some searching this morning and was unable to find such a definition in the US Code. The term is used so broadly in general that its meaning is vague. When a law’s meaning is unclear, it can be found void for vagueness.
What Snowden did is show the American people that our government is spying on us. It’s too much of a stretch to put this within the meaning of national defense.

The third statute is 18 USC 798(a)(3):

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates … to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information

(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government;

Also in the statute we have a clear definition:
The term ‚Äúcommunication intelligence‚ÄĚ means all procedures and methods used in the interception of communications and the obtaining of information from such communications by other than the intended recipients;

So here we see that Snowden did communicate, knowingly and willfully, classified information concerning our government’s communication intelligence activities to a journalist (who presumably was not authorized).

The problem is that what Snowden disclosed was not prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States. Rather, the government’s activities are the real threat to our country.

Media reports inaccurately indicate that Snowden was charged with espionage. What’s almost funny, though certainly not to Snowden, is that Snowden is not accused of spying at all. Rather this third charge shows that he is accused of exposing that our government is spying on us.

And one last thing – at bottom the document states: “Venue is proper pursuant to 18 USC 3238.” That is false. Venue in Virginia is actually improper.

Here’s what Section 3238 says:

The trial of all offenses begun or committed … out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district, shall be in the district in which the offender, or any one of two or more joint offenders, is arrested or is first brought; but if such offender or offenders are not so arrested or brought into any district, an indictment or information may be filed in the district of the last known residence of the offender or of any one of two or more joint offenders, or if no such residence is known the indictment or information may be filed in the District of Columbia.

From media reports Snowden’s last known residence was Hawaii, not Virginia. If the government is claiming his last known residence can’t be determined, then venue would still be improper in Virginia and should be in the District of Columbia. If they are claiming that his offense(s) occurred in Virginia, then Section 3238 is the wrong statute for venue.

Warren’s New Book: Fair DUI

Warren’s new book is now available on Amazon.com for Kindle devices.

Fair DUI: Stay safe and sane in a world gone MADD

While we’re happy if you buy it now, you may want to wait a few days. We intend to promote it starting June 30th with a lower price for a few days. The paperback should also be available soon, and it will also be listed at a promotional price for the same period.

Keep track of the book on the Fair DUI website.

Hyperinflation: Dollar Devaluation Measured By Big Mac Index

The Economist’s Big Mac Index is widely respected as a measure of currency valuation. Typically it is used to compare across countries. But it can also be used across time. Here, we take a look at how a 2012 dollar compares with a 1986 dollar.

In 1986 you could buy a Big Mac with $1.60. Today it takes $4.20. The 2012 dollar has the same buying power as 38 cents from 1986. That works out to a roughly 5% average inflation rate over the past 26 years. And inflation does appear to be accelerating.

Read more about the Big Mac Index on Wikipedia and the recent blog post by Peter Schiff about Big Macs and inflation.