International Megan’s Law faces challenge

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David Kennerly today updates the theme of his June 2014 guest blog Techno-tethering globalises oppression. The news is not good. International Megan’s Law, a nightmare piece of legislation, was signed last month by U.S. president Barack Obama. But, as David reports, a grassroots fightback is already  underway, and a legal challenge has been launched that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

 

A battle is lost but resistance is mobilized

We lost the battle, brewing for some eight years in Congress, which will effectively stop those of us, U.S. “registered sex offenders”, from venturing outside our own countries. The enactment of International Megan’s Law is not the end of the war, however, as we are fighting back against this injustice in the courts and, to the extent that we wield any influence, in the media.

The bill was signed into law by President Obama February 8th of this year and will stoke the fire under the simmering cauldron which “child sex offenders” inhabit and further diminish our already depleted portfolio of rights.

To capsulize the highlights of the law (and which I see as the nadir of a once free society):

  • It will criminalize the act of traveling outside the U.S. without prior notice and permission from the government. Ten year terms in federal prison await those of us who fail to do so.
  • It will obligate the Department of Homeland Security to notify foreign governments of the anticipated travel of U.S. “child sex offenders” and encourage those governments to do what they will with that information, whether that be to slam the door in our faces or something even worse.
  • It will obligate the Department of State to revoke the passports of U.S. “sex offenders” and require them to reapply for new ones with a designation affixed to each indicating that its bearer is a “sex offender”. [Note: this provision is not limited to “child sex offenders” but includes all “sex offenders”]

There are a number of other details, none of which ameliorate the law to our advantage, which provide a structure for carrying out this mission or which specify the information which the “sex offender” must provide before travel, such as detailed itineraries, purpose for travel, places one intends to stay, etc.

So much for spontaneity in travel! Of course, that assumes that there are countries which will let us in the door in the first place.

Here’s the funny thing: perhaps the most important aspect of this law, notification of foreign governments of the intended travel by U.S. “sex offenders”, has already been the practice of the U.S. Government for some three years. The U.S. has been issuing these foreign notifications, in the absence of any clear authority to do so, and Registrant travelers have already been turned away in droves by many countries, some of which have, coincidentally, explicitly (and very recently) announced laws forbidding “sex offenders” from entering their countries.

So, the peculiar thing about this new law is that we already have a very good sense of how it will play out and the results, so far, aren’t pretty, with many Registrants facing humiliating refusals at foreign ports of entry and being made to get on the first returning flights to the U.S.

Exceptions to those countries routinely turning away all Registrants, however, appear to be some Western European countries such as The Netherlands and France (but not the U.K., of course). Many other countries, particularly Asian and Latin American countries, as well as Russia, have joined with the U.K. in refusing entry to U.S. “sex offenders”.

The eerily-named governmental consortium called “The Five Eyes”, which consists of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had already been turning away each others’ “sex offenders” for many years now, a fact which provides some strong clues as to the origin of this more recent global expansion of the policy of internal exile for “sex offenders”.

The critical component which is facilitating this world-wide travel ban is the international police agency, INTERPOL, which has openly lobbied for such bans. This is an agency which deserves far more scrutiny than it once did when it was mostly a sleepy backwater in danger of complete irrelevance. It has been completely made-over by the most powerful governments who comprise its membership and the new Interpol is very muscular and frightening, indeed. If ever there were an entity deserving of a full-on paranoid conspiracy theory, Interpol would be it.

The only way that we know anything about the fallout from our government’s extant policy of notifying foreign governments of U.S. Registrants’ travel (which predates the recent law, not yet in effect) is from the message boards at California RSOL where a number of us started discussing this looming issue some three or four years ago.

The only way we knew which countries were barring us was by simply attempting to travel to those countries and then reporting back to the CARSOL discussion forum. The U.S. government neither informed us ahead of time that it had begun notifying foreign governments of our “sex offender” status nor did it provide any reports of which countries had been refusing us entry.

We are preparing a country-by-country matrix based upon those attempted travel experiences which will be available shortly. Nevertheless, the information in that report will exist only because individual Registrants reported their experiences to the CARSOL message board and that information will almost certainly not be complete.

If this is sounding a bit like a grassroots effort to fight back against an ugly, unfolding (and uncommunicative) juggernaut aimed precisely at us, then you are right.

From what I can tell, our group, alone, has been gathering the appalling details of this secretive regimen and exposing it to the light of day although we now have the satisfaction in knowing that they are beginning to be known more widely, thanks to a handful of media reports.

I am encouraged by the individuals or publications which have begun to respond critically to IML such as Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids), David Post (of the Volokh Conspiracy, now part of the Washington Post), Reason, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, Counterpunch, and the Washington Times. No, they’re not overwhelming in their number, but striking in their willingness to break both the complicitous silence and the flip-side hysteria which has gripped the press for so long when the subject is “sex offenders”.

This development, i.e. the enactment of International Megan’s Law, perhaps more than any previous outrage against Registrants, appears to have helped many to find their voices and to raise them in protest against the continued degradation of “sex offenders”, including those who are not themselves Registrants.

So, while IML has not quite merited a full “news cycle”, it has aroused something which I find intriguing, even promising: the emergence of individuals and groups willing to speak out against the shrieking unreason which has dominated the “sex offender” public discourse for decades.

We are not taking this terrible law laying down, either. We are challenging International Megan’s Law in the U.S. Federal District Court of San Francisco having fired our responding salvo immediately after the cowardly, former constitutional law scholar, President Obama, signed the bill into law early last month.

The California Reform of Sex Offender Laws and its Director, attorney Janice Bellucci, representing four unnamed plaintiffs, filed the civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of IML on a variety of grounds, including as an abridgment of First and Fifth Amendment rights and the clause against ex post facto laws. Those plaintiffs represent something of an overview of “sex offenders” whose circumstances raise different or distinct constitutional issues, such as the right to travel in employment or the right to live with or visit family members.

Since the appalling, and completely un-protested, Protect Act of 2003, which made it a U.S. crime for an American citizen to travel overseas and to have “illicit sex” with someone under the U.S. age-of-consent of eighteen and which also forbids Registrants from sponsoring foreign-born spouses for U.S. citizenship, there have been a number of American Registrants living overseas in their spouse’s country, their spouses having been kicked-out of America by that law.

Now, with IML, those Registrants find that they are being deported by their spouse’s country back to the U.S. and are prevented from living with, or even seeing, their own spouses and children, who cannot join him in the U.S. due to the Protect Act.

One of the plaintiffs in the challenge to IML is from that category of persons caught in the double-bind of two terrible laws. Another has lost his livelihood after being permanently barred from business travel.

A temporary injunction, barring the U.S. from further notification of foreign governments of the status of U.S. Registrants as well as halting the issuance of “sex offender” passports, has also been filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco but has not yet been granted.

We now await word from the court granting us that injunction and for our lawsuit challenging IML to wend its way through the courts, a journey which we suspect will take us to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Techno-tethering globalises oppression

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David Kennerly, who debuted last year for Heretic TOC  writing about his childhood in the American Midwest, now makes a welcome return. This time his theme journeys to far horizons – places that may soon be closed to us for actual travel if restrictions envisaged by governments worldwide have their way. Yes, it’s a very alarming thought and one that has accordingly prompted David to document in considerable detail what the securocrats and fear-peddling politicians are up to and why we need to wake up to it. In his guest blog today he outlines two essays specially written for Heretic TOC but which he intends also to use as a basis for lobbying more widely. Links are given to these articles.

 

The thin wedge to immobilize citizens

An introduction to two essays exploring the unfolding war on freedom of movement

Over the last several months, I have been researching a series of legal assertions now being advanced by governments worldwide. While being enacted piecemeal in individual countries, they can only be fully understood in aggregate and in the recognition that these governments are clearly working jointly towards achieving their aspirations for tracking people’s movements and restricting our freedom of travel.

Developments in this area are very dynamic and so my findings are a work in progress. Nevertheless, enough is now known to perceive a clear and ominous trajectory in governmental ambitions to regulate the movement of all people, both within and between countries.

It is nothing new that government has always had such ambitions. What is new, and fundamentally different from any other moment in the past, is the unprecedented ability of the state to realize its dreams by means of an immensely powerful digital infrastructure. Its far-reaching ambitions for total control now lie fully within its grasp. The limits of technology that once held its desire for omniscience in check have been effectively removed, granting it an extraordinary level of power over the lives of its citizens.

So far, my writing in this area consists of two pieces:

1) A report on “The International Megan’s Law”, both as a bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives (to be considered now in the Senate) and as a global concept which extends to all other nations through both international agreements and international bodies, such as Interpol (a previously backwater agency revived through the opportunities afforded by Islamic terrorism), who coordinate and implement its sweeping and dangerous policies. The openly hoped-for result of the U.S. bill is to prevent American child sex offenders from ever leaving the U.S. But it is also clear that this goal is being at least partially attained with, or without, the help of Megan. The title is: “DEAD END: The International Megan’s Law Assault on Everyone’s Freedom of Travel– The free movement of the individual is increasingly seen as a revocable privilege – not an inalienable right”.

2) A report on the current treatment of American sex offenders who return from travel abroad (from any country) by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. Those who have traveled over many years likely noticed some dramatic changes in the way they were welcomed back home by that agency soon after September 11, 2001. That treatment has only escalated in severity since then: it is ever more intrusive, more threatening and more violative. So much so that many have decided travel is simply no longer worth the degradation they will experience upon their return. And that is, after all, the point of such harassment, isn’t it? The title is: “HOMELAND SECURITY’S ASSAULT ON TRAVEL: How America’s sex laws endanger your, your children’s and everyone’s freedom of movement as travelers are routinely detained, interrogated, searched and harassed by the Department of Homeland Security”.

I identify this trend, that of limiting the movement of people through the imposition of regimes of extreme pretextual scrutiny, as one which is running counter to another trend now emerging as a reaction: the demand to restore freedom of movement as an essential principle of freedom itself.

This counter-trend is up against powerful adversaries, as governments have always been in their dealings with a citizenry grown complacent and unsuspicious of their motives.

But, of course, there are also those who believe the government message that there are real perils requiring the movement of people between countries to be as constrained as technology allows. They fail to appreciate that the historical porosity of borders has been a bulwark against the denial of the rights of the individual and has helped to propagate free societies; they also fail to appreciate the near-limitless effects that present and future technology will have upon their autonomy and upon their future array of choices. Systems now being devised will forever limit their opportunities and constrain their interactions with others but in ways which they cannot foresee.

It would be a terrible shame to see our civilization succumb to tyranny through the incuriosity and untroubled indifference that is so characteristic of so many of its members.

Men used to go to war and die for the rights that so many now eagerly volunteer to relinquish, identifying them as, somehow, quaintly anachronistic and no longer affordable or even terribly worthwhile.

Those of us who know these rights are not just worthwhile but vital have an obligation to say so, to bear witness to the unfolding destruction of our liberties and to do all in our power to stop a dangerous movement fundamentally inimical to freedom.

Tom has graciously (and patiently, I might add) invited me to share my findings and observations on his wonderful site and, for that as well as his critical and discerning eye and valuable suggestions, I am grateful.

When I first became aware of his work through a fortuitous discovery of Paedophilia: The Radical Case more than thirty years ago (can it be?) I was immediately impressed.

Neither of us knew, or could have known, the depths to which society might submerge itself in the decades to follow. While our optimism for society’s near-term future may have since undergone a dramatic reassessment, we both (it would appear) continue to assert what we believe to be true, a fact which must – by itself – betray some indication of hope.

I also hope you will read both of my current works on freedom of movement. They are, I believe, essential reading in order to understand some of the implications of the authoritarian shift that has taken hold in society and which threatens to repay us – for our complacency – by doing its very worst.

 

TOC adds:

As regular readers will recall, I travelled to Brazil in February and was allowed entry without challenge despite being on the UK register of sex offenders. However, on the eve of the World Cup Brazil announced the start of a crackdown. A reader has alerted me to a news item in the press there from earlier this month saying that an American “convicted for pedophilia” has been deported after trying to enter the country.

The same reader also spotted a news story from 17 February. This reported that 51 “paedophiles” had been denied entry to Mexico. The text says these refusals had been “since last year” (“desde el año pasado”) but I guess what is meant is over the course of the previous year rather than just the first six or seven weeks of this one. Could be wrong, though.

 

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