Writings

Papers & Essays

Buying and Selling Privacy: Big Data’s Different Burdens and Benefits

2013 \  Big Data will not invade the privacy of all people in the same way. Instead, elaborate data collection and analysis will present very different challenges to individual privacy depending upon whether one is rich or poor, or somewhere in between. Organizations and regulators in particular should be cognizant of the different burdens individuals will face protecting their personal information depending upon their socioeconomic position in society.

The Importance of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

2013 \  The second most important court in the country after the Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is responsible for resolving critically important cases involving the separation of powers, the role of government, the rights of federal officials, and the decisions of a vast array of administrative agencies. Two-thirds of the cases before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals involve the federal government, and a third are appeals from administrative agencies—far larger percentages compared to its sister circuits. The four vacancies on the court inhibits the healthy functioning of both the Court itself and the federal government, and present an opportunity to alter the court’s ideological tilt in the future.

Domestic Drones and the Diminishing Expectation of Privacy

2013 \

National Security Reporting and the Plight of the Lapdog Press

2011 \  In 2011, after a string of information releases by WikiLeaks, this paper explored how American mainstream media had become institutionally ill-equipped to serve as a watchdog over government action in the national security and foreign affairs space.  It discusses the history of the First Amendment’s Press Clause and the rise of government secrecy and our professional press, and argues that current practices by government and the media have had the unintended consequence of making media susceptible to having coverage of foreign affairs and national security issues in general manipulated by outside actors, especially the government. Some combination of citizen-led new media could be the solution, or perhaps an effort to further professionalize the blogosphere.

The loi Defferre: Decentralizing France Without Democratizing It

2009 \  In the 1970s, the one indivisible French republic attempted to “federalize” itself, distributing power down from the central government in Paris to the departments, regions, and communes. The idea was to be bring back a democratic spirit to the nation, increase civic participation, and enhance the legitimacy of the state. In the end, the first round of reforms just moved the technical levers of power around without increasing access to the state by the average Frenchman. Most French didn’t even feel a difference. Of course, France continued to decentralize after a period of retrenchment, but that’s another paper…

America Between Friends: The Reagan Administration’s Mishandling of the Falklands War

2006 \  My final university paper was one of my favorites to write. For a tragic war, the Falklands War is an astounding interesting topic: the conflict itself was absurd, and the American reaction pure comedy. The Reagan Administration was uncoordinating, working at cross purposes, and probably made the United States the biggest loser in a war it really had no need in which to participate. The Administration managed to mishandle each and every segment of the conflict, and American political ineptitude is always a fun thing to learn about when one is on his way out of school.

Sorel’s Socialism

2005 \  Georges Sorel’s philosophical writings, blending the line between turn-of-the-century Marxism with nascent fascism, reflects how the two ideologies are really something of two sides to the same coin. Sorel began as a socialist, eventually was adopted by the Italian fascists as a something of a founding father, and was ambivalent to both political ideas at his death in 1922.

ACS Blog Posts

Intelligence Dragnet Targets All Americans

12.14.12  \  Nearly thirty years ago, the Supreme Court in United States v. Knotts cautioned that any “dragnet type law enforcement practices” might necessitate careful scrutiny under the Fourth Amendment.  Fortunately for the NCTC, the collection of all manner of personal information to protect against terrorism is construed not as law enforcement activity but as intelligence gathering. Thus, no one can effectively argue that data mining is against the law. …

A Decade of Homeland Security

11.28.12  \  Ten years ago this week, President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which established the Department of Homeland Security. Its formation involved the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. Throwing together 22 different agencies with the goal of analyzing threats, guarding our borders and infrastructures, and coordinating emergency response would take, in the words of President Bush, “time, and focus, and steady resolve. Adjustments will be needed along the way.” …

Calls for Secession Are Bad Law, and Bad Policy

11.20.12  \  Secession can be portrayed as a simple, logical solution to frustration with the federal government, but untangling the complex relationship between a state and the federal government would not be easy. For a conservative state like Texas, the end result would be more government, not less. Even with the world’s fifteenth largest economy, sovereign Texas would be bled dry as it established new government departments to handle foreign affairs, aviation, and nuclear regulation. …

Electoral College Is Not About Everybody’s Vote

10.22.12  \  The importance placed on the Electoral College limits the scope of presidential campaigns. In any given presidential election, in fact, two-thirds of the states will not be contested by one campaign or the other. Worse, the number of Americans whose vote actually matters is shrinking. In 1960, there were 24 battleground states. By 2004, just thirteen. This fall, only nine states are actually being contested by the two presidential campaigns. …

Domestic Drones Invade Common Understanding of Privacy

10.15.12  \  If the Fourth Amendment insists that society’s reasonable expectation of privacy requires individuals to take precautions from being observed from miles away, in the dark, or forfeit any right to be free from government surveillance, it seems impossible to declare, as the Supreme Court once did, that the Fourth Amendment still must be “construed liberally to safeguard the right of privacy.” The takeoff of drones in American skies provides an opportunity to take up Justice Sotomayor’s offer to reconsider what the Fourth Amendment still means. …

Congressional Dysfunction Forces President’s Hand on Cybersecurity

09.10.12  \  What should make this alarming is that while presidents have often run roughshod over American foreign policy, particularly in the national security space, cybersecurity issues bring 21st Century warfare home. Cyberwarfare could involve anything from the minor inconvenience of a popular website being shut down to doomsday scenarios where entire cities go dark and the financial sector gets plundered. These sorts of serious domestic considerations should be addressed by Congress, and one way or another will be eventually. …

Media Behavior Erodes Public Confidence, Undermines Press Clause Purpose

07.26.12  \  The historical and legal significance of the Press Clause is muddled. While the high court has endorsed the structural importance of a free press, it has rarely recognized any explicit right or protection arising out of the Press Clause. Part of the problem is that while we conceive of the First Amendment as protecting the news media from government, it cannot protect the news media from itself. The Supreme Court’s hesitation in protecting the press has always been due to the inherent difficulty in defining the “press,” a problem compacted by the explosion of news sources created by social media and the Internet. …

Preserving Freedom with Medicaid Expansion

07.13.12  \  If rhetoric alone is anything to go by, any eventual alternative will use “freedom” as a justification for lawmakers simply to do nothing. Previously the governor’s spokeswoman has explained that Texans are passionately individualistic and value their freedoms and responsibilities. “Individual responsibility is about making healthy choices and taking ownership of your lifestyle – not just about buying health insurance,” she reiterated. This mindset makes it too easy to merely blame the poor for their impoverished lifestyles. Inside Texas emergency rooms, however, 70 percent of the people seeking health care are employed. …

‘Ag-Gag’ Laws Chill Speech, Threaten Food Supply

04.17.12  \  The chilling effect jail time may have on employees who see animals mistreated, meat mishandled, and our food supply threatened is obvious. While Sweeney may claim Iowa’s ag-gag does not stop anyone from reporting abuse, the law’s language prohibiting acts “not authorized” by the industrial farm does little to encourage transparency at these farms. The implied threat of legal action will only discourage employees who see problems from standing up to increasingly powerful agriculture business interests. Protecting farmers from being told lies by their employees may be important ethical concern, but so too is protecting people from conditions that breed E.coli, salmonella, and unhealthy food. …

Examining the Alleged Savings and Benefits of Private Prisons

03.09.12  \  Even if it can be proven that private prisons save money, the larger concern is whether these savings truly come from productivity innovations only the private sector can provide or from cutting corners on safety, security, and rehabilitation. Adequately overseeing the inner-workings of our prisons is often a challenge, but the issue becomes especially salient with respect to private prisons. …

Exploring States’ Unsubstantiated Challenge to Health Care Law’s Expansion of Medicaid

02.14.12  \  Expanding Medicaid is an essential component of ACA’s effort to provide health care to the currently uninsured. As a joint federal-and-state program, Medicaid works by providing federal funds to states in exchange for the state’s taking responsibility of health services for the “deserving poor.” ACA eliminates the categorization of the poor and instead, requires state Medicaid programs to cover anyone whose income is at or below 133 percentage of the federal poverty level – or anyone making less than $14,857 per year. The twenty-six states opposed to ACA argue that this expansion is a coercive, revolutionary change in Medicaid, transforming it from a cooperate enterprise into a mandatory federal program merely run by the states. …

Police Reaction to Occupy Demonstrations Spark Scrutiny of Tactics, Training

02.01.12  \  What makes the lack of public participation in police decision-making so worrisome is that it threatens to erode the decades of positive progress police departments have made since the 1970s in their relationships with the community. Combined with what some call obvious militarization of our police, this dynamic raises serious questions about how best cities will “keep the peace” in the future. …

Examining the Costs of Solitary Confinement

01.27.12  \  Another benefit of shrinking our prison population is that it could also diminish our reliance on solitary confinement, which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has called “a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation” that “can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Corrections experts increasingly make the case that the use of solitary confinement is costly, and not effective. …