Monthly Archives: November 2010

On the WikiLeaks Mess

This WikiLeaks business is bringing out the stupid on all sides.

Start with all the folks who have been applying the Secret classification to all these diplomatic messages. From what I’m reading, most of latest batch of documents is utterly routine and pretty boring. The U.S. government produces classified documents at an insane rate, and with a few exceptions–ongoing military operations, intelligence sources and methods, the nuclear deterrent–they’re all dull and unimportant. That’s not to say there won’t be a few bombshells when all the documents come out, but rather that the vast majority of these Secret documents don’t really contain any secrets.

Then, of course, there’s the anonymous asshole who was trusted with access to all this stuff and decided to leak it. Leaking this stuff might have been justified if it contained the shocking truth behind the Kennedy assassination, or proof that 9/11 really was an inside job, or the alien autopsy video, but most of this stuff is routine diplomatic traffic.

Look, whoever you are, you took an oath to keep this stuff secret. People trusted you. Then you broke your oath and leaked it anyway. That ain’t cool.

Although, if the Guardian is to be believed, the leak was inevitable, thanks to whoever instituted this policy:

The cables themselves come via the huge Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. SIPRNet is the worldwide US military internet system, kept separate from the ordinary civilian internet and run by the Department of Defense in Washington. Since the attacks of September 2001, there has been a move in the US to link up archives of government information, in the hope that key intelligence no longer gets trapped in information silos or “stovepipes”. An increasing number of US embassies have become linked to SIPRNet over the past decade, so that military and diplomatic information can be shared…

An embassy dispatch marked SIPDIS is automatically downloaded on to its embassy classified website. From there, it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a security clearance up to the ‘Secret’ level, a password, and a computer connected to SIPRNet – which astonishingly covers over 3m people.

Sharing information is probably a good idea, but with three million people approved for access, there was effectively almost no security. State Department personnel might as well have been posting these dispatches on their Facebook pages.

Then there’s WikiLeaks itself. Their About page professes all kinds of high-sounding motives, promising to reveal truths that evil people want hidden. It includes a list of stories they’ve broken, some of which sound pretty interesting:

  • How German intelligence infiltrated Focus magazine – Illegal spying on German journalists.
  • ACTA trade agreement negotiation lacks transparency – The secret ACTA trade agreement draft, followed by dozens of other publications, presenting the initial leak for the whole ACTA debate happening today.
  • Secret gag on UK Times preventing publication of Minton report into toxic waste dumping, 16 Sep 2009 – Publication of variations of a so-called super-injunction, one of many gag-orders published by WikiLeaks to expose successful attempts to suppress the free press via repressive legal attacks.
  • Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009 – Over 60MB of emails, documents, code and models from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, written between 1996 and 2009 that lead to a worldwide debate.
  • Stasi still in charge of Stasi files – Suppressed 2007 investigation into infiltration of former Stasi into the Stasi files commission.
  • Eutelsat suppresses independent Chinese-language TV station NTDTV to satisfy Beijing – French sat provider Eutelsat covertly removed an anti-communist TV channel to satisfy Beijing.
  • Report on Shriners raises question of wrongdoing – corruption exposed at 22 U.S. and Canadian children’s hospitals.

The problem is that none of this stuff is currently available on WikiLeaks. The references on the About page are not links, and when you go to the WikiLeaks home page, all you get are the big dumps of U.S. war documents–not even the current document release, which is actually at a subdomain with the hackneyed name Cablegate.

And don’t say it’s my fault if I’ve missed some obscure entry point to the WikiLeaks site. Web designers have known to put important navigation links on the home page for 15 years, you’d think WikiLeaks could figure it out. For that matter, WikiLeaks is not, in any sense, a wiki, and at the moment, it’s not accepting leaks either:

At the moment WikiLeaks is not accepting new submissions due to re-engineering improvements the site to make it both more secure and more user-friendly. Since we are not currently accepting submissions during the re-engineering, we have also temporarily closed our online chat support for how to make a submission. We anticipate reopening the electronic drop box and live chat support in the near future.

Instead of a functioning as a wide-ranging forum for revealing things that governments wish to keep secret, WikiLeaks appears to have adopted a tiresome anti-U.S. agenda. If WikiLeaks really operated in the spirit of a wiki, it would by publishing a lot of different stuff from a lot of different sources in a lot of different countries.

Meanwhile, the reactions from the other side aren’t very encouraging either. For example, right after WikiLeaks‘ previous document dump, people inside the government expressed their wish that WikiLeaks would have cooperated with them to avoid disclosing the most damaging information. Somebody at WikiLeaks apparently offered to do that this time, and the U.S. government turned them down. That might actually make some sense, because there is probably little to gain by telling the folks at WikiLeaks which information you really, really, really don’t want to get out.

Then there’s New York Congressman Peter King:

“This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack,” King said.

King has written letters to both U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for swift action to be taken against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

And don’t forget columnist Jonah Goldberg, who may or may not have advocated assassinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he wrote:

So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It’s a serious question.

(Of course, since Julian Assange has the name, appearance, and mannerisms of a Euro-trash Bond villain–even if he is Austrailian–I kind of understand the urge.)

I don’t know if anyone at WikiLeaks did anything to directly instigate the breach of security that got them all these documents, but if they didn’t, then I don’t see how this differs from the situation in New York Times Co. v. United States which allowed the Times to publish the Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. As I understand it, once a news organization comes into possession of some information–documents, photographs, video, a story–it has a broad First Amendment right to publish that information (except maybe when publication would cause imminent danger, as in revealing troop movements or attack plans). This always made sense to me. Keeping national security information secret is the job of the government, not the New York Times.

Congresscritters who want to do something about this leak should be trying to find out how it happened and how to stop it from happening again, not wasting time going after WikiLeaks for making it public. After all, the real national security problem is not that WikiLeaks published the documents, but that a breach in security allowed them to obtain the documents in the first place.

When Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, he didn’t just give them to the New York Times, and if the Times hadn’t used them, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t have given them to other newspapers and organizations. So when it comes to the WikiLeaks documents, why do we believe that the leaker gave this stuff only to WikiLeaks? For all we know, he sent copies to China, Iran, and North Korea. Although, if the Guardian is correct in its description of how this information was mishandled, then foreign intelligence agencies have probably been reading this stuff for years.

Scattershot 2010-11-27

Random shots around the web:

(Hat tip: Radley Balko)

Infobleg – Suing Government Contractors?

I need to beg my legal readers for some information. I’ve been arguing with some guy in another blog’s comments that if the airport passenger checkpoints were operated by private security firms instead of a government agency, we’d have a better chance of suing the screeners when they do something wrong.

My argument is based on the fact that the TSA’s employees benefit from the government’s sovereign immunity. As I understand it, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows us to sue the government or its employees, but with some very strict limitations that don’t apply to private parties. Basically, the government and its employees are immune from a lot of lawsuits.

My opponent refuses to believe that government employees have “magic blanket immunity.” I think he may be a moron (or more likely, a troll) but having read up a little on the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program, I’m starting to think he might have a point of sorts. It seems there’s something called the “government contractor defense” which apparently extends some immunities to those doing government work on contract instead of as employees. Also, there’s the SAFETY Act which affects libility for qualified anti-terrorism technology.

This is all way, way, way, way over my head. Does anybody out there (a) know how this stuff really works and (b) feel like answering a legal question for free?

Waiting For the TSA to Metastasize

The Transportation Security Agency’s latest plans to abuse passengers have attracted a lot of attention. People aren’t pleased at having to choose between body-imaging that shows all their naughty bits or a pat-down that that feels an awful lot like a sexual assault. Maybe this time the outrage will lead to action, and someone will put a stop to this insulting behavior.

Or maybe not. The social panic after 9/11 still hasn’t died down, and the security theater at the TSA keeps getting more painful. Remember those innocent days when confiscating nail clippers seemed like the dumbest thing the TSA could possibly do? They’ve gone way beyond that on the stupidity front, from making travelers take off their shoes to prohibiting shampoo bottles larger than 3 ounces. Then, just the other day, the TSA agents told a guy that not only couldn’t he get on the airplane without either the nudie pictures or the groping, he wasn’t even allowed to change his mind and leave the airport.

The TSA is like a cancer on our freedom. We’ve been ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, but it just keeps getting bigger. And it’s time to do something about it, because I think the next step for the TSA is metastasis, when the cancer spreads everywhere. The first symptom will be when some government agency imposes checkpoints and intrusive searches someplace other than an airport and justitifies with reference to the TSA, saying something like, “The TSA has been doing this at airports for years. How can we not protect our children as well as we protect airline passengers?”

If you’ve been paying attention to civil liberties, that’s a familiar refrain. Once we let the security state poke its appendages into one area of our life, they just start pushing everywhere else. Some years ago, in the name of the War On Drugs, we started letting narcotics officers perform surprise armed raids against suspected sites where illegal drugs were being stored and distributed. Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is using SWAT teams to raid manufacturers of children’s chemistry sets.

The TSA’s metastasis may already be underway. Last April, the TSA started helping New York City subway cops search passengers. Of course, no terrorist is going to be able to take control of a subway car and crash it into a skyscraper, so the rationale for this invasion of travelers’ privacy is non-existent. (Actually, with the new armored cockpits–not to mention an entire plane full of aware passengers–nobody is going to do that to passenger jets either, but that’s another story.)

Actually, the TSA may not be the source of this particular cancer. Poor people and minorities living in the inner city have been putting up with TSA-style searches by police for years. The legal justification is rather strained, but cops can essentially stop people for reasonable suspicion–a very weak standard–and frisk them for weapons, and it’s not like they’re going to be courteous about it.

The TSA is just the vector by which it’s going to spread to the population at large–folks who are wealthier and/or whiter. Although the TSA searches only apply to air travelers, they are in some ways far more virulent, because police searches on the street require at least the pretext of specific suspicion that something will be found, whereas the TSA’s broad search powers allow them to search everyone, with no need to justify their actions.

Hmm. Somewhere along the way, my metaphor has shifted from metastasizing cancer to infectious plague. Sorry about that. Either way, the TSA is a disease, and we need a cure.

Crushing Immigrants’ Dreams

I’ve been following Jack Marshall’s Ethics Alarms blog for a few months now. He does a good job of discussing ethical issues in the news, but he also has some rather distasteful attitudes about immigration.

In the past, I’ve been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because his ethical opinion, however wrong-headed I believed it to be, conformed more or less to U.S. law. Marshall can’t really advise his business clients to break the law, so it made sense that he would take the law as a given, and try to build his ethical framework around it.

Yesterday, however, Marshall proved me wrong about taking the law as given, by discussing the ethics of a bill before Congress:

In the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, Democrats are going to push for passage of the Dream Act, the poison pill Sen. Harry Reid cynically attached to legislation that would have resulted in ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” right before the November elections. The G.O.P. blocked the provision, which was really just Harry’s (successful) effort to stave off defeat in his re-election bid by pandering to the Hispanic vote. The fact that he ensured the perpetuation of DADT with his gambit was, as they say, collateral damage.

The Dream Act, however, should have been defeated, and it should be defeated again. Its most recent Senate version was called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act. In the House, it was called the American Dream Act. The versions provided essentially the same path to citizenship for, as the bills euphemistically put it, “certain long-term residents who entered the United States as children.”

The Dream Act would give illegal residents a path to citizenship if their illegal entry into the country occurred when they were children, providing they have lived here at least five years, and providing they either go to college or serve in the military, as long as they stay out of trouble and off public assistance. Basically, it would show a bit of compassion to people whose violation of immigration laws was involuntary, and who would otherwise be deported to a country they may not even remember.

Amazingly, Jack Marshall thinks that’s being too nice:

What’s wrong with this plan? Simple: it rewards law-breaking illegal immigrants by providing a tangible benefit to their offspring. It also encourages deception by the parents, who benefit by doing everything in their power to keep their children in the country for five years.

Illegal immigrants–and that’s what the children of illegal immigrants are–should not be going to public schools. They should not be going to college.  They should not be in the country so as to have an opportunity to join the military.

There’s a great ethical principle for you: Punish the children for their parents’ bad acts as a way of discouraging the parents from committing bad acts.

Perhaps we could do this for other crimes? After all, aren’t the children of thieves and robbers benefitting from the proceeds of their parents’ crimes? Maybe they should be prohibited from attending public schools or receiving welfare benefits. And maybe children should not be eligible for child support payments from a non-custodial parent if the custodial parent was at fault in the divorce, because we wouldn’t want to reward spouses who dishonor their marriage.

Or maybe this just isn’t a very good ethical principle.

The reflex Democratic argument, intellectually dishonest and shamelessly manipulative, is that to deny the “dream” is to cruelly punish innocent children for their parent’s acts. All children, however, must endure the consequences of their parent’s bad decisions.

Here Marshall is the one being intellectually dishonest. He’s talking about deportation as if it was some kind of natural phenomenon. The only natural consequence to children if their parents bring them to the United States illegally is that they are end up living in the United States.

Deportation, on the other hand, is something that the federal government does to them by force. Marshall is essentially arguing that it’s okay to force some children to leave the country they’ve grown up in because we have a policy saying it’s okay to force some children to leave the country they’ve grown up in.

It is in no way “punishing” children to make them return to the life, country and opportunities they would have experienced if their parents hadn’t chosen to “jump ahead in line” and enter the country illegally.

These children have a life here, and now you want to take them away from it, against their will and the will of their parents. Of course that’s punishment. If it weren’t punishment, you wouldn’t have to force them.

Jack Marshall doesn’t even believe his own argument, as he revealed earlier when he said that we should deport illegal immigrants who had been brought here as children so as not to reward the parents for their illegal acts. Now he’s saying that deporting these children is not a punishment. Well, which is it? If it’s not a punishment, how could it possibly discourage the parents? The only thing I can think of is that Marshall wants us to believe that letting them stay is a reward, but making them leave is not a punishment. It doesn’t get much more intellectually dishonest than that.

I fully support immigration reform, including a path for current illegals to legitimize their presence here and stricter measures to keep new illegals out. The Dream Act creates a permanent ongoing endorsement of illegal immigration as parental benefit, and that is intolerable, destructive, and wrong.

So it’s okay to let the current illegal immigrants stay, but no more ever again? Good luck making that work.

Marshall reveals a little more of his ethical thinking in the comments, where someone named Ethics Bob calls him out:

My heart tells me no, and I think my mind does, too. I don’t see how you can argue that it’s not punishing, say, a 16-yr old whose parents brought him to the US illegally when he was-3? to deport him to a place he’s never known.

The sins of the parents shouldn’t be visited on the innocent children. Didn’t somebody worthy say that?

To which Marshall replies:

My mind and heart, if given a choice between no consequence to the child and a penalty, would choose the former. It would choose no consequence to the child over a benefit, too. But there isn’t a neutral choice. A society that endorses a familial benefit to lawbreaking is cutting its own throat. Between the two available options, the only fair and rational choice is to refuse the benefit, which means a default penalty.

(Note that Marshall is now calling it a “penalty,” thus further undermining his earlier statement that it’s not a punishment, unless he’s playing some really silly word games.)

Even if you believe that illegal immigration is as terrible as Marshall does, his argument here only holds water if the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is magically effective. Otherwise, the choice is not between letting them stay or deporting them. The choice is between letting them stay or deporting a few of them while the rest stay in hiding as part of a vast illegal underground that is poor, lawless, and suffering. That has never worked out well.

And then later, Marshall comments:

It is unjust–we don’t agree. But having a law and simultaneously rewarding parents for breaking it is worse. This an ethics conflict, for sure.

These kinds of conflicts arise all the time in law. There’s a lot to be said for not letting people benefit from bad acts because it encourages them, but that doesn’t mean we should pursue retribution forever. Sooner or later, everyone is better off if we give up, get over it, and move on to better things.

When people get so far in debt they can never pay it off, we don’t say “tough luck, you got yourself into that mess, now you’ve got to live with it forever.” Instead, we let them declare bankruptcy. Their creditors don’t get back the money they deserve, but the were never going to get that money anyway. And once bankrupt people get out from under that crushing debt, they have a reason to become productive members of society again. Yes, this option gives people an incentive to borrow and spend recklessly, but it also gives them a way out of a bad situation, so they can begin contributing to the economy again.

More to the point, almost every legal remedy or punishment comes with a time limit. Fail to pay a debt, and after a few years your creditors can no longer sue you to recover it. Breach a contract, and after a certain amount of time you can no longer be sued to enforce it. Injure someone in a car accident, and if they don’t sue for damages within the time limit, you’re free and clear. You can even commit a crime–except for murder and a few other heinous crimes–and when the statute of limitations runs out, you get away with it forever.

These limits exist to serve a number of purposes, but one of them is to give people the peace of mind they need perform as useful members of society. We all do bad things from time to time–especially when we’re young–but our legal system recognizes that there is little to be gained by holding it over our heads forever. So if you smoked some pot, or drove away from a minor car accident, or lied on a loan application, or ran out on a restaurant bill, you don’t have to worry about it forever.

Imagine the alternative: You’ve survived to reach middle age. You have a job, you’re raising a family, you’re a homeowner, a church-goer, and a member of the Rotary club. Then one day the police show up at your door with a warrant to arrest you for assault and battery on a guy you punched in the face at a rock concert twenty-five years ago when you were a 19 year old kid.

That may be justice, but it’s very bad social policy. And it’s pretty much the life of any illegal immigrant, who could be deported at any time. At least with the Dream act, they won’t face deportation for things they did as children.

Why Does Anyone Think Cops Know What Should Be a Crime?

Why does anybody pay attention to what law enforcement employees think should be a crime? This is from Michele Leonhart’s confirmation hearing as head of the DEA:

“I’m a big fan of the DEA,” said [Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama], before asking Leonhart point blank if she would fight medical marijuana legalization.

“I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people, I have seen the abuse, I have seen what it’s done to families. It’s bad,” Leonhart said. “If confirmed as administrator, we would continue to enforce the federal drug laws.”

Well, that’s sort of the job…

“These legalization efforts sound good to people,” Sessions quipped. “They say, ‘We could just end the problem of drugs if we could just make it legal.’ But any country that’s tried that, Alaska and other places have tried it, have failed. It does not work,” Sessions said.

“We need people who are willing to say that. Are you willing to say that?” Sessions asked Leonhart.

“Yes, I’ve said that, senator. You’re absolutely correct [about] the social costs from drug abuse, especially from marijuana,” Leonhart said. “Legalizers say it will help the Mexican cartel situation; it won’t. It will allow states to balance budgets; it won’t. No one is looking [at] the social costs of legalizing drugs.”

When I was in school, I learned that legislatures made the laws, and executive bodies, such as the DEA, enforced them. So who the hell is Michele Leonhart to tell us what the laws should be? I mean, she has the same right to speak out as anyone else, but why would anyone bother to listen? She’s an expert at law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean she knows anything much about the moral and ethical reasoning needed for good lawmaking.

Your Secrets Are Safe This Time

Jeff Gamso has a terrific post on why we shouldn’t believe the TSA when they claim that their full-nude body scans of passengers are completely secure and won’t be abused or disclosed.

I have my own argument that I’ve used to respond to similar claims about government handling of our sensitive personal information. It goes something like this:

At the height of the cold war, the Soviets paid U.S. Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker Jr. a few thousand dollars a month for information about Navy encryption, eventually deciphering as many as a milllion messages with his help, some of them related to the submarine nuclear deterrence fleet.

During this same period, TRW  employee Chris Boyce and his friend Andrew Daulton Lee sold classified information about encryption and spy satellites to the Soviets, supposedly because Boyce was angry about CIA interference in the affairs of other nations.

Toward the end of the cold war, CIA counter-intelligence officer Aldrich Ames sold secrets to the Soviet Union in exchange for about $2 million, and FBI agent Robert Hanssen sold secrets to the Soviets and then Russia for 22 years in exchange for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. Several of the people betrayed by Ames and Hanssen were executed.

These are just a few of the most famous examples of people who sold out their country for money, revenge, or other reasons. They were entrusted with extremely important information, the substantial capabilities of our national intelligence agencies were arrayed against them, and they still managed to betray us all.

But there’s no way a TSA agent would share a nude image of a passenger.

Sailing the Waters Of Civil Forfeiture

I’ve been writing about the un-American and totalitarian horror of civil forfeiture laws for a while, and I’ve been following the issue on and off for two decades, so the latest bit of outrage to make the rounds isn’t really a surprise:

On Monday, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a joint complaint in the Eastern District of Missouri asking to seize the 350-acre Zoe Farm, alleging rampant drug dealing and drug use at events.

According to its website, the farm, called Camp Zoe, is located 150 miles southwest of St. Louis near Salem and hosts a popular Grateful Dead festival called Schwagstock every year, as well as biker and pagan rallies and individual concerts. Once a popular summer camp for kids, the property was purchased in 2004 by Jimmy Tebeau, a member of the Schwag, a Grateful Dead tribute band. He opened the grounds to recreational camping and float trips and began hosting the festivals soon after the purchase.

In the complaint, officials said investigators spent four years monitoring and interacting with concertgoers on the farm, witnessing drug use and completing open drug deals with participants during events. Officials allege that the owner and event operators were aware of the activity and “took no immediate action to prevent” the sale and use of cocaine, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, opium and marijuana-laced food.

This is typical. Fighting crime–even drug crime–is the job of the police. But that requires a criminal trial, which means the cops need to find things like proof and evidence. That’s hard work. It’s far easier just to declare that property owners should be responsible for fighting drugs on their own property and then seizing the property when they turn out to be no better at it than the police. It’s more lucrative too, since law enforcement agencies get to keep some of the loot.

(Of course, if you try to help out the police by reporting drug crimes you believe are occurring on your property, you’re just giving them more reasons to seize the property.)

Tebeau has not been charged with a crime. Nor would he have to be for the court to approve the seizure of the property under a civil asset forfeiture law that enables the federal government to take property that is relied upon by criminals as part of an illegal money-making enterprise.

Yes, this is real. Yes, this is America. It has worked this way for a couple of decades now.

It gets worse:

[Tebeau’s lawyer, Dan] Viets, who is representing his client pro bono, said Tebeau discovered this week that officials had cleaned out his bank account, yet he has not been served legal notice on that forfeiture.

“It’s pretty darn hard to hire legal counsel if you don’t have any money — and the government knows that,” Viets said. “It’s just heavy-handed and mean-spirited, and entirely uncalled for.”

For a guy who’s working for free, Viets is being awfully polite in describing the might-makes-right thuggery of the DEA agents, the Missouri Highway Patrol officers, and the U.S. Attorney. That’s probably wise lawyering, but my way is more satifying to write about.

When I first read about Tebeau’s problems at Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice blog, I wanted to confirm my understanding that without Viets’s generous help, Tebeau would be unable to afford a lawyer and would have to try to fight a court battle on his own, against the government, if he wanted to keep his farm. I posted this comment:

Let me see if I understand the full horror of this situation. Tebeau is effectively indigent because the feds took his money, however, because forfeiture is a civil proceeding, he’s not entitled to help from the federal defender, right? So if Viets wasn’t willing to help him pro bono, he’d pretty much just lose everything, perhaps after an attempted pro se fight?

Scott’s response blew my mind:

Almost.  The procedural rules for in rem forfeitures are under the Supplemental Maritime Rules, so he would have to know, pro se, how to navigate those instead of the usual Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

That’s “maritime” as in “of or relating to navigation or commerce on the sea.” I actually thought this might be some obscure attempt at lawyer humor on Scott’s part. After a bit of googling, however, it looked like he didn’t make that up. It’s just one more example of how screwed up civil forfeiture is: The goverment is using laws about ships on the sea to seize a farm.