It is easily the most depraved little episode of presidential campaign crime in decades, worthy of Nixon’s CREEP or Boris Yeltsin’s goons, and it’s been almost totally ignored by the media—mainstream and otherwise.
Ron and Rand Paul’s top campaign aides, led by the husband of Ron Paul’s granddaughter, bribing and extorting a crooked Tea Party Iowa politician to endorse the “Ron Paul rEVOLution”—which turns out to have been little more than a mirage built on fraud, oligarch cash, and the credulous fantasies of a few thousand pimply college-aged waffendweebs.
And then there’s the specter of the world’s largest private surveillance apparatus, Google, looming over this story—playing a central role in the criminal investigation that is both deeply conflicted, and oddly conflicting.
For over a year now, Google has refused to comply with federal warrants to hand over Gmail accounts of the three indicted Paul campaign managers and operators: Jesse Benton, John Tate, and Dimitrios Kesari, who all have held senior posts in Rand Paul’s various campaigns and PACs. (Many of the legal filings mentioned in this article are embedded below.)
But it goes further: Ron Paul himself is named in a federal subpoena made public last year. Prosecutors want access to the libertarian hero’s emails, as he appears to be a person of interest in the criminal investigation, an investigation that Google has been hindering with legal roadblocks and distractions…
Hundreds of prisoners in South Carolina have been sent to solitary confinement for visiting Facebook, which is considered “on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking” by a rule introduced in 2012, the Electronic Frontier Foundation says.
Solitary confinement is perhaps the cruelest punishment allowed by the American legal system. (At least for prisoners in the United States — “detainees” in Guantanamo have endured crueler treatment.) And it’s becoming increasingly controversial, too.
Here’s what NPR said in a story about the debate over solitary confinement in 2013:
As prisoners testify about suicidal depression, self-mutilation, lethargy, hallucinations and other ills, more attention is being paid to inmates who have lived through the extreme, often uncertain isolation.
A prisoner in Texas offered a similar anecdote to the American Civil Liberties Union, which noted in its blog post that the description comes from a prison in Texas instead of “from some dystopian dictatorship,” for an ACLU report published on February 9:
Every day from dusk to dawn there’s noise, banging, clanking, yelling, screaming. Everyday someone is getting hurt or hurting themselves. Everyday there’s fire and floods and complete chaos & hate…Every day is a challenge here. A challenge against insanity.
This is the hell to which hundreds of prisoners in South Carolina have been sent for using Facebook. And because the rule about accessing social networks is so strict, an inmate who visits Facebook can end up with an unimaginable sentence, as EFF notes:
The sentences are so long because SCDC issues a separate Level 1 violation for each day that an inmate accesses a social network. An inmate who posts five status updates over five days, would receive five separate Level 1 violations, while an inmate who posted 100 updates in one day would receive only one.
In other words, if a South Carolina inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes, and then escaped, he could still wind up with fewer Level 1 offenses than an inmate who updated Facebook every day for two weeks.
Facebook doesn’t come out of the EFF’s report looking great, either. The company is known to take down inmates’ accounts at a warden’s request, often without requiring them to prove the account was abused. As Slate notes in its report on the censorship:
[Facebook] claims it doesn’t suspend prisoners’ Facebook pages for violating prison regulations, but rather for violating Facebook’s Terms of Service by giving their password to somebody else. But the EFF uncovered at least one instance in which Facebook suspended a prisoner’s account explicitly ‘for not following inmate regulations.’
The result: A system through which prisoners can be subjected to the cruelest treatment allowed on American soil while their holders are able to censor them by appealing to a company which doesn’t appear to care about inmates’ freedoms.