Let the Sun Shine In

 

As Mark Davis says “Trump makes everyone better.” President Trump just issued an executive order linking federal grants to real protection of free speech on college and university campuses. Unlike Obama administration “Dear Colleague letters,” this will be a publicly taken presidential action, with clear political accountability. This move suggests two other actions the president can and should take, in short order.

Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities

Issued on 21 March 2019, this executive order addresses the importance of free and open debate and the outrageous cost, with subsequent debt burden, of higher education.

Section 1. Purpose. The purpose of this order is to enhance the quality of postsecondary education by making it more affordable, more transparent, and more accountable. Institutions of higher education (institutions) should be accountable both for student outcomes and for student life on campus.

In particular, my Administration seeks to promote free and open debate on college and university campuses. Free inquiry is an essential feature of our Nation’s democracy, and it promotes learning, scientific discovery, and economic prosperity. We must encourage institutions to appropriately account for this bedrock principle in their administration of student life and to avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives, thereby potentially impeding beneficial research and undermining learning.

The financial burden of higher education on students and their families is also a national problem that needs immediate attention. Over the past 30 years, college tuition and fees have grown at more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index. Rising student loan debt, coupled with low repayment rates, threatens the financial health of both individuals and families as well as of Federal student loan programs. In addition, too many programs of study fail to prepare students for success in today’s job market.

The Federal Government can take meaningful steps to address these problems. […]

The strength of this executive order will come from putting college administrators on the spot, showing them against students as they resist this order’s implementation.

Having taken what action he can on behalf of college students, possibly bringing real, positive change to the leftist stronghold of ivory towers, President Trump should take two more steps that should have broad support in America.

One simple law enforcement reform: Issue an executive order directing all federal law enforcement agencies, and all federal cases, to use tamper-proof video recordings of all interviews, with audio recordings of all conversations used in any phase of an investigation, enforcement action, or case. Prohibit any use of the infamous “302” memo system.

Eric Felten, writing at RealClearInvestigations, asks “Is an FBI Interview a G-Man’s License to Lie?” Sadly, the practical answer is yes.

By their very nature, 302s are ambiguous not just because they may be unreliable narrations, but because they may include information beyond just what was said.

[…]

A 302 purports to be an accurate account of what was said in an interview. How accurate are agents’ intuitions about their interviewees’ states of mind? Are we willing to convict people and send them to prison for false statements based on what agents intuit?

[…]

These problems are behind a decades-long campaign to have all law enforcement — from small-town deputy sheriffs to deputy directors of the FBI — make the recording of interviews standard policy.

[…]

An FBI response to this proposed reform has become notorious in civil libertarian circles. In 2006, the bureau produced a written rebuttal to the “on-going debate in the criminal justice community whether to make electronic recording of custodial interrogations mandatory.”

[…]

The bottom line is that FBI agents feel empowered lie to witnesses or suspects, but when those targets lie to the FBI they are charged with crimes. And being allowed to produce 302s, instead of taped interviews, allows this practice to continue. It’s worth noting that when that memo was produced, the FBI director was Robert Mueller.

See renowned civil liberties lawyer Robert Silverglate’s 2011 Forbes article for more and for a link to the FBI’s 2006 memorandum. Just as President Trump cut through institutional resistance and compelled the long promised move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, so here he can and should compel our federal cops and prosecutors to set the best example for all levels of law enforcement. This would be an easy win for the president, the people, and our Constitution.

No, not that kind of Pacer! Actually, this might be better than PACER.gov. From WikiMedia Commons.

Pick up the PACER: Drive real public access to our federal court documents.

Seamus Hughes writes in Politico: The Federal Courts Are Running An Online Scam.”

But I’m here to tell you that PACER—Public Access to Court Electronic Records—is a judicially approved scam. The very name is misleading: Limiting the public’s access by charging hefty fees, it has been a scam since it was launched and, barring significant structural changes, will be a scam forever.

The U.S. federal court system rakes in about $145 million annually to grant access to records that, by all rights, belong to the public. 

[…]

It was never supposed be this way. In 1991, Congress passed legislation to allow for “reasonable fees … for access to information [federal court records] available.” By 1998, one could get access to records by going to a terminal at a courthouse, and in 2001, PACER was launched online. A year later, Congress, responding to outcries from public records advocates, sought to strike a balance between the public’s need for access and the cost of providing access by allowing PACER to “charge for services rendered” but limited the charge “only to the extent necessary … to reimburse expenses in providing these services.”

The federal courts ignored Congress. PACER, which is run by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, instead substituted a broad and convoluted reading of the congressional intent so that it could charge for access far beyond what is allowed by Congress. In the past, PACER funds have been used for flat-screen TVs for courthouses.

So, by this telling, we have federal courts, created by Congress, under the Constitution, thumbing their noses at the authority that made them and sustains them annually. Contrast this with the relative openness of the Supreme Court. This is a chance for President Trump to do well by doing good.

The president should order federal agencies doing business with the federal courts to copy all court documents onto their own websites in an easily searchable and free to the public form. He should then send a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, pointing out the undemocratic burden and Congress’s apparent intent, requesting the Supreme Court order reform within a year, and notifying him, by copy, of the executive order’s effects inside the Executive branch. Let Roberts either take this as an opportunity to have the federal courts “be best,” or make the case for stronger judicial reform by petty institutional resistance.

Improving transparency in all phases of federal law enforcement and legal proceedings is not a partisan issue. The two proposed executive orders would be broadly popular, would show President Trump to be the kind of president that independent and undecided voters could support, and would restrengthen support for our constitutional system as fundamentally fair.

There are 11 comments.

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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    These were good things.  Good on Trump.

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    So let me get this straight.

    The current President has issued a call for the free and open debate of ideas in our universities.

    The previous President issued a call that boys be allowed to use the ladies’ rooms in our schools.

    Hmm.

    I’m reminded of an old joke about the contrast between the state mottoes of New Hampshire and Idaho, respectively: “Live Free or Die,” versus “Great Potatoes.”

     

    • #2
  3. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    So let me get this straight.

    The current President has issued a call for the free and open debate of ideas in our universities.

    The previous President issued a call that boys be allowed to use the ladies’ rooms in our schools.

    Hmm.

    I’m reminded of an old joke about the contrast between the state mottoes of New Hampshire and Idaho, respectively: “Live Free or Die,” versus “Great Potatoes.”

    How about the Michigan motto:  “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you”?

    • #3
  4. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Funny you should use the metaphor of sunshine, because I’ve always seen Trump that way too, as a light shining on all the cockroaches who then try to scuttle away.

    • #4
  5. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Moderator Note:

    Gary, based on RA's reaction immediately below, this seems to be a running joke between you and RA. To those not in on the joke, though, it reads as quite off-putting. It may be time to put this joke to bed.

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Funny you should use the metaphor of sunshine, because I’ve always seen Trump that way too, as a light shining on all the cockroaches who then try to scuttle away.

    Hey Right Angles, is this your fourth icon in as many months?  I suggest an icon that shows off your tattoos.  In the alternative, I suggest that you create a Member’s Only Post showing all of your icons and inviting us to vote on them.

    Gary

    • #5
  6. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Funny you should use the metaphor of sunshine, because I’ve always seen Trump that way too, as a light shining on all the cockroaches who then try to scuttle away.

    Hey Right Angles, is this your fourth icon in as many months? I suggest an icon that shows off your tattooes. In the alternative, I suggest that you create a Member’s Only Post showing all of your icons and inviting us to vote on them.

    Gary

    Okay, Buster I think we can let the tattoo thing die now haha. Last time, I got a PM asking if I really have tattoos. I hereby certify I have no tattoos. I don’t even have pierced ears haha

    • #6
  7. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Funny you should use the metaphor of sunshine, because I’ve always seen Trump that way too, as a light shining on all the cockroaches who then try to scuttle away.

    Hey Right Angles, is this your fourth icon in as many months? I suggest an icon that shows off your tattoos. In the alternative, I suggest that you create a Member’s Only Post showing all of your icons and inviting us to vote on them.

    Gary

    Thank you, Mods, yes it is a running joke, and Gary once PMd me to ask if I mind, and I said I didn’t, but I do see how sometimes it looks like he’s being mean to me. But really he isn’t. Thank you for having my back.

    • #7
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    If people paid attention on the R> membership page, they remember @rightangles excellent piece on photography. If you haven’t read it, go, read it and bookmark it.

    What? You are not able to access it? Well then, you have an excellent reason to subscribe. Click on the subscription button, pay the nice machine, then go read some wonderful posts.

    • #8
  9. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Funny you should use the metaphor of sunshine, because I’ve always seen Trump that way too, as a light shining on all the cockroaches who then try to scuttle away.

    Hey Right Angles, is this your fourth icon in as many months? I suggest an icon that shows off your tattoos. In the alternative, I suggest that you create a Member’s Only Post showing all of your icons and inviting us to vote on them.

    Gary

    Thank you, Mods, yes it is a running joke, and Gary once PMd me to ask if I mind, and I said I didn’t, but I do see how sometimes it looks like he’s being mean to me. But really he isn’t. Thank you for having my back.

    Hi RA,

    I actually PMd you twice about the tattoo joke and you twice gave me permission, but I see the Mod’s point, and I am also sorry that you got PMd about the joke.  

    The Mods have enough work to do, so it is time for me to put away this childish thing.  

    Gary

    • #9
  10. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    The DOJ has a history of Brady violations, that is, failing to disclose information  helpful to the defense using the prosecutor’s discretion to determine the helpful information was not “material” tending to exonerate.  See Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell.  Sometimes the prosecutors refuse even to give the defense the 302’s, but provide instead summaries of the 302’s, often quite sanitized.

    If interviews are not recorded, jurors should view reports about interviews with suspicion.  If only part of an interview is played to the jury (which is inevitable), they jury should be informed if the entire interview recording was not provided to the defense.

    Without recordings, I think that any alleged confession should be excluded.  Experience has shown that confessions without corroborating evidence are unreliable.  (That may surprise some, but the tactics used to obtain confessions, even without rubber hose treatment, are often extraordinarily coercive.)  

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    David Carroll (View Comment):

    The DOJ has a history of Brady violations, that is, failing to disclose information helpful to the defense using the prosecutor’s discretion to determine the helpful information was not “material” tending to exonerate. See Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell. Sometimes the prosecutors refuse even to give the defense the 302’s, but provide instead summaries of the 302’s, often quite sanitized.

    If interviews are not recorded, jurors should view reports about interviews with suspicion. If only part of an interview is played to the jury (which is inevitable), they jury should be informed if the entire interview recording was not provided to the defense.

    Without recordings, I think that any alleged confession should be excluded. Experience has shown that confessions without corroborating evidence are unreliable. (That may surprise some, but the tactics used to obtain confessions, even without rubber hose treatment, are often extraordinarily coercive.)

    Those who haven’t yet read Sidney Powell’s book should move it up a notch or two on their reading lists.  

    • #11
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