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This Is How Tyranny Rises and Freedom Falls: The Experiment in Freedom Is Failing

Every day I ask myself the same question: How can this be happening in America? How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.—Philip Roth, novelist

It is easy to be distracted right now by the circus politics that have dominated the news headlines for the past year, but don’t be distracted.

Don’t be fooled, not even a little, no matter how tempting it seems to just take a peek.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

We are being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

Our nation of sheep has, as was foretold, given rise to a government of wolves.

The U.S. government now poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.

More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, even more than the perceived threat posed by any single politician, the U.S. government remains a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

This has been true of virtually every occupant of the White House in recent years.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed for the better since Donald Trump ascended to the Oval Office.

Indeed, Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

As American satirist H.L. Mencken predicted almost a century ago:

“All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

In other words, nothing has changed, folks.

The facts speak for themselves.

We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves. Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will. For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking Americans’ personal property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity and keeping it for their own profit and gain. In one case, police seized $53,000 from the manager of a Christian rock bandthat was touring and raising money for an orphanage in Thailand. Despite finding no evidence of wrongdoing, police kept the money. Homeowners are losing their homes over nonpayment of taxes (for as little as $400 owed) and municipal bills such as water or sewer fees that amount to a fraction of what they have invested in their homes. And then there’s the Drug Enforcement Agency, which has been searching train and airline passengers and pocketing their cash, without ever charging them with a crime.

We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards. Mencken calculated that “Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons.” By and large, Americans seem to agree. When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy. Mind you, these same elected officials rarely read the legislation they’re enacting, nor do they seem capable of enacting much legislation that actually helps the plight of the American citizen. More often than not, the legislation lands the citizenry in worse straits.

We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime is at an all-time low and the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population. The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent “crimes” as having an overgrown lawn. As the Boston Review points out, “America’s contemporary system of policing, courts, imprisonment, and parole … makes money through asset forfeiture, lucrative public contracts from private service providers, and by directly extracting revenue and unpaid labor from populations of color and the poor. In states and municipalities throughout the country, the criminal justice system defrays costs by forcing prisoners and their families to pay for punishment. It also allows private service providers to charge outrageous fees for everyday needs such as telephone calls. As a result people facing even minor criminal charges can easily find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of debt, criminalization, and incarceration.”

We’re being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. The government is watching everything you do, reading everything you write, listening to everything you say, and monitoring everything you spend. Omnipresent surveillance is paving the way for government programs that profile citizens, document their behavior and attempt to predict what they might do in the future, whether it’s what they might buy, what politician they might support, or what kinds of crimes they might commit. The impact of this far-reaching surveillance, according to Psychology Today, is “reduced trust, increased conformity, and even diminished civic participation.” As technology analyst Jillian C. York concludes, “Mass surveillance without due process—whether undertaken by the government of Bahrain, Russia, the US, or anywhere in between—threatens to stifle and smother that dissent, leaving in its wake a populace cowed by fear.”

We’re being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers. It’s not just the police shootings of unarmed citizens that are worrisome. It’s the SWAT team raids gone wrongmore than 80,000 annually—that are leaving innocent citizens wounded, children terrorized and family pets killed. It’s the roadside strip searches—in some cases, cavity searches of men and women alike carried out in full view of the public—in pursuit of drugs that are never found. It’s the potentially lethal—and unwarranted—use of so-called “nonlethal” weapons such as tasers on children for “mouthing off to a police officer. For trying to run from the principal’s office. For, at the age of 12, getting into a fight with another girl.”

We’re being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates. The American people have repeatedly been sold a bill of goods about how the government needs more money, more expansive powers, and more secrecy (secret courts, secret budgets, secret military campaigns, secret surveillance) in order to keep us safe. Under the guise of fighting its wars on terror, drugs and now domestic extremism, the government has spent billions in taxpayer dollars on endless wars that have notended terrorism but merely sown the seeds of blowback, surveillance programs that have caught few terrorists while subjecting all Americans to a surveillance society, and militarized police that have done little to decrease crime while turning communities into warzones. Not surprisingly, the primary ones to benefit from these government exercises in legal money laundering have been the corporations, lobbyists and politicians who inflict them on a trusting public.

We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army. As if it weren’t enough that the American military empire stretches around the globe (and continues to leech much-needed resources from the American economy), the U.S. government is creating its own standing army of militarized police and teams of weaponized bureaucrats. These civilian employees are being armed to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; authorized to make arrests; and trained in military tactics. Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas cannons are the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public universities. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the government’s arsenal, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, and the speed with which the nation could be locked down under martial law depending on the circumstances.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the U.S. government is certainly no friend to freedom.

To our detriment, the criminal class that Mark Twain mockingly referred to as Congress has since expanded to include every government agency that feeds off the carcass of our once-constitutional republic.

The government and its cohorts have conspired to ensure that the only real recourse the American people have to hold the government accountable or express their displeasure with the government is through voting, which is no real recourse at all.

Consider it: the penalties for civil disobedience, whistleblowing and rebellion are severe. If you refuse to pay taxes for government programs you believe to be immoral or illegal, you will go to jail. If you attempt to overthrow the government—or any agency thereof—because you believe it has overstepped its reach, you will go to jail. If you attempt to blow the whistle on government misconduct, you will go to jail. In some circumstances, if you even attempt to approach your elected representative to voice your discontent, you can be arrested and jailed.

You cannot have a republican form of government—nor a democratic one, for that matter—when the government views itself as superior to the citizenry, when it no longer operates for the benefit of the people, when the people are no longer able to peacefully reform their government, when government officials cease to act like public servants, when elected officials no longer represent the will of the people, when the government routinely violates the rights of the people and perpetrates more violence against the citizenry than the criminal class, when government spending is unaccountable and unaccounted for, when the judiciary act as courts of order rather than justice, and when the government is no longer bound by the laws of the Constitution.

For too long, the American people have obeyed the government’s dictates, no matter now unjust.

We have paid its taxes, penalties and fines, no matter how outrageous. We have tolerated its indignities, insults and abuses, no matter how egregious. We have turned a blind eye to its indiscretions and incompetence, no matter how imprudent. We have held our silence in the face of its lawlessness, licentiousness and corruption, no matter how illicit.

Oh how we have suffered.

How long we will continue to suffer depends on how much we’re willing to give up for the sake of freedom.

It may well be that Professor Morris Berman is correct: perhaps we are entering into the dark ages that signify the final phase of the American Empire. “It seems to me,” writes Berman, “that the people do get the government they deserve, and even beyond that, the government who they are, so to speak. In that regard, we might consider, as an extreme version of this… that Hitler was as much an expression of the German people at that point in time as he was a departure from them.”

For the moment, the American people seem content to sit back and watch the reality TV programming that passes for politics today. It’s the modern-day equivalent of bread and circuses, a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

As French philosopher Etienne de La Boétie observed half a millennium ago:

“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.”

The bait towards slavery. The price of liberty. The instruments of tyranny.

Yes, that sounds about right.

“We the people” have learned only too well how to be slaves. Worse, we have come to enjoy our voluntary servitude, which masquerades as citizenship.

Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we won’t be able to sustain this fiction much longer.

“Things fall apart,” wrote W.B. Yeats in his dark, forbidding poem “The Second Coming.” “The centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world… Surely some revelation is at hand.”

Wake up, America, and break free of your chains.

Something wicked this way comes.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Freedom for the Speech We Hate: The Legal Ins & Outs of the Right to Protest

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” — Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

There was a time in this country, back when the British were running things, that if you spoke your mind and it ticked off the wrong people, you’d soon find yourself in jail for offending the king.

Reacting to this injustice, when it was time to write the Constitution, America’s founders argued for a Bill of Rights, of which the First Amendment protects the right to free speech. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was very clear about the fact that he wrote the First Amendment to protect the minority against the majority.

What Madison meant by minority is “offensive speech.”

Unfortunately, we don’t honor that principle as much as we should today. In fact, we seem to be witnessing a politically correct philosophy at play, one shared by both the extreme left and the extreme right, which aims to stifle all expression that doesn’t fit within their parameters of what they consider to be “acceptable” speech.

There are all kinds of labels put on such speech—it’s been called politically incorrect speech, hate speech, offensive speech, and so on—but really, the message being conveyed is that you don’t have a right to express yourself if certain people or groups don’t like or agree with what you are saying.

Hence, we have seen the caging of free speech in recent years, through the use of so-called “free speech zones” on college campuses and at political events, the requirement of speech permits in parks and community gatherings, and the policing of online forums.

Clearly, this elitist, monolithic mindset is at odds with everything America is supposed to stand for.

Indeed, we should be encouraging people to debate issues and air their views. Instead, by muzzling free speech, we are contributing to a growing underclass of Americans—many of whom have been labeled racists, rednecks and religious bigots—who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.”

Remember, the First Amendment acts as a steam valve. It allows people to speak their minds, air their grievances and contribute to a larger dialogue that hopefully results in a more just world. When there is no steam valve to release the pressure, frustration builds, anger grows and people become more volatile and desperate to force a conversation.

The attempt to stifle certain forms of speech is where we go wrong.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is “a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment...that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.” For example, it is not a question of whether the Confederate flag represents racism but whether banning it leads to even greater problems, namely, the loss of freedom in general.

Along with the constitutional right to peacefully (and that means non-violently) assemble, the right to free speech allows us to challenge the government through protests and demonstrations and to attempt to change the world around us—for the better or the worse—through protests and counterprotests.

As always, knowledge is key.

The following Constitutional Q&A, available in more detail at The Rutherford Institute (www.rutherford.org), is a good starting point.

Q:        WHAT LAWS GIVE ME THE RIGHT TO PROTEST?

A:         The First Amendment prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Protesting is anexercise of these constitutional rights because it involves speaking out, by individual people or those assembled in groups, about matters of public interest and concern.

Q:        WHERE CAN I ENGAGE IN PROTEST ACTIVITY?

A:         The right to protest generally extends to places that are owned and controlled by the government, although not all government-owned property is available for exercising speech and assembly rights. However, beyond public or government property, a person cannot claim a First Amendment right to protest and demonstrate on property that is privately owned by someone else. This also applies to private property that is generally open to the public, such as a shopping mall or shopping center, although these areas sometimes allow demonstrations and other free speech activity with permission from the owner. You are also entitled to engage in protest activities on land you own.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not forbid homeowners from posting signs on their property speaking out on a political or social issue.

Q:        WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST IN A TRADITIONAL PUBLIC FORUM?

A:         Places historically associated with the free exercise of expressive activities, such as streets, sidewalks and parks, are traditional public forums and the government’s power to limit speech and assembly in those places is very limited. The government may not impose an absolute ban on expression and assembly in traditional public forums except in circumstances where it is essential to serve a compelling government interest.  However, expression and assembly in traditional public forums may be limited by reasonable time, place and manner regulations. Examples of reasonable regulations include restrictions on the volume of sound produced by the activity or a prohibition on impeding vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  To be a valid time, place and manner regulation, the restriction must not have the effect of restricting speech based on its content and it must not be broader than needed to serve the interest of the government.

Q:        CAN I PICKET AND/OR DISTRIBUTE LEAFLETS AND OTHER TYPES OF LITERATURE ON PUBLIC SIDEWALKS?

A:         Yes, a sidewalk is considered a traditional public forum where you can engage in expressive activities, such a passing out literature or speaking out on a matter of public concern. In exercising that right, you must not block pedestrians or the entrances to buildings. You may not physically or maliciously detain someone in order to give them a leaflet, but you may approach them and offer it to them.

Q:        CAN MY FREE SPEECH BE RESTRICTED BECAUSE OF WHAT I SAY, EVEN IF IT IS CONTROVERSIAL?

A:         No, the First Amendment protects speech even if most people would find it offensive, hurtful or hateful. Speech generally cannot be banned based upon its content or viewpoint because it is not up to the government to determine what can and cannot be said. A bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that the government may not prohibit expression of an idea because society finds it offensive or disagreeable. Also, protest speech also cannot be banned because of a fear that others may react violently to the speech.  Demonstrators cannot be punished or forbidden from speaking because they might offend a hostile mob. The Supreme Court has held that a “heckler’s veto” has no place in First Amendment law.

Q:        HOW DO THESE RIGHTS APPLY TO PUBLIC PLACES I TYPICALLY VISIT?

A:         Your rights to speak out and protest in particular public places will depend on the use and purpose of the place involved.  For example, the lobbies and offices of public buildings that are used by the government are generally not open for expressive activities because the purpose of these buildings is to carry out public business. Protesting would interfere with that purpose.  Ironically, the meetings of a governmental body, such as a city council or town board, are not considered public forums open for protest activities because the purpose of the meeting is generally to address public business that is on the agenda.  However, some government councils and boards set aside a time at the meeting when the public can voice their complaints.

The grounds of public colleges and universities are generally considered available for assembly and protest by students and other members of the institution’s community.  However, those who are not students, faculty or staff of the institution may be denied access to the campus for speech and protest activities under rules issued by the school.

Public elementary and secondary school grounds also are not considered places where persons can engage in assembly and protest.  However, students at these schools do not lose their right to free speech when they enter the school. The First Amendment protects the right of students to engage in expressive acts of protest, such as wearing armbands to demonstrate opposition to a war, that are not disruptive to the school environment.

Q:        DO I NEED A PERMIT IN ORDER TO CONDUCT A PROTEST?

A:         As a general rule, no. A person is not required to obtain the consent or permission of the government before engaging in activities that are protected by the First Amendment.  One of the main reasons for that constitutional provision was to forbid any requirement that citizens obtain a license in order to speak out.  The government cannot require that individuals or small groups obtain a permit in order to speak or protest in a public forum.

However, if persons or organizations want to hold larger rallies and demonstrations, they may be required by local laws to obtain a permit.  The Supreme Court has recognized that the government, in order to regulate competing uses of public forums, may impose a permit requirement on those wishing to hold a parade or rally.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly according to their discretion, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met. Such time, place and manner restrictions can take the form of requirements to obtain a permit for an assembly.

Whether an assembly or demonstration requires a permit depends on the laws of the locality.  A permit certainly is required for any parade because it would involve the use of the streets and interfere with vehicle traffic. A permit to hold an event in other public places typically is required if the gathering involves more than 50 persons or the use of amplification.

Q:        DO COUNTER-DEMONSTRATORS HAVE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS?

A:         Yes, they do. Just because counter-demonstrators oppose you and the viewpoint of your demonstration does not mean they have any less right to speak out and demonstrate. However, the same rules apply to counter-demonstrators as apply to the original assembly. The group cannot be violent and must assemble and protest in an appropriate place and manner.

Q:        WHAT CAN'T I DO IN EXERCISING MY RIGHTS TO PROTEST?

A:         The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly. The First Amendment does not provide the right to conduct a gathering at which there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic on public streets or other immediate threat to public safety. Laws that prohibit people from assembling and using force or violence to accomplish unlawful purposes are permissible under the First Amendment.

Q:       AM I ALLOWED TO CARRY A WEAPON OR FIREARM AT A DEMONSTRATION OR PROTEST?

A:         Your right to have a weapon with you when you protest largely depends on what is allowed by state law and is unlikely to be protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech. Not all conduct can be considered “speech” protected by the First Amendment even if the person engaging in the conduct intends to express an idea. Most courts have held that the act of openly carrying a weapon or firearm is not expression protected by the First Amendment.

The right to possess a firearm is protected by the Second Amendment, and all states allow carrying a concealed weapon in public, although most require a permit to do so. Some states allow persons to openly carry firearms in public. However, it is not yet settled whether the Second Amendment guarantees the right to possess a firearm in public. Thus, the right to carry a firearm at a demonstration or protest is a matter that depends on what is allowed under state law. Carrying other weapons, such as stun guns, which are not firearms also is subject to restrictions imposed by  state law. Possession of weapons also may be prohibited in certain places where demonstrations might take place, such as a national park.

Even if possession of weapons is allowed, their presence at demonstrations and rallies can be intimidating and provocative and does not help in achieving a civil and peaceful discourse on issues of public interest and concern. Demonstrations often relate to issues raising strong feelings among competing groups, and the presence of counter-demonstrators makes conflict likely.  In these situations, where the purpose of the gathering is to engage in speech activities, firearms and other weapons are threatening, result in the suppression of speech and are contrary to the purpose of the First Amendment to allow all voices to be heard on matters of public importance.

Q:        WHAT CAN’T THE POLICE DO IN RESPONDING TO PROTESTERS?

A:         In recent history, challenges to the right to protest have come in many forms. In some cases, police have cracked down on demonstrations by declaring them “unlawful assemblies” or through mass arrests, illegal use of force or curfews. Elsewhere, expression is limited by corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.” New surveillance technologies are increasingly turned on innocent people, collecting information on their activities by virtue of their association with or proximity to a given protest. Even without active obstruction of the right to protest, police-inspired intimidation and fear can chill expressive activity and result in self-censorship. All of these things violate the First Amendment and are things the police cannot do to censor free speech. Unless the assembly is violent or violence is clearly imminent, the police have limited authority under the law to shut down protesters.

Clearly, as evidenced by the recent tensions in Charlottesville, Va., we’re at a crossroads concerning the constitutional right to free speech.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

It must be emphasized that it was for the sake of preserving individuality and independence that James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.

This freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society. Conversely, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewhen we fail to abide by Madison’s dictates about greater tolerance for all viewpoints, no matter how distasteful, the end result is always the same: an indoctrinated, infantilized citizenry that marches in lockstep with the governmental regime.

Some of this past century’s greatest dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons. For instance, in George Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.”

Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is “safe” and “accepted” by the majority is permitted). The power elite has made their intentions clear: they will pursue and prosecute any and all words, thoughts and expressions that challenge their authority.

This is the final link in the police state chain.

If ever there were a time for us to stand up for the right to speak freely, even if it’s freedom for speech we hate, the time is now.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Chaos in Charlottesville: No One Gave Peace a Chance, Including the Police

“What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? …No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders ... an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people ... Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.” — Robert Kennedy

Let’s be clear about one thing: no one—not the armed, violent, militant protesters nor the police—gave peace a chance during the August 12 demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va.

What should have been an exercise in free speech quickly became a brawl.

It’s not about who threw the first punch or the first smoke bomb.

It’s not about which faction outshouted the other, or which side perpetrated more violence, or even which group can claim to be the greater victim.

One young woman is dead because of the hate, violence, intolerance, racism and partisanship that is tearing this country apart, and it has to stop.

Lawful, peaceful, nonviolent First Amendment activity did not kill Heather Heyer.

She was killed by a 20-year-old Neo-Nazi who drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Charlottesville, Va.

Words, no matter how distasteful or disagreeable, did not turn what should have been an exercise in free speech into a brawl.

That was accomplished by militant protesters on both sides of the debate who arrived at what should have been a nonviolent protest armed with sticks and guns, bleach bottles, balloons filled with feces and urine and improvised flamethrowers, and by the law enforcement agencies who stood by and allowed it.

As the New York Times reported, “Protesters began to mace one another, throwing water bottles and urine-filled balloons— some of which hit reporters — and beating each other with flagpoles, clubs and makeshift weapons. Before long, the downtown area was a melee. People were ducking and covering with a constant stream of projectiles whizzing by our faces, and the air was filled with the sounds of fists and sticks against flesh.”

The madness is spreading.

People I know—good, decent people who value equality, reject racism, and believe strongly in tolerance—in their grief and dismay and disgust, threatened violence, acted like a mob, and adopted similarly violent, intolerant, disorderly tactics as those they claim to oppose.

Those who defend free speech were castigated by those who believe that only certain views should be allowed to be heard.

Those who cling to nonviolence were outnumbered by angry mobs intent on inciting violence.

Those who normally advocate a message of tolerance gave into the temptation to spew hate and intolerance.

The Rutherford Institute and the ACLU, two organizations who repeatedly stand up for the Constitution and the rights ofall people—no matter how disagreeable their views may be—have been cursed at, denounced and threatened with violence for daring to remind government officials (and members of the community) that the First Amendment applies to all people equally.

The threats of violence have come from people who, while rightfully disgusted by the racist rhetoric and actions of the Neo-Nazis, wrongly decided that the answer to bigotry, intolerance and violence is mob justice, intolerance and more violence.

Glenn Greenwald gets it.

In a resounding rebuke of those who would opt to employ the tactics of fascists in order to silence fascists, Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Demonizing lawyers and civil liberties advocates by depicting them as “complicit” in the heinous acts of their clients is a long-standing scam that is not confined to the U.S… Needless to say, none of these legal organizations or individual lawyers condone violence. They all vehemently oppose the ideology and worldview in the name of which this violence is committed. Yet they are all blamed for the violence and accused of complicity in it because they defend the free speech rights and civil liberties of people who express views in the name of which violence is committed.

The flaws and dangers in this anti-free-speech mindset are manifest, but nonetheless always worth highlighting, especially when horrific violence causes people to want to abridge civil liberties in the name of stopping it. In sum, purporting to oppose fascism by allowing the state to ban views it opposes is like purporting to oppose human rights abuses by mandating the torture of all prisoners. One of the defining attributes of fascism is forcible suppression of views... You can’t fight that ideology by employing and championing one of its defining traits: viewpoint-based state censorship…

The need to fight neo-Nazism and white supremacy wherever it appears is compelling. The least effective tactic is to try to empower the state to suppress the expression of their views. That will backfire in all sorts of ways: strengthening that movement and ensuring that those who advocate state censorship today are its defenseless targets tomorrow. And whatever else is true, the impulse to react to terrorist attacks by demanding the curtailment of core civil liberties is always irrational, dangerous, and self-destructive, no matter how tempting that impulse might be.

In other words, silencing unpopular viewpoints with which the majority might disagree—whether it’s by shouting them down, censoring them, muzzling them, or criminalizing them—only empowers those in the minority.

We are walking a dangerous road.

And then there’s the role police are supposed to play in upholding the law and preventing violence.

It’s a thankless job most of the time, and police must walk a fine line between respecting peaceful First Amendment activity and maintaining the peace, while not overstepping the limits of the Fourth Amendment.

For whatever reason—which only the police and government officials are privy to—the police failed to do their job at the Charlottesville demonstration, a charge levied by both the Alt Right and the counterdemonstrators.

The same police who in the past have responded to any acts of disorder or disobedience with the full power of their uniform and weapons were curiously lax in the face of outright violence.

As a Rolling Stone reporter recounted, “Unlike other events I've covered where anti-fascist protesters face off with white supremacists, the police make no effort to cordon the two groups off from each other to prevent violent clashes before they happen.”

Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, despite the fact that police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, and despite the fact that Charlottesville had had what reporter David Graham referred to as “a dress rehearsal of sorts” a month earlier when 30 members of the Ku Klux Klan were confronted by 1000 counterprotesters, police failed to do their jobs.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.”

Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville,” reported ProPublica.

Could Police Have Prevented Bloodshed in Charlottesville?” asked The Atlantic.

Police Response Inadequate at Charlottesville Rally,” concluded U.S. News.

There was no police presence,” a peaceful activist explained. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.”

Cornel West echoed this sentiment. “The police didn’t do anything in terms of protecting the people of the community, the clergy,” he told The Washington Post.

So what should the police have done differently?

For starters, the police should have established clear boundaries—buffer zones—between the warring groups of protesters and safeguarded the permit zones.

Instead, as eyewitness accounts indicate, police established two entrances into the permit areas of the park and created barriers “guiding rallygoers single-file into the park” past lines of white nationalists and antifa counterprotesters.

This is where the worst of the violence between protesters took place.

By 8:40 am protesters had already started gathering in the downtown area. Police failed to separate them.

By 10 am, a “mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters.” Police looked on and did nothing.

By 11 am, the general unrest had dissolved into all-out disorder. Police did not step in.

All the while protesters were throwing urine-filled water bottles, pepper spray and smoke bombs, and clobbering one another with flag poles and shields, Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, watchedfrom a command post overlooking the downtown area and did nothing.

Moran watched while fights broke out and police stood by and failed to intervene.

Only at 11:22 am, after hours of brawling and confrontations between the protesters, did Moran take action by calling on Governor Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency. Only then did police mobilize to declare the gathering an unlawful assembly, “cutting off the rally before it officially began,” and begin clearing demonstrators out of the park.

There were other models that could have been followed.

As investigative reporter Sarah Posner notes, “At a neo-Nazi rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just days before the November election, police employed this tactic with success – while the rally attendees and anti-fascist protesters taunted each other over a barrier of police, they were blocked from coming into physical contact. But in Charlottesville, the police inaction creates a sense of pandemonium.”

A good strategy, advises former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, is to make clashes less likely by separating the two sides physically, with officers forming a barrier between them. “Create a human barrier so the flash points are reduced as quickly as possible,” she said.

In Cleveland, the site of the GOP presidential convention, “Trump diehards, Revolutionary Communists, Wobblies, and Alex Jones disciples” faced off in a downtown plaza. Yet as The Atlantic reports, “Just as confrontations between the groups seemed near to getting out of hand, police swooped into the square in huge numbers, using bicycles to create cordons between rival factions. The threat of violence soon passed, and no pepper spray or tear gas was needed.”

For that matter, consider that Charlottesville police established clear boundaries just a month earlier in which they maintained clear lines of demarcation at all times between KKK protesters and counterprotesters. Indeed, the primary violence at the July 8 Klan rally came when police used tear gas and pepper spray to force protesters to disperse.

The question, as always, is where do we go from here?

It’s a question that Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with and addressed in the last book he wrote before his assassination,Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

As King pointed out repeatedly, hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.

And as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, tyranny begets tyranny.

The day after King was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy delivered these remarks:

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives. It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on…

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.

The lesson for all of us is this: remember, when you strip away the politics and the class warfare and the skin color and the religious ideology and the gender differences and the sexual orientation and anything else that can be used as a source of division, remember that underneath it all, we are all the same.

As Nelson Mandela recognized, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

# # # #

John W Whitehead, Newsbud Producer, Author & Analyst, is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971. Mr. Whitehead’s video show Battlefield America with John Whitehead is featured exclusively at Newsbud.

Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind

“Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism. It is the aim of the Bill of Rights, if it has any remaining aim at all, to curb such prehensile gentry. Its function is to set a limitation upon their power to harry and oppress us to their own private profit.”— H.L. Mencken

Let’s not mince words.

Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top law enforcement official, would not recognize the Constitution if he ran right smack into it.

Whether the head of the Trump Administration’s Justice Department enjoys being the architect of a police state or is just painfully, criminally clueless, Sessions has done a great job thus far of sidestepping the Constitution at every turn.

Most recently, under the guise of “fighting crime,” Sessions gave police the green light to rob, pilfer, steal, thieve, swipe, purloin, filch and liberate American taxpayers of even more of their hard-earned valuables (especially if it happens to be significant amounts of cash) using any means, fair or foul.

In this case, the foul method favored by Sessions & Co. is civil asset forfeiture, which allows police and prosecutors to “seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime.”

Under a federal equitable sharing program, police turn asset forfeiture cases over to federal agents who process seizures and then return 80% of the proceeds to the police. (In Michigan, police actually get to keep up to 100% of forfeited property.)

This incentive-driven excuse for stealing from the citizenry is more accurately referred to as “policing for profit” or “theft by cop.”

Despite the fact that 80 percent of these asset forfeiture cases result in no charge against the property owner, challenging these “takings” in court can cost the owner more than the value of the confiscated property itself. As a result, most property owners either give up the fight or chalk the confiscation up to government corruption, leaving the police and other government officials to reap the benefits.

And boy, do they reap the benefits.

Police agencies have used their ill-gotten gains “to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear,” reports The Washington Post. “They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.”

Incredibly, these asset forfeiture scams have become so profitable for the government that, according to The Washington Post, “in 2014, law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did.” As the Post notes, “the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.”

In 2015, the federal government seized nearly $2.6 billion worth of airplanes, houses, cash, jewelry, cars and other itemsunder the guise of civil asset forfeiture.

According to USA Today, “Anecdotal evidence suggests that allowing departments to keep forfeiture proceeds may tempt them to use the funds unwisely. For example, consider a 2015 scandal in Romulus, Michigan, where police officers used funds forfeited from illicit drug and prostitution stings to pay for ...  illicit drugs and prostitutes.”

Memo to the rest of my fellow indentured servants who are living through this dark era of government corruption, incompetence and general ineptitude: this is not how justice in America is supposed to work.

We are now ruled by a government so consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population that they are completely unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

Our freedoms aren’t just being trampled, however. They’re being eviscerated.

At every turn, “We the People” are getting swindled, cheated, conned, robbed, raided, pickpocketed, mugged, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed and fleeced by governmental and corporate shareholders of the American police state out to make a profit at taxpayer expense.

Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties. All you have to be is in possession of something the government wants. And if you happen to have something the government wants badly enough, trust me, their agents will go to any lengths to get it.

If the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

Here’s how the whole ugly business works in a nutshell.

First, government agents (usually the police) use a broad array of tactics to profile, identify, target and arrange to encounter (in a traffic stop, on a train, in an airport, in public, or on private property) those  individuals who might be traveling with a significant amount of cash or possess property of value. Second, these government agents—empowered by the courts and the legislatures—seize private property (cash, jewelry, cars, homes and other valuables) they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity.

Then—and here’s the kicker—whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, without any charges being levied against the property owner, or any real due process afforded the unlucky victim, the property is seized by the government, which often divvies it up with the local police who helped with the initial seizure.

In a Kafkaesque turn of the screw, the burden of proof falls on the unfortunate citizenry who must mount a long, complicated, expensive legal campaign to prove their innocence in order to persuade the government that it should return the funds they stole. Not surprisingly, very few funds ever get returned.

It’s a new, twisted form of guilt by association, only it’s not the citizenry being accused of wrongdoing, just their money.

Motorists have been particularly vulnerable to this modern-day form of highway robbery.

For instance, police stole $201,000 in cash from Lisa Leonard because the money—which Leonard planned to use to buy a house for her son—was being transported on a public highway also used by drug traffickers. Despite the fact that Leonard was innocent of wrongdoing, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the theft on a technicality.

Police stole $50,000 in cash from Amanee Busbee—which she planned to use to complete the purchase of a restaurant—and threatened to hand her child over to CPS if she resisted. She’s one of the few to win most of her money back in court.

Police stole $22,000 in cash from Jerome Chennault—which he planned to use as the down payment on a home—simply because a drug dog had alerted police to its presence in his car. After challenging the seizure in court, Chennault eventually succeeded in having most of his money returned, although the state refused to compensate him for his legal and travel expenses.

Police stole $8,500 in cash and jewelry from Roderick Daniels—which he planned to use to purchase a new car—and threatened him with jail and money-laundering charges if he didn’t sign a waiver forfeiting his property.

Police stole $6,000 in cash from Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson and threatened to turn their young children over to Child Protective Services if they resisted.

Tenaha, Texas, is a particular hotbed of highway forfeiture activity, so much so that police officers keep pre-signed, pre-notarized documents on hand so they can fill in what property they are seizing.

As the Huffington Post explains, these police forfeiture operations have become little more than criminal shakedowns:

Police in some jurisdictions have run forfeiture operations that would be difficult to distinguish from criminal shakedowns. Police can pull motorists over, find some amount of cash or other property of value, claim some vague connection to illegal drug activity and then present the motorists with a choice: If they hand over the property, they can be on their way. Otherwise, they face arrest, seizure of property, a drug charge, a probable night in jail, the hassle of multiple return trips to the state or city where they were pulled over, and the cost of hiring a lawyer to fight both the seizure and the criminal charge. It isn’t hard to see why even an innocent motorist would opt to simply hand over the cash and move on.

Unsurprisingly, these asset forfeiture scams have become so profitable for the government that they have expanded their reach beyond the nation’s highways.

According to USA Today, the U.S. Department of Justice received $2.01 billion in forfeited items in 2013, and since 2008 local and state law enforcement nationwide has raked in some $3 billion in forfeitures through the federal “equitable sharing” program.

So now it’s not just drivers who have to worry about getting the shakedown.

Any American unwise enough to travel with cash is fair game for the government pickpockets.

In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been colluding with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and local police departments to seize a small fortune in cash from American travelers using the very tools—scanners, spies and surveillance devices—they claimed were necessary to catch terrorists.

Mind you, TSA agents already have a reputation for stealing from travelers, but clearly the government is not concerned about protecting the citizenry from its own wolfish tendencies.

No, the government bureaucrats aren’t looking to catch criminals. (If so, they should be arresting themselves.)

They’re just out to rob you of your cold, hard cash.

Think about it for a moment. You pay a hefty fee just to be able to walk free. It’s called income tax. As former presidential candidate Ron Paul recognizes, “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.” And if you refuse to pay any of that so-called income tax, you’ll be severely fined and/or arrested and put in jail.

One more thing: you don’t really own your property. That is, your house or your land. Even when you pay off the mortgage, if you fail to pay your property taxes, government agents will evict you and take your home.

This is not freedom.

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying taxes (a pittance compared to what we are forced to shell out in taxes today) to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let the corporate elite and number-crunching bureaucrats pilfer our bank accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as it pleases.

But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money? What if we didn’t just line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the corporate collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent? What if, instead of meekly tolerating the government’s ongoing efforts to rob us blind, we did something about it?

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if the government can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.

It’s up to “We the People” to demand reform.

These injustices will continue as long as we remain silent.

As American journalist H.L. Mencken observed:

The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious. Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if … the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

In other words, make them hear you.

And if they won’t listen, then I suggest it’s time for what Martin Luther King Jr. called for when government doesn’t listen: “militant nonviolent resistance.”

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Iron Jaws of the Police State: Trump’s America Is a Constitution-Free Zone

“Policing is broken... It has evolved as a paramilitary, bureaucratic, organizational arrangement that distances police officers from the communities they’ve been sworn to protect and serve. When we have shooting after shooting after shooting that most people would define as at least questionable, it’s time to look, not just at a few bad apples, but the barrel. And I’m convinced that it is the barrel that is rotted.”— Norm Stamper, former Seattle police chief

Please.

Somebody give Attorney General Jeff Sessions a copy of the Constitution.

And while you’re at it, get a copy to President Trump, too.

In fact, you might want to share a copy with the nation’s police officers, as well.

I have my doubts that any of these individuals—all of whom swore to uphold and defend the Constitution—have ever read any of the nation’s founding documents.

Had they actually read and understood the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, there would be no militarized police, no mass surveillance, no police shootings of unarmed individuals, no SWAT team raids, no tasering of children, no asset forfeiture schemes or any of the other government-sanctioned abuses that get passed off as law and order these days.

We’ve got serious problems in this country, and they won’t be solved on the golf course, by wining and dining corporate CEOs, giving local police forces more military equipment, locking down the nation, or pretending that the only threats to our freedoms are posed by forces beyond our borders or by “anti-government” extremists hiding among us.

So far, Trump’s first 100 days in office have been no different from Obama’s last 100 days, at least when it comes to the government’s ongoing war on our freedoms.

Government corruption remains at an all-time high.

Police shootings and misconduct have continued unabated.

The nation’s endless wars continue to push us to the brink of financial ruin.

And “we the people” are still being treated as if we have no rights, are entitled to no protections, and exist solely for the purpose of sustaining the American police state with our hard-earned tax dollars.

Just take the policing crisis in this country, for instance.

Sessions—the chief lawyer for the government and the head of the Justice Department, which is entrusted with ensuring that the nation’s laws are faithfully carried out and holding government officials accountable to abiding by their oaths of office to “uphold and defend the Constitution”—doesn’t think we’ve got a policing problem in America.

In fact, Sessions thinks the police are doing a great job (apart from “the individual misdeeds of bad actors,” that is).

For that matter, so does Trump.

Really, really great.

Indeed, Sessions thinks the nation’s police forces are doing such a great job that they should be rewarded with moremilitary toys (weapons, gear, equipment) and less oversight by the Justice Department.

As for Trump, he believes “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong” and has vowed to “end it.”

Excuse me for a moment while I flush what remains of the Constitution down the toilet.

Clearly, Trump has not been briefed on the fact that it has never been safer to be a cop in America. According toNewsweek, “it’s safer to be a cop than it is to simply live in many U.S. cities... It’s safer to be a cop than it is to live in Baltimore. It’s safer to be a cop than it is to be a fisher, logger, pilot, roofer, miner, trucker or taxi driver. It’s safer to be a cop today than it’s been in years, decades, or even a century, by some measures.”

You know what’s dangerous?

Being a citizen of the American police state.

Treating cops as deserving of greater protections than their fellow citizens.

And training cops to think and act like they’re soldiers on a battlefield.

As journalist Daniel Bier warns, “If you tell cops over and over that they’re in a war, they’re under siege, they’re under attack, and that citizens are the enemy—instead of the people they’re supposed to protect—you’re going to create an atmosphere of fear, tension, and hostility that can only end badly, as it has for so many people.”

Frankly, if there’s a war taking place in this country, it’s a war on the American people.

After all, we’re the ones being shot at and tasered and tracked and beaten and intimidated and threatened and invaded and probed.

And what is the government doing to fix this policing crisis that threatens the safety of every man, woman and child in this country?

Not a damn thing.

Incredibly, according to a study by the American Medical Association, police-inflicted injuries send more than 50,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year.

Yet as Slate warns, if you even dare to criticize a police officer let alone challenge the myth of the hero cop—a myth “used to legitimize brutality as necessary, justify policies that favor the police, and punish anyone who dares to question police tactics or oppose the unions’ agendas”— you will be roundly denounced “as disloyal, un-American, and dangerous.”

As reporter David Feige concludes, “We should appreciate the value and sacrifice of those who choose to serve and protect. But that appreciation should not constitute a get-out-of-jail-free card for the vast army of 800,000 people granted general arrest powers and increasingly armed with automatic weapons and armored vehicles.”

Vast army.

Equipped with deadly weapons.

Empowered with arrest powers.

Immune from accountability for wrongdoing.

What is this, Hitler’s America?

Have we strayed so far from our revolutionary roots that we no longer even recognize tyranny when it’s staring us in the face?

The fact that police are choosing to fatally resolve encounters with their fellow citizens by using their guns speaks volumes about what is wrong with policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making.”

Mind you, the federal government is the one responsible for turning our police into extensions of the military, having previously distributed billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment to local police agencies, including high-powered weapons, assault vehicles, drones, tactical gear, body armor, weapon scopes, infrared imaging systems and night-vision goggles—equipment intended for use on the battlefield—not to mention federal grants for militarized training and SWAT teams.

Thus, despite what Attorney General Sessions wants you to believe, the daily shootings, beatings and roadside strip searches (in some cases, rape) of American citizens by police are not isolated incidents.

Likewise, the events of recent years are not random occurrences: the invasive surveillance, the extremism reports, the civil unrest, the protests, the shootings, the bombings, the military exercises and active shooter drills, the color-coded alerts and threat assessments, the fusion centers, the transformation of local police into extensions of the military, the distribution of military equipment and weapons to local police forces, the government databases containing the names of dissidents and potential troublemakers.

Rather, these developments are all part of a concerted effort to destabilize the country, institute de facto martial law disguised as law and order, and shift us fully into the iron jaws of the police state.

So, no, the dramatic increase in police shootings are not accidents.

It wasn’t an “accident” that 26-year-old Andrew Lee Scott, who had committed no crime, was gunned down by police who knocked aggressively on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed Scott when he answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. Police were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

It wasn’t an “accident” when Levar Edward Jones was shot by a South Carolina police officer during a routine traffic stop over a seatbelt violation as he was in the process of reaching for his license and registration. The trooper justified his shooting of the unarmed man by insisting that Jones reached for his license “aggressively.”

It wasn’t an “accident” when Francisco Serna, a 73-year-old grandfather with early-stage dementia, was shot and killed by police for refusing to remove his hand from his pocket. Police were investigating an uncorroborated report that Serna had a gun, but it turned out he was holding a crucifix and made no aggressive movements before he was gunned down.

It wasn’t an “accident” when Nandi Cain, Jr., was thrown to the ground, choked and punched over a dozen times by a police officer after the officer stopped Cain for jaywalking.  Cain made no aggressive moves toward the officer, and had even removed his jacket to show the officer he had no weapon.

It wasn’t an “accident” when 65-year-old Thomas Smith, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, called 911 because of a medical problem only to have his home raided by a SWAT team. Smith was thrown to the ground and placed in handcuffs because his condition prevented him from following police instructions.

It wasn’t an “accident” when John Wrana, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, died after being shot multiple times by a police officer with a Mossberg shotgun during a raid at Wrana’s room at an assisted living center. This, despite the fact that there were five police officers on the scene to subdue Wrana, who used a walker to get around and was “armed” with a shoehorn and not a knife, as police assumed.

It wasn’t an “accident” when a 10-year-old boy was subdued by two police officers using a taser because the child became unruly at the day care center he attended.

It wasn’t an “accident” when police in South Dakota routinely subjected persons, some as young as 3 years old, to catheterizations in order to forcibly obtain urine samples.

It wasn’t an “accident” when Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist, was shot by police as he was trying to help an autistic patient who had wandered away from his group home and was sitting in the middle of the road playing with a toy car. The officer who shot Kinsey was reportedly told that neither Kinsey nor the patient had a weapon.

It wasn’t an “accident” when Frank Arnal Baker was mauled by a police dog and kicked by an officer for not complying quickly enough with a police order. Baker, who had done nothing wrong, spent two weeks in the hospital with fractured ribs and collapsed lungs and needed skin grafts for the dog-bite injuries.

No, none of these incidents were accidents.

Nor are they isolated, anecdotal examples of a few bad actors, as Sessions insists.

Far from being isolated or anecdotal, police misconduct cases have become so prevalent as to jeopardize the integrity of all of the nation’s law enforcement agencies.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is what happens when you allow so-called “law and order” to matter more than justice: corruption flourishes, injustice reigns and tyranny takes hold.

Yet no matter what Trump and Session seem to believe, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that Americans must obey the government.

Despite the corruption of Congress and the complicity of the courts, nowhere does the Constitution require absolute subservience to the government’s dictates.

And despite what most police officers seem to believe, nowhere does the Constitution state that Americans must comply with a police order.

To suggest otherwise is authoritarianism.

This is also, as abolitionist Frederick Douglass noted, the definition of slavery: “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.”

You want to know what it means to be a slave in the American police state?

It means being obedient, compliant and Sieg Heil!-ing every government agent armed with a weapon. If you believe otherwise, try standing up for your rights, being vocal about your freedoms, or just challenging a government dictate, and see how long you last before you’re staring down the barrel of a loaded government-issued gun.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Beware the Dogs of War: Is the American Empire on the Verge of Collapse?

Wake Up, America- There’s Not Much Time Left Before We Reach The Zero Hour!

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. — James Madison

Waging endless wars abroad (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Syria) isn’t making America—or the rest of the world—any safer, it’s certainly not making America great again, and it’s undeniably digging the U.S. deeper into debt.

In fact, it’s a wonder the economy hasn’t collapsed yet.

Indeed, even if we were to put an end to all of the government’s military meddling and bring all of the troops home today, it would take decades to pay down the price of these wars and get the government’s creditors off our backs. Even then,government spending would have to be slashed dramatically and taxes raised.

You do the math.

The government is $19 trillion in debt: War spending has ratcheted up the nation’s debt. The debt has now exceeded a staggering $19 trillion and is growing at an alarming rate of $35 million/hour and $2 billion every 24 hours.  Yet whiledefense contractors are getting richer than their wildest dreams, we’re in hock to foreign nations such as Japan and China (our two largest foreign holders at $1.13 trillion and $1.12 trillion respectively).

The Pentagon’s annual budget consumes almost 100% of individual income tax revenue. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off, especially when it comes to paying the tab for America’s attempts to police the globe. Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $57 million per hour.

The government has spent $4.8 trillion on wars abroad since 9/11, with $7.9 trillion in interest: That’s a tax burden of more than $16,000 per American. Almost a quarter of that debt was incurred as a result of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Syria. For the past 16 years, these wars have been paid for almost entirely by borrowingmoney from foreign nations and the U.S. Treasury. As the Atlantic points out, we’re fighting terrorism with a credit card. According to the Watson Institute for Public Affairs at Brown University, interest payments on what we’ve already borrowed for these failed wars could total over $7.9 trillion by 2053.

The government lost more than $160 billion to waste and fraud by the military and defense contractors: With paid contractors often outnumbering enlisted combat troops, the American war effort dubbed as the “coalition of the willing” has quickly evolved into the “coalition of the billing,” with American taxpayers forced to cough up billions of dollars for cash bribes, luxury bases, a highway to nowhere, faulty equipment, salaries for so-called “ghost soldiers,” and overpriced anything and everything associated with the war effort, including a $640 toilet seat and a $7600 coffee pot.

Taxpayers are being forced to pay $1.4 million per hour to provide U.S. weapons to countries that can’t afford them. As Mother Jones reports, the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Finance program “opens the way for the US government to pay for weapons for other countries—only to ‘promote world peace,’ of course—using your tax dollars, which are then recycled into the hands of military-industrial-complex corporations.”

The U.S. government spends more on wars (and military occupations) abroad every year than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. In fact, the U.S. spends more on its military than the eight highest-ranking nations with big defense budgets combined. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually. As investigative journalist David Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

Now President Trump wants to increase military spending by $54 billion. Promising “an historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States,” Trump has made it clear where his priorities lie, and it’s not with the American taxpayer. As The Nation reports, “On a planet where Americans account for 4.34 percent of the population, US military spending accounts for 37 percent of the global total.”

Add in the cost of waging war in Syria (with or without congressional approval), and the burden on taxpayers soars to more than $11.5 million a day. Ironically, while presidential candidate Trump was vehemently opposed to the U.S. use of force in Syria, as well as harboring Syrian refugees within the U.S., he had no problem retaliating against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on behalf of Syrian children killed in a chemical attack. The cost of launching a 59 Tomahawk missile-strike against Syria? It’s estimated that the missiles alone cost $60 million. Mind you, this is the same man, while campaigning for president, who warned that fighting Syria would signal the start of World War IIIagainst a united Syria, Russia and Iran. Already oil prices have started to climb as investors anticipate an extended conflict.

Clearly, war has become a huge money-making venture, and the U.S. government, with its vast military empire, is one of its best buyers and sellers.

Yet what most Americans—brainwashed into believing that patriotism means supporting the war machine—fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

The rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and now Syria. However, the one that remains constant is that those who run the government—including the current president—are feeding the appetite of the military industrial complex and fattening the bank accounts of its investors.

Case in point: President Trump plans to “beef up” military spending while slashing funding for the environment, civil rights protections, the arts, minority-owned businesses, public broadcasting, Amtrak, rural airports and interstates.

In other words, in order to fund this burgeoning military empire that polices the globe, the U.S. government is prepared to bankrupt the nation, jeopardize our servicemen and women, increase the chances of terrorism and blowback domestically, and push the nation that much closer to eventual collapse.

Clearly, our national priorities are in desperate need of an overhauling.

As Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez rightly asks:

Why throw money at defense when everything is falling down around us? Do we need to spend more money on our military (about $600 billion this year) than the next seven countries combined? Do we need 1.4 million active military personnel and 850,000 reserves when the enemy at the moment — ISIS — numbers in the low tens of thousands? If so, it seems there's something radically wrong with our strategy. Should 55% of the federal government's discretionary spending go to the military and only 3% to transportation when the toll in American lives is far greater from failing infrastructure than from terrorism? Does California need nearly as many active military bases (31, according to militarybases.com) as it has UC and state university campuses (33)? And does the state need more active duty military personnel (168,000, according to Governing magazine) than public elementary school teachers (139,000)?

Obviously, there are much better uses for your taxpayer funds than trillions of dollars being wasted on war. The following are just a few ways those hard-earned dollars could be used:

  • $120 billion a year to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. With 32% of the nation’s major roadways in poor or mediocre condition, it’s estimated that improving the nation’s roads and bridges would require $120 billion a year through 2020, although it will take “many trillions ... to fix the country's web of roads, bridges, railways, subways and bus stations.”
  • $251 million for safety improvements and construction for Amtrak.
  • $690 million to care for America’s 70,000 aging veterans.
  • $11 billion per year to provide the world—including our own failing cities—with clean drinking water.

As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to wage its costly, meaningless, endless wars abroad, the American homeland will continue to suffer: our roads will crumble, our bridges will fail, our schools will fall into disrepair, our drinking water will become undrinkable, our communities will destabilize, and crime will rise.

Here’s the kicker, though: if the American economy collapses—and with it the last vestiges of our constitutional republic—it will be the government and its trillion-dollar war budgets that are to blame.

Of course, the government has already anticipated this breakdown.

That’s why the government has transformed America into a war zone, turned the nation into a surveillance state, and labelled “we the people” as enemy combatants.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Having spent more than half a century exporting war to foreign lands, profiting from war, and creating a national economy seemingly dependent on the spoils of war, the war hawks long ago turned their profit-driven appetites on us, bringing home the spoils of war—the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.—and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield.

This is how the police state wins and “we the people” lose.

Eventually, however, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all military empires fail.

At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts:

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

This is the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us more than 50 years ago not to let endanger our liberties or democratic processes. Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, was alarmed by the rise of the profit-driven war machine that emerged following the war—one that, in order to perpetuate itself, would have to keep waging war.

We failed to heed his warning.

Yet as Eisenhower recognized, the consequences of allowing the military-industrial complex to wage war, exhaust our resources and dictate our national priorities are beyond grave:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Wake up, America. There’s not much time left before we reach the zero hour.

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John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Analyst & Author, is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Rule by Thieves: One Week in the Life of the American Kleptocracy

Our Freedoms Have become Casualties in an All-Out War on the American People

“The first and most important thing to understand about politics is this: forget Right, Left, Center, socialism, fascism, or democracy. Every government that exists — or ever existed, or ever will exist — is a Kleptocracy, meaning ‘rule by thieves.’ Competing ideologies merely provide different excuses to separate the Productive Class from what they produce. If the taxpayer/voters won’t willingly fork over to end poverty, then maybe they’ll cough up to fight drugs or terrorism. Conflicting ideologies, as presently constituted, are nothing more than a cover for what’s really going on, like the colors of competing gangs.” — Author L. Neil Smith

The American kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) continues to suck the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

Case in point: in the same week that Wikileaks dropped its bombshell about the CIA’s use of spy tools to subject law-abiding Americans to all manner of government surveillance and hacking—a revelation that caused barely a ripple of concern among the citizenry—the government quietly and with little fanfare continued to wage its devastating, stomach-churning, debilitating war on the American people.

Incredibly, hardly anyone noticed.

This begs the question: if the government is overstepping its authority, abusing its power, and disregarding the rule of law but no one seems to notice—and no one seems to care—does it matter if the government has become a tyrant?

Here’s my short answer: when government wrongdoing ceases to matter, America will have ceased to be.

Just consider the devastation wrought in one week in the life of our American kleptocracy:

On Monday, March 6, police were given the go-ahead to keep stealing from Americans who were innocent of any wrongdoing.

In refusing to hear a challenge to Texas’ asset forfeiture law, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas police to keep $201,000 in ill-gotten cash primarily on the basis that the seized cash—the proceeds of a home sale—was being transported on a highway associated with illegal drug trade, despite any proof of illegal activity by the owner. Asset forfeiture laws, which have come under intense scrutiny and criticism in recent years, allow the police to seize property “suspected” of being connected to criminal activity without having to prove the owner of the property is guilty of a criminal offense.

On April 1, 2013, James Leonard was driving with a companion, Nicosa Kane, on U.S. Highway 59 in Texas when the vehicle was stopped by a state police officer for allegedly speeding and following another vehicle too closely. A subsequent search of the vehicle disclosed a safe in the trunk, which Leonard explained belonged to his mother, Lisa Leonard, and contained cash. When the police officer contacted Lisa Leonard, she confirmed that the safe’s contents belonged to her, that the contents constituted personal business, and that she would not consent to allowing the officer to open the safe. After police secured a search warrant, the safe was opened and found to contain $201,000 and a bill of sale for a home in Pennsylvania.

Neither the Leonards nor Kane were found to be in possession of illegal drugs. However, the state initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against the $201,100 on the ground that it was substantially connected to criminal activity because Highway 59 is reputed to be a drug corridor. At trial, Lisa Leonard testified that the money was being sent to Texas so that she could use it to purchase a home for her son and Kane. Both the trial and appeals courts affirmed the authority of state officials to seize and keep Leonard’s funds under the state’s asset forfeiture law, basing their ruling on wholly circumstantial evidence and the reputation of Highway 59. Leonard then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to compel Texas to return her money, given that she was innocent of any crime. In refusing to hear the case on a technicality, the Supreme Court turned its back on justice and allowed the practice of policing for profit to continue.

On Tuesday, March 7, hacked information about the surveillance state was met with a collective shrug by the public, a sign of how indifferent the citizenry has become to living in an electronic concentration camp.

Wikileaks confirmed what we’ve suspected all along: the government’s ability to spy on law-abiding Americans is far more invasive than what we’ve been told. According to the Wikileaks Vault 7 data dump, government agencies such as the CIA and the NSA have been spying on the citizenry through our smart TVs, listening in on our phone calls, hacking into our computerized devices (including our cars), and compromising our security systems through the use of Trojan horses, spyware and malware.

As this Wikileaks revelation confirms, we now have a fourth branch of government. This fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance, but I prefer “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties. Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing.

Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

On Wednesday, March 8, police were given further incentives to use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals.

Upon arriving on the scene of a nighttime traffic accident, an Alabama police officer shot a driver exiting his car,mistakenly believing the wallet in his hand to be a gun. From the time the driver stumbled out of his car, waving his wallet in the air, to the time he was shot in the abdomen, only six seconds had elapsed. Although the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded “that a reasonable officer in Hancock’s position would have feared for his life,” the video footage makes clear that the courts continue to march in lockstep with the police, because no reasonable person would shoot first and ask questions later.

A report by the Justice Department on police shootings in Philadelphia, which boasts the fourth largest police department in the country, found that half of the unarmed people shot by police over a seven-year span were “shot because the officer saw something (like a cellphone) or some action (like a person pulling at the waist of their pants) and misidentified it as a threat.”

What exactly are we teaching these young officers in the police academy when the slightest thing, whether it be a hand in a pocket, a man running towards them, a flashlight on a keychain, a wallet waved in a hand, or a dehumanizing stare can ignite a strong enough “fear for their safety” to justify doing whatever is deemed necessary to neutralize the threat, even if it means firing on an unarmed person?

On Thursday, March 9, police were given even more leeway in how much damage they can inflict on those they serve and the extent to which they can disregard the Constitution.  

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer who allowed a police dog to maul a homeless man innocent of any wrongdoing. The case arose in 2010 after a police dog attacked a homeless man near an abandoned house where police were tracking a robbery suspect. The cop refused to call off the dog immediately, despite the man’s pleading and the fact that he did not match the description of the robbery suspect. The homeless man suffered deep bites on his hand, arm and thigh, that required a nearly 16-inch skin graft, as well as severe bleeding, bruising, swelling and an arterial blood clot. Incredibly, not only did the court declare that the police officer was protected by qualified immunity, which incentivizes government officials to violate constitutional rights without fear of repercussion, but it had the nerve to suggest that being mauled by a police dog is the equivalent of a lawful Terry stop in which police may stop and hold a person for questioning on the basis of “reasonable suspicion.”

Also on March 9, government officials assured the Michigan Supreme Court that there was nothing unlawful, unreasonable or threatening about the prospect of armed police dressed in SWAT gear knocking on doors at 4 a.m. and “asking” homeowners to engage in warrantless “knock-and-talk” sessions. Although government lawyers insist citizens can choose to say no to such heavy-handed requests by police to conduct unwarranted interrogations, if such coercive tactics are allowed, it would give SWAT teams further incentive to further terrorize anyone even remotely—or mistakenly—suspected of wrongdoing without fear of repercussion.

On Friday, March 10, the military industrial complex continued to wage war abroad, while government agencies, including members of the military, remained embroiled in controversies over sexual misconduct.

A day after military brass defended the U.S.-led raid in Yemen that killed 10 children and at least six women, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, informed members of Congress that even more U.S. troops were needed in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban. Some 8400 American troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded the country post 9/11. Approximately 400 more Marines are being sent to Syria to aid U.S. forces in their fight against ISIS.

That same day, news reports indicated that members of several branches of the U.S. military, including the Marines, have been using online bulletin boards to either share or solicit nude or explicit photos and videos of women in the military. One Facebook page for Marines, which has nearly 30,000 followers, contained graphic language about how the women photographed, some without their knowledge or consent, should be treated.

As the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) revealed, “One member of the Facebook group suggested that the service member sneaking the photos should ‘take her out back and pound her out.’ Others suggested more than vaginal sex: ‘And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though … for science.’” According to CIR, the photo sharing began less than a month after the first Marine infantry unit was assigned women.

The FBI has also been getting in on the photo-sharing gig, only its agents have been distributing child porn, allegedly in an effort to catch consumers of child porn. Curiously, the Department of Justice has opted to drop its case against a man accused of child pornography rather than be forced to disclose the FBI’s tactics for spying on suspected child porn consumers and entrapping them as part of its Operation Pacifier sting. What the case revealed was that for a little while, in its single-minded pursuit of lawbreakers, the FBI became a lawbreaker itself as the largest distributor of child pornography. All told, the FBI uploaded tens of thousands of images of child pornography to the “dark web.”

As reporter Bryan Clark points out:

At the intersection of technology and law, we’ve proven two things as the result of Operation Pacifier: 1. Government bodies have proven their willingness to circumvent — or even break — the law to capture suspected criminals it’s not even willing to prosecute. 2. We’re living in an age where — to agencies like the FBI — criminals and their victims are less important than the tools used to track them down. It’s hard to argue on the side of an alleged pedophile. But in this case, the FBI was the pedophile’s equal. It was the agency, you’ll recall, that disseminated these images to some 150,000 registered members… this means the FBI perpetrated the same heinous crime it attempted to charge others with, all while securing what could result in zero convictions.

Mind you, this was just one week of shootings, degradation, excessive force, abuse of power and complicity in the American police state. Magnify the impact of these events 52 times over, because they are taking place every week in this country, and you will find yourself weak at the knees.

Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to kleptocracy, and representative government has been rejected in favor of rule by career politicians, corporations and thieves—individuals and entities with little regard for the rights of American citizens.

This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president. It is a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.”

Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to transport us back to a place and time where “we the people” weren’t merely fodder for a corporate gristmill, operated by government hired hands, whose priorities are money and power.

Our freedoms have become casualties in an all-out war on the American people.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this war is being fought on many fronts, with bullets and tasers, with surveillance cameras and license readers, with intimidation and propaganda, with court rulings and legislation, with the collusion of every bureaucrat on the government’s payroll, and most effectively of all, with the complicity of the American people, who continue to allow themselves to be easily manipulated by their politics, distracted by their pastimes, and acclimated to a world in which government corruption is the norm.

How do we stop the hemorrhaging?

Start by waking up. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Most of all, think for yourself.

As H. L. Mencken observed:

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Illusion of Freedom: The Police State Is Alive & Well

We’re in a national state of denial!

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security... This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.”—Historian Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45

Brace yourself.

There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware. Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware. And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

The world has been down this road before.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free, “Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the 'national enemies', without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.”

We are at our most vulnerable right now.

The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism—delivered by way of sovereign citizens or radicalized Muslims—but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

America is burning, and all most Americans can do is switch the channel, tune out what they don’t want to hear, and tune into their own personal echo chambers.

We’re in a national state of denial.

Yet no amount of escapism can shield us from the harsh reality that the danger in our midst is posed by an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution, Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

If the team colors have changed from blue to red, that’s just cosmetic.

The playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its spots.

Scrape off the surface layers and you will find that the American police state is alive and well and continuing to wreak havoc on the rights of the American people.

“We the people” are no longer living the American Dream.

We’re living the American Lie.

Indeed, Americans have been lied to so sincerely, so incessantly, and for so long by politicians of all stripes—who lie compulsively and without any seeming remorse—that they’ve almost come to prefer the lies trotted out by those in government over less-palatable truths.

The American people have become compulsive believers.

As Nick Cohen writes for The Guardian, “Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world.”

While telling the truth “in a time of universal deceit is,” as George Orwell concluded, “a revolutionary act,” believing the truth—and being able to distinguish the truth from a lie—is also a revolutionary act.

Here’s a truth few Americans want to acknowledge: nothing has changed (at least, not for the better) since Barack Obama passed the reins of the police state to Donald Trump.

The police state is still winning. We the people are still losing.

In fact, the American police state has continued to advance at the same costly, intrusive, privacy-sapping, Constitution-defying, relentless pace under President Trump as it did under President Obama.

Police haven’t stopped disregarding the rights of citizens. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip, shoot and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials are no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace. Indeed, they continue to keep the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

SWAT teams haven’t stopped crashing through doors and terrorizing families. Nationwide, SWAT teams continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activities or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties continue to rise.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t stopped militarizing and federalizing local police. Police forces continue to be transformed into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. In training police to look and act like the military and use the weapons and tactics of war against American citizens, the government continues to turn the United States into a battlefield.

Schools haven’t stopped treating young people like hard-core prisoners. School districts continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment for childish infractions: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court. In this way, the paradigm of abject compliance to the state continues to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior.

For-profit private prisons haven’t stopped locking up Americans and immigrants alike at taxpayer expense.States continue to outsource prison management to private corporations out to make a profit at taxpayer expense. And how do you make a profit in the prison industry? Have the legislatures pass laws that impose harsh penalties for the slightest noncompliance in order keep the prison cells full and corporate investors happy.

Censorship hasn’t stopped. First Amendment activities continue to be pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

The courts haven’t stopped marching in lockstep with the police state. The courts continue to be dominated by technicians and statists who are deferential to authority, whether government or business. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decisions in recent years have most often been characterized by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests. They have run the gamut from suppressing free speech activities and justifying suspicionless strip searches to warrantless home invasions and conferring constitutional rights on corporations, while denying them to citizens.

Government bureaucrats haven’t stopped turning American citizens into criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to an overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal, while reinforcing the power of the police state and its corporate allies.

The surveillance state hasn’t stopped spying on Americans’ communications, transactions or movements. On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether it’s your local police, a fusion center, the National Security Agency or one of the government’s many corporate partners, is still monitoring and tracking you.

The TSA hasn’t stopped groping or ogling travelers. Under the pretext of protecting the nation’s infrastructure (roads, mass transit systems, water and power supplies, telecommunications systems and so on) against criminal or terrorist attacks, TSA task forces (comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams) continue to do random security sweeps of nexuses of transportation, including ports, railway and bus stations, airports, ferries and subways, as well as political conventions, baseball games and music concerts. Sweep tactics include the use of x-ray technology, pat-downs and drug-sniffing dogs, among other things.

Congress hasn’t stopped enacting draconian laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the NDAA. These laws—which completely circumvent the rule of law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, continue to re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the rule of law, our U.S. Constitution, becomes the map by which we navigate life in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t stopped being a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” Is the DHS capable of plotting and planning to turn the national guard into a federalized, immigration police force? No doubt about it. Remember, this is the agency that is notorious for militarizing the police and SWAT teams; spying on activists, dissidents and veterans; stockpiling ammunition; distributing license plate readers; contracting to build detention camps; tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices; carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities; using the TSA as an advance guard; conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners; carrying out soft target checkpoints; directing government workers to spy on Americans; conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers; carrying out Constitution-free border control searches; funding city-wide surveillance cameras; and utilizing drones and other spybots.

The military industrial complex hasn’t stopped profiting from endless wars abroad. America’s expanding military empire continues to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

The Deep State’s shadow government hasn’t stopped calling the shots behind the scenes. Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government continues to be the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our so-called representatives. It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

And the American people haven’t stopped acting like gullible sheep. In fact, many Americans have been so carried away by their blind rank-and-file partisan devotion to their respective political gods that they have lost sight of the one thing that has remained constant in recent years: our freedoms are steadily declining.

Here’s the problem as I see it: “we the people” have become so trusting, so gullible, so easily distracted, so out-of-touch and so sure that our government will always do the right thing by us that we have ignored the warning signs all around us.

In so doing, we have failed to recognize such warning signs as potential red flags to use as opportunities to ask questions, demand answers, and hold our government officials accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law.

Unfortunately, once a free people allows the government to make inroads into their freedoms, or uses those same freedoms as bargaining chips for security, it quickly becomes a slippery slope to outright tyranny. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is what happens when you ignore the warning signs.

This is what happens when you fail to take alarm at the first experiment on your liberties.

This is what happens when you fail to challenge injustice and government overreach until the prison doors clang shut behind you.

In the American police state that now surrounds us, there are no longer such things as innocence, due process, or justice—at least, not in the way we once knew them. We are all potentially guilty, all potential criminals, all suspects waiting to be accused of a crime.

So you can try to persuade yourself that you are free, that you still live in a country that values freedom, and that it is not too late to make America great again, but to anyone who has been paying attention to America’s decline over the past 50 years, it will be just another lie.

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were definitely there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life was good.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

As Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor observed, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”

Freedom demands responsibility.

Freedom demands that people stop sleep-walking through life, stop cocooning themselves in political fantasies, and stop distracting themselves with escapist entertainment.

Freedom demands that we stop thinking as Democrats and Republicans and start thinking like human beings, or at the very least, Americans.

Freedom demands that we not remain silent in the face of evil or wrongdoing but actively stand against injustice.

Freedom demands that we treat others as we would have them treat us. That is the law of reciprocity, also referred to as the Golden Rule, and it is found in nearly every world religion, including Judaism and Christianity.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to grow up in a world without freedom—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how tempting the reason or how fervently you believe in your cause.

As German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The FBI: The Silent Terror of the Fourth Reich

Can the Fourth Reich happen here? It’s already happening right under our noses!

“After five years of Hitler’s dictatorship, the Nazi police had won the FBI’s seal of approval.”— Historian Robert Gellately

Adolf Hitler is alive and well in the United States, and he is fast rising to power.”—Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, on the danger posed by the FBI to our civil liberties

Lately, there’s been a lot of rhetoric comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. The concern is that a Nazi-type regime may be rising in America.

That process, however, began a long time ago.

In fact, following the second World War, the U.S. government recruited Hitler’s employees, adopted his protocols, embraced his mindset about law and order, implemented his tactics in incremental steps, and began to lay the foundations for the rise of the Fourth Reich.

Sounds far-fetched? Read on. It’s all documented.

As historian Robert Gellately recounts, the Nazi police state was initially so admired for its efficiency and order by the world powers of the day that J. Edgar Hoover, then-head of the FBI, actually sent one of his right-hand men, Edmund Patrick Coffey, to Berlin in January 1938 at the invitation of Germany’s secret police—the Gestapo.

The FBI was so impressed with the Nazi regime that, according to the New York Times, in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen.

All told, thousands of Nazi collaborators—including the head of a Nazi concentration camp, among others—were given secret visas and brought to America by way of Project Paperclip. Subsequently, they were hired on as spies and informants, and then camouflaged to ensure that their true identities and ties to Hitler’s holocaust machine would remain unknown. All the while, thousands of Jewish refugees were refused entry visas to the U.S. on the grounds that it could threaten national security.

Adding further insult to injury, American taxpayers have been paying to keep these ex-Nazis on the U.S. government’s payroll ever since. And in true Gestapo fashion, anyone who has dared to blow the whistle on the FBI’s illicit Nazi ties has found himself spied upon, intimidated, harassed and labeled a threat to national security.

As if the government’s covert, taxpayer-funded employment of Nazis after World War II wasn’t bad enough, U.S. government agencies—the FBI, CIA and the military—have fully embraced many of the Nazi’s well-honed policing tactics, and have used them repeatedly against American citizens.

Indeed, with every passing day, the United States government borrows yet another leaf from Nazi Germany’s playbook: Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Censorship. Intimidation. Harassment. Torture. Brutality.

Widespread corruption. Entrapment. Indoctrination. Indefinite detention.

These are not tactics used by constitutional republics, where the rule of law and the rights of the citizenry reign supreme. Rather, they are the hallmarks of authoritarian regimes, where the only law that counts comes in the form of heavy-handed, unilateral dictates from a supreme ruler who uses a secret police to control the populace.

That danger is now posed by the FBI, whose laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, and that’s just based on what we know.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government; recruiting high school students to spy on and report fellow students who show signs of being future terrorists; or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo.

Whatever minimal restrictions initially kept the FBI’s surveillance activities within the bounds of the law have all but disappeared post-9/11. Since then, the FBI has been transformed into a mammoth federal policing and surveillance agency that largely operates as a power unto itself, beyond the reach of established laws, court rulings and legislative mandates.

Consider the FBI’s far-reaching powers to surveil, detain, interrogate, investigate, prosecute, punish, police and generally act as a law unto themselves—much like their Nazi cousins, the Gestapo—and then try to convince yourself that the United States is still a constitutional republic.

Just like the Gestapo, the FBI has vast resources, vast investigatory powers, and vast discretion to determine who is an enemy of the state.

Today, the FBI employs more than 35,000 individuals and operates more than 56 field offices in major cities across the U.S., as well as 400 resident agencies in smaller towns, and more than 50 international offices. In addition to their “data campus,” which houses more than 96 million sets of fingerprints from across the United States and elsewhere, the FBI has also built a vast repository of “profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.”

The FBI’s burgeoning databases on Americans are not only being added to and used by local police agencies, but are also being made available to employers for real-time background checks.

All of this is made possible by the agency’s nearly unlimited resources (its minimum budget alone in fiscal year 2015 was $8.3 billion), the government’s vast arsenal of technology, the interconnectedness of government intelligence agencies, and information sharing through fusion centers—data collecting intelligence agencies spread throughout the country that constantly monitor communications (including those of American citizens), everything from internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails.

Much like the Gestapo spied on mail and phone calls, FBI agents have carte blanche access to the citizenry’s most personal information.

Working through the U.S. Post Office, the FBI has access to every piece of mail that passes through the postal system: more than 160 billion pieces are scanned and recorded annually. Moreover, the agency’s National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose those demands to the customer. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread constitutional violations.

Much like the Gestapo’s sophisticated surveillance programs, the FBI’s spying capabilities can delve into Americans’ most intimate details (and allow local police to do so, as well).

In addition to technology (which is shared with police agencies) that allows them to listen in on phone calls, read emails and text messages, and monitor web activities, the FBI’s surveillance boasts an invasive collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls.  In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.” Law enforcement agencies are also using social media tracking software to monitor Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Moreover, secret FBI rules also allow agents to spy on journalists without significant judicial oversight.

Much like the Gestapo’s ability to profile based on race and religion, and its assumption of guilt by association, the FBI’s approach to pre-crime allows it to profile Americans based on a broad range of characteristics including race and religion.

The agency’s biometric database has grown to massive proportions, the largest in the world, encompassing everything from fingerprints, palm, face and iris scans to DNA, and is being increasingly shared between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an effort to target potential criminals long before they ever commit a crime. This is what’s known as pre-crime. Yet it’s not just your actions that will get you in trouble. In many cases, it’s also who you know—even minimally—and where your sympathies lie that could land you on a government watch list. Moreover, as theIntercept reports, despite anti-profiling prohibitions, the bureau “claims considerable latitude to use race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion in deciding which people and communities to investigate.”

Much like the Gestapo’s power to render anyone an enemy of the state, the FBI has the power to label anyone a domestic terrorist.

As part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on terror, the nation’s de facto secret police force has begun using the terms “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably. Moreover, the government continues to add to its growing list of characteristics that can be used to identify an individual (especially anyone who disagrees with the government) as a potential domestic terrorist. For instance, you might be a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the FBI (and its network of snitches) if you:

  • express libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
  • exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership)
  • read survivalist literature, including apocalyptic fictional books
  • show signs of self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • fear an economic collapse
  • buy gold and barter items
  • subscribe to religious views concerning the book of Revelation
  • voice fears about Big Brother or big government
  • expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • believe in a New World Order conspiracy

Much like the Gestapo infiltrated communities in order to spy on the German citizenry, the FBI routinely infiltrates political and religious groups, as well as businesses.

As Cora Currier writes for the Intercept: “Using loopholes it has kept secret for years, the FBI can in certain circumstances bypass its own rules in order to send undercover agents or informants into political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs, and businesses...” The FBI has even been paying Geek Squad technicians at Best Buy to spy on customers’ computers without a warrant.

Just as the Gestapo united and militarized Germany’s police forces into a national police force, America’s police forces have largely been federalized and turned into a national police force.

In addition to government programs that provide the nation’s police forces with military equipment and training, the FBI also operates a National Academy that trains thousands of police chiefs every year and indoctrinates them into an agency mindset that advocates the use of surveillance technology and information sharing between local, state, federal, and international agencies.

Just as the Gestapo’s secret files on political leaders were used to intimidate and coerce, the FBI’s files on anyone suspected of “anti-government” sentiment have been similarly abused.

As countless documents make clear, the FBI has no qualms about using its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate and attempt to discredit dissidents of all stripes. For example, not only did the FBI follow Martin Luther King Jr. and bug his phones and hotel rooms, but agents also sent him anonymous letters urging him to commit suicide and pressured a Massachusetts college into dropping King as its commencement speaker.

Just as the Gestapo carried out entrapment operations, the FBI has become a master in the art of entrapment.

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks the FBI has not only targeted vulnerable individuals but has also lured or blackmailed them into fake terror plots while actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing or deporting them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.” In addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts. USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day. Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.

When and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America, in much the same way that the empowerment of Germany’s secret police tracked with the rise of the Nazi regime.

How did the Gestapo become the terror of the Third Reich?

It did so by creating a sophisticated surveillance and law enforcement system that relied for its success on the cooperation of the military, the police, the intelligence community, neighborhood watchdogs, government workers for the post office and railroads, ordinary civil servants, and a nation of snitches inclined to report “rumors, deviant behavior, or even just loose talk.”

In other words, ordinary citizens working with government agents helped create the monster that became Nazi Germany. Writing for the New York Times, Barry Ewen paints a particularly chilling portrait of how an entire nation becomes complicit in its own downfall by looking the other way:

In what may be his most provocative statement, [author Eric A.] Johnson says that ‘‘most Germans may not even have realized until very late in the war, if ever, that they were living in a vile dictatorship.’’ This is not to say that they were unaware of the Holocaust; Johnson demonstrates that millions of Germans must have known at least some of the truth. But, he concludes, ‘‘a tacit Faustian bargain was struck between the regime and the citizenry.’’ The government looked the other way when petty crimes were being committed. Ordinary Germans looked the other way when Jews were being rounded up and murdered; they abetted one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century not through active collaboration but through passivity, denial and indifference.

Much like the German people, “we the people” have become passive, polarized, gullible, easily manipulated, and lacking in critical thinking skills.  Distracted by entertainment spectacles, politics and screen devices, we too are complicit, silent partners in creating a police state similar to the terror practiced by former regimes.

Can the Fourth Reich happen here?

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s already happening right under our noses.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including Battlefield America: The War on the American People.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Rule by Brute Force: The True Nature of Government

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”—Ayn Rand

The torch has been passed to a new president.

All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—have been inherited by Donald Trump.

Whatever kind of president Trump chooses to be, he now has the power to completely alter the landscape of this country for good or for ill.

He has this power because every successive occupant of the Oval Office has been allowed to expand the reach and power of the presidency through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements that can be activated by any sitting president.

Those of us who saw this eventuality coming have been warning for years about the growing danger of the Executive Branch with its presidential toolbox of terror that could be used—and abused—by future presidents.

The groundwork, we warned, was being laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the president—or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time—thinks. And if he or she thinks you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides. In effect, you will disappear.

Our warnings went largely unheeded

First, we sounded the alarm over George W. Bush’s attempts to gut the Constitution, suspend habeas corpus, carry out warrantless surveillance on Americans, and generally undermine the Fourth Amendment, but the Republicans didn’t want to listen because Bush was a Republican.

Then we sounded the alarm over Barack Obama’s prosecution of whistleblowers, targeted drone killings, assassinations of American citizens, mass surveillance, and militarization of the police, but the Democrats didn’t want to listen because Obama was a Democrat and he talked a really good game.

It well may be that by the time Americans­—Republicans and Democrats alike—stop playing partisan games and start putting some safeguards in place, it will be too late.

Already, Donald Trump has indicated that he will pick up where his predecessors left off: he will continue to wage war, he will continue to federalize the police, and he will operate as if the Constitution does not apply to him.

Still, as tempting as it may be, don’t blame Donald Trump for what is to come.

If this nation eventually locks down... If Americans are rounded up and detained based on the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, or their political views... If law-and-order takes precedence over constitutional principles...

If martial law is eventually declared... If we find that there really is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from the surveillance state’s prying eyes and ears... And if our constitutional republic finally plunges headlong over the cliff and leaves us in the iron grip of totalitarianism...

Please, resist the urge to lay all the blame at Trump’s feet.

After all, President Trump didn’t create the police state.

He merely inherited it.

Frankly, there’s more than enough blame to go around.

So blame Obama. Blame Bush. Blame Bill Clinton.

Blame the Republicans and Democrats who justified every power grab, every expansion of presidential powers, and every attack on the Constitution as long as it was a member of their own party leading the charge.

Blame Congress for being a weak, inept body that spends more time running for office and pandering to the interests of the monied elite than representing the citizenry.

Blame the courts for caring more about order than justice, and for failing to hold government officials accountable to the rule of law.

Blame Corporate America for taking control of the government and calling the shots behind the scenes.

Most of all, blame the American people for not having objected louder, sooner and more vehemently when Barack Obama, George W. Bush and their predecessors laid the groundwork for this state of tyranny.

But wait, you say.

Americans are mobilizing. They are engaged. They are actively expressing their discontent with the government. They are demanding change. They are marching in the streets, picketing, protesting and engaging in acts of civil disobedience.

This is a good development, right? Isn’t this what we’ve been calling on Americans to do for so long: stand up and push back and say “enough is enough”?

Perhaps you’re right.

Perhaps Americans have finally had enough. At least, some Americans have finally had enough.

That is to say, some Americans have finally had enough of certain government practices that are illegal, immoral and inhumane.

Although, to be quite fair, it might be more accurate to state that some Americans have finally had enough of certain government practices that are illegal, immoral and inhumane provided that the ruling political party responsible for those actions is not their own.

Yes, that sounds about right. Except that it’s all wrong.

We still haven’t learned a thing.

Imagine: after more than eight years in which Americans remained largely silent while the United States military (directed by the Obama Administration) bombed parts of the Middle East to smithereens—dropping nearly three bombs an hour, and left a trail of innocent civilian deaths in its wake—suddenly, Americans are outraged by programs introduced by the Trump Administration that could discriminate against Muslim refugees. Never mind that we’ve been killing those same refugees for close to a decade.

Certainly, there was little outcry when the U.S. military under Obama carried out an air strike against a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. Doctors, patients—including children—and staff members were killed or wounded. There were also no protests when the Obama Administration targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen, for assassination by drone strike. The man was killed without ever having been charged with a crime. Two weeks later, Obama—the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize—authorized another drone strike that killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, also an American citizen.

Most recently, picking up where President Obama left off, President Trump personally authorized a commando raid on a compound in Yemen suspected of harboring Al Qaeda officials. Among those killed were “at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13,” including Nora, the 8-year-old sister of the teenager killed by Obama years before.

Likewise, while most Americans failed to show much opposition to the government’s disregard for Americans’ bodily integrity, shrugging their collective shoulders dismissively over reports of their fellow citizens being subjected Americans to roadside strip searches, virtual strip searches, cavity searches and other equally denigrating acts, hundreds of thousands mobilized to protest policies that could be advanced by the Trump administration that might demean or deny equal rights to individuals based on their gender or orientation or take away their reproductive planning choices. Similarly, while tens of thousands have gathered annually for a March for Life to oppose abortion, many of those same marchers seem to have no qualms about the government’s practice of shooting unarmed citizens and executing innocent ones.

This begs the question: what are Americans really protesting? Is it politics or principle?

Or is it just Trump?

For instance, in the midst of the uproar over Trump’s appointment of Steven Bannon to the National Security Council, his detractors have accused Bannon of being a propagandist  nationalist, and a white supremacist. Yet not one objection has been raised about the fact that the National Security Council authorizes secret, legal, targeted killings of American citizens (and others) without due process, a practice frequently employed by Obama.

The message coming across loud and clear: it’s fine for the government to carry out secret, targeted assassinations of American citizens without due process as long as the individuals advising the president aren’t Neo-Nazis.

Of course, this national hypocrisy goes both ways.

Conveniently, many of the same individuals who raised concerns over Obama’s “lawless” use of executive orders to sidestep Congress have defended Trump’s executive orders as “taking us back to the Constitution.” And those who sounded the alarm over the dangers of the American police state have gone curiously silent in the face of Trump’s pledge to put an end to “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America.”

We can’t have it both ways.

As long as we continue to put our politics ahead of our principles—moral, legal and constitutional—“we the people” will lose.

And you know who will keep winning by playing on our prejudices, capitalizing on our fears, deepening our distrust of our fellow citizens, and dividing us into polarized, warring camps incapable of finding consensus on the one true menace that is an immediate threat to all of our freedoms? The U.S. government.

In her essay on “The Nature of Government,” Ayn Rand explains that the only “proper” purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights. She continues: “The source of the government’s authority is ‘the consent of the governed.’ This means that the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose.”

When we lose sight of this true purpose of government—to protect our rights—and fail to keep the government in its place as our servant, we allow the government to overstep its bounds and become a tyrant that rules by brute force.

As Rand explains:

Instead of being a protector of man’s rights, the government is becoming their most dangerous violator; instead of guarding freedom, the government is establishing slavery; instead of protecting men from the initiators of physical force, the government is initiating physical force and coercion in any manner and issue it pleases; instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of nonobjective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats; instead of protecting men from injury by whim, the government is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim—so that we are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

Rule by brute force.

That’s about as good a description as you’ll find for the sorry state of our republic.

SWAT teams crashing through doors. Militarized police shooting unarmed citizens.

Traffic cops tasering old men and pregnant women for not complying fast enough with an order. Resource officers shackling children for acting like children. Citizens being jailed for growing vegetable gardens in their front yards and holding prayer services in their backyards. Drivers having their cash seized under the pretext that they might have done something wrong.

The list of abuses being perpetrated against the American people by their government is growing rapidly.

We are approaching critical mass.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it may already be too late to save our republic. We have passed the point of easy fixes.

When the government and its agents no longer respect the rule of law—the Constitution—or believe that it applies to them, then the very contract on which this relationship is based becomes invalid.

So what is the answer?

Look to the past if you want to understand the future.

Too often, we look to the past to understand how tyrants come to power: the rise and fall of the Roman Empire; Hitler’s transformation of Germany into a Nazi state; the witch hunt tactics of the McCarthy Era.

Yet the past—especially our own American history—also teaches us valuable lessons about the quest for freedom. Here’s Rand again:

A free society—like any other human product—cannot be achieved by random means, by mere wishing or by the leaders’ “good intentions.” A complex legal system, based on objectively valid principles, is required to make a society free and to keep it free-a system that does not depend on the motives, the moral character or the intentions of any given official, a system that leaves no opportunity, no legal loophole for the development of tyranny. The American system of checks and balances was just such an achievement. And although certain contradictions in the Constitution did leave a loophole for the growth of statism, the incomparable achievement was the concept of a constitution as a means of limiting and restricting the power of the government. Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals—that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government—that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens’ protection against the government.

You want to save America? Then stop thinking like Republicans and Democrats and start acting like Americans.

The only thing that will save us now is a concerted, collective commitment to the Constitution’s principles of limited government, a system of checks and balances, and a recognition that they—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the police, the technocrats and plutocrats and bureaucrats—work for us.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

Nothing Is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics

A Phenomenon Called “Humilitainment”

“There are two ways by which the spirit of a culture may be shriveled. In the first—the Orwellian—culture becomes a prison. In the second—the Huxleyan—culture becomes a burlesque. No one needs to be reminded that our world is now marred by many prison-cultures…. it makes little difference if our wardens are inspired by right- or left-wing ideologies. The gates of the prison are equally impenetrable, surveillance equally rigorous, icon-worship pervasive…. Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”— Professor Neil Postman

Donald Trump no longer needs to launch Trump TV.

He’s already the star of his own political reality show.

Americans have a voracious appetite for TV entertainment, and the Trump reality show—guest starring outraged Democrats with a newly awakened conscience for immigrants and the poor, power-hungry Republicans eager to take advantage of their return to power, and a hodgepodge of other special interest groups with dubious motives—feeds thatappetite for titillating, soap opera drama.

After all, who needs the insults, narcissism and power plays that are hallmarks of reality shows such as Celebrity Apprentice or Keeping Up with the Kardashians when you can have all that and more delivered up by the likes of Donald Trump and his cohorts?

Yet as John Lennon reminds us, “nothing is real,” especially not in the world of politics.

Much like the fabricated universe in Peter Weir’s 1998 film The Truman Show, in which a man’s life is the basis for an elaborately staged television show aimed at selling products and procuring ratings, the political scene in the United States has devolved over the years into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population.

Indeed, Donald Trump may be the smartest move yet by the powers-that-be to keep the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats, because as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

This is the magic of the reality TV programming that passes for politics today.

It allows us to be distracted, entertained, occasionally a little bit outraged but overall largely uninvolved, content to remain in the viewer’s seat.

The more that is beamed at us, the more inclined we are to settle back in our comfy recliners and become passive viewers rather than active participants as unsettling, frightening events unfold.

Reality and fiction merge as everything around us becomes entertainment fodder.

We don’t even have to change the channel when the subject matter becomes too monotonous. That’s taken care of for us by the programmers (the corporate media).

For instance, before we could get too worked up over government surveillance, the programmers changed the channels on us and switched us over to breaking news about militarized police. Before our outrage could be transformed into action over police misconduct, they changed the channel once again to reports of ISIS beheadings and terrorist shootings. Before we had a chance to challenge what was staged or real, the programming switched to the 2016 presidential election.

“Living is easy with eyes closed,” says Lennon, and that’s exactly what reality TV that masquerades as American politics programs the citizenry to do: navigate the world with their eyes shut.

As long as we’re viewers, we’ll never be doers.

Studies suggest that the more reality TV people watch—and I would posit that it’s all reality TV—the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between what is real and what is carefully crafted farce.

“We the people” are watching a lot of TV.

On average, Americans spend five hours a day watching television. By the time we reach age 65, we’re watching more than 50 hours of television a week, and that number increases as we get older. And reality TV programming consistently captures the largest percentage of TV watchers every season by an almost 2-1 ratio.

This doesn’t bode well for a citizenry able to sift through masterfully-produced propaganda in order to think critically about the issues of the day, whether it’s fake news peddled by government agencies or foreign entities.

Those who watch reality shows tend to view what they see as the “norm.” Thus, those who watch shows characterized by lying, aggression and meanness not only come to see such behavior as acceptable and entertaining but also mimic the medium.

This holds true whether the reality programming is about the antics of celebrities in the White House, in the board room, or in the bedroom.

It’s a phenomenon called “humilitainment.”

A term coined by media scholars Brad Waite and Sara Booker, “humilitainment” refers to the tendency for viewers to take pleasure in someone else’s humiliation, suffering and pain.

Humilitainment” largely explains not only why American TV watchers are so fixated on reality TV programming but how American citizens, largely insulated from what is really happening in the world around them by layers of technology, entertainment, and other distractions, are being programmed to accept the brutality, surveillance and dehumanizing treatment of the American police state as things happening to other people.

The ramifications for the future of civic engagement, political discourse and self-government are incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

This not only explains how a candidate like Donald Trump with a reputation for being rude, egotistical and narcissistic could get elected, but it also says a lot about how a politician like Barack Obama—whose tenure in the White House was characterized by drone killings, a weakening of the Constitution at the expense of Americans’ civil liberties, and an expansion of the police state—could be hailed as “one of the greatest presidents of all times.”

This is what happens when an entire nation—bombarded by reality TV programming, government propaganda and entertainment news—becomes systematically desensitized and acclimated to the trappings of a government that operates by fiat and speaks in a language of force.

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplethe reality shows, the entertainment news, the surveillance society, the militarized police, and the political spectacles have one common objective: to keep us divided, distracted, imprisoned, and incapable of taking an active role in the business of self-government.

If “we the people” feel powerless and apathetic, it is only because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that the duties of citizenship begin and end at the ballot box.

Marching and protests have certainly been used with great success by past movements to foment real change, but if those marches and protests are merely outpourings of discontent because a particular politician won or lost with no solid plan of action or follow-through, then what’s the point?

Martin Luther King Jr. understood that politics could never be the answer to what ailed the country. That’s why he spearheaded a movement of mass-action strategy that employed boycotts, sit-ins and marches. Yet King didn’t march against a particular politician or merely to express discontent. He marched against injustice, government corruption, war, and inequality, and he leveraged discontent with the status quo into an activist movement that transformed the face of America.

When all is said and done, it won’t matter who you voted for in the presidential election. What will matter is where you stand in the face of the injustices that continue to ravage our nation: the endless wars, the police shootings, the overcriminalization, the corruption, the graft, the roadside strip searches, the private prisons, the surveillance state, etc.

Will you tune out the reality TV show and join with your fellow citizens to push back against the real menace of the police state, or will you merely sit back and lose yourself in the political programming aimed at keeping you imprisoned in the police state?

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Titanic Sails at Dawn: Warning Signs Point to Danger Ahead in 2017

A Future Riddled with Hidden & Not-So-Hidden Dangers

“When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Despite our best efforts, we in the American police state seem to be stuck on repeat, reliving the same set of circumstances over and over and over again: egregious surveillance, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, censorship, retaliatory arrests, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, indefinite detentions, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, etc.

Unfortunately, as a nation we’ve become so desensitized to the government’s acts of violence, so accustomed to reports of government corruption, and so anesthetized to the sights and sounds of Corporate America marching in lockstep with the police state that few seem to pay heed to the warning signs blaring out the message: Danger Ahead.

Remember, the Titanic received at least four warnings from other ships about the presence of icebergs in its path, with the last warning issued an hour before disaster struck. All four warnings were ignored.

Like the Titanic, we’re plowing full steam ahead into a future riddled with hidden and not-so-hidden dangers. We too have been given ample warnings, only to have them drowned out by a carefully choreographed cacophony of political noise, cultural distractions and entertainment news—what the Romans termed “bread and circuses”—aimed at keeping the American people polarized, pacified and easily manipulated.

However, there is still danger ahead. The peril to our republic remains the same.

As long as a permanent, unelected bureaucracy—a.k.a. the shadow government— continues to call the shots in the halls of power and the reach of the police state continues to expand, the crisis has not been averted.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the nefarious government programs we’ll be encountering on our journey through the treacherous waters of 2017.

Mandatory quarantines without due process or informed consent: Under a new rule proposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, government agents will be empowered to indefinitely detain any traveler they suspect of posing a medical risk to others without providing an explanation, subject them to medical tests without their consent, and carry out such detentions and quarantines without any kind of due process or judicial review.

Mental health assessments by non-medical personnel: As a result of a nationwide push to train a broad spectrum of so-called gatekeepers such as pastors, teachers, hair stylists, bartenders, police officers and EMTs in mental health first-aid training, more Americans are going to run the risk of being reported by non-medical personnel and detained for having mental health issues.

Tracking chips for citizens: Momentum is building for the government to be able to track citizens, whether through the use of RFID chips embedded in a national ID card or through microscopic chips embedded in one’s skin. In December 2016, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing police to track individuals suffering from some form of mental disability such as Alzheimer’s or autism by way of implanted chips.

Military training to deal with anti-establishment movements in megacities: The future, according to a Pentagon training video, will be militaristic, dystopian and far from friendly to freedom. Indeed, if this government propaganda-piece that is being used to train special forces is to be believed, the only thing that can save the world from outright anarchy—in the eyes of the government, at least—is the military working in conjunction with local police. The video confirms what I’ve been warning about for so long: in the eyes of the U.S. government and its henchmen, the battlefield of the future is the American home front.

Government censorship of anything it classifies as disinformation: This year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which allocates $619 billion for war and military spending, not only allows the military to indefinitely detain American citizens by placing them beyond the reach of the Constitution, but it also directs the State Department to establish a national anti-propaganda center to “counter disinformation and propaganda.” Translation: the government plans to crack down on anyone attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights by exposing government wrongdoing, while persisting in peddling its own brand of fake news.

Threat assessments: Government agents—with the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior sensing software—are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state. It’s the American police state rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.

War on cash: The government and its corporate partners are engaged in a concerted campaign to do away with large bills such as $20s, $50s, $100s and shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient. As economist Steve Forbes concludes, “The real reason for this war on cash—start with the big bills and then work your way down—is an ugly power grab by Big Government. People will have less privacy: Electronic commerce makes it easier for Big Brother to see what we’re doing, thereby making it simpler to bar activities it doesn’t like, such as purchasing salt, sugar, big bottles of soda and Big Macs.”

Expansive surveillance: Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, will still be listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers who work with the government to monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere. In such an environment, we are all suspects to be spied on, searched, scanned, frisked, monitored, tracked and treated as if we’re potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other.

Militarized police: Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield. Now, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone extraction software, Stingray devices and so much more.

Police shootings of unarmed citizens: Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Indeed, as a special report by The Washington Post reveals, despite heightened awareness of police misconduct, the number of fatal shootings by officers in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from the year before.

False flags and terrorist attacks: Despite the government’s endless propaganda about the threat of terrorism, statistics show that you are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack. You are 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane. You are 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack. You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack. And you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.

Endless wars to keep America’s military’s empire employed: The military industrial complex that has advocated that the U.S. remain at war, year after year, is the very entity that will continue to profit the most from America’s expanding military empire. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest employer, with more than 3.2 million employees. Thus far, the U.S. taxpayer has been made to shell out more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When you add in military efforts in Pakistan, as well as the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt, that cost rises to $4.4 trillion.

Attempts by the government to identify, target and punish so-called domestic “extremists”: The government’s anti-extremism program will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist. To this end, police will identify, monitor and deter individuals who exhibit, express or engage in anything that could be construed as extremist before they can become actual threats. This is pre-crime on an ideological scale.

SWAT team raids: More than 80% of American communities have their own SWAT teams, with more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, kill citizens, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and most often in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually some small amount of drugs.

Erosions of private property: Private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Overcriminalization: The government’s tendency towards militarization and overcriminalization, in which routine, everyday behaviors become targets of regulation and prohibition, has resulted in Americans getting arrested for making and selling unpasteurized goat cheese, cultivating certain types of orchids, feeding a whale, holding Bible studies in their homes, and picking their kids up from school.

Strip searches and the denigration of bodily integrity: Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, forcibly take our DNA, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women alike—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops.

Drones: As corporations and government agencies alike prepare for their part in the coming drone invasion—it is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry—it won’t be long before American citizens find themselves to be the target of these devices. Drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—will come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to middle-sized copter drones that can deliver pizzas to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high.

Prisons: America’s prisons, housing the largest number of inmates in the world and still growing, have become money-making enterprises for private corporations that manage the prisons in exchange for the states agreeing to maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years. And how do you keep the prisons full? By passing laws aimed at increasing the prison population, including the imposition of life sentences on people who commit minor or nonviolent crimes such as siphoning gasoline.

Censorship: First Amendment activities are being pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. Free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors have conspired to corrode our core freedoms. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remains the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

Fascism: As a Princeton University survey indicates, our elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen. We are no longer a representative republic. With Big Business and Big Government having fused into a corporate state, the president and his state counterparts—the governors—have become little more than CEOs of the Corporate State, which day by day is assuming more government control over our lives. Never before have average Americans had so little say in the workings of their government and even less access to their so-called representatives.

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, put it best when he warned: “Take alarm at the first experiment with liberties.” Anyone with even a casual knowledge about current events knows that the first experiment on our freedoms happened long ago.

We are fast moving past the point of no return when it comes to restoring our freedoms.

Worse, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we can barely see the old America with its revolutionary principles and value for independence in the rear view mirror. The only reality emerging generations will know is the one constructed for them by the powers-that-be, and you can rest assured that it will not be a reality that favors individuality, liberty or anything or anyone who challenges the status quo.

As a senior advisor to George W. Bush observed, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

In other words, the government has been operating ten steps ahead for quite some time now, and we have yet to catch up, let alone catch our breath as the tides of change swirl around us.

You’d better tighten your seatbelts, folks, because we could be in for a rough ride in 2017.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

The Tyranny at Standing Rock: The Government’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy Is Working

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”— Benjamin Franklin, as quoted in The Works of Benjamin Franklin

Divide and conquer.

It’s one of the oldest military strategies in the books, and it’s proven to be the police state’s most effective weapon for maintaining the status quo.

How do you conquer a nation?

Distract them with football games, political circuses and Black Friday sales. Keep them focused on their differences—economic, religious, environmental, political, racial—so they can never agree on anything. And then, when they’re so divided that they are incapable of joining forces against a common threat, start picking them off one by one.

What we’re witnessing at Standing Rock, where activists have gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipelineconstruction on Native American land, is just the latest incarnation of the government’s battle plan for stamping out any sparks of resistance and keeping the populace under control: battlefield tactics, military weaponry and a complete suspension of the Constitution.

Militarized police. Riot and camouflage gear. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Drones. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Concussion grenades. Arrests of journalists. Intimidation tactics. Brute force.

This is what martial law looks like, when a government disregards constitutional freedoms and imposes its will through military force.

Only this is martial law without any government body having to declare it.

This is martial law packaged as law and order and sold to the public as necessary for keeping the peace.

These overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear.

What Americans have failed to comprehend is that the police state doesn’t differentiate.

In the eyes of the government—whether that government is helmed by Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton—there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, between blacks and whites and every shade in the middle, between Native Americans and a nation of immigrants (no matter how long we’ve been here), between the lower class and the middle and upper classes, between religious and non-religious Americans, between those who march in lockstep with the police state and those who oppose its tactics.

This is all part and parcel of the government’s plan for dealing with widespread domestic unrest, no matter the source.

2008 Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report goes on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

Subsequent reports by the Department of Homeland Security call on the government to identify, monitor and label right-wing and left-wing activists, military veterans and sovereign citizens as extremists (the words extremist and terrorist are used interchangeably in the reports).

These reports indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is labeled an extremist.

Divide and conquer.

What the government has figured out is that as long as its oppression is focused on one particular group at a time—inner city blacksgun-toting ranchers, environmental activists, etc.—there will be no outcry from the public at large.

The liberal left will not speak up for the conservative right.

The rightwing will not speak up for the leftwing.

The economic elite will not speak up for the economically disadvantaged and vice versa.

The ranchers will not speak up for the environmentalists, and the environmentalists will not speak up for the ranchers.

The Democrats will not criticize endless wars, drone killings, militarized police, private prisons, etc., when sanctioned by their candidate. Same goes for the Republicans.

Are you starting to get the picture?

What we’re dealing with is a full-blown case of national hypocrisy.

For too long now, the American people have allowed their personal prejudices and politics to cloud their judgment and render them incapable of seeing that the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat.

The government’s oppressive tactics have not changed.

The same martial law maneuvers and intimidation tactics used to put down protests and muzzle journalists two years ago in Ferguson and Baltimore are being used to flat-line protesters and journalists at Standing Rock this year.

The same infiltration and surveillance of ranch activists opposing the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon and Nevada over the past several years were used against nonviolent anti-war protesters more than a decade ago. That same mindset was embodied in the use of surveillance against those who gathered for Barack Obama’s inauguration eight years ago.

The same brutality that was in full force 20-plus years ago when the government raided the Branch Davidian religious compound near Waco, Texas—targeting residents with loud music, bright lights, bulldozers, flash-bang grenades, tear gas, tanks and gunfire, and leaving 80 individuals, including two dozen children, dead—were on full display more than 50 years ago when government agents unleashed fire hoses and police dogs on civil rights protesters, children included.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The sticking point is not whether Americans must see eye-to-eye on these varied issues but whether they can agree that no one should be treated in such a fashion by their own government.

Our greatest defense against home-grown tyranny has always been our strength in numbers as a citizenry.

America’s founders hinted at it again and again. The Declaration of Independence refers to “one people.” The preamble to the Constitution opens with those three powerful words: “We the People.” Years later, the Gettysburg Address declared that we are a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Despite these stark reminders that the government exists for our benefit and was intended to serve our needs, “We the People” have yet to marshal our greatest weapon against oppression: our strength lies in our numbers.

Had 318 million Americans taken to the streets to protest the government’s SWAT team raids that left innocent children like Aiyana Jones or Baby Bou Bou dead or scarred, there would be no 80,000 SWAT team raids a year.

Had 318 million Americans raised their voices against police shootings of unarmed citizens such as Alton Sterling and Walter Scott, there would be far less use of excessive force by the police.

Had 318 million Americans stood shoulder-to-shoulder and rejected the ruling oligarchy, pork barrel legislation, profit-driven prisons, endless wars and asset forfeiture schemes, government corruption would be the exception rather than the rule.

Had 318 million Americans told the government to stop drilling through sacred Native American lands, stop spraying protesters with water cannons in below-freezing temperatures, stop using its military might to intimidate and shut down First Amendment activity, and to stop allowing Corporate America to dictate how the battle lines are drawn, there would be no Standing Rock.

Unfortunately, 318 million Americans have yet to agree on anything, especially the source of their oppression.

This is how tyrants come to power and stay in power.

Authoritarian regimes begin with incremental steps. Overcriminalization, surveillance of innocent citizens, imprisonment for nonviolent—victimless—crimes, etc. Slowly, bit by bit, the citizenry finds its freedoms being curtailed and undermined for the sake of national security.

No one speaks up for those being targeted. No one resists these minor acts of oppression. No one recognizes the indoctrination into tyranny for what it is.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplehistorically this failure to speak truth to power has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings, a bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice.

Time has insulated us from the violence perpetrated by past regimes in their pursuit of power: the crucifixion and slaughter of innocents by the Romans, the torture of the Inquisition, the atrocities of the Nazis, the butchery of the Fascists, the bloodshed by the Communists, and the cold-blooded war machines run by the military industrial complex.

We can disassociate from such violence. We can convince ourselves that we are somehow different from the victims of government abuse. We can treat news coverage of protests such as Standing Rock and the like as just another channel to flip in our search for better entertainment. We can continue to spout empty campaign rhetoric about how great America is, despite the evidence to the contrary. We can avoid responsibility for holding the government accountable. We can zip our lips and bind our hands and shut our eyes.

In other words, we can continue to exist in a state of denial.

Whatever we do or don’t do, it won’t change the facts: the police state is here.

“There comes a time,” concluded Martin Luther King Jr., “when silence is betrayal.”

The people of Nazi Germany learned this lesson the hard way.

A German pastor who openly opposed Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp, Martin Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The people of the American Police State will never have any hope of fighting government tyranny if we’re busy fighting each other.

When all is said and done, the only thing we really need to agree on is that we are all Americans.

So if this isn’t your fight—if you believe that authority is more important than liberty—if you don’t agree with a particular group’s position on an issue and by your silence tacitly support the treatment meted out to them—if you think you’re a better citizen or a more patriotic American—if you want to play it safe—and if don’t want to risk getting shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton, thrown to the ground, arrested and/or labeled an extremist—then by all means, remain silent. Stand down. Cower in the face of the police. Turn your eyes away from injustice. Find any excuse to suggest that the so-called victims of the police state deserved what they got.

But remember, when that rifle (or taser, or water cannon, or bully stick) finally gets pointed in your direction—and it will—when there’s no one left to stand up for you or speak up for you, remember that you were warned.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

When It Comes to Fake News, the U.S. Government Is the Biggest Culprit

“We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth.”—Former New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg

Let’s talk about fake news stories, shall we?

There’s the garden variety fake news that is not really “news” so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an active imagination. These stories run the gamut from the ridiculous and the obviously click-baity to the satirical and politically manipulative.

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Anyone with an ounce of sense and access to the Internet should be able to ferret out the truth and lies in these stories with some basic research. That these stories flourish is largely owing to the general gullibility, laziness and media illiteracy of the general public, which through its learned compliance rarely questions, challenges or confronts.

Then there’s the more devious kind of news stories circulated by one of the biggest propagators of fake news: the U.S. government.

In the midst of the media’s sudden headline-blaring apoplexy over fake news, you won’t hear much about the government’s role in producing, planting and peddling propaganda-driven fake news—often with the help of the corporate news media—because that’s not how the game works.

Why?

Because the powers-that-be don’t want us skeptical of the government’s message or its corporate accomplices in the mainstream media. They don’t want us to be more discerning when it comes to what information we digest online. They just want us to be leery of independent or alternative news sources while trusting them—and their corporate colleagues—to vet the news for us.

Indeed, the New York Times has suggested that Facebook and Google appoint themselves the arbiters of truth on the internet in order to screen out what is blatantly false, spam or click-baity.

Not only would this establish a dangerous precedent for all-out censorship by corporate entities known for colluding with the government but it’s also a slick sleight-of-hand maneuver that diverts attention from what we should really be talking about: the fact that the government has grown dangerously out-of-control, all the while the so-called mainstream news media, which is supposed to act as a bulwark against government propaganda, has instead become the mouthpiece of the world’s largest corporation—the U.S. government.

As veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward blew the lid off the Watergate scandal, reported in his expansive 1977 Rolling Stone piece, “The CIA and the Media”:

“More than 400 American journalists … in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency... There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services... Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters... In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”

Bernstein is referring to Operation Mockingbird, a CIA campaign started in the 1950s to plant intelligence reports among reporters at more than 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, who would then regurgitate them for a public oblivious to the fact that they were being fed government propaganda.

In some instances, as Bernstein shows, members of the media also served as extensions of the surveillance state, with reporters actually carrying out assignments for the CIA.

Executives with CBS, the New York Times and Time magazine also worked closely with the CIA to vet the news. Bernstein writes: “Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.”

For example, in August 1964, the nation’s leading newspapers—including the Washington Post and New York Times—echoed Lyndon Johnson’s claim that North Vietnam had launched a second round of attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. No such attacks had taken place, and yet the damage was done. As Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon report for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.”

Fast forward to the early post-9/11 years when, despite a lack of any credible data supporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon to sound the war drums against Iraq. As Los Angeles Times columnist Robin Abcarian put it, “our government … used its immense bully pulpit to steamroll the watchdogs… Many were gulled by access to administration insiders, or susceptible to the drumbeat of the government’s coordinated rhetoric.”

John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for Knight-Ridder, one of the only news agencies to challenge the government’s rationale for invading Iraq, suggests that the reason for the media’s easy acceptance is that “too many journalists, including some very famous ones, have surrendered their independence in order to become part of the ruling class. Journalism is, as the motto goes, speaking truth to power, not wielding it.”

If it was happening then, you can bet it’s still happening today, only it’s been reclassified, renamed and hidden behind layers of government secrecy, obfuscation and spin.

In its article, “How the American government is trying to control what you think,” the Washington Post points out“Government agencies historically have made a habit of crossing the blurry line between informing the public and propagandizing.”

Thus, whether you’re talking about the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the government’s invasion of Iraqbased upon absolute fabrications, or the government’s so-called war on terror, privacy and whistleblowers, it’s being driven by propaganda churned out by one corporate machine (the corporate-controlled government) and fed to the American people by way of yet another corporate machine (the corporate-controlled media).

“For the first time in human history, there is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist it and to expose it,” writes investigative journalist Nick Davies. “The sheer ease with which this machinery has been able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now afflicts the production of our news.”

But wait.

If the mass media—aka the mainstream media or the corporate or establishment media—is merely repeating what is being fed to it, who are the masterminds within the government responsible for this propaganda?

Davies explains:

The Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency” alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own "psyop" element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department's campaign of "public diplomacy" which includes funding radio stations and news websites.

This use of propaganda disguised as journalism is what journalist John Pilger refers to as “invisible government… the true ruling power of our country.”

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewe no longer have a Fourth Estate.

Not when the “news” we receive is routinely manufactured, manipulated and made-to-order by government agents. Not when six corporations control 90% of the media in America. And not when, as Davies laments, “news organizations which might otherwise have exposed the truth were themselves part of the abuse, and so they kept silent, indulging in a comic parody of misreporting, hiding the emerging scandal from their readers like a Victorian nanny covering the children’s eyes from an accident in the street.”

So let’s have no more of this handwringing, heart-wrenching, morally offended talk about fake news by media outlets that have become propagandists for the false reality created by the American government.

After all, as Glenn Greenwald points out, “The term propaganda rings melodramatic and exaggerated, but a press that—whether from fear, careerism, or conviction—uncritically recites false government claims and reports them as fact, or treats elected officials with a reverence reserved for royalty, cannot be accurately described as engaged in any other function.”

So where does that leave us?

What should—or can—we do?

I’ll close with John Pilger’s words of warning and advice:

Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all — and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn’t true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn’t true of the United States. In all the years I’ve been a journalist, I’ve never known public consciousness to have risen as fast as it’s rising today…yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

[The public] need[s] truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power. I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people’s movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken… In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web... The best reporting … appears on the web … and citizen reporters.

The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people. We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.

‘We the People’ Against Tyranny: Seven Principles for Free Government

Time to vote with our feet” through sustained, mass civil disobedience!

“As I look at America today, I am not afraid to say that I am afraid.”—Former presidential advisor Bertram Gross

As history teaches us, if the people have little or no knowledge of the basics of government and their rights, those who wield governmental power inevitably wield it excessively. After all, a citizenry can only hold its government accountable if it knows when the government oversteps its bounds.

Precisely because Americans are easily distracted—because, as study after study shows, they are clueless about their rights—because their elected officials no longer represent them—because Americans have been brainwashed into believing that their only duty as citizens is to vote—because the citizenry has failed to hold government officials accountable to abiding by the Constitution—because young people are no longer being taught the fundamentals of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, resulting in citizens who don’t even know they have rights—and because Americans continue to place their trust in politics to fix what’s wrong with this country—the American governmental scheme is sliding ever closer towards a pervasive authoritarianism.

This steady slide towards tyranny, meted out by militarized local and federal police and legalistic bureaucrats, has been carried forward by each successive president over the past fifty years regardless of their political affiliation.

Big government has grown bigger and the rights of the citizenry have grown smaller.

However, there are certain principles—principles that every American should know—which undergird the American system of government and form the basis for the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for.

The following seven principles are a good starting point for understanding what free government is really all about.

First, the maxim that power corrupts is an absolute truth. Realizing this, those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights held one principle sacrosanct: a distrust of all who hold governmental power. As James Madison, author of the Bill of Rights, proclaimed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.” Moreover, in questions of power, Thomas Jefferson warned, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” As such, those who drafted our founding documents would see today’s government as an out-of-control, unmanageable beast.

The second principle is that governments primarily exist to secure rights, an idea that is central to constitutionalism. In appointing the government as the guardian of the people’s rights, the people give it only certain, enumerated powers, which are laid out in a written constitution. The idea of a written constitution actualizes the two great themes of the Declaration of Independence: consent and protection of equal rights. Thus, the purpose of constitutionalism is to limit governmental power and ensure that the government performs its basic function: to preserve and protect our rights, especially our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the government today has discarded this principle and now sees itself as our master, not our servant. The obvious next step, unless we act soon, is tyranny.

The third principle revolves around the belief that no one is above the law, not even those who make the law.This is termed rule of law. Richard Nixon’s statement, “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal,” would have been an anathema to the Framers of the Constitution. If all people possess equal rights, the people who live under the laws must be allowed to participate in making those laws. By that same token, those who make the laws must live under the laws they make. However, today government officials at all levels often act as if they are royalty with salaries and perks that none of the rest of us are afforded. This is an egregious affront to the citizenry.

Fourth, separation of powers ensures that no single authority is entrusted with all the powers of government. People are not perfect, whether they are in government or out of it. As history makes clear, those in power tend to abuse it. The government is thus divided into three co-equal branches: legislative, executive and judicial. Placing all three powers in the same branch of government was considered the very definition of tyranny. The fact that the president today has dictatorial powers would have been considered a curse by the Framers.

Fifth, a system of checks and balances, essential if a constitutional government is to succeed, strengthens the separation of powers and prevents legislative despotism. Such checks and balances include dividing Congress into two houses, with different constituencies, term lengths, sizes and functions; granting the president a limited veto power over congressional legislation; and appointing an independent judiciary capable of reviewing ordinary legislation in light of the written Constitution, which is referred to as “judicial review.” The Framers feared that Congress could abuse its powers and potentially emerge as the tyrannous branch because it had the power to tax. But they did not anticipate the emergence of presidential powers as they have come to dominate modern government or the inordinate influence of corporate powers on governmental decision-making. Indeed, as recent academic studies now indicate, we are now ruled by a monied oligarchy that serves itself and not “we the people.”

Sixth, representation allows the people to have a voice in government by sending elected representatives to do their bidding while avoiding the need of each and every citizen to vote on every issue considered by government. In a country as large as the United States, it is not feasible to have direct participation in governmental affairs. Hence, we have a representative government. If the people don’t agree with how their representatives are conducting themselves, they can and should vote them out. However, as the citizenry has grown lazy and been distracted by the entertainment spectacles of modern society, government bureaucrats churn out numerous laws each year resulting in average citizens being rendered lawbreakers and jailed for what used to be considered normal behavior.

Finally, federalism is yet another constitutional device to limit the power of government by dividing power and, thus, preventing tyranny. In America, the levels of government generally break down into federal, state and local branches (which further divide into counties and towns or cities). Because local and particular interests differ from place to place, such interests are better handled at a more intimate level by local governments, not a bureaucratic national government. Remarking on the benefits of the American tradition of local self-government in the 1830s, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed:

Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it. Without local institutions a nation may give itself a free government, but it has not got the spirit of liberty.

Unfortunately, we are now governed by top-heavy government emanating from Washington DC that has no respect for local institutions or traditions.

These seven vital principles have been largely forgotten in recent years, obscured by the haze of a centralized government, a citizenry that no longer thinks analytically, and schools that don’t adequately teach our young people about their history and their rights.

Yet here’s the rub: while Americans wander about in their brainwashed states, their “government of the people, by the people and for the people” has largely been taken away from them.

The answer: get un-brainwashed.

Learn your rights.

Stand up for the founding principles.

Make your voice and your vote count for more than just political posturing.

Never cease to vociferously protest the erosion of your freedoms at the local and national level.

Most of all, do these things today.

If we wait until the votes have all been counted or hang our hopes on our particular candidate to win and fix what’s wrong with the country, “we the people” will continue to lose.

Whether we ever realize it not, the enemy is not across party lines, as they would have us believe. It has us surrounded on all sides.

Even so, we’re not yet defeated.

We could still overcome our oppressors if we cared enough to join forces and launch a militant nonviolent revolution—a people’s revolution that starts locally and trickles upwards—but that will take some doing.

It will mean turning our backs on the political jousting contests taking place at all levels of government and rejecting their appointed jesters as false prophets. It will mean not allowing ourselves to be corralled like cattle and branded with political labels that have no meaning anymore. It will mean recognizing that all the evils that surround us today—endless wars, drone strikes, invasive surveillance, militarized police, poverty, asset forfeiture schemes, overcriminalization, etc.—are not of our making but came about as a way to control and profit from us.

It will mean “voting with our feet” through sustained, mass civil disobedience.

As journalist Chris Hedges points out, “There were once radicals in America, people who held fast to moral imperatives. They fought for the oppressed because it was right, not because it was easy or practical. They were willing to accept the state persecution that comes with open defiance. They had the courage of their convictions. They were not afraid.”

Ultimately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it will mean refusing to be divided, one against each other, by politics and instead uniting behind the only distinction that has ever mattered: “we the people” against tyranny.

# # # #

John W. Whitehead, Newsbud Contributing Author & Analyst,  is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. He is the president and spokesperson of the Rutherford Institute. Mr. Whitehead is the author of numerous books on a variety of legal and social issues, including A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.