DisInfoWars with Tom Secker- How to use the Freedom of Information Act

As a keen user of the Freedom of Information Act I have filed many requests over the years. This week I delve into some of my personal experiences with FOIA requests explaining what worked and what didn't, which requests were successful and unsuccessful, and why. I discuss the latest success: getting over 1600 pages of new material from the Pentagon's entertainment propaganda office, how it came about and why it was successful. I finish up by offering some advice to people making FOIA requests, in the hope of helping to maximize their chances of getting useful material released.

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NarcoNews: Torture Report Reveals CIA’s Manipulation of US Media

Agency Used Classified Information as Currency for Deception
By Bill Conroy

The recently released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report pillorying the CIA’s Bush-era detention and interrogation program is replete with lurid details of what would commonly be called torture, if those practices were carried out on you or me.

Waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation, coffin-size cells and forcing detainees to stand in stress positions, even with broken bones, is the stuff of a horror movie. But there is another revelation in the long-awaited, and controversial, Senate committee report that so far seems to have slipped past much examination in the public spotlight.

The Senate report makes clear that CIA officials attempted to play the media like a fiddle by selectively releasing classified information about the detention and interrogation program.

“The CIA manipulated rules on classified information to serve its own interests,” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said. “And the Senate report cites several examples of that.”

In fact, one of the findings of the report is quite blunt on that front:

“The CIA's Office of Public Affairs and senior CIA officials coordinated to share classified information on the CIA' s Detention and Interrogation Program to select members of the media to counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA's … authorities and budget. These disclosures occurred when the program was a classified covert action program.”

This finding is troubling in light of the ongoing efforts to prosecute well-known whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden of NSA-leak fame, and some half dozen others in separate cases, all of whom could face (or are facing) years in prison for allegedly disclosing classified information to the media. To be sure, there are nuances in each of the cases and the comparison is not perfect, but at the heart of it all is a set of rules on the release of classified information that are marked with double standards.

“If you have no security clearance, and there is not a need to know, then you’re not supposed to get classified information,” Aftergood said. “The Senate committee found that CIA officials leaked classified information [to the media] and no further investigation was conducted.”

The Senate report describes the practice as follows:

“In seeking to shape press reporting on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, CIA officers and the CIA's Office of Public Affairs (OPA) provided unattributed background information on the program to journalists for books, articles, and broadcasts, including when the existence of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program was still classified. When the journalists to whom the CIA had provided background information published classified information, the CIA did not, as a matter of policy, submit crimes reports.”

One example illustrative of the practice, cited in the report, is found in correspondence penned by the deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center in 2005, as the torture program was beginning to unravel:

“We either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities. messes up our budget. …We either put out our story or we get eaten. [T]here is no middle ground.”

The same CIA officer explained to a colleague that "when the [Washington Post]/[New York T]imes quotes ‘senior intelligence official,’ it’s us ... authorized and directed by opa [CIA's Office of Public Affairs].”

And much of the information leaked to the media via these authorized leaks “on the operation of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program and the effectiveness of its enhanced interrogation techniques was inaccurate…,” the Senate report states.

So, in essence, the CIA operated as a propaganda machine, utilizing classified information as part of a larger effort to deceive the American public about the shortcomings of its torture program, if the Senate report is to be believed. Now, none of this is really new in the big picture of how the government and the media work with respect to classified information. The simple rule to remember is that the higher up in the government the leaker is, the less risk they face.

As far back as 1974, politicians were pointing out this basic flaw in the system. A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released last year touches on the reality:

You can read the complete investigative report here @ NarcoNews

All the Government’s Men: Agents of Terror on Payroll

The Establishment Says “2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + more 2’s = 0”

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, through quasi investigative reports, leaks, whistleblowers and numerous court documents, several key 9/11 operatives have been identified and confirmed as assets and or informants of the United States government. Further, all details of these operatives’ positions, functions and employment records have been sealed and protected as beyond top secret classified.

Whether it is Ali Mohamed’s employment with the United States Army and his connections with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or Anwar al-Awlaki on the payroll of the Bureau, or the landlord of two 9/11 hijackers in San Diego, who happened to be a highly valued long-term FBI informant, we are looking at incomplete profiles and missing crucial information. In each of these cases we are dealing with a government engaged in an extraordinary level of secrecy and protection. And with every single case we are faced with the crucial why question. [Read more...]

Leaking War

How Obama’s Targeted Killings, Leaks, and the Everything-is-Classified State Have Fused

By Peter Van Buren

Leaking1White is black and down is up. Leaks that favor the president are shoveled out regardless of national security, while national security is twisted to pummel leaks that do not favor him. Watching their boss, bureaucrats act on their own, freelancing the punishment of whistleblowers, knowing their retaliatory actions will be condoned. The United States rains Hellfire missiles down on its enemies, with the president alone sitting in judgment of who will live and who will die by his hand.

The issue of whether the White House leaked information to support the president’s reelection while crushing whistleblower leaks it disfavors shouldn’t be seen as just another O’Reilly v. Maddow sporting event. What lies at the nexus of Obama’s targeted drone killings, his self-serving leaks, and his aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers is a president who believes himself above the law, and seems convinced that he alone has a preternatural ability to determine right from wrong.

If the President Does It, It’s Legal?

In May 2011 the Pentagon declared that another country’s cyber-attacks -- computer sabotage, against the U.S. -- could be considered an “act of war.” Then, one morning in 2012 readers of the New York Times woke up to headlines announcing that the Stuxnet worm had been dispatched into Iran’s nuclear facilities to shut down its computer-controlled centrifuges (essential to nuclear fuel processing) by order of President Obama and executed by the US and Israel. The info had been leaked to the paper by anonymous “high ranking officials.” In other words, the speculation about Stuxnet was at an end. It was an act of war ordered by the president alone.

Similarly, after years of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t stories about drone attacks across the Greater Middle East launched “presumably” by the U.S., the Times (again) carried a remarkable story not only confirming the drone killings -- a technology that had morphed into a policy -- but noting that Obama himself was the Great Bombardier. He had, the newspaper reported, designated himself the final decision-maker on an eyes-only “kill list” of human beings the United States wanted to destroy. It was, in short, the ultimate no-fly list. Clearly, this, too, had previously been classified top-secret material, and yet its disclosure was attributed directly to White House sources. [Read more...]

Press Release: FBI Attempts to Hold Sibel Edmonds’ Book Hostage- Illegally & Unconstitutionally

Investigation Shows Agency Used Contract to Censor Whistleblowers

PR1The following press release was issued today by my attorneys and the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC). For the full release visit their website at http://www.whistleblowers.org

Washington, D.C. April 10, 2012. Today, the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) revealed that the FBI required employees to sign employment contracts that are illegal under Federal law. The NWC launched the investigation in response to a nearly yearlong campaign by the FBI to prevent the publication of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ new book, Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. [Read more...]

The EyeOpener- Blackballed: How the FBI Bends FOIA

The New FBI Trick to Keep the Public in the Dark

BFP VideoThe Freedom of Information Act is intended to be one of the American citizens’ key checks against the fraud and corruption that inevitably happens in the corridors of power when information can be hidden behind a secrecy classification. One agency of the government that has been notoriously uncooperative with the spirit and the letter of the FOIA law, however, is the FBI. Since the days of J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau has zealously guarded some of its key documents and acted to stonewall those seeking access to sensitive records, which are said to include scandalous details of some of the highest ranking political figures of the past century and explosive details of some of the Bureau’s biggest investigations.

This is our EyeOpener Report by James Corbett examining some of the methods and loopholes that the FBI has used over the years to protect key documents from Freedom of Information requests and hide information from the public, bringing to light the new trick- “blackballing” as part of the Bureau’s standard operating procedure and the troubling question about the nature of governmental secrecy raised by this process.

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*The Transcript for this video is available at Corbett Report: Click Here

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The Oath to Defend the Constitution vs. the Forced Pledge to Protect Government Secrecy

“Which of the applicable laws has priority?”

By Linda Lewis

oath In the debate on reducing the national debt, members of Congress have focused on two options--tax increases and entitlement cuts---both considered unhelpful to restarting a stalled economy.  Congress seemingly has forgotten that it has another option for reducing the debt: eliminating waste, fraud and corruption in government programs. Perhaps, Congress knows that the success of such a plan would correspond with the effectiveness of whistleblower protections—protections it has been reluctant to provide to the thousands of whistleblowers who hold security clearances.

Insiders are critical to identifying government waste, particularly in agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, where much of the information is classified and not available for public review.  But, insiders are vulnerable to retaliation from managers embarrassed by their disclosures. The Obama administration has been particularly aggressive toward whistleblowers, launching criminal prosecutions against several of them.

Most Americans would be surprised to know that thousands of federal workers with ordinary jobs--food safety, for example--are required to have security clearances even if they may never handle a classified document.  Agencies pay dearly for the necessary background investigations. But, they just can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to give themselves an end run around civil service laws. Steve Kohn, of the National Whistleblowers Center, writes:

A 1989 law was supposed to protect federal employees who expose fraud and misconduct from retaliation. But over the years, these protections have been completely undermined. One loophole gives the government the absolute right to strip employees of their security clearances and fire them, without judicial review. Another bars employees of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency from any coverage under the law. And Congress has barred national security whistle-blowers who are fired for exposing wrongdoing from obtaining protection in federal court.

Knowing that they are vulnerable to retaliation, few federal employees are inclined to report wrongdoing.  Nevertheless, they are required to report wrongdoing.

Every employee takes an oath or affirmation, required by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution to “support the Constitution.” Since 1884, employees have taken this   expanded version of the oath, described in the U.S. Code (Title 5, Chapter 33).

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Incredibly, through court decisions and Congressional foot-dragging, civil servants tasked with defending the Constitution are forced to do so with an abridged set of Constitutional protections, particularly with regard to free speech and due process—essential elements for holding a government accountable.

Civilian federal employees also must adhere to the federal code of ethics (Executive Order 12674, as amended).  It states, in part:

Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.”

The code also directs that employees “shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.”  This is important because agencies tend to treat classified information as government property, although it’s more accurate to say that a representative government holds information in trust for its citizens.

TopSecSometimes, classified information contains evidence of waste, fraud or corruption, documents abuses of human rights, or it exposes negligent handling of national security.  In such cases, classifying the information was illegal. Executive Order 13526 forbids classifying information to hide violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error or to avoid embarrassing officials.

An employee who encounters classified evidence of wrongdoing therefore is compelled to ask, “Which of the applicable laws has priority?”  Agencies provide little or no guidance to employees for dealing with the moral hazard dumped in their laps. Think of it as a ticking black box with protruding wires in several colors.  Does one pull the blue wire, the yellow or the red? Pull the wrong one and your career explodes.  [Read more...]

The “Exceptionally “Redacted 9/11 Commission Interview

Newly Released 9/11 Commission Files at Cryptome.Org

911commLast week John Young’s information site Cryptome.Org began publishing documents related to the interviews conducted by the 9/11 Commission which were released for the first time. On January 3, Cryptome posted the 9/11 Commission’s report on my interview (the infamous Sibel Edmonds Case), and aptly titled this particular file as “Sibel Edmonds Censored Yet Again.” Once you read the PDF document you’ll quickly see the reason for Cryptome’s appropriate label. The entire report, by that I mean the entire report, is blacked out (actually, whited-out;-). It took me less than one minute to scan the entire document; basically, scrolling down the white pages-one white page after another. Initially, I was not a bit surprised. Hey, I’ve been declared the most gagged and classified person in US history, after all- State Secrets Privilege invocation twice, gagging the entire Congress for the first (and only) time in US history, hundreds of pages of blacked out DOJ-IG report… So, as I said, I didn’t find it a bit surprising.  However, after the minute it took to go over these blank pages, I started clicking and scanning all the other files (interviews by the 9/11 Commission), and that’s where I was truly surprised:

Despite some redactions here and there, and in a few cases fairly extensive redaction, there were no interviews where the entire interview (and the report on the interview) was blacked out in its entirety. Mine was the only one privileged and honored to such degree! Why? I mean, come on, we are talking about interviews with: FBI Special Agent in Charge on Counterterrorism, CIA Officers with Directorate of Intelligence with a Specific Focus on Drugs & Thugs, The Chairman of National Intelligence Council, NSA Chief of Counterintelligence & SIGNIT Support, Senior CIA Analysts…Yet, none of these interviews was redacted in its entirety. None. Please be my guest and make your own comparison; My 9/11 Commission interview document here, and the rest, here, here, here, here, here…You can check out the rest published by Cryptome here, and if you want more here for thousands of them. [Read more...]

Podcast Show #25

The Boiling Frogs Presents John Young

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John Young provides us with a brief overview of the history, purpose and mission of his well-known website Cryptome.Org. He talks about the recent controversy involving Microsoft Corporation’s attempted legal action against Cryptome, and the temporary shutdown of the site by the ISP Network Solutions. He speaks to the importance of the free flow of information and challenging the governments’ self-serving secrecy as prerequisites for an informed citizenry and a functioning democracy, the importance of whistleblowers and anonymous disclosures, the existence of various trap websites, impostors and false flag operators to manipulate information, trick whistleblowers, and or plant specific propaganda, and more.

John Young John Young is a New York based architect and online archivist who owns and operates Cryptome.Org, a website that functions as a repository for information about freedom of speech, cryptography, spying, and surveillance. In February 2010, the ISP Network Solutions shut down Mr. Young’s website after he posted a document summarizing Microsoft’s dealings with law enforcement agencies. Shortly after initiating legal action to suppress a document on how to subpoena online user data Microsoft withdrew the complaint, and the website was restored.

Here is our guest John Young unplugged!

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The Impulse to Secrecy: The Glomar Response

Distorting & Undermining Institutional Accountability & The U.S. legal system

By William Weaver

GlomarThe impulse to secrecy is now the dominant trait of federal government.  Public access to information is disappearing faster than the Amazon rain forest, and a recent case is an important example of how this impulse distorts and undermines crucial institutional accountability and the U.S. legal system.  The Freedom of Information Act meant to put knowledge in the hands of the people so they could make intelligent decisions about public policy and subject the government to the cleansing effects of public scrutiny.  Over the decades, courts have pared down the reach of FOIA by upholding agency refusals to disclose information that are questionable and sometimes transparently motivated by desires to avoid embarrassment, public scrutiny, or revelation of criminal acts perpetrated by the government.

Courts will even accept no response as an acceptable response under FOIA in a rather strange device known as a Glomar Response.  Built by Howard Hughes under the guise of a private vessel designed to mine manganese nodules from the ocean floor, the Glomar Explorer was actually designed and built in the early 1970s to recover nuclear weapons and other material from a sunken Soviet submarine.  A FOIA request for information concerning the relationship between the CIA and the Glomar Explorer was met with rejection and an explanation that,

the fact of the existence or non-existence of the records . . . request[ed] would relate to information pertaining to intelligence sources and methods which the Director of Central Intelligence has the responsibility to protect from unauthorized disclosure.

The Glomar Response was designed to permit the CIA to remain silent in the face of requests for information when the very fact of possession or lack of possession of the requested documents would compromise national security.  Although the government abandoned its position in the original case, Glomar responses are now routinely accepted by the courts.  As one all-star appellate panel claimed in justifying judicial timidity,

When a pattern of responses itself reveals classified information, the only way to keep secrets is to maintain silence uniformly. And this is what the CIA has done.

With complete predictability, a myriad of federal agencies seized on the doctrine.  Since the mid-1990s, the NSA, FBI, Department of Justice, U.S. Marshall’s Service, Department of State, and even the U.S. Customs Service, have used the Glomar Response.  But nowhere in FOIA are agencies given the right to not respond to requests for information; the courts supplied them with that benefit by creating it as a judge-made rule.  Self-emasculation has become a high art by the federal judiciary in national security cases.   Obviously, such a tool as Glomar is very useful to federal agencies to avoid scrutiny and blanket requests with the pall of national security – whether or not a real national security concern underlies any particular matter. [Read more...]

The Makings of a Police State-Part IV

Secret reports, Secret budgets, Secret operations, Secret courts … A Secret Government!

 
The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. -- Patrick Henry

As stated by Patrick Henry with conviction and passion, a democratic government will not last if its operations and policies are not visible to its public. The foundation of our democratic republic is supposed to be based on an open and accountable government. Transparency is what enables accountability.

TopSecFor several decades post 1945, under the guise of the Cold War, with the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency and an aggressive foreign policy based on overt and covert intervention abroad, the seeds of excessive secrecy were planted, aggressively nurtured, and taken to heights not imaginable in our founding fathers’ vision of transparent and accountable government. Although the Watergate Scandal brought a short-lived wave of awakening, and to a certain degree defiance, by getting Americans to question the extent of and the real need for governmental secrecy, the subsequent political movements were eventually halted with no real action ever taken, thanks to a Congress unwilling to truly exercise its oversight authority over the intelligence community.

With the September 11 Terrorist Attacks the establishment had all it needed to take government secrecy to new heights where neither the Constitution nor the separation of powers would matter or be applicable. These new heights could never be reached in a functioning and live democracy, nor could they be sustained and flourish without a home marked by all the characteristics of a police state. Those new heights were indeed reached, and they surely have been not only sustained, but actually increased; notch by notch. Waving the national security flag nonstop, reminding us on a daily basis of some vague boogiemen terrorists who may be hiding under our beds, drilling the words terror-terrorists-terrorism every hour, did the magic; thanks to the US Media.

Let’s examine some of these new heights of secrecy we’ve reached and appear to have accepted:

The Cost

For the fiscal year 2005, based on an official report released by the National Archives, the total security classification cost estimates for Government was $7.7 billion. This figure represents costs provided by 41 executive branch agencies, including the Department of Defense. But it does not include the cost estimates of the CIA, which is classified by the agency. Here is the breakdown:

Personnel Security = $1.15 Billion
Physical Security = $1 Billion
Information Security = $4 Billion

Information Technology = $3.6 Billion
Classification Management =
$310 Million
Declassification
= $57 Million

Professional Education and Training = $219 Million
Security Management and Planning = $1.2 Billion
Unique = $6.6 Million

Total= $7.7 Billion

Based on the consensus among the knowledgeable this was truly a new height for government secrecy spun out of control. But wait, this new record height was short-lived! It climbed much higher very quickly. Here is the major new height for 2007 secrecy as reported by the US Information Security Oversight Office:

The U.S. Information Security

Oversight Office recorded an all-time-high record in the cost of implementing the national security classification system.

The annual report, released Thursday, representing the classification and declassification activity throughout the executive branch, said the cost of national security classifications totaled $9.91 billion in 2007. The total cost was a 4.6 percent increase over 2006 and became the highest total recorded in ISOO's history.

That’s right. In two years the cost of our government’s classification and its secrecy increased from $7.7 Billion to $9.91 Billion. And, as with the 2005 cost this too does not include the CIA and other classified operations and entities we don’t know about. Just keep in mind all those rendition, detention and torture operations we’ve been engaged in around the globe.

The Trend

The following is a snap shot of a few items in the Secrecy Report Card for 2008 issued by Open the Government:

18% of DOD FY 2008 Acquisition Budget, equaling to more than $31 Billion, is classified.

Our Secret FISA Court issued 2,371 secret orders in 2007.

Over 25% of our Federal Government’s Contracts, equaling to $114 billion, were granted with no competition whatsoever.

Over 64% of the 7,067 meetings of Federal Advisory Committees on scientific technical areas were completely closed to the public.

What does this tell us? Secret Budgets, Secret Courts & Secret Orders, Secret Meetings, no-competition & no-oversight contracts paid by taxpayers’ dollars…

Secret Budgets, Secret Expenditures

What does it mean when we keep hearing secret budget for this agency, secret budget for that acquisition, secret budget for this and that operation? Take this example:

The Defense Department will spend $35.8 billion on secret technologies in 2010, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“Restrictions placed on access to classified programs have meant that DoD and Congress typically exercise less oversight over classified programs than unclassified ones,” the report notes. That can result in big losses, when programs go awry.

Take the hush-hush Future Imagery Architecture program, meant to “develop the next generation of spy satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office.” “The electro-optical satellite component of the program was canceled in 2005 due to significant cost overruns and technical issues,” CSBA recalls, “resulting in what was reported as a $4 billion loss for the government.”

We’ve seen many examples like this; CIA, NSA, DOD, FBI…Here is another ludicrous example: [Read more...]

Introduction: The Makings of a Police State

Aren’t We There?

I am starting my new series on a topic that for some reason, or reasons, has been designated as another of those ‘no no’ subjects. Even the mentioning of this topic is enough to get one labeled as an extremist, radical, nutty, kooky…Why do most people react this way? As with other issues here too we are looking at multiple factors.

For the government, the establishment, side of it, the reasons are obvious, and fit any government that is, has been, or was ever considered a police state. Have you ever come across a police state that actually considered itself to be a ‘police state’? Exactly, I didn’t think so. The governing/ruling powers of police states always seek to legitimize their police measures; whether made necessary by external threats, domestic threats, economic threats, security or terrorism threats…there is always a big threat(s) they point to and base their justification upon, and they always, and I mean always, claim that their measures are for the good of the public, for the security of their people, for the protection of their constituents. They portray their dissenters as collaborators in whatever ‘threat’ they claim they are fighting against, and silence their critics either with extreme authoritarian measures, or, if they are able to, by simply labeling them as radical, nutty, and kooky, enough to marginalize them and neutralize their potential effect.

The same holds true for the media side of this phenomena. After all, one of the major characteristics of a police state is social control and indoctrination through control of the media. These states utilize the media to spread their propaganda, to manufacture consent, to evilize chosen enemies, to paint dissent as unpatriotic, the dissenters as the enemies of the state, and of course the critics as the radical and nutty minority.

Now how about the people? Why are the majority of our people so quick to write off even the possibility of us becoming a police state, and do so in a similar manner as the government and media as described above? Aside from being indoctrinated by the establishment’s calculative presentations, most people seem to be guided by their own biased beliefs and misplaced values. It may be from misdirected patriotism, when their love of our nation subconsciously is coupled with the love of whoever may be ruling it. It may be the simple act of denial; just as parents blinded by their parental love and pride refuse to see and acknowledge the negative realities in their children, there are those who willingly put on blinders before their eyes just so that they don’t see the ugly realities inflicting the country they love and value. Maybe it is a case of extreme pride being misdirected towards those misperceived…

Whatever the reasons, the almost uniform response to those who even attempt to raise the police state question seems to be the same. Perhaps this is the reason why the very few outspoken legal experts, historians, and civil liberties activists, carefully, almost timidly, choose their words when it comes to the question of a police state in the USA. What I hear, what I read is usually along the following lines:

We may be moving toward a police state.

At this rate we may become a police state.

Are we on our way to become a police state?

These people talk about a ‘police state’ as if there is this exactly defined state with even more exactly defined prerequisites, so that when this state is reached it can be uniformly declared by all as a police state at the exact same time. However, most of these same people, when I talk with them privately, in a hushed voice tell me that they actually think we are there, or almost there. They are so afraid to come out and say it. They are terrified at the prospect of being attacked, labeled, and marginalized. So this is why you get the careful phrasing, and when you get close, the hushed voices.

Anyhow, I am not known to shy away too much from being labeled, attacked, and/or ostracized. I have serious concerns for my country, where it is today, and where it’s headed. I have questions that I’ve been seeking answers for, which I want to share and discuss with you, openly and loudly, not in whispers. My main question pertaining to a police state is ‘aren’t we there?’ rather than ‘are we there?’ I keep scrutinizing the broad definitions and characteristics of a police state in every encyclopedia and other source I can get my hands on, then I check and compare those aspects with what we have today as a national security state, and every time I do this my checkmark list tells me we seem to be ‘there’ already:

On Invoking, Creating and Maintaining Perpetual Wars:

Our ambigious unending War on Terror, Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

On Control and Monitoring Mass Communication:

NSA’s domestic spying on US Citizens are made legal & advocated as necessary

On Search & Seizures with No Probable Cause or Judicial Oversight:

FBI’s National Security Letters to be used on American Citizens with its Gag Order Provision

On Controlling & Restricting Citizens’ Mobility:

TSA’s ever expanding secretive No Fly List with the ‘known’ inclusion of One Million Americans

On Government Operating in Extreme Secrecy:

Government expenditures of nearly $10 BILLION to maintain tens of millions of secret documents and operations, and unconstitutional uses of Executive Privileges such as State Secrets Privilege

On Control and Usage of Media as Government’s Own Propaganda Machine:

The American Mainstream Media today is an extension and mouthpiece of the Federal Government

On Silencing & Persecution of Dissent:

Our government’s well-established record of its treatment of whistleblowers and critics, whether by gag orders or other overt and covert measures

On General Disregard for Human Rights and Related International Laws:

Our Government’s documented record on Rendition and Torture

I can easily go on and list more items, and justify every single one of them with supporting documents, cases, and reports, but for now the above criteria should suffice for our upcoming discussions and analyses. While I am at it I want to preempt one expected argument I have heard more than once:

‘Of course we are not a police state, since you and others can write and talk about these issues without getting arrested or executed. Just look at all these bloggers and independent media…’

First, that’s confusing a totalitarian government with a police state. You don’t have to be a totalitarian state in order to be a police state. In fact police states can and do emerge in democratic countries – with the consent and acceptance of the populace. Totalitarianism is simply an extreme version.

Next, not being ‘there’ yet in this regard does not mean we don’t fulfill most if not all other criteria to be considered a police state. Nations gradually creep towards becoming a police state, in various stages and by various degrees.

Finally, this aspect may actually be an indicator of an even more pathetic situation. Meaning, by having complete control over the mass media and utilizing successful propaganda and indoctrination the government doesn’t even feel the need to go after the irate vigilant minority. They let their PR machine marginalize these voices and ensure their exclusion from the broad medium of communication channels.

Okay, now it is your turn. Don’t be shy, and please don’t censure yourself. Where do you see us as a nation? How do you define a police state? Do you think we are already there?

And take a few seconds to participate in our survey on the left column.

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