United States Supreme Court Building

“The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of the people.”—Justice William O. Douglas

The U.S. Supreme Court will not save us.

It doesn’t matter which party gets to pick the replacement to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The battle that is gearing up right now is yet more distraction and spin to keep us oblivious to the steady encroachment on our rights by the architects of the American Police State.

Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice.

Although the courts were established to serve as Courts of Justice, what we have been saddled with, instead, are Courts of Order. This is true at all levels of the judiciary, but especially so in the highest court of the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, which is seemingly more concerned with establishing order and protecting government interests than with upholding the rights of the people enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

As a result, the police and other government agents have been generally empowered to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Rarely do the concerns of the populace prevail.

When presented with an opportunity to loosen the government’s noose that keeps getting cinched tighter and tighter around the necks of the American people, what does our current Supreme Court usually do?

It ducks. Prevaricates. Remains silent. Speaks to the narrowest possible concern.

More often than not, it gives the government and its corporate sponsors the benefit of the doubt, which leaves “we the people” hanging by a thread.

Rarely do the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court— preoccupied with their personal politics, cocooned in a world of privilege, partial to those with power, money and influence, and narrowly focused on a shrinking docket (the court accepts on average 80 cases out of 8,000 each year)—venture beyond their rarefied comfort zones.

Every so often, the justices toss a bone to those who fear they have abdicated their allegiance to the Constitution. Too often, however, the Supreme Court tends to march in lockstep with the police state.

In recent years, for example, the Court has ruled that police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits; police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips; Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of “security”; citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it; police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside; police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime; police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike; police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense”; police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home; and it’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name.

The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases have delivered devastating blows to the lives and rights enshrined in the Constitution. By remaining silent, the Court has affirmed that: legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police; the military can arrest and detain American citizens; students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school; and police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law.

You think you’ve got rights? Think again.

All of those freedoms we cherish—the ones enshrined in the Constitution, the ones that affirm our right to free speech and assembly, due process, privacy, bodily integrity, the right to not have police seize our property without a warrant, or search and detain us without probable cause—amount to nothing when the government and its agents are allowed to disregard those prohibitions on government overreach at will.

This is the grim reality of life in the American police state.

In fact, our so-called rights have been reduced to technicalities in the face of the government’s ongoing power grabs.

In the police state being erected around us, the police can probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

This is what one would call a slow death by a thousand cuts, only it’s the Fourth Amendment being inexorably bled to death by the very institution that is supposed to be protecting it (and us) from government abuse.

Remember, it was a unanimous Supreme Court which determined that police officers may use drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. That same Court gave police the green light to taser defenseless motorists, strip search non-violent suspects arrested for minor incidents, and break down people’s front doors without evidence that they have done anything wrong.

Make no mistake about it: this is what constitutes “law and order” in the American police state.

These are the hallmarks of the emerging American police state, where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching motorists on the side of the road, in a police state such as ours, these instances of abuse are not condemned by the government. Rather, they are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

The system is rigged.

Because the system is rigged and the U.S. Supreme Court—the so-called “people’s court”—has exchanged its appointed role as a gatekeeper of justice for its new role as maintainer of the status quo, the police state will keep winning and “we the people” will keep losing.

By refusing to accept any of the eight or so qualified immunity cases before it this past term that strove to hold police accountable for official misconduct, the Supreme Court delivered a chilling reminder that in the American police state, ‘we the people’ are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to ‘serve and protect.”

This is how qualified immunity keeps the police state in power.

Lawyers tend to offer a lot of complicated, convoluted explanations for the doctrine of qualified immunity, which was intended to insulate government officials from frivolous lawsuits, but the real purpose of qualified immunity is to rig the system, ensuring that abusive agents of the government almost always win and the victims of government abuse almost always lose.

How else do you explain a doctrine that requires victims of police violence to prove that their abusers knew their behavior was illegal because it had been deemed so in a nearly identical case at some prior time?

It’s a setup for failure.

A review of critical court rulings over the past several decades, including rulings affirming qualified immunity protections for government agents by the U.S. Supreme Court, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order, protecting the ruling class, and insulating government agents from charges of wrongdoing than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Indeed, as Reuters reports, qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.”

Worse, as Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police.”

For those in need of a reminder of all the ways in which the Supreme Court has made us sitting ducks at the mercy of the American police state, let me offer the following.

As a result of court rulings in recent years, police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless searches. Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless arrests based on mere suspicion. Police can claim qualified immunity for using excessive force against protesters. Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a mentally impaired person. Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. Police can stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  Police officers can stop cars based on “anonymous” tips or for “suspicious” behavior such as having a reclined car seat or driving too carefully. Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime.  Police can use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals. Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes.” Not only are police largely protected by qualified immunity, but police dogs are also off the hook for wrongdoing.

Police can subject Americans to strip searches, no matter the “offense.” Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. Police can use knock-and-talk tactics as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment. Police can carry out no-knock raids if they believe announcing themselves would be dangerous. Police can recklessly open fire on anyone that might be “armed.” Police can destroy a home during a SWAT raid, even if the owner gives their consent to enter and search it. Police can suffocate someone, deliberately or inadvertently, in the process of subduing them.

To sum it up, we are dealing with a nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat. In this way, the justices of the United States Supreme Court—through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency—have become the architects of the American police state.

So where does that leave us?

For those deluded enough to believe that they’re living the American dream—where the government represents the people, where the people are equal in the eyes of the law, where the courts are arbiters of justice, where the police are keepers of the peace, and where the law is applied equally as a means of protecting the rights of the people—it’s time to wake up.

We no longer have a representative government, a rule of law, or justice.

Liberty has fallen to legalism. Freedom has fallen to fascism.

Justice has become jaded, jaundiced and just plain unjust.

And for too many, the American dream of freedom and opportunity has turned into a living nightmare.

Given the turbulence of our age, with its police overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful convictions, profit-driven prisons, and corporate corruption, the need for a guardian of the people’s rights has never been greater.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, neither the president, nor the legislatures, nor the courts will save us from the police state that holds us in its clutches.

So we can waste our strength over the next few weeks and months raging over the makeup of the Supreme Court or we can stand united against the tyrant in our midst.

After all, the president, the legislatures, and the courts are all on the government’s payroll.

They are the police state.

Source: https://bit.ly/3iQ0Bl2

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984

Once upon a time in America, parents breathed a sigh of relief when their kids went back to school after a summer’s hiatus, content in the knowledge that for a good portion of the day, their kids would be gainfully occupied, out of harm’s way, and out of trouble.

Back then, if you talked back to a teacher, or played a prank on a classmate, or just failed to do your homework, you might find yourself in detention or doing an extra writing assignment after school or suffering through a parent-teacher conference about your shortcomings.

Of course, that was before school shootings became a part of our national lexicon.

As a result, over the course of the past 30 years, the need to keep the schools “safe” from drugs and weapons has become a thinly disguised, profit-driven campaign to transform them into quasi-prisons, complete with surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs, school resource officers, strip searches, and active shooter drills.

Suddenly, under school zero tolerance policies, students were being punished with suspension, expulsion, and even arrest for childish behavior and minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight.

Things got even worse once schools started to rely on police (school resource officers) to “deal with minor rule breaking: sagging pants, disrespectful comments, brief physical skirmishes.”

As a result, students are being subjected to police tactics such as handcuffs, leg shackles, tasers and excessive force for “acting up,” in addition to being ticketed, fined and sent to court for behavior perceived as defiant, disruptive or disorderly such as spraying perfume and writing on a desk.

This is what constitutes a police state education these days: lessons in compliance meted out with aggressive, totalitarian tactics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another troubling layer to the ways in which students (and their families) can run afoul of a police state education now that school (virtual or in-person) is back in session.

Significant numbers of schools within the nation’s 13,000 school districts have opted to hold their classes online, in-person or a hybrid of the two, fearing further outbreaks of the virus. Yet this unprecedented foray into the virtual world carries its own unique risks.

Apart from the technological logistics of ensuring that millions of students across the country have adequate computer and internet access, consider the Fourth Amendment ramifications of having students attend school online via video classes from the privacy of their homes.

Suddenly, you’ve got government officials (in this case, teachers or anyone at the school on the other end of that virtual connection) being allowed carte blanche visual access to the inside of one’s private home without a warrant.

Anything those school officials see—anything they hear—anything they photograph or record—during that virtual visit becomes fair game for scrutiny and investigation not just by school officials but by every interconnected government agency to which that information can be relayed: the police, social services, animal control, the Department of Homeland Security, you name it.

After all, this is the age of overcriminalization, when the federal criminal code is so vast that the average American unknowingly commits about three federal felonies per day, a U.S. Attorney can find a way to charge just about anyone with violating federal law.

It’s a train wreck just waiting to happen.

In fact, we’re already seeing this play out across the country. For instance, a 12-year-old Colorado boy was suspended for flashing a toy gun across his computer screen during an online art class. Without bothering to notify or consult with the boy’s parents, police carried out a welfare check on Isaiah Elliott, who suffers from ADHD and learning disabilities.

An 11-year-old Maryland boy had police descend on his home in search of weapons after school officials spied a BB gun on the boy’s bedroom wall during a Google Meet class on his laptop. School officials reported the sighting to the school resource officer, who then called the police.

And in New York and Massachusetts, growing numbers of parents are being visited by social services after being reported to the state child neglect and abuse hotline, all because their kids failed to sign in for some of their online classes. Charges of neglect, in some instances, can lead to children being removed from their homes.

You see what this is, don’t you?

This is how a seemingly well-meaning program (virtual classrooms) becomes another means by which the government can intrude into our private lives, further normalizing the idea of constant surveillance and desensitizing us to the dangers of an existence in which we are never safe from the all-seeing eyes of Big Brother.

This is how the police sidestep the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for probable cause and a court-issued warrant in order to spy us on in the privacy of our homes: by putting school officials in a position to serve as spies and snitches via online portals and virtual classrooms, and by establishing open virtual doorways into our homes through which the police can enter uninvited and poke around.

Welfare checks. Police searches for weapons. Reports to Social Services.

It’s only a matter of time before the self-righteous Nanny State uses this COVID-19 pandemic as yet another means by which it can dictate every aspect of our lives.

At the moment, it’s America’s young people who are the guinea pigs for the police state’s experiment in virtual authoritarianism. Already, school administrators are wrestling with how to handle student discipline for in-person classes and online learning in the midst of COVID-19.

Mark my words, this will take school zero tolerance policies—and their associated harsh disciplinary penalties—to a whole new level once you have teachers empowered to act as the Thought Police.

As Kalyn Belsha reports for Chalkbeat, “In Jacksonville, Florida, students who don’t wear a mask repeatedly could be removed from school and made to learn online. In some Texas districts, intentionally coughing on someone can be classified as assault. In Memphis, minor misbehaviors could land students in an online ‘supervised study.’”

Depending on the state and the school district, failing to wear a face mask could constitute a dress code violation. In Utah, not wearing a face mask at school constitutes a criminal misdemeanor. In Texas, it’s considered an assault to intentionally spit, sneeze, or cough on someone else. Anyone removing their mask before spitting or coughing could be given a suspension from school.

Virtual learning presents its own challenges with educators warning dire consequences for students who violate school standards for dress code and work spaces, even while “learning” at home. According to Chalkbeat, “In Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis, that means no pajamas, hats, or hoods on screen, and students’ shirts must have sleeves. (The district is providing ‘flexibility’ on clothing bottoms and footwear when a student’s full body won’t be seen on video.) Other rules might be even tougher to follow: The district is also requiring students’ work stations to be clear of ‘foreign objects’ and says students shouldn’t eat or drink during virtual classes.”

See how quickly the Nanny State a.k.a. Police State takes over?

All it takes for you to cease being the master of your own home is to have a child engaged in virtual learning. Suddenly, the government gets to have a say in how you order your space and when those in your home can eat and drink and what clothes they wear.

If you think the schools won’t overreact in a virtual forum, you should think again.

These are the same schools that have been plagued by a lack of common sense when it comes to enforcing zero tolerance policies for weapons, violence and drugs.

These are the very same schools that have exposed students to a steady diet of draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech, school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students, standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking, politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them, and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement.

Zero tolerance policies that were intended to make schools safer by discouraging the use of actual drugs and weapons by students have turned students into suspects to be treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, while criminalizing childish behavior.

For instance, 9-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns.

A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time. In Houston, an 8th grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement).

Even imaginary weapons (hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, even fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in detention. Equally outrageous was the case in New Jersey where several kindergartners were suspended from school for three days for playing a make-believe game of “cops and robbers” during recess and using their fingers as guns.

With the distinctions between student offenses erased, and all offenses expellable, we now find ourselves in the midst of what Time magazine described as a “national crackdown on Alka-Seltzer.” Students have actually been suspended from school for possession of the fizzy tablets in violation of zero tolerance drug policies. Students have also been penalized for such inane “crimes” as bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades.

A 13-year-old boy in Manassas, Virginia, who accepted a Certs breath mint from a classmate, was actually suspended and required to attend drug-awareness classes, while a 12-year-old boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project was charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug.

Acts of kindness, concern, basic manners or just engaging in childish behavior can also result in suspensions.

One 13-year-old was given detention for exposing the school to “liability” by sharing his lunch with a hungry friend. A third grader was suspended for shaving her head in sympathy for a friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. And then there was the high school senior who was suspended for saying “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed.

In South Carolina, where it’s against the law to disturb a school, more than a thousand students a year—some as young as 7 years old—“face criminal charges for not following directions, loitering, cursing, or the vague allegation of acting ‘obnoxiously.’ If charged as adults, they can be held in jail for up to 90 days.”

Things get even worse when you add police to the mix.

Thanks to a combination of media hype, political pandering and financial incentives, the use of armed police officers (a.k.a. school resource officers) to patrol school hallways has risen dramatically in the years since the Columbine school shooting (nearly 20,000 by 2003). What this means, notes Mother Jones, is greater police “involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers (SROs) have become de facto wardens in the elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepperspray, batons and brute force.

The horror stories are legion.

One SRO is accused of punching a 13-year-old student in the face for cutting in the cafeteria line. That same cop put another student in a chokehold a week later, allegedly knocking the student unconscious and causing a brain injury.

In Pennsylvania, a student was tased after ignoring an order to put his cell phone away.

A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. Another 12-year-old was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle, splashing classmates.

On any given day when school is in session, kids who “act up” in class are pinned facedown on the floor, locked in dark closets, tied up with straps, bungee cords and duct tape, handcuffed, leg shackled, tasered or otherwise restrained, immobilized or placed in solitary confinement in order to bring them under “control.”

In almost every case, these undeniably harsh methods are used to punish kids for simply failing to follow directions or throwing tantrums.

Very rarely do the kids pose any credible danger to themselves or others.

For example, a 4-year-old Virginia preschooler was handcuffed, leg shackled and transported to the sheriff’s office after reportedly throwing blocks and climbing on top of the furniture. School officials claim the restraints were necessary to protect the adults from injury.

6-year-old kindergarten student in a Georgia public school was handcuffed, transported to the police station, and charged with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property for throwing a temper tantrum at school.

This is the end product of all those so-called school “safety” policies, which run the gamut from zero tolerance policies that punish all infractions harshly to surveillance cameras, metal detectors, random searches, drug-sniffing dogs, school-wide lockdowns, active-shooter drills and militarized police officers.

Yet these police state tactics did not made the schools any safer.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, police state tactics never make anyone safer so much as they present the illusion of safety and indoctrinate the populace to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

Now with virtual learning in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes are even higher.

It won’t be long before you start to see police carrying out knock-and-talk investigations based on whatever speculative information is gleaned from those daily virtual classroom sessions that allow government officials entry to your homes in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

It won’t take much at all for SWAT teams to start crashing through doors based on erroneous assumptions about whatever mistaken “contraband” someone may have glimpsed in the background of a virtual classroom session: a maple leaf that looks like marijuana, a jar of sugar that looks like cocaine, a toy gun, someone playfully shouting for help in the distance.

This may sound far-fetched now, but it’s only a matter of time before this slippery slope becomes yet another mile marker on the one-way road to tyranny.

Source: https://bit.ly/3klV46g

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“No one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.”—George Orwell

You can map the nearly 20-year journey from the 9/11 attacks to the COVID-19 pandemic by the freedoms we’ve lost along the way.

The road we have been traveling has been littered with the wreckage of our once-vaunted liberties, especially those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.

The assaults on our freedoms that began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act laid the groundwork for the eradication of every vital constitutional safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The COVID-19 pandemic with its lockdowns, mask mandates, surveillance, snitch lines for Americans to report their fellow citizens for engaging in risky behavior, and veiled threats of forced vaccinations has merely provided the architects of the American police state with an opportunity to flex their muscles.

These have become mile markers on the road to tyranny.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s ongoing war on the American people. In the process, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.

What the past 20 years have proven is that the U.S. government poses a greater threat to our individual and collective freedoms and national security than any terrorist, foreign threat or pandemic.

In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, partisan politics, pandemic scares, and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the U.S. government—the government that was supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people.

Indeed, the U.S. government has grown so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and tyrannical over the course of the past 240-plus years that our constitutional republic has since given way to an idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

Although the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—was adopted as a means of protecting the people against government tyranny, in America today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

“We the people” have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.

The bogeyman’s names and faces have changed over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, a viral pandemic), but the end result remains the same: in the so-called name of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded with the support of Congress, the White House, and the courts.

What we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Sadly, most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, post-9/11 and in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited to the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, 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.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to the Deep State—the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that has set itself beyond the reach of the law and is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on and treats its citizens as if they have no right to privacy, especially in their own homes.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data as a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors.

This is a government that subjects its people to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes.

This is a government that uses fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, to track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.

This is a government whose wall-to-wall surveillance has given rise to a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been reversed such that Americans are now assumed guilty until or unless they can prove their innocence.

This is a government that treats its people like second-class citizens who have no rights, and is working overtime to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power. The kinds of speech the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, prosecution and outright elimination include: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, left-wing speech, extremist speech, politically incorrect speech, etc.

This is a government that adopts laws that criminalize Americans for otherwise lawful activities such as holding religious studies at homegrowing vegetables in their yard, and collecting rainwater.

This is a government that persists in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that, in direct opposition to the dire warnings of those who founded our country, has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a standing army by way of programs that transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police.

This is a government that has militarized American’s domestic police, equipping them with military weapons such as “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like.

This is a government that has provided cover to police when they shoot and kill unarmed individuals just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

This is a government that has allowed private corporations to get rich at taxpayer expense by locking people up in private prisons for non-violent crimes, while providing Corporate America with a source of cheap labor.

This is a government that has created a Constitution-free zone within 100 miles inland of the border around the United States, paving the way for Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. Incredibly, nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

This is a government that treats public school students as if they were prison inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, failing to teach them their rights under the Constitution, and indoctrinating them with teaching that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.

This is a government that is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

This is a government whose gun violence—inflicted on unarmed individuals by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later—poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that treats dissidents, whistleblowers and freedom fighters as enemies of the state.

This is a government—a warring empire—that forces its taxpayers to pay for wars abroad that serve no other purpose except to expand the reach of the military industrial complex.

This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.

This is a government that allows its agents to break laws with immunity while average Americans get the book thrown at them.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force? Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. Contempt of cop charges.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world in order to prop up the military industrial complex and maintain its endless wars abroad.

This is a government that is consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In sum, this is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

This is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

So where does that leave us?

As always, the first step begins with “we the people.”

Those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them. Our power as a citizenry comes from our ability to agree and stand united on certain freedom principles that should be non-negotiable.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

Source: https://bit.ly/3bCxdfk

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”—Anonymous

Have you noticed that the government’s answer to every problem is more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty?

The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.

Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn.

Indeed, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. To put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.

To the police state, this COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge boon, like winning the biggest jackpot in the lottery. Certainly, it will prove to be a windfall for those who profit from government expenditures and expansions.

Given the rate at which the government has been devising new ways to spend our money and establish itself as the “solution” to all of our worldly problems, this current crisis will most likely end up ushering in the largest expansion of government power since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This is how the emergency state operates, after all.

From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.

As chief correspondent Dan Balz asks for The Washington Post, “Government is everywhere now. Where does it go next?

When it comes to the power players that call the shots, there is no end to their voracious appetite for more: more money, more power, more control.

This expansion of government power is also increasing our federal debt in unprecedented leaps and bounds. Yet the government isn’t just borrowing outrageous amounts of money to keep the country afloat. It’s also borrowing indecent sums to pay for programs it can’t afford.

The government’s primary response to this COVID-19 pandemic—flooding the market with borrowed money in the amount of trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions, and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat—has pushed the country even deeper in debt.

By “the country,” I really mean the taxpayers. And by “the taxpayers,” it’s really future generations who will be shackled to debt loads they may never be able to pay back.

This is how you impoverish the future.

Democrats and Republicans alike have done this.

Without fail, every president within the last 50 years has expanded the nation’s debt. When President Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the national debt—the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back—was a whopping $19.9 trillion. Despite Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp and eliminate the debt, the federal debt is now approaching $27 trillion and is on track to surpass $78 trillion by 2028.

For many years now, economists have warned that economic collapse would be inevitable if the national debt ever surpassed the size of the U.S. economy. The government passed that point in June 2020 and has yet to put the brakes on its spending.

In fact, the Federal Reserve just keeps printing more money in order to prop up the economy and float the debt.

At some point, something’s got to give.

As it now stands, the U.S. is among the most indebted countries in the world.

Almost a third of the $27 trillion national debt is owed to foreign entities such as Japan and China.

Most of the debt, however, is owed to the public.

How is this even possible? Essentially, it’s a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

First, the government requires taxpayers to pay a portion of their salaries to the Social Security Trust Fund. The government then turns around and borrows from Social Security to cover its spending needs. Then the government raises taxes or prints more money in order to pay out whatever is needed to the retirees.

It’s a form of convoluted economics that only makes sense to government bureaucrats looking to make a profit off the backs of the taxpayers.

According to the U.S. Debt Clock, each taxpayer’s share of the national debt is $214,000 and growing.

That’s almost five times more than the median income for what Americans earn in a year. That’s also almost five times more than the average American has in savings, across savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, call deposit accounts, and prepaid cards. Almost 60% of Americans are so financially strapped that they don’t have even $500 in savings and nothing whatsoever put away for retirement.

Just the interest that must be paid on the national debt every year is $338 billion and growing. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the fastest growing item in the budget over the next decade will be interest on the debt.

As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported in 2019, before COVID spending pushed the country over the fiscal cliff, “Interest payments will rise from $325 billion last year to $928 billion by 2029, a nearly threefold increase. If tax cuts and spending increases are extended, interest will exceed $1 trillion and set a new record as a share of the economy. The federal government will spend more on interest than on Medicaid or children by 2020. By 2024, interest will match defense spending.

Bottom line: The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will have to pay for it.

As financial analyst Kristin Tate explains, “When the government has its debt bill come due, all of us will be on the hook.”

Despite the tax burden “we the people” are made to bear, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it wants—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

This brings me to a curious point: what the future will look like ten years from now, when the federal debt is expected to surpass $78 trillion, an unsustainable level of debt that will result in unprecedented economic hardship for anyone that does not belong to the wealthy elite.

Interestingly enough, that timeline coincides with the government’s vision of the future as depicted in a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command.

According to the video, the government is anticipating trouble (read: civil unrest), which is code for anything that challenges the government’s authority, wealth and power, and is grooming its armed forces (including its heavily armed federal agents) accordingly to solve future domestic political and social problems.

The training video, titled “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” is only five minutes long, but it provides a chilling glimpse of what the government expects the world to look like in 2030, a world bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

And then comes the kicker.

Three-and-a-half minutes into the Pentagon’s dystopian vision of “a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers,” the ominous voice of the narrator speaks of a need to “drain the swamps.”

Drain the swamps.

Surely, we’ve heard that phrase before?

Ah yes.

Emblazoned on t-shirts and signs, shouted at rallies, and used as a rallying cry among Trump supporters, “drain the swamp” became one of Donald Trump’s most-used campaign slogans.

Far from draining the politically corrupt swamps of Washington DC of lobbyists and special interest groups, however, the Trump Administration has further mired us in a sweltering bog of corruption and self-serving tactics.

Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now the government has adopted its own plans for swamp-draining, only it wants to use the military to drain the swamps of futuristic urban American cities of “noncombatants and engage the remaining adversaries in high intensity conflict within.”

And who are these noncombatants, a military term that refers to civilians who are not engaged in fighting during a war?

They are, according to the Pentagon, “adversaries.”

They are “threats.”

They are the “enemy.”

They are people who don’t support the government, people who live in fast-growing urban communities, people who may be less well-off economically than the government and corporate elite, people who engage in protests, people who are unemployed, people who engage in crime (in keeping with the government’s fast-growing, overly broad definition of what constitutes a crime).

In other words, in the eyes of the U.S. military, noncombatants are American citizens a.k.a. domestic extremists a.k.a. enemy combatants who must be identified, targeted, detained, contained and, if necessary, eliminated.

Funny how closely fact tracks fiction these days.

Just recently, in fact, I re-watched Escape from L.A.John Carpenter’s 1996 post-apocalyptic action film that imagines a future (2013, in fact) in which the United States has elected a president for life who runs the country according to his own theocratic moral law. Anyone who runs afoul of the president’s moral laws is stripped of their citizenship and either electrocuted or deported to the island of Los Angeles, a penal colony where lawlessness reigns supreme.

As the film’s opening narrator recounts:

In the late 20th century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution. The earthquake measuring 9.6 on the Richter scale hits at 12:59 P.M. August 23rd in the year 2000. After the devastation, the Constitution is amended, and the newly elected president accepts a lifetime term of office. The country’s capital is moved from Washington, D.C., to the president’s hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. Los Angeles Island is declared no longer part of the United States and becomes the deportation point for all people found undesirable or unfit to live in the new, moral America. The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped among the shorelines, making any escape from L.A. impossible. From the southeastern hills of Orange County to the northwestern shore of Malibu, the great wall excludes L.A. from the mainland. The president’s first act as permanent Commander in Chief is Directive 17: once an American loses his or her citizenship, they are deported to this island of the damned, and they never come back.

Carpenter is a brilliant filmmaker whose dystopian visions of the future are eerily prescient, but this film is particularly unnerving: environmental disasters; engineered viruses used like weapons to control the masses; riots and looting that leave the populace longing for law and order; religion used like a weapon; martial law; surveillance that keeps every citizen under the government’s watchful eye; and a growing awareness that the only path to freedom left for humanity is to shut down the government and start over again.

We’re almost there now.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, unless we make some effort to reject the sorry excuse for representative government that we have been saddled with, the future that awaits us—whether it’s the future envisioned by the Pentagon in its training video or the future imagined by Carpenter—will be a living nightmare from which there is no escape.

Source: https://bit.ly/2QL7l7C

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“They came again this morning at about 8:00 o’clock. A large cargo-type helicopter flew low over the cabin, shaking it on its very foundations. It shook all of us inside, too. I feel frightened … I see how helpless and tormented I am becoming with disgust and disillusionment with the government which has turned this beautiful country into a police state … I feel like I am in the middle of a war zone.”—Journal entry from a California resident describing the government’s aerial searches for marijuana plants

Backyard gardeners, beware: tomato plants have become collateral damage in the government’s war on drugs, especially marijuana.

In fact, merely growing a vegetable garden on your own property, or in a greenhouse on your property, or shopping at a gardening store for gardening supplies—incredibly enough—could set you up for a drug raid sanctioned by the courts.

It’s happened before.

After shopping for hydroponic tomatoes at their local gardening store, a Kansas family found themselves subjected to a SWAT team raid as part of a multi-state, annual campaign dubbed “Operation Constant Gardener,” in which police collected the license plates of hundreds of customers at the gardening store and then investigated them for possible marijuana possession.

By “investigated,” I mean that police searched through the family’s trash. (You can thank the Supreme Court and their 1978 ruling in California v. Greenwood for allowing police to invade your trash can.) Finding “wet glob vegetation” in the garbage, the cops somehow managed to convince themselves—and a judge—that it was marijuana.

In fact, it was loose-leaf tea, but those pesky details don’t usually bother the cops when they’re conducting field tests.

Indeed, field tests routinely read positive for illegal drugs even when no drugs are present. According to investigative journalist Radley Balko, “it’s almost as if these tests come up positive whenever the police need them to. A partial list of substances that the tests have mistaken for illegal drugs would include sage, chocolate chip cookies, motor oil, spearmint, soap, tortilla dough, deodorant, billiard’s chalk, patchouli, flour, eucalyptus, breath mints, Jolly Ranchers and vitamins.”

There’s a long list of innocent ingredients that could be mistaken for drugs and get you subjected to a raid, because that’s all it takes—just the barest whiff of a suspicion by police that you might be engaged in criminal activity—to start the ball rolling.

From there, these so-called “investigations” follow the usual script: judge issues a warrant for a SWAT raid based on botched data, cops raid the home and terrorize the family at gunpoint, cops find no drugs, family sues over a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, and then the courts protect the cops and their botched raid on the basis of qualified immunity.

It happens all the time.

As Balko reports, “Police have broken down doors, screamed obscenities, and held innocent people at gunpoint only to discover that what they thought were marijuana plants were really sunflowers, hibiscus, ragweed, tomatoes, or elderberry bushes. (It’s happened with all five.)”

Surely, you might think, the government has enough on its hands right now—policing a novel coronavirus pandemic, instituting nationwide lockdowns, quelling civil unrests over police brutality—that it doesn’t need to waste time and resources ferreting out pot farmers.

You’d be wrong.

This is a government that excels at make-work projects in which it assigns at-times unnecessary jobs to government agents to keep them busy or employed.

In this case, however, the make-work principle (translation: making work to keep the police state busy at taxpayer expense) is being used to justify sending police and expensive military helicopters likely equipped with sophisticated surveillance and thermal imaging devices on exploratory sorties every summer—again at taxpayer expense—in order to uncover illegal marijuana growing operations.

Often, however, what these air and ground searches end up targeting are backyard gardeners growing tomato plants.

Just recently, in fact, eyewitnesses in Virginia reported low-flying black helicopters buzzing over rural and suburban neighborhoods as part of a multi-agency operation to search for marijuana growers. Oftentimes these joint operations involve local police, state police and the Army National Guard.

One woman reported having her “tomato plants complimented by the 7 cops that pulled up in my yard in unmarked SUVs, after a helicopter hovered over our house for 20 minutes this morning.” Another man reported a similar experience from a few years ago when police “showed up in unmarked SUV’s with guns pulled. Then the cops on the ground argued with the helicopter because the heat signature in the ‘copter didn’t match what was growing.”

Back in 2013, an aerial surveillance mission spotted what police thought might be marijuana plants. Two days later, dozens of city officials, SWAT team, police officers and code compliance employees, and numerous official vehicles including dozens of police cars and several specialized vehicular equipment, including helicopters and unmanned flying drones, descended on The Garden of Eden, a 3.5-acre farm in Arlington, Texas, for a 10-hour raid in search of marijuana that turned up nothing more than tomato, blackberry and okra plants.

These aerial and ground sweeps have become regular occurrences across the country, part of the government’s multi-million dollar Domestic Cannabis Eradication Program. Local cops refer to the annual military maneuvers as “Eradication Day.”

Started in 1979 as a way to fund local efforts to crack down on marijuana growers in California and Hawaii, the Eradication Program went national in 1985, right around the time the Reagan Administration enabled the armed forces to get more involved in the domestic “war on drugs.”

Writing for The Washington Post, Radley Balko describes how these raids started off, with the National Guard, spy planes and helicopters:

The project was called the Campaign Against Marijuana Production, or CAMP… In all, thirteen California counties were invaded by choppers, some of them blaring Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as they dropped Guardsmen and law enforcement officers armed with automatic weapons, sandviks, and machetes into the fields of California … In CAMP’s first year, the program conducted 524 raids, arrested 128 people, and seized about 65,000 marijuana plants. Operating costs ran at a little over $1.5 million. The next year, 24 more sheriffs signed up for the program, for a total of 37. CAMP conducted 398 raids, seized nearly 160,000 plants, and made 218 arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $2.3 million.

The area’s larger growers had been put out of business (or, probably more accurately, had set up shop somewhere else), so by the start of the second campaign in 1984, CAMP officials were already targeting increasingly smaller growers. By the end of that 1984 campaign, the helicopters had to fly at lower and lower altitudes to spot smaller batches of plants. The noise, wind, and vibration from the choppers could knock out windows, kick up dust clouds, and scare livestock. The officials running the operation made no bones about the paramilitary tactics they were using. They considered the areas they were raiding to be war zones. In the interest of “officer safety,” they gave themselves permission to search any structures relatively close to a marijuana supply, without a warrant. Anyone coming anywhere near a raid operation was subject to detainment, usually at gunpoint.

Right around the same time, in the mid-1980s, the federal government started handing out grants to local police departments to assist with their local boots-on-the-ground “war on drugs.” These grants (through the Byrne Grant program and COPS program, both of which started to be phased out under George W. Bush, only to be re-upped by Barack Obama) could be used to pay for additional police personnel, equipment, training, technical assistance and information systems. However, studies show that while these federal grants did not improve police effectiveness or drug deterrence, they did incentivize SWAT team raids.

But how do you go from a “war on drugs” to SWAT-style raids on vegetable gardens?

Connect the dots, starting with the government’s war on marijuana, the emergence of SWAT teams, the militarization of local police forces through the federal 1033 Program, which allows the Pentagon to transfer “vast amounts of military equipment—machine guns and ammunition, helicopters, night-vision gear, armored cars—to local police departments,” and the transformation of American communities into battlefields: as always, it comes back to the make work principle, which starts with local police finding ways to justify the use of military equipment and federal funding.

Each year, the government spends between $14 and $18 million funding helicopter sweeps and police overtime to help the states track down illegal marijuana plants. These sweeps are even being carried out in states where it’s now legal to grow marijuana.

The sweeps work like this: Local police, working with multiple state agencies including the National Guard, carry out ground and air searches of different sectors. Air spotters flying overhead in helicopters relay their findings to police on the ground, who then carry out a search-and-destroy mission.

Mark my words: the use of police drones will make these kinds of aerial missions even more common.

For the most part, aerial surveillance is legal. As Arthur Holland Michel writes for The Atlantic: “When it comes to law enforcement, police are likewise free to use aerial surveillance without a warrant or special permission. Under current privacy law, these operations are just as legal as policing practices whereby an officer spots unlawful activity while walking or driving through a neighborhood.”

There have been a few notable exceptions.

In 2015, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that surveillance from a low-flying helicopter conducting an aerial search for marijuana by state police and the national guard was illegal under the U.S. Constitution. The court reasoned that “when low-flying aerial activity leads to more than just observation and actually causes an unreasonable intrusion on the ground—most commonly from an unreasonable amount of wind, dust, broken objects, noise, and sheer panic—then at some point courts are c and require a warrant before law enforcement engages in such activity. The Fourth Amendment and its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures demands no less.”

In Philip Cobbs’ case, helicopter spotters claimed to have seen two lone marijuana plants growing in the wreckage of a fallen oak tree on the Virginia native’s 39-acre family farm.

Cobbs noticed the black helicopter circling overhead while spraying the blueberry bushes near his house. After watching the helicopter for several moments, Cobbs went inside to check on his blind, deaf 90-year-old mother. By the time he returned outside, several unmarked police SUVs had driven onto his property, and police (ten in all) in flak jackets, carrying semi-automatic weapons and shouting unintelligibly, had exited the vehicles and were moving toward him.

Of course, it was never about the two pot plants.

What the cops were really after was an excuse to search Cobbs’ little greenhouse, which he had used that spring to start tomato plants, cantaloupes, and watermelons, as well as asters and hollyhocks, which he planned to sell at a roadside stand near his home. The search of the greenhouse turned up nothing more than used tomato seedling containers.

Nevertheless, police charged Cobbs with misdemeanor possession of marijuana for the two plants they claimed to have found. Eventually, the charges were dismissed but not before The Rutherford Institute took up Cobbs’ case, which revealed that police hadn’t even bothered to secure a warrant before embarking on their raid of Cobbs’ property—a raid that had to cost taxpayers upwards of $25,000, at the very least—part of their routine sweep of the countryside in search of pot-growing operations.

Two plants or two hundred or no plants at all: it doesn’t matter.

A SWAT team targeted one South Carolina man for selling $50 worth of pot on two different occasions. The Washington Post reports: The SWAT team “broke down Betton’s door with a battering ram, then fired at least 57 bullets at him, hitting him nine times. He lost portions of his gallbladder, colon, bowel and rectum, and is paralyzed from the waist down. He also suffered damage to his liver, lung, small intestine and pancreas. Two of his vertebrae were damaged, and another was partially destroyed. Another bullet shattered his leg.” After security footage showed that most of what police said about the raid was a lie, the cops settled the case for $2.75 million.

Monetary awards like that are the exception, however.

Most of the time, the cops get away with murder and mayhem. Literally.

Bottom line: no amount of marijuana is too insignificant if it allows police to qualify for federal grants and equipment and lay claim to seized assets (there’s the profit motive) under the guise of fighting the War on Drugs.

SWAT teams carry out more than 80,000 no-knock raids every year. The vast majority of these raids are to serve routine drug warrants, many times for crimes no more serious than possession of marijuana.

Although growing numbers of states continue to decriminalize marijuana use and 9 out of 10 Americans favor the legalization of either medical or recreational/adult-use marijuana, the government’s profit-driven “War on Drugs”—waged with state and local police officers dressed in SWAT gear, armed to the hilt, and trained to act like soldiers on a battlefield, all thanks to funding provided by the U.S. government, particularly the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—has not abated.

Since the formation of the DHS post-9/11, hundreds of billions of dollars in grants have flowed to local police departments for SWAT teams, giving rise to a “police industrial complex” that routinely devastates communities, terrorizes families, and destroys innocent lives.

No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.

Unfortunately, general incompetence, collateral damage (fatalities, property damage, etc.) and botched raids tend to go hand in hand with an overuse of paramilitary forces.

In some cases, officers misread the address on the warrant. In others, they simply barge into the wrong house or even the wrong building. In another subset of cases, police conduct a search of a building where the suspect no longer resides.

SWAT teams have even on occasion conducted multiple, sequential raids on wrong addresses or executed search warrants despite the fact that the suspect is already in police custody. Police have also raided homes on the basis of mistaking the presence or scent of legal substances for drugs. Incredibly, these substances have included tomatoes, sunflowers, fish, elderberry bushes, kenaf plants, hibiscus, and ragweed.

All too often, the shock-and-awe tactics utilized by many SWAT teams only increases the likelihood that someone will get hurt with little consequences for law enforcement, even when the raids are botched.

Botched SWAT team raids have resulted in the loss of countless lives, including children and the elderly. Usually, however, the first to be shot are the family dogs.

SWAT raids are usually carried out late at night or shortly before dawn. Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting homeowner—especially in cases involving mistaken identities or wrong addresses—a raid can appear to be nothing less than a violent home invasion, with armed intruders crashing through their door.

That’s exactly what happened to Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

The problems inherent in these situations are further compounded by the fact that SWAT teams are granted “no-knock” warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless.

This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have essentially done away with the need for a “no-knock” warrant altogether, giving the police authority to disregard the protections afforded American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.

Clearly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplesomething must be done.

When the war on drugs—a.k.a. the war on the American people—becomes little more than a thinly veiled attempt to keep SWAT teams employed and special interests appeased, it’s time to revisit our drug policies and laws.

“You take the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, all the rights you expect to have—when they come in like that, the only right you have is not to get shot if you cooperate. They open that door, your life is on the line,” concluded Bob Harte, whose home was raided by a SWAT team simply because the family was seen shopping at a garden store, cops found loose tea in the family’s trash and mistook it for marijuana.

Our family will never be the same,” said Addie Harte, recalling the two-hour raid that had police invading their suburban home with a battering ram and AR-15 rifles. As The Washington Post reports:

Bob found himself flat on floor, hands behind his head, his eyes locked on the boots of the officer standing over him with an AR-15 assault rifle. “Are there kids?” the officers were yelling. “Where are the kids?” “And I’m laying there staring at this guy’s boots fearing for my kids’ lives, trying to tell them where my children are,” Harte recalled later in a deposition on July 9, 2015. “They are sending these guys with their guns drawn running upstairs to bust into my children’s house, bedroom, wake them out of bed.”

It didn’t matter that no drugs were found—nothing but a hydroponic tomato garden and loose tea leaves. The search and SWAT raid were reasonable, according to the courts.

There’s a lesson here for the rest of us. As Bob Harte concluded: “If this can happen to us, everybody in the country needs to be afraid.”

Source: https://bit.ly/3aSa8oE

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

And so it begins again, the never-ending, semi-delusional, train-wreck of an election cycle in which the American people allow themselves to get worked up into a frenzy over the misguided belief that the future of this nation—nay, our very lives—depends on who we elect as president.

For the next three months, Americans will be dope-fed billions of dollars’ worth of political propaganda aimed at keeping them glued to their television sets and persuading them that 1) their votes count and 2) electing the right candidate will fix everything that is wrong with this country.

Incredible, isn’t it, that in a country of more than 330 million people, we are given only two choices for president? How is it that in a country teeming with creative, intelligent, productive, responsible, moral people, our vote too often comes down to pulling the lever for the lesser of two evils?

The system is rigged, of course.

It is a heavily scripted, tightly choreographed, star-studded, ratings-driven, mass-marketed, costly exercise in how to sell a product—in this case, a presidential candidate—to dazzled consumers who will choose image over substance almost every time.

As author Noam Chomsky rightly observed, “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”

In other words, we’re being sold a carefully crafted product by a monied elite who are masters in the art of making the public believe that they need exactly what is being sold to them, whether it’s the latest high-tech gadget, the hottest toy, or the most charismatic politician.

This year’s presidential election, much like every other election in recent years, is what historian Daniel Boorstin referred to as a “pseudo-event”: manufactured, contrived, confected and devoid of any intrinsic value save the value of being advertised.

After all, who wants to talk about police shootings, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, school-to-prison pipelines, overcriminalization, censorship or any of the other evils that plague our nation when you can tune into a reality show carefully calibrated to appeal to the public’s need for bread and circuses, diversion and entertainment, and pomp and circumstance.

But make no mistake: Americans only think they’re choosing the next president.

In truth, however, they’re engaging in the illusion of participation culminating in the reassurance ritual of voting. It’s just another Blue Pill, a manufactured reality conjured up by the matrix in order to keep the populace compliant and convinced that their vote counts and that they still have some influence over the political process.

It’s all an illusion.

The nation is drowning in debt, crippled by a slowing economy, overrun by militarized police, swarming with surveillance, besieged by endless wars and a military industrial complex intent on starting new ones, and riddled with corrupt politicians at every level of government.

All the while, we’re arguing over which corporate puppet will be given the honor of stealing our money, invading our privacy, abusing our trust, undermining our freedoms, and shackling us with debt and misery for years to come.

Nothing taking place on Election Day will alleviate the suffering of the American people.

Unless we do something more than vote, the government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will remain unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.

With roughly 22 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, while our so-called representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than such values as honesty, integrity and public service.

Just consider: while billions will be spent on the elections this year, not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.

Conveniently, politicians only seem to remember their constituents in the months leading up to an election, and yet “we the people” continue to take the abuse, the neglect, the corruption and the lies. We make excuses for the shoddy treatment, we cover up for them when they cheat on us, and we keep hoping that if we just stick with them long enough, eventually they’ll treat us right.

When a country spends billions of dollars to select what is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified homecoming king or queen to occupy the White House, while tens of millions of its people live in poverty, nearly 18 million Americans are out of work, and most of the country and its economy remain in a state of semi-lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, that’s a country whose priorities are out of step with the needs of its people.

Then again, people get the government they deserve.

No matter who wins the presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people if all we’re prepared to do is vote.

As political science professor Gene Sharp notes in starker terms, “Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.”

To put it another way, the Establishment—the shadow government and its corporate partners that really run the show, pull the strings and dictate the policies, no matter who occupies the Oval Office—are not going to allow anyone to take office who will unravel their power structures. Those who have attempted to do so in the past have been effectively put out of commission.

So what is the solution to this blatant display of imperial elitism disguising itself as a populist exercise in representative government?

Stop playing the game. Stop supporting the system. Stop defending the insanity. Just stop.

Washington thrives on money, so stop giving them your money. Stop throwing your hard-earned dollars away on politicians and Super PACs who view you as nothing more than a means to an end. There are countless worthy grassroots organizations and nonprofits working in your community to address real needs like injustice, poverty, homelessness, etc. Support them and you’ll see change you really can believe in in your own backyard.

Politicians depend on votes, so stop giving them your vote unless they have a proven track record of listening to their constituents, abiding by their wishes and working hard to earn and keep their trust.

It’s comforting to believe that your vote matters, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right: “Presidents are selected, not elected.”

Despite what is taught in school and the propaganda that is peddled by the media, a presidential election is not a populist election for a representative. Rather, it’s a gathering of shareholders to select the next CEO, a fact reinforced by the nation’s archaic electoral college system. In other words, your vote doesn’t elect a president. Despite the fact that there are 218 million eligible voters in this country (only half of whom actually vote), it is the electoral college, made up of 538 individuals handpicked by the candidates’ respective parties, that actually selects the next president.

The only thing you’re accomplishing by taking part in the “reassurance ritual” of voting is sustaining the illusion that we have a democratic republic.

In actuality, we are suffering from what political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page more accurately term an “economic élite domination” in which the economic elite (lobbyists, corporations, monied special interest groups) dominate and dictate national policy.

No surprise there.

As an in-depth Princeton University study confirms, democracy has been replaced by oligarchy, a system of government in which elected officials represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen.

We did it to ourselves.

We said nothing while our elections were turned into popularity contests populated by individuals better suited to be talk-show hosts rather than intelligent, reasoned debates on issues of domestic and foreign policy by individuals with solid experience, proven track records and tested integrity.

We turned our backs on things like wisdom, sound judgment, morality and truth, shrugging them off as old-fashioned, only to find ourselves saddled with lying politicians incapable of making fair and impartial decisions.

We let ourselves be persuaded that those yokels in Washington could do a better job of running this country than we could. It’s not a new problem. As former Senator Joseph S. Clark Jr. acknowledged in a 1955 article titled, “Wanted: Better Politicians”: “[W]e have too much mediocrity in the business of running the government of the country, and it troubles me that this should be so at a time of such complexity and crisis… Government by amateurs, semi-pros, and minor-leaguers will not meet the challenge of our times. We must realize that it takes great competence to run a country which, in spite of itself, has succeeded to world leadership in a time of deadly peril.”

We indulged our craving for entertainment news at the expense of our need for balanced reporting by a news media committed to asking the hard questions of government officials. The result, as former congressman Jim Leach points out, leaves us at a grave disadvantage: “At a time when in-depth analysis of the issues of the day has never been more important, quality journalism has been jeopardized by financial considerations and undercut by purveyors of ideology who facilely design news, like clothes, to appeal to a market segment.”

We bought into the fairytale that politicians are saviors, capable of fixing what’s wrong with our communities and our lives, when in fact, most politicians lead such sheltered lives that they have no clue about what their constituents must do to make ends meet. As political scientists Morris Fiorina and Samuel Abrams conclude, “In America today, there is a disconnect between an unrepresentative political class and the citizenry it purports to represent. The political process today not only is less representative than it was a generation ago and less supported by the citizenry, but the outcomes of that process are at a minimum no better.”

We let ourselves be saddled with a two-party system and fooled into believing that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats, when in fact, the two parties are exactly the same. As one commentator noted, both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by the corporate elite, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty.

Then, when faced with the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils, many simply compromise their principles and overlook the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Perhaps worst of all, we allowed the cynicism of our age and the cronyism and corruption of Washington, DC, to discourage us from believing that there was any hope for the American experiment in liberty.

Granted, it’s easy to become discouraged about the state of our nation. We’re drowning under the weight of too much debt, too many wars, too much power in the hands of a centralized government, too many militarized police, too many laws, too many lobbyists, and generally too much bad news.

It’s harder to believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom will prevail.

Yet I truly believe that change is possible, that the system can be reformed, that politicians can be principled, that courts can be just, that good can overcome evil, and that freedom can prevail but it will take each and every one of us committed to doing the hard work of citizenship that extends beyond the act of voting.

A healthy, representative government is hard work. It takes a citizenry that is informed about the issues, educated about how the government operates, and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved.

Most of all, it takes a citizenry willing to do more than grouse and complain.

The powers-that-be want us to believe that our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day. They want us to believe that we have no right to complain about the state of the nation unless we’ve cast our vote one way or the other. They want us to remain divided over politics, hostile to those with whom we disagree politically, and intolerant of anyone or anything whose solutions to what ails this country differ from our own.

What they don’t want us doing is presenting a united front in order to reject the pathetic excuse for government that is being fobbed off on us.

So where does that leave us?

We’d better stop hanging our hopes on a political savior to rescue us from the clutches of an imperial president.

It’s possible that the next president might be better, but then again, he or she could be far worse.

Remember, presidential elections merely serve to maintain the status quo. Once elected president, that person becomes part of the dictatorial continuum that is the American imperial presidency today.

If we are to return to a constitutional presidency, “we the people” must recalibrate the balance of power.

The first step is to start locally—in your own communities, in your schools, at your city council meetings, in newspaper editorials, at protests—by pushing back against laws that are unjust, police departments that overreach, politicians that don’t listen to their constituents, and a system of government that grows more tyrannical by the day.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, 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—answer to and are accountable to “we the people.”

This will mean that Americans will have to stop letting their personal politics and party allegiances blind them to government misconduct and power grabs. It will mean holding all three branches of government accountable to the Constitution (i.e., vote them out of office if they abuse their powers). And it will mean calling on Congress to put an end to the use of presidential executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements as a means of getting around Congress and the courts.

As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. concludes:

I would argue that what the country needs today is a little serious disrespect for the office of the presidency; a refusal to give any more weight to a President’s words than the intelligence of the utterance, if spoken by anyone else, would command… If the nation wants to work its way back to a constitutional presidency, there is only one way to begin. That is by showing Presidents that, when their closest associates place themselves above the law and the Constitution, such transgressions will be not forgiven or forgotten for the sake of the presidency but exposed and punished for the sake of the presidency.”

In other words, we’ve got to stop treating the president like a god and start making both the office of the president and the occupant play by the rules of the Constitution.

Source: https://bit.ly/315iWUW

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”—Ronald Reagan

There’s a pattern emerging if you pay close enough attention.

Civil discontent leads to civil unrest, which leads to protests and counterprotests.

Without fail, what should be an exercise in how to peacefully disagree turns ugly the moment looting, vandalism, violence, intimidation tactics and rioting are introduced into the equation. Instead of restoring order, local police stand down.

Tensions rise, violence escalates, and federal armies move in.

Coincidence? I think not.

This was the blueprint used three years ago in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when the city regularly cited as being one of the happiest places in America, became ground zero for a heated war of words—and actions—over racism, “sanitizing history,” extremism (both right and left), political correctness, hate speech, partisan politics, and a growing fear that violent words will end in violent actions.

It was a setup: local police deliberately engineered a situation in which protesters would confront each other, tensions would bubble over, and things would turn just violent enough to call in the bigger guns.

It is the blueprint being used right now.

In Charlottesville, as in so many parts of the country right now, the conflict was over how to reconcile the nation’s checkered past, particularly as it relates to slavery, with the push to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense, especially if it’s a Confederate flag or monument.

That fear of offense prompted the Charlottesville City Council to get rid of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that had graced one of its public parks for 82 years.

That’s when everything went haywire.

In attempting to pacify one particularly vocal and righteously offended group while railroading over the concerns of those with alternate viewpoints, Charlottesville attracted the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the alt-Right, all of whom descended on the little college town with the intention of exercising their First Amendment right to be disagreeable, to assemble, and to protest.

When put to the test, Charlottesville did not handle things well at all.

On August 12, 2017, what should have been an exercise in free speech quickly became a brawl that left one dead and dozens more injured.

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.”

And then there was the police, who were supposed to uphold the law and prevent violence.

They failed to do either.

Indeed, a 220-page post-mortem of the protests and the Charlottesville government’s response by former U.S. attorney Timothy J. Heaphy merely corroborates our worst fears about what drives the government at all levels: power, money, ego, politics and ambition.

When presented with a situation in which the government and its agents were tasked with protecting free speech and safety, Heaphy concluded that “the City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety.”

Heaphy continues: “The City was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech. This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions—the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”

In other words, the government failed to uphold its constitutional mandates. The police failed to carry out their duties as peace officers. And the citizens found themselves unable to trust either the police or the government to do its job in respecting their rights and ensuring their safety.

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.

Instead of establishing clear boundaries—buffer zones—between the warring groups and protecting the First Amendment rights of the protesters, 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.

Incredibly, when the first signs of open violence broke out, Heaphy reports that the police chief allegedly instructed his staff to “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”

This is not much different from what is happening on the present-day national scene.

Commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, this Heaphy report was intended to be an independent investigation of what went right and what went wrong in the government’s handling of the protests.

Heaphy found very little to commend.

What went right on Aug. 12 according to Heaphy: 1) Despite the presence of firearms, including members of the militia, and angry confrontations between protesters and counterprotesters, no person was shot and no significant property damage occurred; 2) Emergency personnel did their jobs effectively and treated a large number of people in a short period of time; and 3) Police intelligence gathering was thorough (that’s the best he had to say about police).

Now for what went wrong, according to the report:

1. Police failed to get input from other law enforcement agencies experienced in handling large protests.

2. Police failed to adequately train their officers in advance of the protest.

3. City officials failed to request assistance from outside agencies.

4. The City Council unduly interfered by ignoring legal advice, attempting to move the protesters elsewhere, and ignoring the concerns of law enforcement.

5. The city government failed to inform the public about their plans.

6. City officials were misguided in allowing weapons at the protest.

7. The police implemented a flawed operational plan that failed to protect public safety.

8. While police were provided with riot gear, they were never trained in how to use it, nor were they provided with any meaningful field training in how to deal with or de-escalate anticipated violence on the part of protesters.

9. Despite the input and advice of outside counsel, including The Rutherford Institute, the police failed to employ de-escalation tactics or establish clear barriers between warring factions of protesters.

10. Government officials and police leadership opted to advance their own agendas at the expense of constitutional rights and public safety.

11. For all intents and purposes, police abided by a stand down order that endangered the community and paved the way for massive civil unrest.

12. In failing to protect public safety, police and government officials undermined public faith in the government.

The Heaphy report focused on the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, but it applies to almost every branch of government that fails to serve “we the people.”

As the Pew Research Center revealed, public trust in the government remains near historic lows and with good reason, too.

This isn’t America, land of the free, where the government is “of the people, by the people [and] for the people.”

Rather, this is Amerika, where fascism, totalitarianism and militarism go hand in hand.

What you smell is the stench of a dying republic. Our dying republic.

The American experiment in freedom is failing fast.

Through every fault of our own—our apathy, our ignorance, our intolerance, our disinclination to do the hard work of holding government leaders accountable to the rule of law, our inclination to let politics trump longstanding constitutional principles—we have been reduced to this sorry state in which we are little more than shackled inmates in a prison operated for the profit of a corporate elite.

We have been saddled with the wreckage of a government at all levels that no longer represents the citizenry, serves the citizenry, or is accountable to the citizenry.

“We the people” are not the masters anymore.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the federal government, state governments, or local governing bodies: at all ends of the spectrum and every point in between, a shift has taken place.

“We the people” are not being seen, heard or valued.

We no longer count for much of anything beyond an occasional electoral vote and as a source of income for the government’s ever-burgeoning financial needs.

Everything happening at the national level is playing out at the local level, as well: the violence, the militarization, the intolerance, the lopsided governance, and an uneasy awareness that the citizenry have no say in how their communities are being governed.

As I have warned repeatedly, the architects of the police state have every intention of manipulating this outrage for their own purposes.

Predictably, the police state is allowing these protests, riots and looting to devolve into a situation where enough of the voting populace is so desperate for a return to law and order that they will gladly relinquish some of their freedoms to achieve it. And that’s how the police state will win, no matter which candidate gets elected to the White House, and “we the people” will continue to lose.

So what’s the answer?

As always, it must start with “we the people.”

I’ve always advised people to think nationally, but act locally.

Yet as Charlottesville made clear, it’s hard to make a difference locally when the local government is as deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of its constituents as the national government.

Charlottesville much like the rest of the nation has had its fair share of government leaders who are tone-deaf, focused on their own aggrandizement, and incapable of prioritizing the needs of their constituents over their own personal and political agendas; law enforcement officials for whom personal safety, heavy-handed militarized tactics, and power plays trump their duty to serve and protect; polarized citizens incapable of finding common ground, respecting each other’s rights, or agreeing to disagree; and a community held hostage by political correctness, divisive rhetoric and a growing intolerance for any views that may be unpopular or at odds with the mainstream.

It was a perfect storm just waiting for the right conditions to wreak havoc, a precursor of the rage, frustration and fear that is erupting all over the country.

No matter what forces are manipulating these present riots and violent uprisings, however—and there are definitely such forces at play here—none of this would be happening without the government having laid the groundwork.

Clearly, it’s time to clean house at all levels of government.

Stop tolerating corruption, graft, intolerance, greed, incompetence, ineptitude, militarism, lawlessness, ignorance, brutality, deceit, collusion, corpulence, bureaucracy, immorality, depravity, censorship, cruelty, violence, mediocrity, and tyranny. These are the hallmarks of an institution that is rotten through and through.

Stop holding your nose in order to block out the stench of a rotting institution.

Stop letting the government and its agents treat you like a servant or a slave.

You’ve got rights. We’ve all got rights. This is our country. This is our government. No one can take it away from us unless we make it easy for them.

You’ve got a better chance of making your displeasure seen and felt and heard within your own community. But it will take perseverance and unity and a commitment to finding common ground with your fellow citizens.

Right now, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re making it way too easy for the police state to take over.

Stop being an accessory to the murder of the American republic.

Source: https://bit.ly/3ahhbHh

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“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; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” — Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

While America continues to fixate on the drama-filled reality show scripted by the powers-that-be, directed from the nation’s capital, and played out in high definition across the country, the American Police State has moved steadily forward.

Nothing has changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a convenient, traumatic, devastating distraction.

The American people, the permanent underclass in America, have allowed themselves to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton: they have all been complicit in carrying out the Deep State’s agenda. Unless something changes to restore the balance of power, the next president—the new boss—will be the same as the old boss.

Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss—the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the corporate elite, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

If our losses are mounting with every passing day—and they are—it is a calculated siege intended to ensure our defeat at the hands of a totalitarian regime.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, media, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more are casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized federal police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms are being steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

As a result, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

None of these dangers have dissipated in any way.

They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

It’s time to get educated on what’s really going on. Thus, in the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer that spells out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one seems to be talking about anymore.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the militarized police culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police and now TSA agents) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property and it’s virtually impossible to get it back.

D is for DRONES. It was estimated that at least 30,000 drones would be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

E is for EMERGENCY STATE. From 9/11 to COVID-19, we have been the subjected to an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security. The government’s ongoing attempts to declare so-called national emergencies in order to circumvent the Constitution’s system of checks and balances constitutes yet another expansion of presidential power that exposes the nation to further constitutional peril.

F is for FASCISM. A study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere economic units or databits.

G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance.

J is for JAILING FOR PROFIT. Having outsourced their inmate population to private prisons run by private corporations, this profit-driven form of mass punishment has given rise to a $70 billion private prison industry that relies on the complicity of state governments to keep their privately run prisons full by jailing large numbers of Americans for petty crimes.

K is for KENTUCKY V. KING. In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can break into homes, without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home as long as they think they may have a reason to do so. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between the citizenry and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by law enforcement officials.

L is for LICENSE PLATE READERS, which enable law enforcement and private agencies to track the whereabouts of vehicles, and their occupants, all across the country. This data collected on tens of thousands of innocent people is also being shared between police agencies, as well as with government fusion centers and private companies. This puts Big Brother in the driver’s seat.

M is for MAIN CORE. Since the 1980s, the U.S. government has acquired and maintained, without warrant or court order, a database of names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation. As Salon reports, this database, reportedly dubbed “Main Core,” is to be used by the Army and FEMA in times of national emergency or under martial law to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security. There are at least 8 million Americans in the Main Core database.

N is for NO-KNOCK RAIDS. Owing to the militarization of the nation’s police forces, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for routine police matters. In fact, 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, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually possession of some small amount of drugs.

O is for OVERCRIMINALIZATION and OVERREGULATION. Thanks to an overabundance of 4500-plus federal crimes and 400,000 plus rules and regulations, it’s estimated that the average American actually commits three felonies a day without knowing it. As a result of this overcriminalization, we’re seeing an uptick in Americans being arrested and jailed for such absurd “violations” as letting their kids play at a park unsupervised, collecting rainwater and snow runoff on their own property, growing vegetables in their yard, and holding Bible studies in their living room.

P is for PATHOCRACY and PRECRIME. When our own government treats us as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police and other government agents, mistreated, and then jailed in profit-driven private prisons if we dare step out of line, we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic. Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.” Couple that with the government’s burgeoning precrime programs, which will use fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics in order to identify and deter so-called potential “extremists,” dissidents or rabble-rousers. Bear in mind that anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—is now viewed as an extremist.

Q is for QUALIFIED IMMUNITY. Qualified immunity allows police officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a cop should be immune from having to personally pay for misbehavior on the job all belong to the same system, all cronies with a vested interest in protecting the police and their infamous code of silence: city and county attorneys, police commissioners, city councils and judges.

R is for ROADSIDE STRIP SEARCHES and BLOOD DRAWS. The courts have increasingly erred on the side of giving government officials—especially the police—vast discretion in carrying out strip searches, blood draws and even anal and vaginal probes for a broad range of violations, no matter how minor the offense. In the past, strip searches were resorted to only in exceptional circumstances where police were confident that a serious crime was in progress. In recent years, however, strip searches have become routine operating procedures in which everyone is rendered a suspect and, as such, is subjected to treatment once reserved for only the most serious of criminals.

S is for the SURVEILLANCE STATE. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of the electronic concentration camp in which we live, 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, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

T is for TASERS. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like have been used by police as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint—even against women and children—and in some instances, even causing death. These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. A Taser Shockwave, for instance, can electrocute a crowd of people at the touch of a button

U is for UNARMED CITIZENS SHOT BY POLICE. No longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, often attributed to a fear for their safety. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection.

V is for VIRUSES AND FORCED VACCINATIONS. What started out as an apparent effort to prevent a novel coronavirus from sickening the nation (and the world) has become yet another means by which world governments (including the U.S.) can expand their powers, abuse their authority, and further oppress their constituents. With millions of dollars in stimulus funds being directed towards policing agencies across the country, the federal government plans to fight this COVID-19 virus with riot gear, gas masks, ballistic helmets, drones, and hi-tech surveillance technology. The road we are traveling is paved with lockdowns, SWAT team raids, mass surveillance and forced vaccinations. Now there’s talk of mobilizing the military to deliver forced vaccinations, mass surveillance in order to carry out contact tracing, and heavy fines and jail time for those who dare to venture out without a mask, congregate in worship without the government’s blessing, or re-open their  businesses without the government’s say-so.

W is for WHOLE-BODY SCANNERS. Using either x-ray radiation or radio waves, scanning devices and government mobile units are being used not only to “see” through your clothes but to spy on you within the privacy of your home. While these mobile scanners are being sold to the American public as necessary security and safety measures, we can ill afford to forget that such systems are rife with the potential for abuse, not only by government bureaucrats but by the technicians employed to operate them.

X is for X-KEYSCORE, one of the many spying programs carried out by the National Security Agency that targets every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. This top-secret program “allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

Y is for YOU-NESS. Using your face, mannerisms, social media and “you-ness” against you, you are now be tracked based on what you buy, where you go, what you do in public, and how you do what you do. Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country.

Z is for ZERO TOLERANCE. We have moved into a new paradigm in which young people are increasingly viewed as suspects and treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, often for engaging in little more than childish behavior or for saying the “wrong” word. In some jurisdictions, students have also been penalized under school zero tolerance policies for such inane “crimes” as carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick, bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. The lesson being taught to our youngest—and most impressionable—citizens is this: in the American police state, you’re either a prisoner (shackled, controlled, monitored, ordered about, limited in what you can do and say, your life not your own) or a prison bureaucrat (politician, police officer, judge, jailer, spy, profiteer, etc.).

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the post-9/11 America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age.

You can call it the age of authoritarianism. Or fascism. Or oligarchy. Or the American police state.

Whatever label you want to put on it, the end result is the same: tyranny.

WC: 2913

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freeman of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.”—James Madison

We have become one nation under house arrest.

You think we’re any different from the Kentucky couple fitted out with ankle monitoring bracelets and forced to quarantine at home?

We’re not

Consider what happened to Elizabeth and Isaiah Linscott.

Elizabeth took a precautionary diagnostic COVID-19 test before traveling to visit her parents and grandparents in Michigan. It came back positive: Elizabeth was asymptomatic for the novel coronavirus but had no symptoms. Her husband and infant daughter tested negative for the virus.

Now in a country where freedom actually means something, the Linscotts would have the right to determine for themselves how to proceed responsibly, but in the American Police State, we’ve only got as much freedom as the government allows.

That’s not saying much.

Indeed, it’s a dangerous time for anyone who still clings to the idea that freedom means the right to think for yourself and act responsibly according to your best judgment.

In that regard, the Linscotts are a little old-school in their thinking. When Elizabeth was asked to sign a self-quarantine order agreeing to check in daily with the health department and not to travel anywhere without prior approval, she refused.

I shouldn’t have to ask for consent because I’m an adult who can make that decision. And as a citizen of the United States of America, that is my right to make that decision without having to disclose that to somebody else,” said Elizabeth. “So, no, I wouldn’t wear a mask. I would do everything that I could to make sure that I wouldn’t come in contact with other people because of the fear that’s spreading with this. But no, I would have just stayed home, take care of my child.”

Instead of signing the blanket statement, Elizabeth submitted her own written declaration:

I will do my best to stay home, as I do every other time I get sick. But I cannot comply to having to call the public health department everytime that I need to go out and do something. It’s my right and freedoms to go where I please and not have to answer to anyone for it. There is no pandemic and with a survival rate of 99.9998% I’m fine. I will continue to avoid the elderly, just like PRIOR guidelines state, try to stay home, get rest, get medicine, and get better. I decline.

A few days after being informed that Elizabeth’s case was being escalated and referred to law enforcement, the Linscotts reportedly found their home surrounded by multiple government vehicles, government personnel and the county sheriff armed with a court order and ankle monitors.

“We didn’t rob a store,” Linscott said. “We didn’t steal something. We didn’t hit and run. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

That’s the point, of course.

In an age of overcriminalization—when the law is wielded like a hammer to force compliance to the government’s dictates whatever they might be—you don’t have to do anything wrong to be fined, arrested or subjected to raids and seizures and surveillance.

Watch and see: just as it did in China, this pandemic is about to afford the government the perfect excuse for expanding its surveillance and data collection powers at our expense.

On a daily basis, Americans are already relinquishing (in many cases, voluntarily) the most intimate details of who we are—their biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to navigate an increasingly technologically-enabled world.

COVID-19, however, takes the surveillance state to the next level.

There’s already been talk of mass testing for COVID-19 antibodies, screening checkpoints, contact tracing, immunity passports to allow those who have recovered from the virus to move around more freely, and snitch tip lines for reporting “rule breakers” to the authorities.

As Reuters reports:

As the United States begins reopening its economy, some state officials are weighing whether house arrest monitoring technology – including ankle bracelets or location-tracking apps – could be used to police quarantines imposed on coronavirus carriers. But while the tech has been used sporadically for U.S. quarantine enforcement over the past few weeks, large scale rollouts have so far been held back by a big legal question: Can officials impose electronic monitoring without an offense or a court order?

More to the point, as the head of one tech company asked, “Can you actually constitutionally monitor someone who’s innocent? It’s uncharted territory.”

Except this isn’t exactly uncharted territory, is it?

It follows much the same pattern as every other state of emergency in recent years—legitimate or manufactured—that has empowered the government to add to its arsenal of technologies and powers.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school safety schemes, eminent domain: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be—civil unrest, the national emergencies, “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”—as long as it allows the government to justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

It’s hard to know who to trust anymore.

Certainly, in this highly partisan age, when everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to police brutality to football is being recast in light of one’s political leanings, it can be incredibly difficult to separate what constitutes a genuine safety concern versus what is hyper-politicized propaganda.

Take the mask mandates, for example.

Currently, 19 states have not issued mask mandates in response to rising COVID-19 infection numbers. More than 30 states have enacted some form of mask requirement. A growing number of retailers, including Walmart, Target and CVS,  are also joining the mask mandate bandwagon. Georgia’s governor, in a challenge to mask requirements by local governing bodies, filed a lawsuit challenging Atlanta’s dictate that masks be worn within city limits.

In some states, such as Indiana, where masks are required but there are no penalties for non-compliance, government officials are urging people to protect themselves but not to get into confrontations over masks or turn into snitches.

In other states, such as Virginia, the Nanny State is using more strong-handed tactics to force compliance with mask mandates, including the threat of fines, jail time, surprise inspections of businesses, and complaint hotlines that encourage citizens to snitch on each other. Officials in Las Vegas deployed 100 “compliance ambassadors” to help educate and enhance enforcement of the state’s mask mandate. One couple in Knoxville, Tenn., took mask-shaming to new heights when they created a Facebook page to track compliance by businesses, employees and customers.

In Miami, “residents now risk a legal penalty if they venture into public without a face mask. The city has assigned at least 39 police officers to make sure that residents are following the city’s mandatory mask ordinance. Offenders will be warned but, if they refuse to comply, they will be fined. The first offense will cost $100 and the second another $100. With a third — God forbid — the offender will be arrested.

These conflicting and, in some cases, heavy-handed approaches to a pandemic that has locked down the nation for close to six months is turning this health crisis into an unnecessarily politicized, bureaucratic tug-of-war with no clear-cut winners to be found.

Certainly, this is not the first crisis to pit security concerns against freedom principles.

In this post-9/11 world, we have been indoctrinated into fearing and mistrusting one another instead of fearing and mistrusting the government. As a result, we’ve been forced to travel this road many, many times with lamentably predictable results each time: without fail, when asked to choose between safety and liberty, Americans historically tend to choose safety.

Failing to read the fine print on such devil’s bargains, “we the people” find ourselves repeatedly on the losing end as the government uses each crisis as a means of expanding its powers at taxpayer expense.

Whatever these mask mandates might be—authoritarian strong-arm tactics or health necessities to prevent further spread of the virus—they have thus far proven to be uphill legal battles for those hoping to challenge them in the courts as unconstitutional restrictions on their right to liberty, bodily autonomy, privacy and health.

In fact, Florida courts have upheld the mask ordinances, ruling that they do not infringe on constitutional rights and that “there is no reasonable expectation of privacy as to whether one covers their nose and mouth in public places, which are the only places to which the mask ordinance applies.”

Declaring that there is no constitutional right to infect others, Circuit Court Judge John Kastrenakes concluded that “the right to be ‘free from governmental intrusion’ does not automatically or completely shield an individual’s conduct from regulation.” Moreover, wrote Kastrenakes, constitutional rights and the ideals of limited government “do not absolve a citizen from the real-world consequences of their individual choices, or otherwise allow them to wholly skirt their social obligation to their fellow Americans or to society as a whole. This is particularly true when one’s individual choices can result in drastic, costly, and sometimes deadly, consequences to others.”

Virginia courts have also upheld mask mandates.

These court decisions take their cue from a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts in which the Court upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws.

In other words, the courts have concluded that the government has a compelling interest in requiring masks to fight COVID-19 infections that overrides individual freedoms.

Generally, the government has to show a so-called compelling state interest before it can override certain critical rights such as free speech, assembly, press, privacy, search and seizure, etc. Most of the time, the government lacks that compelling state interest, but it still manages to violate those rights, setting itself up for legal battles further down the road.

We can spend time debating the mask mandates. However, criticizing those who rightly fear these restrictions to be a slippery slope to further police state tactics will not restore the freedoms that have been willingly sacrificed on the altar of national security by Americans of all political stripes over the years.

As I’ve warned, this is a test to see how whether the Constitution—and our commitment to the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights—can survive a national crisis and true state of emergency.

It must be remembered that James Madison, the “father” of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the fourth president of the United States, advised that we should “take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties.

Whether or not you consider these COVID-19 restrictions to be cause for alarm, they are far from the first experiment on our liberties. Indeed, whether or not you concede that the pandemic itself is cause for alarm, we should all be alarmed by the government’s response to this pandemic.

By government, I’m not referring to one particular politician or administration but to the entire apparatus at every level that conspires to keep “we the people” fearful of one another and under virtual house arrest.

This is what we’ve all been reduced to: prisoners in our skin, prisoners in our homes, prisoners in our communities—forced to comply with the government’s shifting mandates about how to navigate this pandemic or else.

Right now, COVID-19 is the perfect excuse for the government to wreak havoc on our freedoms in the name of safety and security, but as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, don’t believe for a minute that our safety is the police state’s primary concern.

Source: https://bit.ly/338hIto

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors, to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.”—Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s defense of the Trump Administration’s deployment of militarized federal police to address civil unrest in the states

This is a wake-up call.

What is unfolding before our very eyes—with police agencies defying local governments in order to tap into the power of federal militarized troops in order to put down domestic unrest—could very quickly snowball into an act of aggression against the states, a coup by armed, militarized agents of the federal government.

At a minimum, this is an attack on the Tenth Amendment, which affirms the sovereignty of the states and the citizenry, and the right of the states to stand as a bulwark against overreach and power grabs by the federal government.

If you’re still deluding yourself into believing that this thinly-veiled exercise in martial law is anything other than an attempt to bulldoze what remains of the Constitution and reinforce the iron-fisted rule of the police state, you need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

This is no longer about partisan politics or civil unrest or even authoritarian impulses.

This is a turning point.

Unless we take back the reins—and soon—looking back on this time years from now, historians may well point to the events of 2020 as the death blow to America’s short-lived experiment in self-government.

The government’s recent actions in Portland, Oregon—when unidentified federal agents (believed to be border police, ICE and DHS agents), wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” and sporting all kinds of weapons, descended uninvited on the city in unmarked vehicles, snatching protesters off the streets and detaining them without formally arresting them or offering any explanation of why they’re being held—is just a foretaste of what’s to come.

One of those detainees was a 53-year-old disabled Navy veteran who was in downtown Portland during the protests but not a participant. Concerned about the tactics being used by government agents who had taken an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, Christopher David tried to speak the “secret” police. Almost immediately, he was assaulted by federal agents, beaten with batons and pepper sprayed

Another peaceful protester was reportedly shot in the head with an impact weapon by this federal goon squad.

The Trump Administration has already announced its plans to deploy these border patrol agents to other cities across the country (Chicago is supposedly next) in an apparent bid to put down civil unrest. Yet the overriding concerns by state and local government officials to Trump’s plans suggest that weaponizing the DHS as an occupying army will only provoke more violence and unrest.

We’ve been set up.

Under the guise of protecting federal properties against civil unrest, the Trump Administration has formed a task force of secret agents who look, dress and act like military stormtroopers on a raid and have been empowered to roam cities in unmarked vehicles, snatching citizens off the streets, whether or not they’ve been engaged in illegal activities.

As the Guardian reports, “The incidents being described sound eerily reminiscent of the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition program under George W Bush, where intelligence agents would roll up in unmarked vans in foreign countries, blindfold terrorism suspects (many of whom turned to be innocent) and kidnap them without explanation. Only instead of occurring on the streets of Italy or the Middle East, it’s happening in downtown Portland.”

The so-called racial justice activists who have made looting, violence, vandalism and intimidation tactics the hallmarks of their protests have played right into the government’s hands

They have delivered all of us into the police state’s hands.

There’s a reason Trump has tapped the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for this dirty business: these agencies are notorious for their lawlessness, routinely sidestepping the Constitution and trampling on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before these roving bands of border patrol agents began flexing their muscles far beyond the nation’s borders and exercising their right to disregard the Constitution at every turn.

Except these border patrol cops aren’t just disregarding the Constitution.

They’re trampling all over the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from carrying out egregious warrantless searches and seizures without probable cause.

As part of the government’s so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking, its border patrol cops have been expanding their reach, roaming further afield and subjecting greater numbers of Americans to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property far beyond the boundaries of the borderlands.

That so-called border, once a thin borderline, has become an ever-thickening band spreading deeper and deeper inside the country.

Now, with this latest salvo by the Trump administration in its so-called crackdown on rioting and civil unrest, America itself is about to become a Constitution-free zone where freedom is off-limits and government agents have all the power and “we the people” have none.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with its more than 60,000 employees, supplemented by the National Guard and the U.S. military, is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, a national police force imbued with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies.

As journalist Todd Miller explains:

In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within twenty-five miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant.

Just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to local police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military.

As Miller points out, the government has turned the nation’s expanding border regions into “a ripe place to experiment with tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

In much the same way that police across the country have been schooled in the art of sidestepping the Constitution, border cops have also been drilled in the art of “anything goes” in the name of national security.

In fact, according to FOIA documents shared with The Interceptborder cops even have a checklist of “possible behaviors” that warrant overriding the Constitution and subjecting individuals—including American citizens—to stops, searches, seizures, interrogations and even arrests.

For instance, if you’re driving a vehicle that to a border cop looks unusual in some way, you can be stopped. If your passengers look dirty or unusual, you can be stopped. If you or your passengers avoid looking at a cop, you can be stopped. If you or your passengers look too long at a cop, you can be stopped.

If you’re anywhere near a border (near being within 100 miles of a border, or in a city, or on a bus, or at an airport), you can be stopped and asked to prove you’re legally allowed to be in the country. If you’re traveling on a public road that smugglers and other criminals may have traveled, you can be stopped.

If you’re not driving in the same direction as other cars, you can be stopped. If you appear to be avoiding a police checkpoint, you can be stopped. If your car appears to be weighed down, you can be stopped. If your vehicle is from out of town, wherever that might be, you can be stopped. If you’re driving a make of car that criminal-types have also driven, you can be stopped.

If your car appears to have been altered or modified, you can be stopped. If the cargo area in your vehicle is covered, you can be stopped.

If you’re driving during a time of day or night that border cops find suspicious, you can be stopped. If you’re driving when border cops are changing shifts, you can be stopped. If you’re driving in a motorcade or with another vehicle, you can be stopped. If your car appears dusty, you can be stopped.

If people with you are trying to avoid being seen, or exhibiting “unusual” behavior, you can be stopped. If you slow down after seeing a cop, you can be stopped.

In Portland, which is 400 miles from the border, protesters didn’t even have to be near federal buildings to be targeted. Some claimed to be targeted for simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstration.

Are you starting to get the picture yet?

This was never about illegal aliens and border crossings at all. It’s been a test to see how far “we the people” will allow the government to push the limits of the Constitution.

We’ve been failing this particular test for a long time now.

It was 1798 when Americans, their fears stoked by rumblings of a Quasi-War with France, failed to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts, which criminalized anti-government speech, empowered the government to deport “dangerous” non-citizens and made it harder for immigrants to vote.

During the Civil War, Americans went along when Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus (the right to a speedy trial) and authorized government officials to spy on Americans’ mail.

During World War I, Americans took it in stride when  President Woodrow Wilson and Congress adopted the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with the war effort and criminalized any speech critical of war.

By World War II, Americans were marching in lockstep with the government’s expanding war powers to imprison Japanese-American citizens in detainment camps, censor mail, and lay the groundwork for the future surveillance state.

Fast-forward to the Cold War’s Red Scares, the McCarthy era’s hearings on un-American activities, and the government’s surveillance of Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr.—all done in the name of national security.

By the time 9/11 rolled around, all George W. Bush had to do was claim the country was being invaded by terrorists, and the government was given greater powers to spy, search, detain and arrest American citizens in order to keep America safe.

The terrorist invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired police powers made possible by the nefarious USA Patriot Act.

Barack Obama continued Bush’s trend of undermining the Constitution, going so far as to give the military the power to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, label them extremists, and detain them indefinitely without trialall in the name of keeping America safe.

Despite the fact that the breadth of the military’s power to detain American citizens violates not only U.S. law and the Constitution but also international laws, the government has refused to relinquish its detention powers made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Then Donald Trump took office, claiming the country was being invaded by dangerous immigrants and insisting that the only way to keep America safe was to build an expensive border wall, expand the reach of border patrol, and empower the military to “assist” with border control.

That so-called immigration crisis has now morphed into multiple crises (domestic extremism, the COVID-19 pandemic, race wars, civil unrest, etc.) that the government is eager to use in order to expand its powers.

Yet as we’ve learned the hard way, once the government acquires—and uses—additional powers (to spy on its citizens, to carry out surveillance, to transform its police forces into extensions of the police, to seize taxpayer funds, to wage endless wars, to censor and silence dissidents, to identify potential troublemakers, to detain citizens without due process), it does not voluntarily relinquish them

This is the slippery slope on which we’ve been traveling for far too long.

As Yale historian Timothy Snyder explains, “This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire. The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.

Sure, it’s the Trump Administration calling the shots right now, but it’s government agents armed with totalitarian powers and beholden to the bureaucratic Deep State who are carrying out these orders in defiance of the U.S. Constitution and all it represents.

Whether it’s Trump or Biden or someone else altogether, this year or a dozen years from now, the damage has been done: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have allowed the president to acquire dictatorial powers that can be unleashed at any moment.

There’s a reason the Trump Administration is consulting with John Yoo, the Bush-era attorney notorious for justifying waterboarding torture tactics against detainees. They’re not looking to understand how to follow the law and abide by the Constitution. Rather, they’re desperately seeking ways to thwart the Constitution.

As Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe recognizes, “The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable.

This is how it begins.

This is how it always begins.

Don’t be fooled into thinking any of this will change when the next election rolls around.

Source: https://bit.ly/32H5M1C

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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