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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait.

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

Davies explains:

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

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

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we no longer have a Fourth Estate.

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

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

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

So where does that leave us?

What should—or can—we do?

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

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

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

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

WC: 1722

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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 (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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

Divide and conquer.

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

How do you conquer a nation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divide and conquer.

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

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

The rightwing will not speak up for the leftwing.

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

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

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

Are you starting to get the picture?

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

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

The government’s oppressive tactics have not changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battlefield_Cover_300As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, historically this failure to speak truth to power has resulted in whole populations being conditioned to tolerate unspoken cruelty toward their fellow human beings, a bystander syndrome in which people remain silent and disengaged—mere onlookers—in the face of abject horrors and injustice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WC: 1845

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

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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 (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://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.

 

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”—Philosopher George Santayana

Stay alert, America.

This is not the time to drop our guards, even for a moment.

Nothing has changed since the election to alter the immediate and very real dangers of roadside strip searches, government surveillance, biometric databases, citizens being treated like terrorists, imprisonments for criticizing the government, national ID cards, SWAT team raids, censorship, forcible blood draws and DNA extractions, private prisons, weaponized drones, red light cameras, tasers, active shooter drills, police misconduct and government corruption.

Time alone will tell whether those who put their hopes in a political savior will find that trust rewarded or betrayed.

Personally, I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve been down this road before.

I’ve studied history.

I know what comes next.

It’s early days yet, but President-elect Trump—like his predecessors—has already begun to dial back many of the campaign promises that pledged to reform a broken system of government.

The candidate who railed against big government and vowed to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interest donors has already given lobbyists, corporate donors and members of the governmental elite starring roles in his new administration.

America, you’ve been played.

This is what happens when you play politics with matters of life, death and liberty.

You lose every time.

Unfortunately, in this instance, we all lose because of the deluded hypocrisy of the Left and the Right, both of which sanctioned the expansion of the police state as long as it was their party at the helm.

For the past eight years, the Left—stridently outspoken and adversarial while George W. Bush was president—has been unusually quiet about things like torture, endless wars, drone strikes, executive orders, government overreach and fascism.

As Glenn Greenwald points out for The Washington Post:

Beginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance…

Liberals vehemently denounced these abuses during the Bush presidency… But after Obama took office, many liberals often tolerated — and even praised — his aggressive assertions of executive authority. It is hard to overstate how complete the Democrats’ about-face on these questions was once their own leader controlled the levers of power… After just three years of the Obama presidency, liberals sanctioned a system that allowed the president to imprison people without any trial or an ounce of due process.

Suddenly, with Trump in the White House for the next four years, it’s all fair game again.

As The Federalist declares with a tongue-in-cheek approach, “Dissent, executive restraint, gridlock, you name it. Now that Donald Trump will be president, stuff that used to be treason is suddenly cool again.”

Yet as Greenwald makes clear, if Trump is about to inherit vast presidential powers, he has the Democrats to thank for them.

A military empire that polices the globe. Secret courts, secret wars and secret budgets. Unconstitutional mass surveillance. Unchecked presidential power. Indefinite detention. Executive signing statements.

These are just a small sampling of the abusive powers that have been used liberally by Obama and will be used again and again by future presidents.

After all, presidents are just puppets on a string, made to dance to the tune of the powers-that-be. And the powers-that-be want war. They want totalitarianism. They want a monied oligarchy to run the show. They want bureaucracy and sprawl and government leaders that march in lockstep with their dictates. Most of all, they want a gullible, distracted, easily led populace that can be manipulated, maneuvered and made to fear whatever phantom menace the government chooses to make the bogeyman of the month.

Unless Trump does another about-face, rest assured that the policies of a Trump Administration will be no different from an Obama Administration or a Bush Administration, at least not where it really counts.

For that matter, a Clinton Administration would have been no different.

In other words, Democrats by any other name would be Republicans, and vice versa.

This is the terrible power of the shadow government: to maintain the status quo, no matter which candidate gets elected.

War will continue. Surveillance will continue. Drone killings will continue. Police shootings will continue. Highway robbery meted out by government officials will continue. Corrupt government will continue. Profit-driven prisons will continue. Censorship and persecution of anyone who criticizes the government will continue. The militarization of the police will continue. The government’s efforts to label dissidents as extremists and terrorists will continue.

In such a climate, the police state will thrive.

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

We’ve been stuck in this political Groundhog’s Day for so long that minor deviations appear to be major developments while obscuring the fact that we’re stuck on repeat, unable to see the forest for the trees.

This is what is referred to as creeping normality, or a death by a thousand cuts.

It’s a concept invoked by Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist Jared Diamond to describe how major changes, if implemented slowly in small stages over time, can be accepted as normal without the shock and resistance that might greet a sudden upheaval.

Diamond’s concerns are environmental in nature, but they are no less relevant to our understanding of how a once-free nation could willingly bind itself with the chains of dictatorship.

Writing about Easter Island’s now-vanished civilization and the societal decline and environmental degradation that contributed to it, Diamond explains, “In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism… Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?”

His answer: “I suspect that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper.”

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Much like America’s own colonists, Easter Island’s early colonists discovered a new world—“a pristine paradise”—teeming with life. Almost 2000 years after its first settlers arrived, Easter Island was reduced to a barren graveyard by a populace so focused on their immediate needs that they failed to preserve paradise for future generations.

To quote Joni Mitchell, they paved over paradise to put up a parking lot.

In Easter Island’s case, as Diamond speculates:

The forest…vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation… The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect… Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference.

Sound painfully familiar yet?

Substitute Easter Island’s trees for America’s republic and the trees being decimated for our freedoms, and the arrow hits the mark.

Diamond observes, “Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

We’ve already torn down the rich forest of liberties established by our founders. They don’t teach freedom in the schools. Few Americans know their history. And even fewer seem to care that their fellow Americans are being jailed, muzzled, shot, tasered, and treated as if they have no rights at all. They don’t care, that is, until it happens to them—at which point it’s almost too late.

This is how the police state wins. This is how tyranny rises. This is how freedom falls.

A thousand cuts, each one justified or ignored or shrugged over as inconsequential enough by itself to bother. But they add up.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, each cut, each attempt to undermine our freedoms, each loss of some critical right—to think freely, to assemble, to speak without fear of being shamed or censored, to raise our children as we see fit, to worship or not worship as our conscience dictates, to eat what we want and love who we want, to live as we want—they add up to an immeasurable failure on the part of each and every one of us to stop the descent down that slippery slope.

It’s taken us 200 short years to destroy the freedoms our founders worked so hard to secure, and it’s happened with barely a whimper of protest from “we the people.”

So when I read about demonstrations breaking out in cities across the country and thousands taking to the streets to protest the threat of fascism from a Trump presidency, I have to wonder where were the concerns when access to Obama came easily to any special interest groups and donors willing and able to pay the admissions price?

When I see celebrities threatening to leave the country in droves, I have to ask myself, where was the outcry when the government’s efforts to transform local police into extensions of the military went into overdrive under the Obama administration?

When my newsfeed is overflowing with people wishing they could keep the Obamas in office because they are so cool, I shake my head in disgust over this “cool” president’s use of targeted drone strikes to assassinate American citizens without any due process.

When legal think tanks are threatening lawsuits over the possibility of Trump muzzling free expression, I can’t help but wonder where the outrage was over the Obama administration’s demonizing and criminalization of those who criticized the government.

And when commentators who previously dismissed as fear-mongering and hateful any comparison of the government’s tactics to Nazi Germany are suddenly comparing Trump to Hitler, I have to wonder if perhaps we’ve been living in different countries all along, because none of this is new.

Indeed, if we’re repeating history, the worst is yet to come.


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 (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://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.

“Today the path to total dictatorship in the U.S. can be laid by strictly legal means, unseen and unheard by Congress, the President, or the people. Outwardly we have a Constitutional government. We have operating within our government and political system … a well-organized political-action group in this country, determined to destroy our Constitution and establish a one-party state…. The important point to remember about this group is not its ideology but its organization… It operates secretly, silently, continuously to transform our Government…. This group … is answerable neither to the President, the Congress, nor the courts. It is practically irremovable.”— Senator William Jenner, 1954 speech

Unaffected by elections. Unaltered by populist movements. Beyond the reach of the law.

Say hello to America’s shadow government.

A corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country, this shadow government represents the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

No matter which candidate wins the presidential election, this shadow government is here to stay. Indeed, as recent documents by the FBI reveal, this shadow government—also referred to as “The 7th Floor Group”—may well have played a part in who will win the White House this year.

To be precise, however, the future president will actually inherit not one but two shadow governments.

The first shadow government, referred to as COG or Continuity of Government, is made up of unelected individuals who have been appointed to run the government in the event of a “catastrophe.” COG is a phantom menace waiting for the right circumstances—a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, an economic meltdown—to bring it out of the shadows, where it operates even now. When and if COG takes over, the police state will transition to martial law.

Yet it is the second shadow government—also referred to as the Deep State—that poses the greater threat to freedom right now. Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government is the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our government.

The Deep State, which “operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power,” makes a mockery of elections and the entire concept of a representative government.

So who or what is the Deep State?

It’s the militarized police, which have joined forces with state and federal law enforcement agencies in order to establish themselves as a standing army. It’s the fusion centers and spy agencies that have created a surveillance state and turned all of us into suspects. It’s the courthouses and prisons that have allowed corporate profits to take precedence over due process and justice. It’s the military empire with its private contractors and defense industry that is bankrupting the nation. It’s the private sector with its 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances, “a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.” It’s what former congressional staffer Mike Lofgren refers to as “a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies”: the Department of Defense, the State Department, Homeland Security, the CIA, the Justice Department, the Treasury, the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a handful of vital federal trial courts, and members of the defense and intelligence committees.

It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

These are the key players that drive the shadow government.

This is the hidden face of the American police state that will continue long past Election Day.

Just consider some of the key programs and policies advanced by the shadow government that will continue no matter who occupies the Oval Office.

Domestic surveillance. No matter who wins the presidential popularity contest, the National Security Agency (NSA), with its $10.8 billion black ops annual budget, will continue to spy on every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone. Thus, on any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. Local police have been outfitted with a litany of surveillance gear, from license plate readers and cell phone tracking devices to biometric data recorders. Technology now makes it possible for the police to scan passersby in order to detect the contents of their pockets, purses, briefcases, etc. Full-body scanners, which perform virtual strip-searches of Americans traveling by plane, have gone mobile, with roving police vans that peer into vehicles and buildings alike—including homes. Coupled with the nation’s growing network of real-time surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Global spying. The NSA’s massive surveillance network, what the Washington Post refers to as a $500 billion “espionage empire,” will continue to span the globe and target every single person on the planet who uses a phone or a computer. The NSA’s Echelon program intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. In addition to carrying out domestic surveillance on peaceful political groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace and several religious groups, Echelon has also been a keystone in the government’s attempts at political and corporate espionage.

Roving TSA searches. The American taxpayer will continue to get ripped off by government agencies in the dubious name of national security. One of the greatest culprits when it comes to swindling taxpayers has been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with its questionable deployment of and complete mismanagement of millions of dollars’ worth of airport full-body X-ray scanners, punitive patdowns by TSA agents and thefts of travelers’ valuables. Considered essential to national security, TSA programs will continue in airports and at transportation hubs around the country.

USA Patriot Act, NDAA. America’s so-called war on terror, which it has relentlessly pursued since 9/11, will continue to chip away at our freedoms, unravel our Constitution and transform our nation into a battlefield, thanks in large part to such subversive legislation as the USA Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act. These laws completely circumvent the rule of law and the rights of American citizens. In so doing, they re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the U.S. Constitution, is the map by which we navigate life in the United States. These laws will continue to be enforced no matter who gets elected.

Militarized police state. Thanks to federal grant programs allowing the Pentagon to transfer surplus military supplies and weapons to local law enforcement agencies without charge, police forces will continue to be transformed from peace officers into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. Having been given the green light 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, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, will continue to keep the masses corralled, controlled, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.

SWAT team raids. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by local police for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties will continue to rise. Nationwide, SWAT teams will continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Domestic drones. The domestic use of drones will continue unabated. As mandated by Congress, there will be 30,000 drones crisscrossing the skies of America by 2020, all part of an industry that could be worth as much as $30 billion per year. These machines, which will be equipped with weapons, will be able to record all activities, using video feeds, heat sensors and radar. An Inspector General report revealed that the Dept. of Justice has already spent nearly $4 million on drones domestically, largely for use by the FBI, with grants for another $1.26 million so police departments and nonprofits can acquire their own drones.

School-to-prison pipeline. The paradigm of abject compliance to the state will continue to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior. School districts will continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court.

Overcriminalization. The government bureaucracy will continue to churn out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems and those of the police state and its corporate allies, rendering the rest of us petty criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to this overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal. Consequently, small farmers who dare to make unpasteurized goat cheese and share it with members of their community will continue to have their farms raided.

Privatized Prisons. States will continue to outsource prisons to private corporations, resulting in a cash cow whereby mega-corporations imprison Americans in private prisons in order to make a profit. In exchange for corporations buying and managing public prisons across the country at a supposed savings to the states, the states have to agree to maintain a 90% occupancy rate in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years.

Endless wars. America’s expanding military empire will continue to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

Are you getting the message yet?

The next president, much like the current president and his predecessors, will be little more than a figurehead, a puppet to entertain and distract the populace from what’s really going on.

As Lofgren reveals, this state within a state, “concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” is a “hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

The Deep State not only holds the nation’s capital in thrall, but it also controls Wall Street (“which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater”) and Silicon Valley.

This is fascism in its most covert form, hiding behind public agencies and private companies to carry out its dirty deeds.

It is a marriage between government bureaucrats and corporate fat cats.

Battlefield_Cover_300As Lofgren concludes:

[T]he Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change… If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past. It is even willing to tolerate a degree of gridlock: Partisan mud wrestling over cultural issues may be a useful distraction from its agenda.

In other words, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, as long as government officials—elected and unelected alike—are allowed to operate beyond the reach of the Constitution, the courts and the citizenry, the threat to our freedoms remains undiminished.

So the next time you find yourselves despondent over the 2016 presidential candidates, remember that it’s just a puppet show intended to distract you from the silent coup being carried out by America’s shadow government.

WC: 2114


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 (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://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 have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.”—Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

When it comes to sexual predators, there should be no political bright line test to determine who gets a free pass and who goes to jail based on which candidate is better suited for office.

Yet almost 20 years after Bill Clinton became the first and only sitting president to be sued for sexual harassment and impeached for lying under oath about his sexual escapades while in office, the Left and the Right are still playing politics with women’s rights.

I should know.

As one of Paula Jones’ lawyers in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton (Hillary Clinton infamously and erroneously accused me of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”), I saw first-hand how quickly Hillary Clinton and the nation’s leading women’s rights groups demonized any woman who dared to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct while turning a blind eye to a long list of incidents involving groping, propositioning, and pressuring women for sexual favors.

Trust me, it was a very long list.

As journalist Marjorie Williams documented in “Clinton and Women” for Vanity Fair:

“The man in question [Bill Clinton] has been sued for sexual harassment over an episode that allegedly included dropping his trousers to waggle his erect penis at a woman who held a $6.35-an-hour clerical job in the state government over which he presided. Another woman has charged that when she asked him for a job he invited her into his private office, fondled her breasts, and placed her hand on his crotch. A third woman confided to friends that when she was a 21-year-old intern she began an affair with the man… Actually, it was less an affair than a service contract, in which she allegedly dashed into his office, when summoned, to perform oral sex on him… Let us not even mention the former lover who was steered to a state job; or the law-enforcement officers who say the man used them to solicit sexual partners for him; or his routine use of staff members, lawyers, and private investigators to tar the reputation of any woman who tries to call him to account for his actions.”

I also witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy of the Religious Right, which was eager to stand in judgment over Clinton for his marital infidelity, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of other conservative politicians in their midst.

Fast forward 20 years, and the women’s rights groups that were silent when Bill Clinton was being outed as a sexual predator have suddenly found their voice and their outrage in the face of accusations that Donald Trump groped and kissed women without their consent. Likewise, the religious groups that were aghast over Clinton’s sexual immorality have somehow created a sliding scale of sin that allows them to absolve Trump of his own indiscretions.

It’s like being in the Twilight Zone.

Only instead of Rod Serling’s imaginary “land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas,” we’re trapped in an all-too-real land of politics and lies, where freedom and integrity play second fiddle to ambition and greed.

Nothing is real.

This year’s presidential contest and its candidates have, through their double-talking and lies, pulled back the curtain to reveal that what we see is all part of an elaborate hoax, a cruel game where “we the people” are just pawns to be used, abused, discarded and demonized when convenient.

Consider if you will: Bill Clinton was accused of using various and sundry women for sex. For years, he lied about his affairs and accused his accusers of smear campaigns. Only when caught red-handed, did he finally admit—sort of—to having sexual relations with certain women. At no time did he ever apologize for abusing his authority and disrespecting women.

Trump not only is accused of making sexual advances on various women, but he also used Clinton’s sexual victims to score points off Hillary.

And Hillary, in turn, has used and abused both Clinton and Trump’s sexual victims in order to advance her own political ambitions.

As Melinda Henneberger and Dahlia Lithwick wrote for Slate back in 2008:

Hillary Clinton the candidate has largely benefited from her husband’s extracurricular activities… Sure, her husband’s behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he’s been involved with… One of the most troubling things about Hillary Clinton is that she is never above cashing in on [the politics of victimization].

Are you starting to get it yet?

All this talk about sexual predators is just so much political maneuvering to score points off one another. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump care one whit about the victims of sexual harassment.

Frankly, they don’t seem to care much about the rest of the populace, either.

For all intents and purposes, we’re all victims of a perverse, perverted, psychotic mindset that views the citizenry as lesser beings: lacking in value, unworthy of respect, and completely undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

In the eyes of Bill, Hillary, Donald and the powers-that-be, we’re all little more than “bimbos,” “trailer trash,” “nuts and sluts,” “loony toons,” “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”

In other words, we’re all Paula Jones. And Gennifer Flowers. And Juanita Broaddrick.  And Kathleen Willey. And Eileen Wellstone. And Cristy Zercher. And Connie Hamzy. And Monica Lewinsky. For that matter, we’re all Jill Harth. AndCassandra Searles. And Jessica Leeds. And Kristin Anderson, too

This is what happens when politics is allowed to trump principle: “we the people” lose.

The women’s movement lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

Women have been suffering because of that choice ever since. As feminist Jessica Valenti acknowledged in theWashington Post, “For women in America, equality is still an illusion. We’re basking in a ‘girl power’ moment that doesn’t exist—it’s a mirage of equality that we’ve been duped into believing is the real thing. Because despite the indisputable gains over the years, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against—not just in the rest of the world, but here in the United States… It’s time to stop fooling ourselves. For all our ‘empowered’ rhetoric, women in this country aren’t doing nearly as well as we’d like to think.”

The Religious Right lost when it chose politics over principle, then and now.

By compromising their values, they have made themselves completely irrelevant in matters of public policy. “As an organized and potent force in national politics, the Christian right has faded into nothingness,” policy analyst Paul Waldman concluded for the Washington Post. “It now exists for nothing more than to be patted on the head and sent on its way with an encouragement to vote in November.”

The media—through its careful crafting of news stories to advance one politician over another—chose politics over principle, then and now. Barring a few exceptions, they have become little more than mouthpieces for the corporate elite.

The citizenry is faced with a choice right now: to be distracted by mudslinging and circus politics or to forge a new path for the nation that rejects politics in favor of locally-based, transformative grassroots activism.

“Perhaps you think that by voting at least you’re doing your small part, making your small contribution. But contributing toward what?” asks commentator Dan Sanchez.

Sanchez continues:

Candidates are package deals. Any candidate will violate the rights of some, even if they respect or defend the rights of others. Objectors say it’s about going in the general right direction, making choices out of which the good outweighs the bad, that do a net amount of good, that is good “on balance.” But that is collectivist speak. There is no “good on balance” for the people whose lives are run over by the candidate you empowered: for the child who is bombed by Hillary’s foreign policy, for the man who is shot by Trump’s police state, or the people Gary Johnson and Bill Weld kept in cages when they were governors.

Sanchez is right: the act of voting is indeed futile.

Voting in this political climate merely advances the agenda of the police state and affirms the government’s pillaging, raping, killing, bombing, stealing, shooting and many acts of tyranny and injustice.

Mark my words: no matter who wins this election, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

After all, police officers are still shooting unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—are still being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are still fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are still spying on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors are still making a killing by jailing Americans for profit and waging endless wars abroad.

Are any of these issues being discussed right now? Not a single one.

It boggles the mind.

How is it possible that out of 318 million Americans in this country, we have been saddled with two candidates whose personal baggage and troubled histories make them utterly unfit for office anywhere but in the American police state?

We need to stop being victimized by these political predators.

Battlefield_Cover_300As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m not just talking about the ones running for office, but the ones who are running the show behind the scenes—the shadow government—comprised of unelected government bureaucrats whose powers are unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and beyond the reach of the law.

Stop voting for their puppet candidates. Stop tolerating their long list of abuses. Stop making excuses for a system that long ago ceased to be legitimate. Most of all, stop playing by their rules and make them start playing by ours.

My fear is that we are nearing the point of no return.

“We the people”—men and women alike— have been victims of the police state for so long that not many Americans even remember what it is to be truly free anymore. Worse, few want to shoulder the responsibility that goes along with maintaining freedom.

Yet as John Adams warned, “A government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

There is no way to erase the scars left by the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

Still, we can forge a new path.

There is so much work to be done in order to right what is wrong with our nation, and there is so little time to fix what has been broken.

Let’s not waste any more time on predator politics. Let’s get to work.

The hold-up / Albert Levering.

“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.”—Lysander Spooner, American abolitionist and legal theorist

If a cop wrongfully attacks you, you cannot fight back.

If a SWAT team wrongfully raids your home, you cannot defend yourself.

If a highway patrol officer wrongfully takes your money or your valuable possessions, you cannot get them back without a lengthy, costly legal battle.

It used to be that the Constitution served as a bulwark against government abuses, excesses and wrongdoing.

That is no longer the case.

Having been reduced to little more than a historic document, the Constitution now provides scant protection against government abuses, misconduct and corruption.

Not only are “we the people” painfully vulnerable to the whims of any militarized cop on the beat, but we are also sitting targets for every government huckster out to fleece the taxpayer of their hard-earned dollars.

We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.

Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties. For example, red light cameras, which were sold to the public as safety measures, have in practice become backdoor taxes aimed at swelling government bank accounts.

The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.

Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.

Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them. Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too. Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.

Now the government and its corporate partners in crime have come up with a new scheme to not only scam taxpayers out of what’s left of their paychecks but also make us foot the bill, and it’s coming at us in the form of a war on cash.

What is this war on cash?

It’s a concerted campaign to do away with large bills such as $20s, $50s, $100s and shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.

According to economist Steve Forbes, “The real reason for this war on cash—start with the big bills and then work your way down—is an ugly power grab by Big Government. People will have less privacy: Electronic commerce makes it easier for Big Brother to see what we’re doing, thereby making it simpler to bar activities it doesn’t like, such as purchasing salt, sugar, big bottles of soda and Big Macs.”

Much like the war on drugs and the war on terror, this so-called “war on cash” is being sold to the public as a means of fighting terrorists, drug dealers and tax evaders. Just the mere possession of cash is enough to implicate you in suspicious activity and have you investigated. In other words, cash has become another way for the government to profile Americans and render them criminals.

The rationale is that cash is the currency for illegal transactions given that it’s harder to track, can be used to pay illegal immigrants, and denies the government its share of the “take,” so doing away with paper money will help law enforcement fight crime and help the government realize more revenue.

Despite what we know about the government and its history of corruption, bumbling, fumbling and data breaches, not to mention how easily technology can be used against us, the campaign to do away with cash is really not a hard sell.

It’s not a hard sell, that is, if you know the right buttons to push, and the government has become a grand master in the art of getting the citizenry to do exactly what it wants. Remember, this is the same government that plans to use behavioral science tactics to “nudge” citizens to comply with the government’s public policy and program initiatives.

It’s also not a hard sell if you belong to the Digital Generation, that segment of the population for whom technology is second nature and “the first generation born into a world that has never not known digital life.”

And if you belong to the growing class of Americans—46% of consumers, approximately 114 million adults and rising—who use your cell phone to pay bills, purchase goods, and transfer funds, then the government is just preaching to the choir when it comes to persuading you of the convenience of digital cash.

In much the same way that Americans have opted into government surveillance through the convenience of GPS devices and cell phones, digital cash—the means of paying with one’s debit card, credit card or cell phone—is becoming the de facto commerce of the American police state.

It is estimated that smart phones will replace cash and credit cards altogether by 2020. Already, a growing number of businesses are adopting no-cash policies, including certain airlines, hotels, rental car companies, restaurants and retail stores. In Sweden, even the homeless and churches accept digital cash.

Making the case for “never, ever carrying cash” in lieu of a digital wallet, journalist Lisa Rabasca Roepe argues that cash is inconvenient, ATM access is costly, and it’s now possible to reimburse people using digital apps such as Venmo. Thus, there’s no longer a need for cash. “More and more retailers and grocery stores are embracing Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay,” notes Roepe. “PayPal’s app is now accepted at many chain stores including Barnes & Noble, Foot Locker, Home Depot, and Office Depot. Walmart and CVS have both developed their own payment apps while their competitors Target and RiteAid are working on their own apps.”

It’s not just cash that is going digital, either.

A growing number of states—including Delaware and California—are looking to adopt digital driver’s licenses that would reside on your mobile phone. These licenses would include all of the information contained on your printed license, along with a few “extras” such as real-time data downloaded directly from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Of course, reading between the lines, having a digital driver’s license will open you up to much the same jeopardy as digital cash: it will make it possible for the government to better track your movements, monitor your activities and communications and ultimately shut you down.

So what’s the deal here?

Despite all of the advantages that go along with living in a digital age—namely, convenience—it’s hard to imagine how a cashless world navigated by way of a digital wallet doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for what little privacy we have left and leave us vulnerable to the likes of government thieves and data hackers.

First, when I say privacy, I’m not just referring to the things that you don’t want people to know about, those little things you do behind closed doors that are neither illegal nor harmful but embarrassing or intimate. I am also referring to the things that are deeply personal and which no one need know about, certainly not the government and its constabulary of busybodies, nannies, Peeping Toms, jail wardens and petty bureaucrats.

Second, we’re already witnessing how easy it will be for government agents to manipulate digital wallets for their own gain. For example, civil asset forfeiture schemes are becoming even more profitable for police agencies thanks to ERAD (Electronic Recovery and Access to Data) devices supplied by the Department of Homeland Security that allow police to not only determine the balance of any magnetic-stripe card (i.e., debit, credit and gift cards) but also freeze and seize any funds on pre-paid money cards. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June 2016 that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment for police to scan or swipe your credit card.

Third, as the ever insightful Paul Craig Roberts observes, while Americans have been distracted by the government’s costly war on terror, “the financial system, working hand-in-hand with policymakers, has done more damage to Americans than terrorists could possibly inflict.” Ultimately, as Roberts—who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan—makes clear, the war on cash is about giving the government the ultimate control of the economy and complete access to the citizenry’s pocketbook.

Fourth, if there’s a will, there’s a way. So far, every technological convenience that has made our lives easier has also become our Achilles’ heel, opening us up to greater vulnerabilities from hackers and government agents alike. In recent years, the U.S. government has been repeatedly hacked. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management had more than20 million personnel files stolen, everything from Social Security numbers to birth dates and fingerprint records. In 2014, it was the White House, the State Department, the Post Office and other government agencies, along with a host of financial institutions, retailers and entertainment giants that had their files breached. And these are the people in charge of protecting our sensitive information?

Fifth, if there’s one entity that will not stop using cash for its own nefarious purposes, it’s the U.S. government. Cash is the currency used by the government to pay off its foreign “associates.” For instance, the Obama administration flew more than $400 million in cash to Iran in January 2016, reportedly as part of a financial settlement with the country. Critics claim the money was ransom paid for the return of American hostages. And then there was the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that the U.S. flew to Iraq only to claim it had no record of what happened to the money. It just disappeared. So when government economists tell you that two-thirds of all $100 bills in circulation are overseas—more than half a trillion dollars’ worth—it’s a pretty good bet that the government played a significant part in their export.

Sixth, this drive to do away with cash is part of a larger global trend driven by international financial institutions and the United Nations that is transforming nations of all sizes, from the smallest nation to the biggest, most advanced economies.

Finally, short of returning to a pre-technological, Luddite age, there’s really no way to pull this horse back now that it’s left the gate. While doing so is near impossible, it would also mean doing without the many conveniences and advantages that are the better angels, if you will, of technology’s totalitarian tendencies: the internet, medical advances, etc.

To our detriment, we really have little control over who accesses our private information, how it is stored, or how it is used. Whether we ever had much control remains up for debate. However, in terms of our bargaining power over digital privacy rights, we have been reduced to a pitiful, unenviable position in which we can only hope and trust that those in power will treat our information with respect.

America’s founders, however, did not believe in trusting government officials or giving them too much power. In fact, they believed those entrusted with power will eventually pervert it into tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, that Constitution has since been shredded.

Our republic has been transformed into an oligarchy.

We have come full circle, back to a pre-revolutionary era of taxation without any real representation.

Lysander Spooner, a 19th century American abolitionist and legal theorist, was right when he concluded that the government is far more disingenuous and dangerous to the rights, property and lives of the citizenry than the common criminal or highwayman. As Spooner points out:

[Unlike the government,] the highwayman … does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit…  He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector”… He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands… In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

How tragically apropos the analogy remains today.

Battlefield_Cover_300We the people, once free citizens of a free nation, are now at the mercy of cutthroats and villains masquerading as government agents and elected officials.

We continue to be robbed at gunpoint, treated like cattle, tracked incessantly and forced to serve and obey.

We continue to be branded rebels and traitors and enemy combatants, shot without hesitation for daring to resist an official order or challenge injustice, and duped into believing all this was done for our “good.”

In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are no better than when we first started out more than 200 years ago as indentured slaves to a government elite intent on using us for their own profit and gain.

WC: 2478


JWW BW CropConstitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His bookBattlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://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.

 

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

“No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices.” ― Edward R. Murrow

We’ve walked a strange and harrowing road since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties.

We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade the citizenry to march in lockstep with a police state. In doing so, we have proven Osama Bin Laden right. He warned that “freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”

These past 15 years have indeed been an unbearable, choking hell.

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation is being locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.

This is not freedom. This is a jail cell.

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

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

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 war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since 9/11.

Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

Since the towers fell on 9/11, 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.

In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, underwear bombers and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the true enemy to freedom was lurking among us all the while.

The U.S. government now poses a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist or foreign entity ever could.

While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the U.S. and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign nations, and foment civil unrest in order to keep the military industrial complex gainfully employed. (Syria’s bloody civil war in which CIA-armed militias have been fighting FBI-armed militias is a prime example of the government’s Machiavellian schemes gone awry.)

No, the U.S. government is not the citizenry’s friend, nor is it our protector, and life in the United States of America post-9/11 is no picnic.

Here’s an A-to-Z primer to spell out exactly what government tyranny means post 9/11.

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 cop 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. The latest 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 whereingovernment agents (usually the police) 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.

D is for DRONES. It is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will 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 ELECTRONIC CONCENTRATION CAMP. In the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents and all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.

F is for FUSION CENTERS. Fusion centers, data collecting agencies spread throughout the country and aided by the National Security Agency, serve as a clearinghouse for information shared between state, local and federal agencies. These fusion centers constantly monitor our communications, everything from our internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police.

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” will 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 inane 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 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 us 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 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. As of 2008, there were some 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. 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, 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 officers to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing. Conveniently, those deciding whether a police officer 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 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 this new age 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 VIPR SQUADS. So-called “soft target” security inspections, carried out by roving VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams, are taking place whenever and wherever the government deems appropriate, at random times and places, and without needing the justification of a particular threat.

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 can 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. 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.).

Battlefield_Cover_300As 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.

The choices before us are straight-forward.

We can live in the past, dwell on what freedoms we used to enjoy and shrug helplessly at the destruction of our liberties.

We can immerse ourselves in the present, allowing ourselves to be utterly distracted by the glut of entertainment news and ever-changing headlines so that we fail to pay attention to or do anything about the government’s ongoing power-grabs.

We can hang our hopes on the future, believing against all odds that someone or something—whether it be a politician, a movement, or a religious savior—will save us from inevitable ruin.

Or we can start right away by instituting changes at the local level, holding our government officials accountable to the rule of law, and resurrecting the Constitution, recognizing that if we fail to do so and instead follow our current trajectory, the picture of the future will be closer to what George Orwell likened to “a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

WC: 2954


JWW BW CropConstitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book Battlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at http://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.