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“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

If there is one point on which there should be no political parsing, no legal jockeying, and no disagreement, it is this: for anyone to advocate terminating or suspending the Constitution is tantamount to a declaration of war against the founding principles of our representative government and the rule of law.

Then again, one could well make the case that the Constitution has already been terminated after years on life support, given the extent to which the safeguards enshrined in the Bill of Rights—adopted 231 years ago as a means of protecting the people against government overreach and abuse—have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded with the support of Congress, the White House, and the courts.

Consider for yourself.

We are in the grip of martial law. We have what the founders feared most: a “standing” or permanent army on American soil. This de facto standing army is made up of weaponized, militarized domestic police forces which look like, dress like, and act like the military; are armed with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; are authorized to make arrests; and are trained in military tactics.

We are in the government’s crosshairs. The U.S. government continues to act as judge, jury and executioner over a populace that have been pre-judged and found guilty, stripped of their rights, and left to suffer at the hands of government agents trained to respond with the utmost degree of violence. Consequently, we are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.” With alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by the government’s standing army of militarized police who shoot first and ask questions later.

We are no longer safe in our homes. This present menace comes from the government’s army of bureaucratized, corporatized, militarized SWAT teams who are waging war on the last stronghold left to us as a free people: the sanctity of our homes.

We have no real freedom of speech. We are moving fast down a slippery slope to an authoritarian society in which the only opinions, ideas and speech expressed are the ones permitted by the government and its corporate cohorts. In more and more cases, the government is declaring war on what should be protected political speech whenever it challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American who criticizes the government an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

We have no real privacy. We’re being spied on by a domestic army of government snitches, spies and techno-warriors. This government of Peeping Toms is watching everything we do, reading everything we write, listening to everything we say, and monitoring everything we spend. Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it is all being recorded, stored, and catalogued, and will be used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing.

We are losing our right to bodily privacy and integrity. The debate over bodily integrity covers broad territory, ranging from forced vaccinations, forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws and forced breath-alcohol tests to forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, and forced inclusion in biometric databases: these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no real privacy, no real presumption of innocence, and no real control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. The groundwork being laid with these mandates is a prologue to what will become the police state’s conquest of a new, relatively uncharted, frontier: inner space, specifically, the inner workings (genetic, biological, biometric, mental, emotional) of the human race.

We no longer have a right to private property. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Hard-working Americans are having their bank accounts, homes, cars electronics and cash seized by police under the assumption that they have allegedly been associated with some criminal scheme.

We have no due process. The groundwork has been laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation, or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the government—or whoever happens to be calling the shots at the time—thinks. And if the powers-that-be think you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides.

We are no longer presumed innocent. The burden of proof has been reversed. Now we’re presumed guilty unless we can prove our innocence beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Rarely, are we even given the opportunity to do so. The government has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database. Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government coupled with artificial intelligence will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

We have lost the right to be anonymous and move about freely.  At every turn, we’re hemmed in by laws, fines and penalties that regulate and restrict our autonomy, and surveillance cameras that monitor our movements. Likewise, digital currency provides the government and its corporate partners with a mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.

We no longer have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In fact, a study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.

We have no guardians of justice. The courts were established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency, the courts have become the guardians of the American police state in which we now live. As a result, sound judgment and justice have largely taken a back seat to legalism, statism and elitism, while preserving the rights of the people has been deprioritized and made to play second fiddle to both governmental and corporate interests.

We have been saddled with a dictator for life. Secret, unchecked presidential powers—acquired through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements and which can be activated by any sitting president—now enable past, president and future presidents to operate above the law and beyond the reach of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, we have done this to ourselves.

We allowed ourselves to be seduced by the false siren song of politicians promising safety in exchange for relinquished freedom. We placed our trust in political saviors and failed to ask questions to hold our representatives accountable to abiding by the Constitution. We looked the other way and made excuses while the government amassed an amazing amount of power over us, and backed up that power-grab with a terrifying amount of military might and weaponry, and got the courts to sanction their actions every step of the way. We chose to let partisan politics divide us and turn us into easy targets for the government’s oppression.

Mind you, the powers-that-be want us to be censored, silenced, muzzled, gagged, zoned out, caged in and shut down. They want our speech and activities monitored for any sign of “extremist” activity. They want us to be estranged from each other and kept at a distance from those who are supposed to represent us. They want taxation without representation. They want a government without the consent of the governed.

They want the Constitution terminated.

“We” may have contributed to our downfall through our inaction and gullibility, but we are also the only hope for a free future.

After all, the Constitution begins with those three beautiful words, “We the people.” Those three words were intended as a reminder to future generations that there is no government without us—our sheer numbers, our muscle, our economy, our physical presence in this land.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, when we forget that, when we allow the “Me” of a self-absorbed, narcissistic, politically polarizing culture to override our civic duties as citizens to collectively stand up to tyranny and make the government play by the rules of the Constitution, there can be no surprise when tyranny rises and freedom falls

Remember, there is power in numbers.

There are 332 million of us in this country. Imagine what we could accomplish if we actually worked together, presented a united front, and spoke with one voice?

Source: https://bit.ly/3h6J3FC

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“Crush! Kill! Destroy!”—The Robot, Lost in Space

The purpose of a good government is to protect the lives and liberties of its people.

Unfortunately, we have gone so far in the opposite direction from the ideals of a good government that it’s hard to see how this trainwreck can be redeemed.

It gets worse by the day.

For instance, despite an outcry by civil liberties groups and concerned citizens alike, in an 8-3 vote on Nov. 29, 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a proposal to allow police to arm robots with deadly weapons for use in emergency situations.

This is how the slippery slope begins.

According to the San Francisco Police Department’s draft policy, “Robots will only be used as a deadly force option when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SFPD.”

Yet as investigative journalist Sam Biddle points out, this is “what nearly every security agency says when it asks the public to trust it with an alarming new power: We’ll only use it in emergencies—but we get to decide what’s an emergency.”

last-minute amendment to the SFPD policy limits the decision-making authority for deploying robots as a deadly force option to high-ranking officers, and only after using alternative force or de-escalation tactics, or concluding they would not be able to subdue the suspect through those alternative means.

In other words, police now have the power to kill with immunity using remote-controlled robots.

These robots, often acquired by local police departments through federal grants and military surplus programs, signal a tipping point in the final shift from a Mayberry style of community policing to a technologically-driven version of law enforcement dominated by artificial intelligence, surveillance, and militarization.

It’s only a matter of time before these killer robots intended for use as a last resort become as common as SWAT teams.

Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams—which first appeared on the scene in California in the 1960s—have now become intrinsic parts of local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon’s military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts.

Consider this: In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the U.S. By 2014, that number had grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.

Given the widespread use of these SWAT teams and the eagerness with which police agencies have embraced them, it’s likely those raids number upwards of 120,000 by now.

There are few communities without a SWAT team today.

No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. In the state of Maryland alone, 92 percent of 8200 SWAT missions were used to execute search or arrest warrants.

For example, police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games. A Connecticut SWAT team swarmed a bar suspected of serving alcohol to underage individuals. In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring. An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.

A Minnesota SWAT team raided the wrong house in the middle of the night, handcuffed the three young children, held the mother on the floor at gunpoint, shot the family dog, and then “forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour” while they searched the home.

A California SWAT team drove an armored Lenco Bearcat into Roger Serrato’s yard, surrounded his home with paramilitary troops wearing face masks, threw a fire-starting flashbang grenade into the house, then when Serrato appeared at a window, unarmed and wearing only his shorts, held him at bay with rifles. Serrato died of asphyxiation from being trapped in the flame-filled house. Incredibly, the father of four had done nothing wrong. The SWAT team had misidentified him as someone involved in a shooting.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of nonviolent criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.

If these raids are becoming increasingly common and widespread, you can chalk it up to the “make-work” philosophy, by which police justify the acquisition of sophisticated military equipment and weapons and then rationalize their frequent use.

Mind you, SWAT teams originated as specialized units that were supposed to be dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations (that language is almost identical to the language being used to rationalize adding armed robots to local police agencies). They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant.

As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded, however, to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers. 

Indeed, a study by Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.” The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”

In other words, warrior cops aren’t making us or themselves any safer.

Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.

The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”

Now add killer robots into that scenario.

How long before these armed, militarized robots, authorized to use lethal force against American citizens, become as commonplace as SWAT teams and just as deadly?

Likewise, how long before mistakes are made, technology gets hacked or goes haywire, robots are deployed based on false or erroneous information, and innocent individuals get killed in the line of fire?

And who will shoulder the blame and the liability for rogue killer robots? Given the government’s track record when it comes to sidestepping accountability for official misconduct through the use of qualified immunity, it’s completely feasible that they’d get a free pass here, too.

In the absence of any federal regulations or guidelines to protect Americans against what could eventually become autonomous robotic SWAT teams equipped with artificial intelligence, surveillance and lethal weapons, “we the people” are left defenseless.

We’re gaining ground fast on the kind of autonomous, robotic assassins that Terminator envisioned would be deployed by 2029.

If these killer robots follow the same trajectory as militarized weapons, which, having been deployed to local police agencies as part of the Pentagon’s 1033 recycling program, are turning America into a battlefield, it’s just a matter of time before they become the first line of defense in interactions between police and members of the public.

Some within the robotics industry have warned against weaponizing general-purpose robots, which could be used “to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others.”

Yet it may already be too late for that.

As Sam Biddle writes for The Intercept, “As with any high-tech toy, the temptation to use advanced technology may surpass whatever institutional guardrails the police have in place.”

There are thousands of police robots across the country, and those numbers are growing exponentially. It won’t take much in the way of weaponry and programming to convert these robots to killer robots, and it’s coming.

The first time police used a robot as a lethal weapon was in 2016, when it was deployed with an explosive device to kill a sniper who had shot and killed five police officers.

This scenario has been repeatedly trotted out by police forces eager to add killer robots to their arsenal of deadly weapons. Yet as Paul Scharre, author of Army Of None: Autonomous Weapons And The Future Of War, recognizes, presenting a scenario in which the only two options are to use a robot for deadly force or put law enforcement officers at risk sets up a false choice that rules out any consideration of non-lethal options.

As Biddle concludes:

“Once a technology is feasible and permitted, it tends to linger. Just as drones, mine-proof trucks, and Stingray devices drifted from Middle Eastern battlefields to American towns, critics of … police’s claims that lethal robots would only be used in one-in-a-million public emergencies isn’t borne out by history. The recent past is littered with instances of technologies originally intended for warfare mustered instead against, say, constitutionally protected speech, as happened frequently during the George Floyd protests.”

This gradual dismantling of cultural, legal and political resistance to what was once considered unthinkable is what Liz O’Sullivan, a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, refers to as “a well-executed playbook to normalize militarization.”

It’s the boiling frog analogy all over again, and yet there’s more at play than just militarization or suppressing dissent.

There’s a philosophical underpinning to this debate over killer robots that we can’t afford to overlook, and that is the government’s expansion of its power to kill the citizenry.

Although the government was established to protect the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of the American people, the Deep State has been working hard to strip us of any claims to life and liberty, while trying to persuade us that happiness can be found in vapid pursuits, entertainment spectacles and political circuses.

Having claimed the power to kill through the use of militarized police who shoot first and ask questions later, SWAT team raids, no-knock raids, capital punishment, targeted drone attacks, grisly secret experiments on prisoners and unsuspecting communities, weapons of mass destruction, endless wars, etc., the government has come to view “we the people” as collateral damage in its pursuit of absolute power.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are at a dangerous crossroads.

Not only are our lives in danger. Our very humanity is at stake.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“All the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible… In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”—C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when the very act of thinking for ourselves is not just outlawed but unthinkable.

We are being shunted down the road to that dystopian future right now, propelled along by politically correct forces that, while they may have started out with the best of intentions, have fallen prey to the authoritarian siren song of the Nanny State, which has promised to save the populace from evils that only a select few are wise enough to recognize as such.

As a result, we are being infantilized ad nauseum, dictated to incessantly, and forcefully insulated from “dangerous” sights and sounds and ideas that we are supposedly too fragile, too vulnerable, too susceptible, or too ignorant to be exposed to without protection from the so-called elite.

Having concluded that “we the people” cannot be trusted to think for ourselves, the powers-that-be have taken it upon themselves to re-order our world into one in which they do the thinking for us, and all we have to do is fall is line.

Those who do not fall in line with this government-sanctioned group think—who resist, who dare to think for themselves, who dare to adopt views that are different, or possibly wrong or hateful—are branded as extremists, belligerents, and deplorables, and shunned, censored and silenced.

The fallout is as one would expect.

Cancel culture—political correctness amped up on steroids, the self-righteousness of a narcissistic age, and a mass-marketed pseudo-morality that is little more than fascism disguised as tolerance—has shifted us into an Age of Intolerance, policed by techno-censors, social media bullies, and government watchdogs.

Everything is now fair game for censorship if it can be construed as hateful, hurtful, bigoted or offensive provided that it runs counter to the established viewpoint.

In this way, the most controversial issues of our day—race, religion, sex, sexuality, politics, science, health, government corruption, police brutality, etc.—have become battlegrounds for those who claim to believe in freedom (of religion, speech, assembly, press, redress, privacy, bodily integrity, etc.) but only when it favors the views and positions they support.

The latest victim of this rigid re-ordering of the world into one in which vestiges of past mistakes are scrubbed from existence comes from the New York Department of Education, which has ordered schools to stop using Native American references in mascots, team names and logos by the end of the current school year or face penalties including a loss of state aid.

Citing concerns about racism and a need to comply with the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, which requires schools to create environments free of harassment or discrimination, New York officials are telling communities—many of which are named after Native American tribes—that longstanding cultural associations with their towns’ Indian namesakes are offensive and shameful.

More than 100 schools in 60 school districts across New York State have nicknames or mascots that reference Native Americans. The cost to divest their communities of such branded names and images will be significant. One school district estimates that the cost to remove its Indians imagery from the gym floor alone will be upwards of $60,000.

This drive to sanitize New York schools of “offensive” Native American logos and imagery comes on the heels of iconoclastic campaigns to rid the country of anything and anyone that may offend modern-day sensibilities.

Monuments have been torn down, schools and streets have been renamed, and the names of benefactors stripped from prominent signage in the quest for a more enlightened age.

These are not new tactics.

Since the days of the Byzantine Empire, when “Emperor Leo III ordered the destruction of all Christian images on the grounds that they represented idolatry and were heretical,” political movements have resorted to destroying monuments, statues and imagery of the day as a visual means of exerting their power and vanquishing their enemies.

We have been caught in this intolerant, self-righteous, destructive, mob-driven cycle of book-burning, statue-toppling, history-erasing iconoclasm ever since.

As art critic Alexander Adams explains:

“Iconoclasm is an activity evenly distributed between both left and right of the political spectrum, mainly at the extreme ends… The intolerant ideology, which refuses to accept the co-existence of alternative views, takes the stance that…the ideals within the art are no longer utterable or supportable: they are actually injurious and dangerous to the vulnerable… The political activist reserves to himself the right to retrospectively edit our history for his satisfaction by removing monuments, those fixtures of civic life, embedded in the memories of generations… Iconoclasm is an expression of domination and a demonstration of willingness to act—illegally and unethically—to impose the will of one group over an entire population. It asserts control over all aspects of society… The campaigner argues that public art, accumulated piecemeal over 1,000 years of history, must reflect our society and values today—even if that means altering or erasing stories of the values our past society expressed via its monuments, or suppressing evidence of how we arrived at our current situation… The iconoclast believes that it is only the values of today that count—that it is only her values that count. She takes it upon herself to correct history through monstrous acts of egotism. That correction, when it involves destruction, permanently alters the cultural legacy. It shrinks the breadth of human experience available to the generations which follow ours.”

In such a world, there can be no debate, no journey to understanding, no chance to learn from one’s mistakes or even make mistakes that are uniquely your own; there is only obedience and compliance to the government, its corporate overlords and the prevailing mob mindset.

Censorship, cancel culture, political correctness, woke-ism, hate speech, intolerance: whatever label you assign to this overzealous drive to sanitize the culture of anything that might be deemed offensive or disturbing or challenging, be assured they are sign posts on a one-way road to graver dangers marked by “suppression, persecution, expulsion and the massacring of people.”

Whether those smashing monuments and erasing history are doing so for noble purposes or more diabolical reasons, the end results are the same: criminalization, confiscation, imprisonment, exile and genocide.

“Look at mobs which gather to smash monuments,” says Adams. “These monuments may be the statues of deposed dictators who terrorized populations, causing untold death and suffering. They may be monuments to fallen soldiers who died defending causes that are no longer fashionable. The mob’s anger is the same. The viciousness and triumphant celebrations are the same. Only the causes differ in seriousness, topicality and justification.”

Adams continues:

“The Civil War statue destroyers think they are assaulting the posterity of slave owners, but they themselves are in the grip of ideological fervor. They are unaware that they are running a biological code, hardwired in their brains by evolution and activated by political extremists. The activists of today heedlessly erase history they haven’t yet learned to read. They act as the hammer that extremists use to deface the cathedrals and museums our ancestors built.”

What’s different about this present age, however, is the use of technology to censor, silence, delete, label as “hateful,” demonize and destroy those whose viewpoints run counter to the cultural elite.

“In the last few years,” writes Nina Powers for Art Review, “what is understood to be contentious has become increasingly broadly defined… The range of what counts as acceptable gets smaller and smaller… [W]e thus find ourselves… in the midst of a new culture war in which the freedom to think, feel and express ourselves comes at the risk of economic impoverishment, social ostracism and mob justice.”

Where this leads is the stuff of dystopian nightmares: societies that value conformity and group-think over individuality; a populace so adept at self-censorship and compliance that they are capable only of obeying the government’s dictates without the ability to parse out whether those dictates should be obeyed; and a language limited to government-speak.

This is what happens when the voices of the majority are allowed to eliminate those in the minority, and it is exactly why James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, fought for a First Amendment that protected the “minority” against the majority, ensuring that even in the face of overwhelming pressure, a minority of one—even one who espouses distasteful viewpoints—would still have the right to speak freely, pray freely, assemble freely, challenge the government freely, and broadcast his views in the press freely.

Freedom for those in the unpopular minority constitutes the ultimate tolerance in a free society.

The alternative, as depicted in Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, is a world in which individuality and the ability to think for oneself independent of the government and the populace are eradicated, where even the word “I” has been eliminated from the vocabulary, replaced by the collective “we.”

As Anthem’s narrator Equality 7-2521 explains, “It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. . . . And well we know that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.”

As I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we are not merely losing the ability to think critically for ourselves and, in turn, to govern our inner and outer worlds, we are also in danger of losing the right to do so.

The government’s war on thought crimes and truth-tellers is just the beginning.

Source: https://bit.ly/3TYn3du

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”—Senator Frank Church

The votes are in.

No matter who runs for office, no matter who controls the White House, Senate or the House of Representatives now or in the future, “we the people” have already lost.

We have lost because the future of this nation is being forged beyond the reach of our laws, elections and borders by techno-authoritarian powers with no regard for individuality, privacy or freedom.

The fate of America is being made in China, our role model for all things dystopian.

An economic and political powerhouse that owns more of America’s debt than any other country and is buying up American businesses across the spectrum, China is a vicious totalitarian regime that routinely employs censorship, surveillance, and brutal police state tactics to intimidate its populace, maintain its power, and expand the largesse of its corporate elite.

Where China goes, the United States eventually follows. This way lies outright tyranny.

Censorship. China’s censorship machine is straight out of Orwell’s 1984 with government agencies and corporations working together to limit the populace’s freedom of expression. Just a few years ago, in fact, China banned the use of the word “disagree,” as well as references to George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984. Government agencies routinely harass and intimidate anyone seen as non-compliant. Activists are frequently penalized for gathering in public places and charged criminally with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” China has also gone to great lengths to muzzle journalists reporting on corruption or human rights abuses.

Surveillance. COVID-19 brought China’s Orwellian surveillance out of the shadows and gave China the perfect excuse for unleashing the full force of its expansive and sophisticated surveillance and data collection powers on its citizenry and the rest of the world. Thermal scanners using artificial intelligence (AI) were installed at train stations in major cities to assess body temperatures and identify anyone with a fever. Facial recognition cameras and cell phone carriers tracked people’s movements constantly, reporting in real time to data centers that could be accessed by government agents and employers alike. And coded color alerts (red, yellow and green) sorted people into health categories that corresponded to the amount of freedom of movement they’re allowed: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

Social media credit scores. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese surveillance state had already been hard at work tracking its citizens through the use of some 200 million security cameras installed nationwide. Equipped with facial recognition technology, the cameras allow authorities to track so-called criminal acts, such as jaywalking, which factor into a person’s social credit score. Social media credit scores assigned to Chinese individuals and businesses categorize them on whether or not they are “good” citizens. A “citizen score” determines one’s place in society based on one’s loyalty to the government. A real-name system—which requires people to use government-issued ID cards to buy mobile sims, obtain social media accounts, take a train, board a plane, or even buy groceries—coupled with social media credit scores ensures that those blacklisted as “unworthy” are banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or allegedly causing trouble in hospitals.

Safe, smart cities. Having pioneered the development of so-called “safe” smart cities, China is exporting worldwide the high-tech communities in which residents are monitored round the clock, their every action under constant surveillance, and every device is connected to a central brain operated by artificial intelligence. As privacy expert Vincent Mosco concludes, “The benefit from smart cities clearly goes to the authorities who are able to use the promise of the modern, high-tech city to extend and deepen surveillance. It also goes to the big tech companies who profit first from building the smart city infrastructure and secondly by commodifying the entire smart city space. Citizens gain some operational efficiency but at great cost to their liberty.”

Digital currency. China has already adopted a government-issued digital currency, which not only allows it to surveil and seize people’s financial transactions, but can also work in tandem with its social credit score system to punish individuals for moral lapses and social transgressions (and reward them for adhering to government-sanctioned behavior). As China expert Akram Keram wrote for The Washington Post, “With digital yuan, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] will have direct control over and access to the financial lives of individuals, without the need to strong-arm intermediary financial entities. In a digital-yuan-consumed society, the government easily could suspend the digital wallets of dissidents and human rights activists.”

Digital authoritarianism will redefine what it means to be free in almost every aspect of our lives. Again, we must look to China to understand what awaits us. As Human Rights Watch analyst Maya Wang explains: “Chinese authorities use technology to control the population all over the country in subtler but still powerful ways. The central bank is adopting digital currency, which will allow Beijing to surveil—and control—people’s financial transactions. China is building so-called safe cities, which integrate data from intrusive surveillance systems to predict and prevent everything from fires to natural disasters and political dissent. The government believes that these intrusions, together with administrative actions, such as denying blacklisted people access to services, will nudge people toward ‘positive behaviors,’ including greater compliance with government policies and healthy habits such as exercising.”

AI surveillance. In much the same way that Chinese products have infiltrated almost every market worldwide and altered consumer dynamics, China is now exporting its “authoritarian tech” to governments worldwide ostensibly in an effort to spread its brand of totalitarianism worldwide. In fact, both China and the United States have led the way in supplying the rest of the world with AI surveillance, sometimes at a subsidized rate. In the hands of tyrants and benevolent dictators alike, AI surveillance is the ultimate means of repression and control, especially through the use of smart city/safe city platforms, facial recognition systems, and predictive policing. These technologies are also being used by violent extremist groups, as well as sex, child, drug, and arms traffickers for their own nefarious purposes.

While countries with authoritarian regimes have been eager to adopt AI surveillance, as the Carnegie Endowment’s research makes clear, liberal democracies are also “aggressively using AI tools to police borders, apprehend potential criminals, monitor citizens for bad behavior, and pull out suspected terrorists from crowds.” Moreover, it’s easy to see how the China model for internet control has been integrated into the American police state’s efforts to flush out so-called anti-government, domestic extremists. This is how totalitarianism conquers the world.

Secret police. According to recent reports, China has planted more than 54 secret police forces in 25 cities around the world, including the United States, as part of their efforts to track and threaten dissidents and deport them back to China for prosecution. The campaign to surveil, intimidate and punish ex-patriates living abroad engaging in dissent has been dubbed Operation Fox Hunt. As one human rights agency noted, “The message from the [Chinese] ministry of foreign affairs – that you are not safe anywhere, that we can find you and that we can get to you – is very effective.”

Police brutality. Not much has changed about China’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Chinese policing remains brutal, excessive and inflexible, now with the added power of the surveillance state behind it.

Intimidation tactics. China has mastered the art of intimidation tactics, threatening activists, their families and their livelihood should they fail to comply with the government’s dictates. As one activist explained, “There have been telephone calls in the middle of the night that family members won’t find work if you don’t cooperate with the government, or that your parents’ phone number will be posted online and they’ll be harassed. Or with Uyghurs, that the rest of your family will be put in camps.”

Disappearance, brainwashing and torture. Those who fail to fall in line with China’s dictates are often made to disappear, arrested in the dead of night and imprisoned in Orwellian re-education camps. China has built more than 400 of these internment camps in recent years to detain people for offenses that run the gamut from challenging the government to so-called religious crimes such as owning a Qur’an or abstaining from eating pork. As the Guardian reports, “abuses include detailed arbitrary detentions, torture and medical neglect in the detention camps and coercive birth control.”

China’s global influence, its technological reach, its quest for world domination, and its rigid demand for compliance are pushing us towards a world in chains.

Through its growing stranglehold on surveillance technology, China has erected the world’s first digital totalitarian state, and in the process, has made itself a model for aspiring dictators everywhere.

What too many fail to recognize, however, is that China and the American Deep State have joined forces.

As I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is fascism hiding behind a thin veneer of open government and populist elections.

For all intents and purposes, we have become the embodiment of what Philip K. Dick feared when he wrote The Man in the High Castle, a vision of an alternate universe in which the Axis powers defeat the Allies in World War II, and “fascism has not simply conquered America. It has insinuated itself, with disturbing ease, into America’s DNA.”

Yet while Dick’s vision of a world in which totalitarianism has been normalized is chilling, our growing reality of a world in which the Deep State is not merely entrenched but has gone global is downright terrifying.

Our national flag may not boast the red and white stripes with a swastika on a field of blue as depicted in The Man in the High Castle, but be warned: we are no less occupied.

Source: https://bit.ly/3hIw8K6

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

For soldiers … coming home is more lethal than being in combat.” ― Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston

The U.S. government is still waging war on America’s military veterans.

Especially veterans who exercise their First Amendment right to speak out against government wrongdoing.

Consider: we raise our young people on a steady diet of militarism and war, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and committed to defending their freedoms at home, we often treat them like criminals merely for exercising those rights they risked their lives to defend.

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the government even has a name for its war on America’s veterans: Operation Vigilant Eagle.

This Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program tracks military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and characterizes them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.”

Coupled with the DHS’ dual reports on Rightwing and Leftwing “Extremism,” which broadly define extremists as individuals, military veterans and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government.

Yet the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is taking aim at individuals trained in military warfare.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the DHS has gone extremely quiet about Operation Vigilant Eagle.

Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire.

And the government’s efforts to target military veterans whose views may be perceived as “anti-government” make clear that something is afoot.

In recent years, military servicemen and women have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance, censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights.

In light of the government’s efforts to lay the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data and predict who might pose a threat to public safety based on mental health sensor data (a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors), encounters with the police could get even more deadly, especially if those involved have a mental illness or disability coupled with a military background.

Incredibly, as part of a proposal introduced under the Trump Administration, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

These tactics are not really new.

Many times throughout history in totalitarian regimes, such governments have declared dissidents mentally ill and unfit for society as a means of rendering them disempowering them.

For example, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally through the use of electric shocks, drugs and various medical procedures.

This age-old practice by which despotic regimes eliminate their critics or potential adversaries by declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time is a common practice in present-day China.

What is particularly unnerving, however, is how this practice of eliminating or undermining potential critics, including military veterans, is happening with increasing frequency in the United States.

Remember, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opened the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists—technically, anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government qualifies.

It doesn’t take much anymore to be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the government’s dictates.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, communities are being mapped and residents assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about a person’s potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether they’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

The case of Brandon Raub is a prime example of Operation Vigilant Eagle in action.

Raub, a 26-year-old decorated Marine, actually found himself interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys. Within days of Raub being seized and forcibly held in a VA psych ward, news reports started surfacing of other veterans having similar experiences.

“Oppositional defiance disorder” (ODD) is another diagnosis being used against veterans who challenge the status quo. As journalist Anthony Martin explains, an ODD diagnosis

“denotes that the person exhibits ‘symptoms’ such as the questioning of authority, the refusal to follow directions, stubbornness, the unwillingness to go along with the crowd, and the practice of disobeying or ignoring orders. Persons may also receive such a label if they are considered free thinkers, nonconformists, or individuals who are suspicious of large, centralized government… At one time the accepted protocol among mental health professionals was to reserve the diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder for children or adolescents who exhibited uncontrollable defiance toward their parents and teachers.”

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) these veterans is diabolical. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these veterans are being declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

If it were just being classified as “anti-government,” that would be one thing.

Unfortunately, anyone with a military background and training is also now being viewed as a heightened security threat by police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Feeding this perception of veterans as ticking time bombs in need of intervention, the Justice Department launched a pilot program in 2012 aimed at training SWAT teams to deal with confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

The result?

Police encounters with military veterans often escalate very quickly into an explosive and deadly situation, especially when SWAT teams are involved.

For example, Jose Guerena, a Marine who served in two tours in Iraq, was killed after an Arizona SWAT team kicked open the door of his home during a mistaken drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Apart from his military background, Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

John Edward Chesney, a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran, was killed by a SWAT team allegedly responding to a call that the Army veteran was standing in his San Diego apartment window waving what looked like a semi-automatic rifle. SWAT officers locked down Chesney’s street, took up positions around his home, and fired 12 rounds into Chesney’s apartment window. It turned out that the gun Chesney reportedly pointed at police from three stories up was a “realistic-looking mock assault rifle.”

Ramon Hooks’ encounter with a Houston SWAT team did not end as tragically, but it very easily could have. Hooks, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran, was using an air rifle gun for target practice outside when a Homeland Security Agent, allegedly house shopping in the area, reported him as an active shooter. It wasn’t long before the quiet neighborhood was transformed into a war zone, with dozens of cop cars, an armored vehicle and heavily armed police. Hooks was arrested, his air rifle pellets and toy gun confiscated, and charges filed against him for “criminal mischief.”

Given the government’s increasing view of veterans as potential domestic terrorists, it makes one think twice about government programs encouraging veterans to include a veterans designation on their drivers’ licenses and ID cards.

Hailed by politicians as a way to “make it easier for military veterans to access discounts from retailers, restaurants, hotels and vendors across the state,” it will also make it that much easier for the government to identify and target veterans who dare to challenge the status quo.

Remember: no one is spared in a police state.

Eventually, as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we all suffer the same fate.

It stands to reason that if the government can’t be bothered to abide by its constitutional mandate to respect the citizenry’s rights—whether it’s the right to be free from government surveillance and censorship, the right to due process and fair hearings, the right to be free from roadside strip searches and militarized police, or the right to peacefully assemble and protest and exercise our right to free speech—then why should anyone expect the government to treat our nation’s veterans with respect and dignity?

Certainly, veterans have enough physical and psychological war wounds to overcome without adding the government to the mix. Although the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, large numbers of veterans are impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.

At least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017.

On average, 6,000 veterans kill themselves every year. However, a recent study suggests that the rate of suicide among veterans may be more than double what federal officials report annually.

The plight of veterans today—and their treatment at the hands of the U.S. government—remains America’s badge of shame.

Source: https://bit.ly/3hjqgH3

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
—William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming

Things are falling apart.

How much longer we can sustain the fiction that we live in a constitutional republic, I cannot say, but anarchy is being loosed upon the nation.

We are witnessing the unraveling of the American dream one injustice at a time.

Day after day, the government’s crimes against the citizenry grow more egregious, more treacherous and more tragic. And day after day, the American people wake up a little more to the grim realization that they have become captives in a prison of their own making.

No longer a free people, we are now pushed and prodded and watched over by twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked armed guards who care little for the rights, humanity or well-being of those in their care.

The death toll is mounting. The carnage is heartbreaking. The public’s faith in the government to do its job—which is to protect our freedoms—is deteriorating.

With alarming regularity, unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by the government’s standing army of militarized police who shoot first and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug and promise to do better.

Things are not getting better.

Patrick Lyoya is dead. The unarmed man was pulled over for having a mismatched license plate and shot in the back of the head while lying on the ground during a struggle with a Michigan police officer.

Donovan Lewis is dead. The 20-year-old unarmed man was sitting up in bed when he was shot and killed by police within a second of their barging through his bedroom door.

Tavis Crane is dead. Police shot the unarmed driver during a traffic stop that arose after his two-year-old daughter threw a plastic candy cane out of the window. When Crane refused to exit his vehicle, police climbed into the backseat of the parked car, placed Crane in a chokehold, and shot him repeatedly.

Justine Damond is dead. The 40-year-old yoga instructor was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, allegedly because they were startled by a loud noise in the vicinity just as she approached their patrol car. Damond, clad in pajamas, had called 911 to report a possible assault in her neighborhood.

Ismael Lopez is dead. The 41-year-old auto mechanic was shot and killed by Mississippi police who went to the wrong address looking for a suspect in connection with an aggravated domestic violence case. Police also shot the man’s dog, which had raced out of the house ahead of him.

Mary Knowlton is dead. The 73-year-old retired librarian was shot and killed by Florida police during a “shoot/don’t shoot” role-playing scenario when police inadvertently used a loaded gun intended for training.

Andrew Scott is dead. Although the 26-year-old homeowner had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by Florida police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

Richard Ferretti is dead. The 52-year-old chef was shot and killed by Philadelphia police while trying to find a parking spot. Police had been alerted to investigate a purple Dodge Caravan that was driving “suspiciously” through the neighborhood.

Charleena Lyles is dead. The pregnant, 30-year-old mother of four had called the police to report a stolen Xbox video game unit. She was shot and killed by Seattle police after they arrived at her home to find her holding a knife.

In every one of these scenarios, police could have resorted to less lethal tactics.

They could have acted with reason and calculation instead of reacting with a killer instinct.

They could have attempted to de-escalate and defuse whatever perceived “threat” caused them to fear for their lives enough to react with lethal force.

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

Remember, to a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.

We’re not just getting hammered, however. We’re getting killed, execution-style.

It no longer matters whether you’re innocent of any wrongdoing or guilty as sin: when you’re dealing with police who shoot first and ask questions later, due process—the constitutional assurance of a fair trial before an impartial jury—means nothing.

All the individuals who have been shot and killed by police—fired at three and four and five times in a split second—have already been tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. And in that split second of deciding whether to shoot and where to aim, the nation’s police officers have appointed themselves judge, jury and executioner over their fellow citizens.

In this way, we’re seen as nothing more than animals and treated as such.

In fact, we’re being gunned down like dogs.

Consider that a dog is shot by a police officer “every 98 minutes.”

The Department of Justice estimates that at least 25 dogs are killed by police every day. 

Spike, a 70-pound pit bull, was shot by NYPD police when they encountered him in the hallway of an apartment building in the Bronx. Surveillance footage shows the dog, tail wagging, right before an officer shot him in the head at pointblank range.

Arzy, a 14-month-old Newfoundland, Labrador and golden retriever mix, was shot between the eyes by a Louisiana police officer. The dog had been secured on a four-foot leash at the time he was shot. An independent witness testified that the dog never gave the officer any provocation to shoot him.

Seven, a St. Bernard, was shot repeatedly by Connecticut police in the presence of the dog’s 12-year-old owner. Police, investigating an erroneous tip, had entered the property—without a warrant—where the dog and her owner had been playing in the backyard, causing the dog to give chase.

Dutchess, a 2-year-old rescue dog, was shot three times in the head by Florida police as she ran out her front door. The officer had been approaching the house to inform the residents that their car door was open when the dog bounded out to greet him.

Yanna, a 10-year-old boxer, was shot three times by Georgia police after they mistakenly entered the wrong home and opened fire, killing the dog, shooting the homeowner in the leg and wounding an investigating officer.

Clearly, it doesn’t take much for a cop to shoot a dog.

Dogs shot and killed by police have been “guilty” of nothing more menacing than wagging their tails, barking in greeting, or merely being in their own yard. 

According to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, all it takes for dogs to pose a sufficient threat to police to justify them opening fire is for the dog to move or bark.

A dog doesn’t even have to be an aggressive breed to be shot by a cop.

Radley Balko has documented countless “dog shootings in which a police officer said he felt ‘threatened’ and had no choice but to use lethal force, including the killing of a Dalmatian (more than once), a yellow Lab , a springer spaniel, a chocolate Lab, a boxer, an Australian cattle dog, a Wheaten terrier, an Akita… a Jack Russell terrier… a 12-pound miniature dachshund… [and] a five-pound chihuahua.”

Chihuahuas, among the smallest breed of dog (known as “purse” dogs), seem to really push cops over the edge.

In Arkansas, for example, a sheriff’s deputy shot an “aggressive” chihuahua for barking repeatedly. The dog required surgery for a shattered jaw and a feeding tube to eat.

Same thing happened in Texas, except Trixie—who was on the other side of a fence from the officer—didn’t survive the shooting.

Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?

We’re being asked to believe that a police officer, fully armed, trained in combat and equipped to deal with the worst case scenario when it comes to violence, is so threatened by a yipping purse dog weighing less than 10 pounds that the only recourse is to shoot the dog.

Compounding the tragedy, if a cop kills your dog, there will be little to no consequences for that officer. Not even a slap on the wrist.

In this, as in so many instances of official misconduct by government officials, the courts have ruled that the cops have qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that incentivizes government officials to engage in lawless behavior without fear of repercussions. As a side note: if you happen to kill a police dog, you could face a longer prison sentence than if you’d murdered someone or abused a child.

This is the heartless, heartbreaking, hypocritical injustice that passes for law and order in America today.

Whether you’re talking about police shooting dogs or citizens, the mindset is the same: a rush to violence, abuse of power, fear for officer safety, poor training in how to de-escalate a situation, and general carelessness.

This is the same mindset that sees nothing wrong with American citizens being subjected to roadside strip searches, forcible blood draws, invasive surveillance, secret government experiments, and other morally reprehensible tactics.

Unfortunately, this is the fallout from teaching police to assume the worst-case scenario and react with fear to anything that poses the slightest threat (imagined or real). This is what comes from teaching police to view themselves as soldiers on a battlefield and those they’re supposed to serve as enemy combatants. This is the end result of a lopsided criminal justice system that fails to hold the government and its agents accountable for misconduct.

So what’s to be done about all of this?

Essentially, it comes down to training and accountability.

It’s the difference between police officers who rank their personal safety above everyone else’s and police officers who understand that their jobs are to serve and protect.

It’s the difference between police who are trained to shoot to kill, and police trained to resolve situations peacefully.

Most of all, it’s the difference between police who believe the law is on their side and police who know that they will be held to account for their actions under the same law as everyone else.

This is no longer a debate over good cops and bad cops.

It’s a tug-of-war between the constitutional republic America’s founders intended and the police state we are fast becoming.

So how do we fix what’s broken, stop the senseless shootings and bring about lasting reform?

For starters, stop with the scare tactics. In much the same way that American citizens are being cocooned in a climate of fear by a government that knows exactly which buttons to push in order to gain the public’s cooperation and compliance, police officers are also being indoctrinated with the psychology of fear. Despite the propaganda being peddled by the government and police unions, police today experience less on-the-job fatalities than they ever have historically.

Second, level the playing field. Police lives are no more valuable than any other citizen’s. Whether or not they wield a gun, police officers are public servants like all other government officials, which means that they work for us. While police are entitled to every protection afforded under the law, the same as any other citizen, they should not be afforded any special privileges. They certainly should not be shielded from accountability for misconduct by the courts and the legislatures.

Third, require that police officers be trained in non-lethal tactics. According to the New York Times, the training regimens at nearly all of the nation’s police academies continue to emphasize military-style exercises, with the average young officer made to undergo 58 hours of firearms training and 49 hours of defensive tactical training, but only eight hours of de-escalation training. If police officers are taking classes in how to shoot, maim and kill, shouldn’t they also be trained in non-lethal force, crisis intervention training on how to deal with the mentally ill, de-escalation techniques to use the lowest level of force possible when responding to a threat, and how to respect their fellow citizens’ constitutional rights?

Fourth, ditch the quasi-military obsession. Police forces were never intended to be standing armies. Yet with police agencies dressing like the military in camouflage and armor, training with the military, using military weapons, riding around in armored vehicles, recruiting military veterans, and even boasting military titles, one would be hard pressed to distinguish between the two. Still, it’s our job to make sure that we can distinguish between the two, and that means keeping the police in their place as civilians—non-military citizens—who are entrusted with protecting our rights.

Fifth, demilitarize. There are many examples of countries where police are not armed and dangerous, and they are no worse off for it. Indeed, their crime rates are low and their police officers are trained to view every citizen as precious.

Sixth, stop making taxpayers pay for police abuses. Some communities are trying to require police to carry their own professional liability insurance. The logic is that if police had to pay out of pocket for their own wrongdoing, they might be more cautious and less inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.

Seventh, support due process for everyone, not just the people in your circle. Remember that you no longer have to be poor, black or guilty to be treated like a criminal in America. All that is required is that you belong to the suspect class—a.k.a. the citizenry—of the American police state. As a de facto member of this so-called criminal class, every U.S. citizen is now guilty until proven innocent.

Finally, we need to do a better job of protecting our four-legged friends. Many states are adopting laws to make canine training mandatory for police officers. As dog behavior counselor Brian Kilcommons noted, police “need to realize they’re there to neutralize, not control… If they have enough money to militarize the police with Humvees, they have enough money to train them not to kill family members. And pets are considered family.”

After all, as the Washington Post points out, while “postal workers regularly encounter both vicious and gregarious dogs on their daily rounds… letter carriers don’t kill dogs, even though they are bitten by the thousands every year. Instead, the Postal Service offers its employees training on how to avoid bites.” Journalist Dale Chappell adds, “Using live dogs, handlers and trainers put postal workers through scenarios to teach them how to read a dog’s behavior and calm a dog, or fend it off, if necessary. Meter readers also have benefited from the same training, drastically reducing incidents of dog bites.”

The Rutherford Institute is working on a program aimed at training police to deescalate their interactions with dogs rather than resorting to lethal force, while providing pet owners with legal resources to better protect the four-legged members of their household.

Yet as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we will continue to be shot down like dogs in the street—unarmed Americans and dogs alike—until we demand that police be given better—and constant—training in nonviolent tactics, serious consequences for police who engage in excessive force, and a seismic shift in how law enforcement agencies and the courts deal with those who transgress.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You’re wrong. Dead wrong.” — They Live 

We’re living in two worlds.

There’s the world we see (or are made to see) and then there’s the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.

Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America—privileged, progressive and free—is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and “freedom,” such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police and federal agents armed to the teeth.

All is not as it seems.

Monsters with human faces walk among us. Many of them work for the U.S. government.

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s film They Live, which was released in November 1988 and remains unnervingly, chillingly appropriate for our modern age.

Best known for his horror film Halloween, which assumes that there is a form of evil so dark that it can’t be killed, Carpenter’s larger body of work is infused with a strong anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, laconic bent that speaks to the filmmaker’s concerns about the unraveling of our society, particularly our government.

Time and again, Carpenter portrays the government working against its own citizens, a populace out of touch with reality, technology run amok, and a future more horrific than any horror film.

In Escape from New York, Carpenter presents fascism as the future of America.

In The Thing, a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic of the same name, Carpenter presupposes that increasingly we are all becoming dehumanized.

In Christine, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a demon-possessed car, technology exhibits a will and consciousness of its own and goes on a murderous rampage.

In In the Mouth of Madness, Carpenter notes that evil grows when people lose “the ability to know the difference between reality and fantasy.”

And then there is Carpenter’s They Live, in which two migrant workers discover that the world is not as it seems. In fact, the population is actually being controlled and exploited by aliens working in partnership with an oligarchic elite. All the while, the populace—blissfully unaware of the real agenda at work in their lives—has been lulled into complacency, indoctrinated into compliance, bombarded with media distractions, and hypnotized by subliminal messages beamed out of television and various electronic devices, billboards and the like.

It is only when homeless drifter John Nada (played to the hilt by the late Roddy Piper) discovers a pair of doctored sunglasses—Hoffman lenses—that Nada sees what lies beneath the elite’s fabricated reality: control and bondage.

When viewed through the lens of truth, the elite, who appear human until stripped of their disguises, are shown to be monsters who have enslaved the citizenry in order to prey on them.

Likewise, billboards blare out hidden, authoritative messages: a bikini-clad woman in one ad is actually ordering viewers to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE.” Magazine racks scream “CONSUME” and “OBEY.” A wad of dollar bills in a vendor’s hand proclaims, “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

When viewed through Nada’s Hoffman lenses, some of the other hidden messages being drummed into the people’s subconscious include: NO INDEPENDENT THOUGHT, CONFORM, SUBMIT, STAY ASLEEP, BUY, WATCH TV, NO IMAGINATION, and DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY.

This indoctrination campaign engineered by the elite in They Live is painfully familiar to anyone who has studied the decline of American culture.

A citizenry that does not think for themselves, obeys without question, is submissive, does not challenge authority, does not think outside the box, and is content to sit back and be entertained is a citizenry that can be easily controlled.

In this way, the subtle message of They Live provides an apt analogy of our own distorted vision of life in the American police state, what philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as dictatorship in democracy, “the invisible order which sustains your apparent freedom.”

We’re being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality.

Tune out the government’s attempts to distract, divert and befuddle us and tune into what’s really going on in this country, and you’ll run headlong into an unmistakable, unpalatable truth: what we are dealing with today is an authoritarian beast that has outgrown its chains and will not be restrained.

Through its acts of power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny, the government has become almost indistinguishable from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, disease, drug traffickingsex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

We have let the government’s evil-doing and abuses go on for too long.

We’re being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality.

Despite the fact that we are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack; 11,000 times more likely to die from an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane; 1,048 times more likely to die from a car accident than a terrorist attack, and 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist , we have handed over control of our lives to government officials who treat us as a means to an end—the source of money and power.

As the Bearded Man in They Live warns, “They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.”

We have bought into the illusion and refused to grasp the truth.

From the moment we are born until we die, we are indoctrinated into believing that those who rule us do it for our own good. The truth is far different.

The powers-that-be want us to feel threatened by forces beyond our control (terrorists, pandemics, mass shootings, etc.).

They want us afraid and dependent on the government and its militarized armies for our safety and well-being.

They want us distrustful of each other, divided by our prejudices, and at each other’s throats.

Most of all, they want us to continue to march in lockstep with their dictates as fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.

This brings me back to They Live, in which the real zombies are not the aliens calling the shots but the populace who are content to remain controlled.

When all is said and done, the world of They Live is not so different from our own. As one of the characters points out, “The poor and the underclass are growing. Racial justice and human rights are nonexistent. They have created a repressive society and we are their unwitting accomplices. Their intention to rule rests with the annihilation of consciousness. We have been lulled into a trance. They have made us indifferent to ourselves, to others. We are focused only on our own gain.”

We, too, are focused only on our own pleasures, prejudices and gains. Our poor and underclasses are also growing. Injustice is growing. Inequality is growing. A concern for human rights is nearly nonexistent. We too have been lulled into a trance, indifferent to others.

Oblivious to what lies ahead, we’ve been manipulated into believing that if we continue to consume, obey, and have faith, things will work out. But that’s never been true of emerging regimes. And by the time we feel the hammer coming down upon us, it will be too late.

So where does that leave us?

The characters who populate Carpenter’s films provide some insight.

Underneath their machismo, they still believe in the ideals of liberty and equal opportunity. Their beliefs place them in constant opposition with the law and the establishment, but they are nonetheless freedom fighters.

When, for example, John Nada destroys the alien hypno-transmitter in They Live, he delivers a wake-up call for freedom. As Nada memorably declares, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

In other words: we need to get active and take a stand for what’s really important.

Stop allowing yourselves to be easily distracted by pointless political spectacles and pay attention to what’s really going on in the country.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the real battle for control of this nation is taking place on roadsides, in police cars, on witness stands, over phone lines, in government offices, in corporate offices, in public school hallways and classrooms, in parks and city council meetings, and in towns and cities across this country.

All the trappings of the American police state are now in plain sight.

Wake up, America.

If they live (the tyrants, the oppressors, the invaders, the overlords), it is only because “we the people” sleep.

Source: https://bit.ly/3F9UYw4

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“This should have never happened. We shouldn’t be living in a society where you call for help and be killed.”— Mother of Damian Daniels, who was shot by police during a wellness check

Think twice before you call the cops to carry out a welfare check on a loved one.

Especially if you value that person’s life.

Particularly if that person is disabled, mentally ill, elderly, autistic, hearing impaired, suffering from dementia, or might have a condition that hinders their ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order.

According to an investigation by The Washington Postcops sent out on welfare checks ended up shooting or killing the very people they were supposed to assist in at least 178 cases over the course of three years.

Atatiana Jefferson was neither disabled, mentally ill, elderly, autistic, hearing impaired, suffering from dementia. The 28-year-old Fort Worth resident was merely awake at 2:30 am, playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew in a house with its lights on and the front door open.

A neighbor, noticing the lights and open door, asked police to do a welfare check on the household. Instead of announcing themselves at the front door, police crept quietly around the house. Hearing noises outside, Jefferson approached her bedroom window to investigate.

Seeing Jefferson through the window, police yelled, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” Within seconds of issuing that order and without identifying themselves, police fired a single shot. Jefferson died on the scene.

Atatiana Jefferson’s death is yet one more grim statistic to add to that growing list of Americans—unarmed, impaired or experiencing a mental health crisis—who have been killed by police trained in the worst-case scenario and thus ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

The officer who fired the shot claimed he did so because he perceived “a threat.”

Be warned: to the armed agents of the America police state, we are all potential threats.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.

For those undergoing a mental health crisis or with special needs whose disabilities may not be immediately apparent, the dangers posed by these so-called wellness checks are even greater.

For example, Walter Wallace Jr.—a troubled 27-year-old black man with a criminal history and mental health issues—died in a hail of bullets fired by two police officers who clearly had not been adequately trained in how to de-escalate encounters with special needs individuals.

Wallace wasn’t unarmed—he was reportedly holding a knife when police confronted him—yet neither cop attempted to use non-lethal weapons on Wallace, who appeared to be in the midst of a mental health crisis. In fact, neither cop even possessed a taser. Wallace, fired upon fourteen times, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Gay Plack, a 57-year-old Virginia woman with bipolar disorder, was killed after two police officers—sent to do a welfare check on her—entered her home uninvited, wandered through the house shouting her name, kicked open her locked bedroom door, discovered the terrified woman hiding in a dark bathroom and wielding a small axe, and four seconds later, shot her in the stomach.

Four seconds.

That’s all the time it took for the two police officers assigned to check on Plack to decide to use lethal force against her (both cops opened fire on the woman), rather than using non-lethal options (one cop had a Taser, which he made no attempt to use) or attempting to de-escalate the situation.

The police chief defended his officers’ actions, claiming they had “no other option” but to shoot the 5 foot 4 inch “woman with carpal tunnel syndrome who had to quit her job at a framing shop because her hand was too weak to use the machine that cut the mats.”

This is what happens when you indoctrinate the police into believing that their lives and their safety are paramount to anyone else’s: suddenly, everyone and everything else is a threat that must be neutralized or eliminated.

In light of the government’s ongoing efforts to predict who might pose a threat to public safety based on mental health sensor data (tracked by wearable data such as FitBits and Apple Watches and monitored by government agencies such as HARPA, the “Health Advanced Research Projects Agency”), encounters with the police could get even more deadly, especially if those involved have a mental illness or disability.

As Steve Silberman writes for The New York Times “Anyone who cares for someone with a developmental disability, as well as for disabled people themselves [lives] every day in fear that their behavior will be misconstrued as suspicious, intoxicated or hostile by law enforcement.”

Indeed, disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. People of color are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. If you’re black and disabled, you’re even more vulnerable.

A study by the Ruderman Family Foundation reports that “disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated… Many more disabled civilians experience non-lethal violence and abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

For instance, Nancy Schrock called 911 for help after her husband, Tom, who suffered with mental health issues, started stalking around the backyard, upending chairs and screaming about demons. Several times before, police had transported Tom to the hospital, where he was medicated and sent home after 72 hours. This time, Tom was tasered twice. He collapsed, lost consciousness and died.

In South Carolina, police tasered an 86-year-old grandfather reportedly in the early stages of dementia, while he was jogging backwards away from them. Now this happened after Albert Chatfield led police on a car chase, running red lights and turning randomly. However, at the point that police chose to shock the old man with electric charges, he was out of the car, on his feet, and outnumbered by police officers much younger than him.

In Georgia, campus police shot and killed a 21-year-old student who was suffering a mental health crisis. Scout Schultz was shot through the heart by campus police when he approached four of them late one night while holding a pocketknife, shouting “Shoot me!” Although police may have feared for their lives, the blade was still in its closed position.

In Oklahoma, police shot and killed a 35-year-old deaf man seen holding a two-foot metal pipe on his front porch (he used the pipe to fend off stray dogs while walking). Despite the fact that witnesses warned police that Magdiel Sanchez couldn’t hear—and thus comply—with their shouted orders to drop the pipe and get on the ground, police shot the man when he was about 15 feet away from them.

In Maryland, police (moonlighting as security guards) used extreme force to eject a 26-year-old man with Downs Syndrome and a low IQ from a movie theater after the man insisted on sitting through a second screening of a film. Autopsy results indicate that Ethan Saylor died of complications arising from asphyxiation, likely caused by a chokehold.

In Florida, police armed with assault rifles fired three shots at a 27-year-old nonverbal, autistic man who was sitting on the ground, playing with a toy truck. Police missed the autistic man and instead shot his behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey, who had been trying to get him back to his group home. The therapist, bleeding from a gunshot wound, was then handcuffed and left lying face down on the ground for 20 minutes.

In Texas, police handcuffed, tasered and then used a baton to subdue a 7-year-old student who has severe ADHD and a mood disorder. With school counselors otherwise occupied, school officials called police and the child’s mother to assist after Yosio Lopez started banging his head on a wall. The police arrived first.

In New Mexico, police tasered, then opened fire on a 38-year-old homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia, all in an attempt to get James Boyd to leave a makeshift campsite. Boyd’s death provoked a wave of protests over heavy-handed law enforcement tactics.

In Ohio, police forcefully subdued a 37-year-old bipolar woman wearing only a nightgown in near-freezing temperatures who was neither armed, violent, intoxicated, nor suspected of criminal activity. After being slammed onto the sidewalk, handcuffed and left unconscious on the street, Tanisha Anderson died as a result of being restrained in a prone position.

And in North Carolina, a state trooper shot and killed a 29-year-old deaf motorist after he failed to pull over during a traffic stop. Daniel K. Harris was shot after exiting his car, allegedly because the trooper feared he might be reaching for a weapon.

These cases, and the hundreds—if not thousands—more that go undocumented every year speak to a crisis in policing when it comes to law enforcement’s failure to adequately assess, de-escalate and manage encounters with special needs or disabled individuals.

While the research is relatively scant, what has been happening is telling.

Over the course of six months, police shot and killed someone who was in mental crisis every 36 hours.

Among 124 police killings analyzed by The Washington Post in which mental illness appeared to be a factor, “They were overwhelmingly men, more than half of them white. Nine in 10 were armed with some kind of weapon, and most died close to home.”

But there were also important distinctions, reports the Post.

This group was more likely to wield a weapon less lethal than a firearm. Six had toy guns; 3 in 10 carried a blade, such as a knife or a machete — weapons that rarely prove deadly to police officers. According to data maintained by the FBI and other organizations, only three officers have been killed with an edged weapon in the past decade. Nearly a dozen of the mentally distraught people killed were military veterans, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their service, according to police or family members. Another was a former California Highway Patrol officer who had been forced into retirement after enduring a severe beating during a traffic stop that left him suffering from depression and PTSD. And in 45 cases, police were called to help someone get medical treatment, or after the person had tried and failed to get treatment on his own.

The U.S. Supreme Court, as might be expected, has thus far continued to immunize police against charges of wrongdoing when it comes to use of force against those with a mental illness.

In a 2015 ruling, the Court declared that police could not be sued for forcing their way into a mentally ill woman’s room at a group home and shooting her five times when she advanced on them with a knife. The justices did not address whether police must take special precautions when arresting mentally ill individuals. (The Americans with Disabilities Act requires “reasonable accommodations” for people with mental illnesses, which in this case might have been less confrontational tactics.)

Where does this leave us?

For starters, we need better police training across the board, but especially when it comes to de-escalation tactics and crisis intervention.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that Crisis Intervention Team-trained officers made fewer arrests, used less force, and connected more people with mental-health services than their non-trained peers.

As The Washington Post points out:

“Although new recruits typically spend nearly 60 hours learning to handle a gun, according to a recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, they receive only eight hours of training to de-escalate tense situations and eight hours learning strategies for handling the mentally ill. Otherwise, police are taught to employ tactics that tend to be counterproductive in such encounters, experts said. For example, most officers are trained to seize control when dealing with an armed suspect, often through stern, shouted commands. But yelling and pointing guns is ‘like pouring gasoline on a fire when you do that with the mentally ill,’ said Ron Honberg, policy director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.”

Second, police need to learn how to slow confrontations down, instead of ramping up the tension (and the noise).

In Maryland, police recruits are now required to take a four-hour course in which they learn “de-escalation tactics” for dealing with disabled individuals: speak calmly, give space, be patient.

One officer in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department’s “mental response teams” suggests that instead of rushing to take someone into custody, police should try to slow things down and persuade the person to come with them.

Third, with all the questionable funds flowing to police departments these days, why not use some of those funds to establish what one disability-rights activist describes as “a 911-type number dedicated to handling mental-health emergencies, with community crisis-response teams at the ready rather than police officers.”

Increasingly, funds are being directed towards technologies that support predictive policing and behavioral and health surveillance. For instance, HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) would take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

It wouldn’t take much for these nascent predictive programs to give rise to healthcare versions of red flag gun laws, which allows the government to preemptively take action against individuals who may be perceived as potential threats. Where the problem arises is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

In the end, while we need to make encounters with police officers safer for people with suffering from mental illness or with disabilities, what we really need—as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries—is to make encounters with police safer for all individuals all across the board.

Source: https://bit.ly/3MFpMq9

“You know, when police start becoming their own executioners, where’s it gonna end? Pretty soon, you’ll start executing people for jaywalking, and executing people for traffic violations. Then you end up executing your neighbor ‘cause his dog pisses on your lawn.”—“Dirty Harry” Callahan, Magnum Force

When I say that warrior cops—hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge—have not made America any safer or freer, I am not disrespecting any of the fine, decent, lawful police officers who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace.

My concern rests with the cops who feel empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner.

These death squads believe they can kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.

Just recently, in fact, a rookie cop opened fire on the occupants of a parked car in a McDonald’s parking lot on a Sunday night in San Antonio, Texas.

The driver, 17-year-old Erik Cantu and his girlfriend, were eating burgers inside the car when the police officer—suspecting the car might have been one that fled an attempted traffic stop the night before—abruptly opened the driver side door, ordered the teenager to get out, and when he did not comply, shot ten times at the car, hitting Cantu multiple times.

Mind you, this wasn’t a life-or-death situation.

It was two teenagers eating burgers in a parking lot, and a cop fresh out of the police academy taking justice into his own hands.

This wasn’t an isolated incident, either.

In Hugo, Oklahoma, plain clothes police officers opened fire on a pickup truck parked in front of a food bank, heedless of the damage such a hail of bullets—26 shots were fired—could have on those in the vicinity. Three of the four children inside the parked vehicle were shot: a 4-year-old girl was shot in the head and ended up with a bullet in the brain; a 5-year-old boy received a skull fracture; and a 1-year-old girl had deep cuts on her face from gunfire or shattered window glass. The reason for the use of such excessive force? Police were searching for a suspect in a weeks-old robbery of a pizza parlor that netted $400.

In Minnesota, a 4-year-old girl watched from the backseat of a car as cops shot and killed her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. 

In Arizona, a 7-year-old girl watched panic-stricken as a state trooper pointed his gun at her and her father during a traffic stop and reportedly threated to shoot her father in the back (twice) based on the mistaken belief that they were driving a stolen rental car.

This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat the citizenry like suspects and criminals.

The lesson for all of us: at a time when police have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect”—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct—“we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

Add a traffic stop to the mix, and that disadvantage increases dramatically.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop.

On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police.

Of the roughly 1,100 people killed by police each year, 10% of those involve traffic stops.

Historically, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This free-handed approach to traffic stops has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, toll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Equally appalling, in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court—which has largely paved the way for the police and other government agents to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance—allowed police officers to stop drivers who appear nervous, provided they provide a palatable pretext for doing so.

Black drivers are almost two times more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police and three times more likely to have their vehicles searched. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

In other words, drivers beware.

Traffic stops aren’t just dangerous. They can be downright deadly.

Patrick Lyoya was pulled over for having a mismatched license plate. The unarmed man was shot in the back of the head while on the ground during a subsequent struggle with a Michigan police officer.

Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Walter Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

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

Keep in mind, from the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat. Yet it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical.

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

Survival is key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. That price grows more costly with every passing day.

If you ask cops and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with police, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings. 

Unfortunately, in the American police state, compliance is no guarantee that you will survive an encounter with the police with your life and liberties intact.

Every day we hear about situations in which unarmed Americans complied and still died during an encounter with police simply because they appeared to be standing in a “shooting stance” or held a cell phone or a garden hose or carried around a baseball bat or answered the front door or held a spoon in a threatening manner or ran in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch or wandered around naked or hunched over in a defensive posture or made the mistake of wearing the same clothes as a carjacking suspect (dark pants and a basketball jersey) or dared to leave an area at the same time that a police officer showed up or had a car break down by the side of the road or were deaf or homeless or old.

More often than not, it seems as if all you have to do to be shot and killed by police is stand a certain way, or move a certain way, or hold something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or ignite some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

Now politicians, police unions, law enforcement officials and individuals who are more than happy to march in lockstep with the police state make all kinds of excuses to justify these shootings.  However, to suggest that a good citizen is a compliant citizen and that obedience will save us from the police state is not only recklessly irresponsible, but it is also deluded.

To begin with, and most importantly, Americans need to know their rights when it comes to interactions with the police, bearing in mind that many law enforcement officials are largely ignorant of the law themselves.

A good resource is The Rutherford Institute’s “Constitutional Q&A: Rules of Engagement for Interacting with Police.”

In a nutshell, the following are your basic rights when it comes to interactions with the police as outlined in the Bill of Rights:

You have the right under the First Amendment to ask questions and express yourself. You have the right under the Fourth Amendment to not have your person or your property searched by police or any government agent unless they have a search warrant authorizing them to do so.  You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, to not incriminate yourself and to request an attorney. Depending on which state you live in and whether your encounter with police is consensual as opposed to your being temporarily detained or arrested, you may have the right to refuse to identify yourself. Not all states require citizens to show their ID to an officer (although drivers in all states must do so).

As a rule of thumb, you should always be sure to clarify in any police encounter whether or not you are being detained, i.e., whether you have the right to walk away. That holds true whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re essentially under arrest from the moment a cop stops you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to clarify that distinction.

While technology is always going to be a double-edged sword, with the gadgets that are the most useful to us in our daily lives—GPS devices, cell phones, the internet—being the very tools used by the government to track us, monitor our activities, and generally spy on us, cell phones are particularly useful for recording encounters with the police and have proven to be increasingly powerful reminders to police that they are not all powerful.

Knowing your rights is only part of the battle, unfortunately.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the danger arises when the burden of proof is reversed, “we the people” are assumed guilty, and we have to exercise our rights while simultaneously attempting to prove our innocence to trigger-happy cops with no understanding of the Bill of Rights.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.

“If you can’t say ‘F@#k’ you can’t say, ‘F@#k’ the government.’”— Lenny Bruce, comedian

Anti-government speech has become a four-letter word.

In more and more cases, the government is declaring war on what should be protected political speech whenever it challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

Indeed, there is a long and growing list of the kinds of speech that the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation and prosecution: hate speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, extremist speech, etc.

Things are about to get even dicier for those who believe in fully exercising their right to political expression.

Indeed, the government’s seditious conspiracy charges against Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, and several of his associates for their alleged involvement in the January 6 Capitol riots puts the entire concept of anti-government political expression on trial.

Enacted during the Civil War to prosecute secessionists, seditious conspiracy makes it a crime for two or more individuals to conspire to “‘overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force’ the U.S. government, or to levy war against it, or to oppose by force and try to prevent the execution of any law.”

It’s a hard charge to prove, and the government’s track record hasn’t been the greatest.

It’s been almost a decade since the government tried to make a seditious conspiracy charge stick—against a small Christian militia accused of plotting to kill a police officer and attack attendees at his funeral in order to start a civil war—and it lost the case.

Although the government was able to show that the Hutaree had strong anti-government views, the judge ruled in U.S. v. Stone that “[O]ffensive speech and a conspiracy to do something other than forcibly resist a positive show of authority by the Federal Government is not enough to sustain a charge of seditious conspiracy.”

Whether or not prosecutors are able to prove their case that Rhodes and his followers intended to actually overthrow the government, the blowback will be felt far and wide by anyone whose political views can be labeled “anti-government.”

All of us are in danger.

In recent years, the government has used the phrase “domestic terrorist” interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.”

The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American with an opinion about the government or who knows someone with an opinion about the government an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

You see, the government doesn’t care if you or someone you know has a legitimate grievance. It doesn’t care if your criticisms are well-founded. And it certainly doesn’t care if you have a First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

What the government cares about is whether what you’re thinking or speaking or sharing or consuming as information has the potential to challenge its stranglehold on power.

Why else would the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies be investing in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

Why else would the Biden Administration be likening those who share “false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information” to terrorists?

According to the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorism bulletin, “[T]hreat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence.”

By the government’s own definition, America’s founders would be considered domestic extremists for the heavily charged rhetoric they used to birth this nation.

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would certainly be placed on a terrorist watch list for suggesting that Americans should not only take up arms but be prepared to shed blood in order to protect their liberties.

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms,” declared Jefferson. He also concluded that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Observed Franklin: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

Thomas Paine, Marquis De Lafayette, John Adams and Patrick Henry would certainly be labelled domestic extremists for exhorting Americans to defend themselves against the government if it violates their rights.

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government,” insisted Paine.

“When the government violates the people’s rights,” Lafayette warned, “insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.”

Adams cautioned, “A settled plan to deprive the people of all the benefits, blessings and ends of the contract, to subvert the fundamentals of the constitution, to deprive them of all share in making and executing laws, will justify a revolution.”

And who could forget Patrick Henry with his ultimatum: “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Conduct your own experiment into the government’s tolerance of speech that challenges its authority, and see for yourself: stand on a street corner—or in a courtroom, at a city council meeting or on a university campus— and try denouncing the government with some of the founders’ rhetoric.

My guess is that you won’t last long before you get thrown out, shut up, threatened with arrest or at the very least accused of being a radical, a troublemaker, a sovereign citizen, a conspiratorialist or an extremist.

Or maybe you’ll just be fined.

It’s happening all across the country.

In Punta Gorda, Florida, for instance, two political activists were fined $3000 for displaying protest flags with political messages that violated the city’s ordinance banning signs, clothing and other graphic displays containing words that the city deems “indecent.”

During the first month of the new ordinance being enacted, Andrew Sheets was cited four times by police for violating the ordinance by displaying phrases which said “F@#k Policing 4 Profit,” “F@#k Trump,” and “F@#k Biden.” Richard Massey was cited for violating the ordinance by displaying a sign which proclaimed, “F@#k Punta Gorda, trying to illegally kill free speech.”

Coming to the defense of the two activists, The Rutherford Institute challenged the City of Punta Gorda’s ban on indecent speech as unconstitutionally vague and a violation of the First Amendment’s safeguards for political speech that may not be censored or punished by the government.

We won the first round, with the Charlotte County Circuit Court ruling against the City, noting that the ordinance was “designed to cause the preemptive self-silencing of speakers whose messages are entitled to constitutional protection.”

In other words, as the court recognized, the ordinance was clearly designed to chill political speech, which is protected under the First Amendment.

You see, the right of political free speech is the basis of all liberty.

No matter what one’s political persuasion might be, every American has a First Amendment right to protest government programs or policies with which they might disagree.

The right to disagree with and speak out against the government is the quintessential freedom.

Every individual has a right to speak truth to power using every nonviolent means available.

This is why the First Amendment is so critical. It gives the citizenry the right to speak freely, protest peacefully, expose government wrongdoing, and criticize the government without fear of reprisal.

Americans of all stripes would do well to remember that those who question the motives of government provide a necessary counterpoint to those who would blindly follow where politicians choose to lead.

We don’t have to agree with every criticism of the government, but we must defend the rights of all individuals to speak freely without fear of punishment or threat of banishment.

This is how freedom rises or falls.

As comedian Lenny Bruce, a lifelong champion of free speech, remarked, “If you can’t say ‘F@#k’ you can’t say, ‘F@#k’ the government.’”

Bruce, foul-mouthed, insightful, irreverent, and incredibly funny, was one of the First Amendment’s greatest champions who dared to “speak the unspeakable” about race, religion, sexuality and politics. As Village Voice writer Nat Hentoff attests, Bruce was “not only a paladin of free speech but also a still-penetrating, woundingly hilarious speaker of truth to the powerful and the complacent.”

Bruce died in 1966, but not before being convicted of alleged obscenity for challenging his audience’s covert prejudices by brandishing unmentionable words that, if uttered today, would not only get you ostracized but could get you arrested and charged with a hate crime.

Hentoff, who testified in Bruce’s defense at his trial, recounts that Lenny used to say, “What I wanted people to dig is the lie. Certain words were suppressed to keep the lie going. But if you do them, you should be able to say the words.”

Not much has changed in the 50-plus years since Bruce died. In fact, it’s gotten worse.

What we’re dealing with today is a government that wants to suppress dangerous words—words about its warring empire, words about its land grabs, words about its militarized police, words about its killing, its poisoning and its corruption—in order to keep its lies going.

What we are witnessing is a nation undergoing a nervous breakdown over this growing tension between our increasingly untenable reality and the lies being perpetrated by a government that has grown too power-hungry, egotistical, militaristic and disconnected from its revolutionary birthright.

The only therapy is the truth and nothing but the truth.

If the government censors get their way, there will be no more First Amendment.

There will be no more Bill of Rights.

And, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, there will be no more freedom in America as we have known it.

Source: https://bit.ly/3ecgt4s

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at staff@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.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.