Posts Tagged ‘fourth amendment’

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”—Abraham Lincoln

History has a funny way of circling back on itself.

The facts, figures, faces and technology may change from era to era, but the dangers remain the same.

This year is no different, whatever the politicians and talking heads may say to the contrary.

Sure, there’s a new guy in charge, but for the most part, we’re still recycling the same news stories that have kept us with one eye warily glued to the news for the past 100-odd years: War. Corruption. Brutality. Economic instability. Partisan politics. Militarism. Disease. Hunger. Greed. Violence. Poverty. Ignorance. Hatred.

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

Brush up on your history, and you’ll find that we’ve been stuck on repeat for some time now.

Take the United States of America in the year 2021, which is not so far different from the United States of America during the Civil Rights era, or the Cold War era, or even the Depression era.

Go far enough afield, and you’ll find aspects of our troubled history mirrored in the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany, in the fascism of Mussolini’s Italy, and further back in the militarism of the Roman Empire.

We’re like TV weatherman Phil Connors in Harold Ramis’ classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, forced to live the same day over and over again.

Here in the American police state, however, we continue to wake up, hoping each new day, new president and new year will somehow be different from what has come before.

Unfortunately, no matter how we change the narrative, change the characters, change the plot lines, we seem to keep ending up in the same place that we started: enslaved, divided and repeating the mistakes of the past.

You want to know about the true State of our Nation? Listen up.

The State of the Union: The state of our nation is politically polarized, controlled by forces beyond the purview of the average American, and rapidly moving the nation away from its freedom foundation. Over the past year, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have found themselves repeatedly subjected to egregious civil liberties violations, invasive surveillance, martial law, lockdowns, political correctness, erosions of free speech, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc.

The predators of the police state have wreaked havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government does not listen to the citizenry, refuses to abide by the Constitution, and treats taxpayers as a source of funding and little else. Police officers shoot unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—remain armed to the teeth and act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies continue to fleece taxpayers. Government technicians spy on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors make a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

Consequently, the state of our nation remains bureaucratic, debt-ridden, violent, militarized, fascist, lawless, invasive, corrupt, untrustworthy, mired in war, and unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the electorate.

The policies of the American police state continue unabated.

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

Biden has these powers because every successive occupant of the Oval Office has been allowed to expand the reach and power of the presidency through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements that can be activated by any sitting president. Those of us who saw this eventuality coming have been warning for years about the growing danger of the Executive Branch with its presidential toolbox of terror that could be used—and abused—by future presidents. The groundwork, we warned, was being laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the president—or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time—thinks. And if he or she thinks you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides. In effect, you will disappear.

Our warnings continue to go unheeded.

The Legislative Branch:  Congress may well be the most self-serving, semi-corrupt institution in America. Abuses of office runs the gamut from elected representatives neglecting their constituencies to engaging in self-serving practices, including the misuse of eminent domain, earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracting in return for personal gain and campaign contributions, having inappropriate ties to lobbyist groups and incorrectly or incompletely disclosing financial information. Pork barrel spending, hastily passed legislation, partisan bickering, a skewed work ethic, graft and moral turpitude have all contributed to the public’s increasing dissatisfaction with congressional leadership. No wonder only 31 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court was intended to be an institution 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 justices of the United States Supreme Court 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. The courts have empowered the government to wreak havoc on our liberties. Protections for private property continue to be undermined. And Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice.

Shadow Government: Joe Biden inherited more than a bitterly divided nation teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe when he assumed office. He also inherited a shadow government, one that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country. Referred to as the Deep State, this shadow government is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes right now.

Law Enforcement: By and large the term “law enforcement” encompasses all agents within a militarized police state, including the military, local police, and the various agencies such as the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace but now extensions of the military, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens. As a result, police are becoming even more militarized and weaponized, and police shootings of unarmed individuals continue to increase.

A Suspect Surveillance Society: Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go. By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc. Consequently, in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crimebehavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometricslicense plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals, we are no longer “innocent until proven guilty.”

Military Empire: America’s endless global wars and burgeoning military empire—funded by taxpayer dollars—have depleted our resources, over-extended our military and increased our similarities to the Roman Empire and its eventual demise. Black budget spending has completely undermined any hope of fiscal transparency, with government contractors padding their pockets at the expense of taxpayers and the nation’s infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—taking the hit. The U.S. now operates approximately 800 military bases in foreign countries around the globe at an annual cost of at least $156 billion. The consequences of financing a global military presence are dire. In fact, David Walker, former comptroller general of the U.S., believes there are “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that contributed to the fall of Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government.”

I haven’t even touched on the corporate state, the military industrial complex, SWAT team raids, invasive surveillance technology, zero tolerance policies in the schools, overcriminalization, or privatized prisons, to name just a few. However, what I have touched on should be enough to show that the landscape of our freedoms has already changed dramatically from what it once was and will no doubt continue to deteriorate unless Americans can find a way to wrest back control of their government and reclaim their freedoms.

So how do we go about reclaiming our freedoms and reining in our runaway government?

Essentially, there are four camps of thought among the citizenry when it comes to holding the government accountable. Which camp you fall into says a lot about your view of government—or, at least, your view of whichever administration happens to be in power at the time.

In the first camp are those who trust the government to do the right thing, despite the government’s repeated failures in this department.

In the second camp are those who not only don’t trust the government but think the government is out to get them.

In the third camp are those who see government neither as an angel nor a devil, but merely as an entity that needs to be controlled, or as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, bound “down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.”

Then there’s the fourth camp, comprised of individuals who pay little to no attention to the workings of government. Easily entertained, easily distracted, easily led, these are the ones who make the government’s job far easier than it should be.

It is easy to be diverted, distracted and amused by the antics of politicians, the pomp and circumstance of awards shows, athletic events, and entertainment news, and the feel-good evangelism that passes for religion today.

What is far more difficult to face up to is the reality of life in America, where unemployment, poverty, inequality, injustice and violence by government agents are increasingly norms.

The powers-that-be want us to remain divided, alienated from each other based on our politics, our bank accounts, our religion, our race and our value systems. Yet as George Orwell observed, “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

The only distinction that matters anymore is where you stand in the American police state.

In other words, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.

America is at a crossroads.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom.

Certainly, we have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age: the age of authoritarianism. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal.

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

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

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, when we lose sight of the true purpose of government—to protect our rights—and fail to keep the government in its place as our servant, we allow the government to overstep its bounds and become a tyrant that rules by brute force.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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.

“Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent.”—Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

A federal COVID-19 vaccination strike force may soon be knocking on your door, especially if you live in a community with low vaccination rates. Will you let them in?

More to the point, are you required to open the door?

The Biden Administration has announced that it plans to send federal “surge response teams” on a “targeted community door-to-door outreach“ to communities with low vaccination rates in order to promote the safety and accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccines.

That’s all fine and good as far as government propaganda goes, but nothing is ever as simple or as straightforward as the government claims, especially not when armed, roving bands of militarized agents deployed by the Nanny State show up at your door with an agenda that is at odds with what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to as the constitutional “right to be let alone.”

Any attempt by the government to encroach upon the citizenry’s privacy rights or establish a system by which the populace can be targeted, tracked and singled out must be met with extreme caution. These door-to-door “visits” by COVID-19 surge response teams certainly qualify as a government program whose purpose, while seemingly benign, raises significant constitutional concerns.

First, there is the visit itself.

While government agents can approach, speak to and even question citizens without violating the Fourth Amendment, Americans have a right not to answer questions or even speak with a government agent.

Courts have upheld these “knock and talk” visits as lawful, reasoning that even though the curtilage of the home is protected by the Fourth Amendment, there is an implied license to approach a residence, knock on the door/ring the bell, and seek to contact occupants. However, the encounter is wholly voluntary and a person is under no obligation to speak with a government agent in this situation. 

Indeed, you don’t even need to answer or open the door in response to knocking/ringing by a government agent, and if you do answer the knock, you can stop speaking at any time. You also have the right to demand that government agents leave the property once the purpose of the visit is established. Government officials would not be enforcing any law or warrant in this context, and so they don’t have the authority of law to remain on the property after a homeowner or resident specifically revokes the implied license to come onto the property.

When the government’s actions go beyond merely approaching the door and knocking, it risks violating the Fourth Amendment, which requires a warrant and probable cause of possible wrongdoing in order to search one’s property. A government agent would violate the Fourth Amendment if he snooped around the premises, peering into window and going to other areas in search of residents. 

It should be pointed out that some judges (including Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch) believe that placing “No Trespassing” signs or taking other steps to impede access to the door is sufficient to negate any implied permission for government agents or others to approach your home, but this view does not have general acceptance.

While in theory one can refuse to speak with police or other government officials during a “knock and talk” encounter, as the courts have asserted as a justification for dismissing complaints about this police investigative tactic, the reality is far different. Indeed, it is unreasonable to suggest that individuals caught unaware by these tactics will not feel pressured in the heat of the moment to comply with a request to speak with government agents who display official credentials and are often heavily armed, let alone allow them to search one’s property. Even when such consent is denied, police have been known to simply handcuff the homeowner and conduct a search over his objections.

Second, there is the danger inherent in these knock-and-talk encounters.

Although courts have embraced the fiction that “knock and talks” are “voluntary” encounters that are no different from other door-to-door canvassing, these constitutionally dubious tactics are highly intimidating confrontations meant to pressure individuals into allowing police access to one’s home, which then paves the way for a warrantless search of one’s home and property.

The act of going to homes and taking steps to speak with occupants is akin to the “knock and talk” tactic used by police, which can be fraught with danger for homeowners and government agents alike. Indeed, “knock-and-talk” policing has become a thinly veiled, warrantless exercise by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night.

“Knock-and-shoot” policing might be more accurate, however.

“Knock and talks” not only constitute severe violations of the privacy and security of homeowners, but the combination of aggression and surprise employed by police is also a recipe for a violent confrontation that rarely ends well for those on the receiving end of these tactics.

For example, although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or threatened police, he was gunned down by police who knocked aggressively on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed Scott when he answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense. The police were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night “knock and talk” in Scott’s apartment complex.

Carl Dykes was shot in the face by a county deputy who pounded on Dykes’ door in the middle of the night without identifying himself. Because of reports that inmates had escaped from a local jail, Dykes brought a shotgun with him when he answered the door.

As these and other incidents make clear, while Americans have a constitutional right to question the legality of a police action or resist an unlawful police order, doing so can often get one arrested, shot or killed.

Third, there is the question of how the government plans to use the information it obtains during these knock-and-talk visits.

Because the stated purpose of the program is to promote vaccination, homeowners and others who reside at the residence will certainly be asked if they are vaccinated. Again, you have a right not to answer this or any other question. Indeed, an argument could be made that even asking this question is improper if the purpose of the program is merely to ensure that Americans “have the information they need on how both safe and accessible the vaccine is.”

Under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a, an agency should only collect and maintain information about an individual as is “relevant and necessary to accomplish a purpose of the agency.” In this situation, the government agent could accomplish the purpose of assuring persons have information about the vaccine simply by providing that information (either in writing or orally) and would not need to know the vaccination status of the residents. To the extent the agents do request, collect and store information about residents’ vaccination status, this could be a Privacy Act violation.

Of course, there is always the danger that this program could be used for other, more nefarious, purposes not related to vaccination encouragement. As with knock-and-talk policing, government agents might misuse their appearance of authority to gain entrance to a residence and obtain other information about it and those who live there. Once the door is opened by a resident, anything the agents can see from their vantage point can be reported to law enforcement authorities.

Moreover, while presumably the targeting will be of areas with demonstrated low vaccination rates, there is no guarantee that this program would not be used as cover for conducting surveillance on areas deemed to be “high crime” areas as a way of obtaining intelligence for law enforcement purposes.

We’ve been down this road before, with the government sending its spies to gather intel on American citizens by questioning them directly, or by asking their neighbors to snitch on them.

Remember the egregiously invasive and intrusive American Community Survey?

Unlike the traditional census, which collects data every ten years, the American Community Survey (ACS) is sent to about 3 million homes per year at a reported cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, while the traditional census is limited to ascertaining the number of persons living in each dwelling, their ages and ethnicities, the ownership of the dwelling and telephone numbers, the ACS is much more intrusive, asking questions relating to respondents’ bathing habits, home utility costs, fertility, marital history, work commute, mortgage, and health insurance, among other highly personal and private matters.

Individuals who receive the ACS must complete it or be subject to monetary penalties. Although no reports have surfaced of individuals actually being penalized for refusing to answer the survey, the potential fines that can be levied for refusing to participate in the ACS are staggering. For every question not answered, there is a $100 fine. And for every intentionally false response to a question, the fine is $500. Therefore, if a person representing a two-person household refused to fill out any questions or simply answered nonsensically, the total fines could range from upwards of $10,000 and $50,000 for noncompliance.

At 28 pages (with an additional 16-page instruction packet), the ACS contains some of the most detailed and intrusive questions ever put forth in a census questionnaire. These concern matters that the government simply has no business knowing, including questions relating to respondents’ bathing habits, home utility costs, fertility, marital history, work commute, mortgage, and health insurance, among others. For instance, the ACS asks how many persons live in your home, along with their names and detailed information about them such as their relationship to you, marital status, race and their physical, mental and emotional problems, etc. The survey also asks how many bedrooms and bathrooms you have in your house, along with the fuel used to heat your home, the cost of electricity, what type of mortgage you have and monthly mortgage payments, property taxes and so on.

However, that’s not all.

The survey also demands to know how many days you were sick last year, how many automobiles you own and the number of miles driven, whether you have trouble getting up the stairs, and what time you leave for work every morning, along with highly detailed inquiries about your financial affairs. And the survey demands that you violate the privacy of others by supplying the names and addresses of your friends, relatives and employer. The questionnaire also demands that you give other information on the people in your home, such as their educational levels, how many years of school were completed, what languages they speak and when they last worked at a job, among other things.

While some of the ACS’ questions may seem fairly routine, the real danger is in not knowing why the information is needed, how it will be used by the government or with whom it will be shared.

Finally, you have the right to say “no.”

Whether police are knocking on your door at 2 am or 2:30 pm, as long as you’re being “asked” to talk to a police officer who is armed to the teeth and inclined to kill at the least provocation, you don’t really have much room to resist, not if you value your life.

Mind you, these knock-and-talk searches are little more than police fishing expeditions carried out without a warrant.

The goal is intimidation and coercion.

Unfortunately, with police departments increasingly shifting towards pre-crime policing and relying on dubious threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state, we’re going to see more of these warrantless knock-and-talk police tactics by which police attempt to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement and prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Here’s the bottom line.

These agents are coming to your home with one purpose in mind: to collect information on you.

It’s a form of intimidation, of course. You shouldn’t answer any questions you’re uncomfortable answering about your vaccine history or anything else. The more information you give them, the more it can be used against you. Just ask them politely but firmly to leave.

In this case, as in so many interactions with government agents, the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments (and your cell phone recording the encounter) are your best protection.

Under the First Amendment, you don’t have to speak (to government officials or anyone else). The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. And under the Fifth Amendment, you have a right to remain silent and not say anything which might be used against you.

You can also post a “No Trespassing” sign on your property to firmly announce that you are exercising your right to be left alone. If you see government officials wandering around your property and peering through windows, in my opinion, you have a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Government officials can ring the doorbell, but once you put them on notice that it’s time for them to leave, they can’t stay on your property.

It’s important to be as clear as possible and inform them that you will call the police if they don’t leave. You may also wish to record your encounter with the government agent. If they still don’t leave, immediately call the local police and report a trespasser on your property.

Remember, you have rights.

The government didn’t want us to know about—let alone assert—those rights during this whole COVID-19 business.

After all, for years now, the powers-that-be—those politicians and bureaucrats who think like tyrants and act like petty dictators regardless of what party they belong to—have attempted to brainwash us into believing that we have no right to think for ourselves, make decisions about our health, protect our homes and families and businesses, act in our best interests, demand accountability and transparency from government, or generally operate as if we are in control of our own lives.

But we have every right, and you know why?

Because as the Declaration of Independence states, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights—to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness—that no government can take away from us.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the government from constantly trying to usurp our freedoms at every turn. Indeed, the nature of government is such that it invariably oversteps its limits, abuses its authority, and flexes its totalitarian muscles.

Take this COVID-19 crisis, for example.

What started out as an apparent effort to prevent a novel coronavirus from sickening the nation (and the world) has become yet another means by which world governments (including our own) can expand their powers, abuse their authority, and further oppress their constituents.

The government has made no secret of its plans.

Just follow the money trail, and you’ll get a sense of what’s in store: more militarized police, more SWAT team raids, more surveillance, more lockdowns, more strong-armed tactics aimed at suppressing dissent and forcing us to comply with the government’s dictates.

It’s chilling to think about, but it’s not surprising.

In many ways, this COVID-19 state of emergency has invested government officials (and those who view their lives as more valuable than ours) with a sanctimonious, self-righteous, arrogant, Big Brother Knows Best approach to top-down governing, and the fall-out can be seen far and wide.

It’s an ugly, self-serving mindset that views the needs, lives and rights of “we the people” as insignificant when compared to those in power.

That’s how someone who should know better such as Alan Dershowitz, a former Harvard law professor, can suggest that a free people—born in freedom, endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, and living in a country birthed out of a revolutionary struggle for individual liberty—have no rights to economic freedom, to bodily integrity, or to refuse to comply with a government order with which they disagree.

According to Dershowitz, who has become little more than a legal apologist for the power elite, “You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business… And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.”

Dershowitz is wrong: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, while the courts may increasingly defer to the government’s brand of Nanny State authoritarianism, we still have rights.

The government may try to abridge those rights, it may refuse to recognize them, it may even attempt to declare martial law and nullify them, but it cannot litigate, legislate or forcefully eradicate them out of existence.

Source: https://bit.ly/2U4yszD

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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 want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” George Orwell, 1984

Tread cautiously: the fiction of George Orwell (Jun. 25, 1903-Jan. 21, 1950) has become an operation manual for the omnipresent, modern-day surveillance state.

It’s been more than 70 years since Orwell—dying, beset by fever and bloody coughing fits, and driven to warn against the rise of a society in which rampant abuse of power and mass manipulation are the norm—depicted the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism in 1984.

Who could have predicted that so many years after Orwell typed the final words to his dystopian novel, “He loved Big Brother,” we would come to love Big Brother.

“To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone— to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings!”—George Orwell

1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. People are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Big Brother who appears on posters everywhere with the words: “Big Brother is watching you.”

We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”―George Orwell

Much like Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move. Much like Huxley’s A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who “have their liberties taken away from them, but … rather enjoy it, because they [are] distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing.” Much like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the populace is now taught to “know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.”

And in keeping with Philip K. Dick’s darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state—which became the basis for Steven Spielberg’s futuristic thriller Minority Report—we are now trapped in a world in which the government is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful, and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control.

What once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of science fiction.

Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike—facial recognition, iris scanners, massive databases, behavior prediction software, and so on—are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, the dystopian visions of past writers is fast becoming our reality.

Our world is characterized by widespread surveillance, behavior prediction technologies, data mining, fusion centers, driverless cars, voice-controlled homes, facial recognition systems, cybugs and drones, and predictive policing (pre-crime) aimed at capturing would-be criminals before they can do any damage.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Government agents listen in on our telephone calls and read our emails. Political correctness—a philosophy that discourages diversity—has become a guiding principle of modern society.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”―George Orwell

The courts have shredded the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In fact, SWAT teams battering down doors without search warrants and FBI agents acting as a secret police that investigate dissenting citizens are common occurrences in contemporary America. And bodily privacy and integrity have been utterly eviscerated by a prevailing view that Americans have no rights over what happens to their bodies during an encounter with government officials, who are allowed to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”―George Orwell, Animal Farm

We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state.

What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. The government requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.

In fact, Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother, and we are now ruled by the Corporate Elite whose tentacles have spread worldwide. The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate the government and our lives.

Money, power, control. There is no shortage of motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government. But who is paying the price? The American people, of course.

Orwell understood what many Americans are still struggling to come to terms with: that there is no such thing as a government organized for the good of the people. Even the best intentions among those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and control over the citizenry at all costs.

“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” ― George Orwell

Even our ability to speak and think freely is being regulated.

In totalitarian regimes—a.k.a. police states—where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used. In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.

Dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, reading is banned and books are burned in order to suppress dissenting ideas, while televised entertainment is used to anesthetize the populace and render them easily pacified, distracted and controlled.

In Huxley’s Brave New World, serious literature, scientific thinking and experimentation are banned as subversive, while critical thinking is discouraged through the use of conditioning, social taboos and inferior education. Likewise, expressions of individuality, independence and morality are viewed as vulgar and abnormal.

In my debut novel The Erik Blair Diaries, the dystopian future that George Orwell predicted for 1984 has finally arrived, 100 years late and ten times as brutal. In this post-apocalyptic world where everyone marches to the beat of the same drummer and words like “freedom” are taboo, Erik Blair—Orwell’s descendant and unwitting heir to his legacy—isn’t volunteering to be anyone’s hero. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go according to plan. To save all that he loves, Orwell will have to travel between his future self and the past.

And in Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother does away with all undesirable and unnecessary words and meanings, even going so far as to routinely rewrite history and punish “thoughtcrimes.” Orwell’s Big Brother relies on Newspeak to eliminate undesirable words, strip such words as remained of unorthodox meanings and make independent, non-government-approved thought altogether unnecessary.

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

This is the final link in the police state chain.

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell

Having been reduced to a cowering citizenry—mute in the face of elected officials who refuse to represent us, helpless in the face of police brutality, powerless in the face of militarized tactics and technology that treat us like enemy combatants on a battlefield, and naked in the face of government surveillance that sees and hears all—we have nowhere left to go.

We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government.

“Big Brother is Watching You.”―George Orwell

Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now being watched, especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint. When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card. There is even a video camera at most locations equipped with facial recognition software. When you use a cell phone or drive a car enabled with GPS, you can be tracked by satellite. Such information is shared with government agents, including local police. And all of this once-private information about your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to the government.

The government has nearly inexhaustible resources when it comes to tracking our movements, from electronic wiretapping devices, traffic cameras and biometrics to radio-frequency identification cards, satellites and Internet surveillance.

In such a climate, everyone is a suspect. And you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. To underscore this shift in how the government now views its citizens, the FBI uses its wide-ranging authority to investigate individuals or groups, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity. 

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” ― George Orwell

Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand, however: it’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted. We’ve already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called “hateful” thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter. 

Say hello to the new Thought Police.

Total Internet surveillance by the Corporate State, as omnipresent as God, is used by the government to predict and, more importantly, control the populace, and it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. For example, the NSA has been working on an artificial intelligence system designed to anticipate your every move. Aquaint (the acronym stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence) has been designed to detect patterns and predict behavior.

No information is sacred or spared.

Everything from cell phone recordings and logs, to emails, to text messages, to personal information posted on social networking sites, to credit card statements, to library circulation records, to credit card histories, etc., is collected by the NSA and shared freely with its agents in crime: the CIA, FBI and DHS.

What we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of the watched (average Americans such as you and me) and the watchers (government bureaucrats, technicians and private corporations).

Clearly, the age of privacy in America is at an end.

So where does that leave us?

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.

It won’t be long before we find ourselves looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted without those thoughts, words and activities being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.

To be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government’s roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.

Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw. Just look at what happened to Julian Assange.

So how do you survive in the American surveillance state?

We’re running out of options.

Whether you’re dealing with fact or fiction, as I make clear in Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, we’ll soon have to choose between self-indulgence (the bread-and-circus distractions offered up by the news media, politicians, sports conglomerates, entertainment industry, etc.) and self-preservation in the form of renewed vigilance about threats to our freedoms and active engagement in self-governance.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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.

When you upload your DNA, you’re potentially becoming a genetic informant on the rest of your family.”— Law professor Elizabeth Joh

“Guilt by association” has taken on new connotations in the technological age.

All of those fascinating, genealogical searches that allow you to trace your family tree by way of a DNA sample can now be used against you and those you love.

As of 2019, more than 26 million people had added their DNA to ancestry databases. It’s estimated those databases could top 100 million profiles within the year, thanks to the aggressive marketing of companies such as Ancestry and 23andMe.

It’s a tempting proposition: provide some mega-corporation with a spit sample or a cheek swab, and in return, you get to learn everything about who you are, where you came from, and who is part of your extended your family.

The possibilities are endless.

You could be the fourth cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II of England. Or the illegitimate grandchild of an oil tycoon. Or the sibling of a serial killer.

Without even realizing it, by submitting your DNA to an ancestry database, you’re giving the police access to the genetic makeup, relationships and health profiles of every relative—past, present and future—in your family, whether or not they ever agreed to be part of such a database.

After all, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.”

It’s what police like to refer to a “modern fingerprint.”

Whereas fingerprint technology created a watershed moment for police in their ability to “crack” a case, DNA technology is now being hailed by law enforcement agencies as the magic bullet in crime solving.

Indeed, police have begun using ancestry databases to solve cold cases that have remained unsolved for decades.

For instance, in 2018, former police officer Joseph DeAngelo was flagged as the notorious “Golden State Killer” through the use of genetic genealogy, which allows police to match up an unknown suspect’s crime scene DNA with that of any family members in a genealogy database. Police were able to identify DeAngelo using the DNA of a distant cousin found in a public DNA database. Once police narrowed the suspect list to DeAngelo, they tracked him—snatched up a tissue he had tossed in a trash can—and used his DNA on the tissue to connect him to a rash of rapes and murders from the 1970s and ‘80s.

Although DeAngelo was the first public arrest made using forensic genealogy, police have identified more than 150 suspects since then. Most recently, police relied on genetic genealogy to nab the killer of a 15-year-old girl who was stabbed to death nearly 50 years ago.

Who wouldn’t want to get psychopaths and serial rapists off the streets and safely behind bars, right? At least, that’s the argument being used by law enforcement to support their unrestricted access to these genealogy databases.

“In the interest of public safety, don’t you want to make it easy for people to be caught? Police really want to do their job. They’re not after you. They just want to make you safe,” insists Colleen Fitzpatrick, a co-founder of the DNA Doe Project, which identifies unknown bodies and helps find suspects in old crimes.

Except it’s not just psychopaths and serial rapists who get caught up in the investigative dragnet.

Anyone who comes up as a possible DNA match—including distant family members—suddenly becomes part of a circle of suspects that must be tracked, investigated and ruled out.

Although a number of states had forbidden police from using government databases to track family members of suspects, the genealogy websites provided a loophole that proved irresistible to law enforcement.

Hoping to close that loophole, a few states have started introducing legislation to restrict when and how police use these genealogical databases, with Maryland requiring that they can only be used for serious violent crimes such as murder and rape, only after they exhaust other investigatory methods, and only under the supervision of a judge.

Yet the debate over genetic privacy—and when one’s DNA becomes a public commodity outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures—is really only beginning.

Certainly, it’s just a matter of time before the government gets hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America, by warrantlessly accessing our familial DNA shared with genealogical services such as Ancestry and 23andMe, or through the collection of our “shed” or “touch” DNA.

According to research published in the journal Science, more than 60 percent of Americans who have some European ancestry can be identified using DNA databases, even if they have not submitted their own DNA. According to law professor Natalie Ram, one genealogy profile can lead to as many as 300 other people.

That’s just on the commercial side.

All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. Increasingly, many of the data from local databanks are being uploaded to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the FBI’s massive DNA database, which has become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

Even hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. In many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely.

What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.

Get ready, folks, because the government— helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—has embarked on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

Referred to as “magic boxes,” Rapid DNA machines—portable, about the size of a desktop printer, highly unregulated, far from fool-proof, and so fast that they can produce DNA profiles in less than two hours—allow police to go on fishing expeditions for any hint of possible misconduct using DNA samples.

Journalist Heather Murphy explains: “As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.”

The ramifications of these DNA databases are far-reaching.

At a minimum, they will do away with any semblance of privacy or anonymity. The lucrative possibilities for hackers and commercial entities looking to profit off one’s biological record are endless.

Moreover, while much of the public debate, legislative efforts and legal challenges in recent years have focused on the protocols surrounding when police can legally collect a suspect’s DNA (with or without a search warrant and whether upon arrest or conviction), the question of how to handle “shed” or “touch” DNA has largely slipped through without much debate or opposition.

As scientist Leslie A. Pray notes:

We all shed DNA, leaving traces of our identity practically everywhere we go. Forensic scientists use DNA left behind on cigarette butts, phones, handles, keyboards, cups, and numerous other objects, not to mention the genetic content found in drops of bodily fluid, like blood and semen. In fact, the garbage you leave for curbside pickup is a potential gold mine of this sort of material. All of this shed or so-called abandoned DNA is free for the taking by local police investigators hoping to crack unsolvable cases. Or, if the future scenario depicted at the beginning of this article is any indication, shed DNA is also free for inclusion in a secret universal DNA databank.

What this means is that if you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name. As Heather Murphy warns in the New York Times: “The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived…  Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

Even old samples taken from crime scenes and “cold” cases are being unearthed and mined for their DNA profiles.

Today, helped along by robotics and automation, DNA processing, analysis and reporting takes far less time and can bring forth all manner of information, right down to a person’s eye color and relatives. Incredibly, one company specializes in creating “mug shots” for police based on DNA samples from unknown “suspects” which are then compared to individuals with similar genetic profiles.

If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way.

Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty.

Now we are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.

Suspect Society, meet the American police state.

Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go.

By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember.

And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof.

Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias.

Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

What this amounts to is a scenario in which we have little to no defense of against charges of wrongdoing, especially when “convicted” by technology, and even less protection against the government sweeping up our DNA in much the same way it sweeps up our phone calls, emails and text messages.

With the entire governmental system shifting into a pre-crime mode aimed at detecting and pursuing those who “might” commit a crime before they have an inkling, let alone an opportunity, to do so, it’s not so far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which government agents (FBI, local police, etc.) target potential criminals based on their genetic disposition to be a “troublemaker” or their relationship to past dissenters.

Equally disconcerting: if scientists can, using DNA, track salmon across hundreds of square miles of streams and rivers, how easy will it be for government agents to not only know everywhere we’ve been and how long we were at each place but collect our easily shed DNA and add it to the government’s already burgeoning database?

Not to be overlooked, DNA evidence is not infallible: it can be wrong, either through human error, tampering, or even outright fabrication, and it happens more often than we are told. The danger, warns scientist Dan Frumkin, is that crime scenes can be engineered with fabricated DNA.

Now if you happen to be the kind of person who trusts the government implicitly and refuses to believe it would ever do anything illegal or immoral, then the prospect of government officials—police, especially—using fake DNA samples to influence the outcome of a case might seem outlandish.

Yet as history shows, the probability of our government acting in a way that is not only illegal but immoral becomes less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.”

With technology, the courts, the corporations and Congress conspiring to invade our privacy on a cellular level, suddenly the landscape becomes that much more dystopian.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the slippery slope toward a dystopian world in which there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Source: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/guilt_by_association_dna_databases_forensic_genealogy_and_genetic_privacy

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”— Friedrich Nietzsche

Almost every tyranny being perpetrated by the U.S. government against the citizenry—purportedly to keep us safe and the nation secure—has come about as a result of some threat manufactured in one way or another by our own government.

Think about it.

Cyberwarfare. Terrorism. Bio-chemical attacks. The nuclear arms race. Surveillance. The drug wars. Domestic extremism. The COVID-19 pandemic.

In almost every instance, the U.S. government (often spearheaded by the FBI) has in its typical Machiavellian fashion sown the seeds of terror domestically and internationally in order to expand its own totalitarian powers.

Who is the biggest black market buyer and stockpiler of cyberweapons (weaponized malware that can be used to hack into computer systems, spy on citizens, and destabilize vast computer networks)? The U.S. government.

Who is the largest weapons manufacturer and exporter in the world, such that they are literally arming the world? The U.S. government.

Which country has a history of secretly testing out dangerous weapons and technologies on its own citizens? The U.S. government.

Which country has conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins? The U.S. government.

What country has a pattern and practice of entrapment that involves targeting vulnerable individuals, feeding them with the propaganda, know-how and weapons intended to turn them into terrorists, and then arresting them as part of an elaborately orchestrated counterterrorism sting? The U.S. government.

Are you getting the picture yet?

The U.S. government isn’t protecting us from terrorism.

The U.S. government is creating the terror. It is, in fact, the source of the terror.

Consider that this very same government has taken every bit of technology sold to us as being in our best interests—GPS devices, surveillance, nonlethal weapons, etc.—and used it against us, to track, control and trap us.

So why is the government doing this? Money, power and total domination.

We’re not dealing with a government that exists to serve its people, protect their liberties and ensure their happiness. Rather, these are the diabolical machinations of a make-works program carried out on an epic scale whose only purpose is to keep the powers-that-be permanently (and profitably) employed.

Case in point: the FBI.

The government’s henchmen have become the embodiment of how power, once acquired, can be so easily corrupted and abused. Indeed, far from being tough on crime, FBI agents are also among the nation’s most notorious lawbreakers.

Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government, or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work.

For example, this is the agency that used an undercover agent/informant to seek out and groom an impressionable young man, cultivating his friendship, gaining his sympathy, stoking his outrage over the injustices perpetrated by the U.S. government, then enlisting his help to blow up the Herald Square subway station. Despite the fact that Shahawar Matin Siraj ultimately refused to plant a bomb at the train station, he was arrested for conspiring to do so at the urging of his FBI informant and used to bolster the government’s track record in foiling terrorist plots. Of course, no mention was made of the part the government played in fabricating the plot, recruiting a would-be bomber, and setting him up to take the fall.

This is the government’s answer to precrime: first, foster activism by stoking feelings of outrage and injustice by way of secret agents and informants; second, recruit activists to carry out a plot (secretly concocted by the government) to challenge what they see as government corruption; and finally, arrest those activists for conspiring against the government before they can actually commit a crime.

It’s a diabolical plot with far-reaching consequences for every segment of the population, no matter what one’s political leanings.

As Rozina Ali writes for The New York Times Magazine, “The government’s approach to counterterrorism erodes constitutional protections for everyone, by blurring the lines between speech and action and by broadening the scope of who is classified as a threat.”

This is not an agency that appears to understand, let alone respect, the limits of the Constitution.

Just recently, it was revealed that the FBI has been secretly carrying out an entrapment scheme in which it used a front company, ANOM, to sell purportedly hack-proof phones to organized crime syndicates and then used those phones to spy on them as they planned illegal drug shipments, plotted robberies and put out contracts for killings using those boobytrapped phones.

All told, the FBI intercepted 27 million messages over the course of 18 months.

What this means is that the FBI was also illegally spying on individuals using those encrypted phones who may not have been involved in any criminal activity whatsoever.

Even reading a newspaper article is now enough to get you flagged for surveillance by the FBI. The agency served a subpoena on USA Today / Gannett to provide the internet addresses and mobile phone information for everyone who read a news story online on a particular day and time about the deadly shooting of FBI agents.

This is the danger of allowing the government to carry out widespread surveillance, sting and entrapment operations using dubious tactics that sidestep the rule of law: “we the people” become suspects and potential criminals, while government agents, empowered to fight crime using all means at their disposal, become indistinguishable from the corrupt forces they seek to vanquish.  

To go after terrorists, they become terrorists. To go after drug smugglers, they become drug smugglers. To go after thieves, they become thieves.

For instance, when the FBI raided a California business that was suspected of letting drug dealers anonymously stash guns, drugs and cash in its private vaults, agents seized the contents of all the  safety deposit boxes and filed forfeiture motions to keep the contents, which include millions of dollars’ worth of valuables owned by individuals not accused of any crime whatsoever.

It’s hard to say whether we’re dealing with a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens), or if we’ve gone straight to an idiocracy.  

This certainly isn’t a constitutional democracy, however.

Some days, it feels like the FBI is running its own crime syndicate complete with mob rule and mafia-style justice.

In addition to creating certain crimes in order to then “solve” them, the FBI also gives certain informants permission to break the law, “including everything from buying and selling illegal drugs to bribing government officials and plotting robberies,” in exchange for their cooperation on other fronts.

USA Today estimates that agents have authorized criminals to engage in as many as 15 crimes a day (5600 crimes a year). Some of these informants are getting paid astronomical sums: one particularly unsavory fellow, later arrested for attempting to run over a police officer, was actually paid $85,000 for his help laying the trap for an entrapment scheme.

In a stunning development reported by The Washington Post, a probe into misconduct by an FBI agent resulted in the release of at least a dozen convicted drug dealers from prison.

In addition to procedural misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, the FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, and harassment.

For example, the Associated Press lodged a complaint with the Dept. of Justice after learning that FBI agents created a fake AP news story and emailed it, along with a clickable link, to a bomb threat suspect in order to implant tracking technology onto his computer and identify his location. Lambasting the agency, AP attorney Karen Kaiser railed, “The FBI may have intended this false story as a trap for only one person. However, the individual could easily have reposted this story to social networks, distributing to thousands of people, under our name, what was essentially a piece of government disinformation.”

Then again, to those familiar with COINTELPRO, an FBI program created to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralize” groups and individuals the government considers politically objectionable, it should come as no surprise that the agency has mastered the art of government disinformation.

The FBI has been particularly criticized in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for targeting vulnerable individuals and not only luring them into fake terror plots but actually equipping them with the organization, money, weapons and motivation to carry out the plots—entrapment—and then jailing them for their so-called terrorist plotting. This is what the FBI characterizes as “forward leaning—preventative—prosecutions.”

Another fallout from 9/11, National Security Letters, one of the many illicit powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, allows the FBI to secretly demand that banks, phone companies, and other businesses provide them with customer information and not disclose the demands. An internal audit of the agency found that the FBI practice of issuing tens of thousands of NSLs every year for sensitive information such as phone and financial records, often in non-emergency cases, is riddled with widespread violations.

The FBI’s surveillance capabilities, on a par with the National Security Agency, boast a nasty collection of spy tools ranging from Stingray devices that can track the location of cell phones to Triggerfish devices which allow agents to eavesdrop on phone calls. 

In one case, the FBI actually managed to remotely reprogram a “suspect’s” wireless internet card so that it would send “real-time cell-site location data to Verizon, which forwarded the data to the FBI.”

The FBI has also repeatedly sought to expand its invasive hacking powers to allow agents to hack into any computer, anywhere in the world.

Indeed, for years now, the U.S. government has been creating what one intelligence insider referred to as a cyber-army capable of offensive attacks. As Reuters reported back in 2013:

Even as the U.S. government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers. The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community that Washington is in effect encouraging hacking and failing to disclose to software companies and customers the vulnerabilities exploited by the purchased hacks. That’s because U.S. intelligence and military agencies aren’t buying the tools primarily to fend off attacks. Rather, they are using the tools to infiltrate computer networks overseas, leaving behind spy programs and cyber-weapons that can disrupt data or damage systems.

As part of this cyberweapons programs, government agencies such as the NSA have been stockpiling all kinds of nasty malware, viruses and hacking tools that can “steal financial account passwords, turn an iPhone into a listening device, or, in the case of Stuxnet, sabotage a nuclear facility.”

In fact, the NSA was responsible for the threat posed by the “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor” malware worm which—as a result of hackers accessing the government’s arsenal—hijacked more than 57,000 computers and crippled health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities in more than 70 countries.

Mind you, the government was repeatedly warned about the dangers of using criminal tactics to wage its own cyberwars. It was warned about the consequences of blowback should its cyberweapons get into the wrong hands.

The government chose to ignore the warnings.

That’s exactly how the 9/11 attacks unfolded.

First, the government helped to create the menace that was al-Qaida and then, when bin Laden had left the nation reeling in shock (despite countless warnings that fell on tone-deaf ears), it demanded—and was given—immense new powers in the form of the USA Patriot Act in order to fight the very danger it had created.

This has become the shadow government’s modus operandi regardless of which party controls the White House: the government creates a menace—knowing full well the ramifications such a danger might pose to the public—then without ever owning up to the part it played in unleashing that particular menace on an unsuspecting populace, it demands additional powers in order to protect “we the people” from the threat.

Yet the powers-that-be don’t really want us to feel safe.

They want us cowering and afraid and willing to relinquish every last one of our freedoms in exchange for their phantom promises of security.

As a result, it’s the American people who pay the price for the government’s insatiable greed and quest for power.

We’re the ones to suffer the blowback.

Blowback is a term originating from within the American Intelligence community, denoting the unintended consequences, unwanted side-effects, or suffered repercussions of a covert operation that fall back on those responsible for the aforementioned operations.

As historian Chalmers Johnson explains, “blowback is another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows.”

Unfortunately, “we the people” are the ones who keep reaping what the government sows.

We’re the ones who suffer every time, directly and indirectly, from the blowback.

Suffice it to say that when and if a true history of the FBI is ever written, it will not only track the rise of the American police state but it will also chart the decline of freedom in America: how a nation that once abided by the rule of law and held the government accountable for its actions has steadily devolved into a police state where justice is one-sided, a corporate elite runs the show, representative government is a mockery, police are extensions of the military, surveillance is rampant, privacy is extinct, and the law is little more than a tool for the government to browbeat the people into compliance.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

We can persuade ourselves that life is still good, that America is still beautiful, and that “we the people” are still free. However, as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick warned, “Don’t believe what you see; it’s an enthralling—[and] destructive, evil snare. Under it is a totally different world, even placed differently along the linear axis.”

In other words, as I point out Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all is not as it seems.

The powers-that-be are not acting in our best interests.

“We the people” are not free.

The government is not our friend.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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.

Who’s peering through your digital data?

“Americans deserve the freedom to choose a life without surveillance and the government regulation that would make that possible. While we continue to believe the sentiment, we fear it may soon be obsolete or irrelevant. We deserve that freedom, but the window to achieve it narrows a little more each day. If we don’t act now, with great urgency, it may very well close for good.”—Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times

Databit by databit, we are building our own electronic concentration camps.

With every new smart piece of smart technology we acquire, every new app we download, every new photo or post we share online, we are making it that much easier for the government and its corporate partners to identify, track and eventually round us up.

Saint or sinner, it doesn’t matter because we’re all being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals.

This is what it means to live in a suspect society.

The government’s efforts to round up those who took part in the Capitol riots shows exactly how vulnerable we all are to the menace of a surveillance state that aspires to a God-like awareness of our lives.

Relying on selfies, social media posts, location data, geotagged photos, facial recognition, surveillance cameras and crowdsourcing, government agents are compiling a massive data trove on anyone and everyone who may have been anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The amount of digital information is staggering: 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage; 1,600 electronic devices; 270,000 digital media tips; at least 140,000 photos and videos; and about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones.

And that’s just what we know.

More than 300 individuals from 40 states have already been charged and another 280 arrested in connection with the events of January 6. As many as 500 others are still being hunted by government agents.

Also included in this data roundup are individuals who may have had nothing to do with the riots but whose cell phone location data identified them as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Forget about being innocent until proven guilty.

In a suspect society such as ours, the burden of proof has been flipped: now, you start off guilty and have to prove your innocence.

For instance, you didn’t even have to be involved in the Capitol riots to qualify for a visit from the FBI: investigators have reportedly been tracking—and questioning—anyone whose cell phones connected to wi-fi or pinged cell phone towers near the Capitol. One man, who had gone out for a walk with his daughters only to end up stranded near the Capitol crowds, actually had FBI agents show up at his door days later. Using Google Maps, agents were able to pinpoint exactly where they were standing and for how long.

All of the many creepy, calculating, invasive investigative and surveillance tools the government has acquired over the years are on full display right now in the FBI’s ongoing efforts to bring the rioters to “justice.”

FBI agents are matching photos with drivers’ license pictures; tracking movements by way of license plate toll readers; and zooming in on physical identifying marks such as moles, scars and tattoos, as well as brands, logos and symbols on clothing and backpacks. They’re poring over hours of security and body camera footage; scouring social media posts; triangulating data from cellphone towers and WiFi signals; layering facial recognition software on top of that; and then cross-referencing footage with public social media posts.

It’s not just the FBI on the hunt, however.

They’ve enlisted the help of volunteer posses of private citizens, such as Deep State Dogs, to collaborate on the grunt work. As Dinah Voyles Pulver reports, once Deep State Dogs locates a person and confirms their identity, they put a package together with the person’s name, address, phone number and several images and send it to the FBI.

According to USA Todaythe FBI is relying on the American public and volunteer cybersleuths to help bolster its cases.

This takes See Something, Say Something snitching programs to a whole new level.

The lesson to be learned: Big Brother, Big Sister and all of their friends are watching you.

They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Simply liking or sharing this article on Facebook, retweeting it on Twitter, or merely reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties might be enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person with particular kinds of interests that reflect a particular kind of mindset that might just lead you to engage in a particular kinds of activities and, therefore, puts you in the crosshairs of a government investigation as a potential troublemaker a.k.a. domestic extremist.

Chances are, as the Washington Post reports, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’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.

In other words, you might already 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 police state’s dictates.

The government has the know-how.

It took days, if not hours or minutes, for the FBI to begin the process of identifying, tracking and rounding up those suspected of being part of the Capitol riots.

Imagine how quickly government agents could target and round up any segment of society they wanted to based on the digital trails and digital footprints we leave behind.

Of course, the government has been hard at work for years acquiring these totalitarian powers.

Long before the January 6 riots, the FBI was busily amassing the surveillance tools necessary to monitor social media posts, track and identify individuals using cell phone signals and facial recognition technology, and round up “suspects” who may be of interest to the government for one reason or another.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

All it needs is the data, which more than 90% of young adults and 65% of American adults are happy to provide.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

As for the Fourth Amendment and its prohibitions on warrantless searches and invasions of privacy without probable cause, those safeguards have been rendered all but useless by legislative end-runs, judicial justifications, and corporate collusions.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, social media posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. Moreover, these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

State and federal law enforcement agencies are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. Another technology being developed, dubbed a “textalyzer” device, would allow police to determine whether someone was driving while distracted. Refusing to submit one’s phone to testing could result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty, invasive surprises.

Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras—made possible by funding from the Department of Justice—turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The “internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allowing users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party, e.g., the government.

Then again, the government doesn’t really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, are the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. In fact, drones can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

All of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence, especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

These digital trails are everywhere.

As investigative journalists Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson explain, “This data—collected by smartphone apps and then fed into a dizzyingly complex digital advertising ecosystem … provided an intimate record of people whether they were visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics or places of worship.

In such a surveillance ecosystem, we’re all suspects and databits to be tracked, catalogued and targeted.

As Warzel and Thompson warn:

“To think that the information will be used against individuals only if they’ve broken the law is naïve; such data is collected and remains vulnerable to use and abuse whether people gather in support of an insurrection or they justly protest police violence… This collection will only grow more sophisticated… It gets easier by the day… it does not discriminate. It harvests from the phones of MAGA rioters, police officers, lawmakers and passers-by. There is no evidence, from the past or current day, that the power this data collection offers will be used only to good ends. There is no evidence that if we allow it to continue to happen, the country will be safer or fairer.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

There is no gray area any longer.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@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.

How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and … forcibly enter?”—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter in Kentucky v. King

Americans are not safe in their homes.

Not anymore, at least.

This present menace comes from the government and its army of bureaucratized, corporatized, militarized mercenaries who are waging war on the last stronghold left to us as a free people: the sanctity of our homes.

The weapons of this particular war on our personal security and our freedoms include an abundance of laws that criminalize almost everything we do, a government that views our private property as its own, militarized police who have been brainwashed into believing that they operate above the law, courts that insulate police from charges of wrongdoing, legislatures that legitimize the government’s usurpations of our rights, and a populace that is so ignorant of their rights and distracted by partisan politics as to be utterly incapable of standing up to the government’s overreaches, incursions and power grabs.

This is how far the mighty have fallen.

Government agents—with or without a warrant, with or without probable cause that criminal activity is afoot, and with or without the consent of the homeowner—are now justified in mounting home invasions in order to pursue traffic violators, seize lawfully-owned weapons, carry out knock-and-talk “chats” with homeowners in the dead of night, “prevent” individuals from harming themselves, provide emergency aid, intervene in the face of imminent danger, serve as community caretakers, chase down individuals suspected of committing misdemeanor crimes, and anything else they can get away with.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways the government and its corporate partners-in-crime may be using surveillance technology—with or without the blessing of the courts—to invade one’s home: with wiretaps, thermal imaging, surveillance cameras, and other monitoring devices.

However, while the courts and legislatures have yet to fully address the implications of such virtual intrusions on our Fourth Amendment, there is no mistaking the physical intrusions by police into the privacy of one’s home: the toehold entry, the battering ram, the SWAT raid, the knock-and-talk conversation, etc.

Whether such intrusions, warranted or otherwise, are unconstitutional continues to be litigated, legislated and debated.

The spirit of the Constitution, drafted by men who chafed against the heavy-handed tyranny of an imperial ruler, would suggest that one’s home is a fortress, safe from almost every kind of intrusion. Unfortunately, a collective assault by the government’s cabal of legislators, litigators, judges and militarized police has all but succeeded in reducing that fortress—and the Fourth Amendment alongside it—to a crumbling pile of rubble.

Two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, Caniglia v. Strom and Lange v. California, are particularly noteworthy.

In Caniglia v. Strompolice want to be able to carry out warrantless home invasions in order to seize lawfully-owned guns under the pretext of their so-called “community caretaking” duties. Under the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment, police can conduct warrantless searches of vehicles relating to accident investigations and provide aid to “citizens who are ill or in distress.”

At a time when red flag gun laws are gaining traction as a legislative means by which to allow police to remove guns from people suspected of being threats, it wouldn’t take much to expand the Fourth Amendment’s “community caretaking” exception to allow police to enter a home without a warrant and seize lawfully-possessed firearms based on concerns that the guns might pose a danger.

What we do not need is yet another pretext by which government officials can violate the Fourth Amendment at will under the pretext of public health and safety.

In Lange v. Californiapolice want to be able to enter homes without warrants as long as they can claim to be in pursuit of someone they suspect may have committed a crime. Yet as Justice Neil Gorsuch points out, in an age in which everything has been criminalized, that leaves the door wide open for police to enter one’s home in pursuit of any and all misdemeanor crimes.

At issue in Lange is whether police can justify entering homes without a warrant under the “hot pursuit” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

The case arose after a California cop followed a driver, Arthur Lange, who was honking his horn while listening to music. The officer followed Lange, supposedly to cite him for violating a local noise ordinance, but didn’t actually activate the police cruiser’s emergency lights until Lange had already arrived home and entered his garage. Sticking his foot under the garage door just as it was about to close, the cop confronted Lange, smelled alcohol on his breath, ordered him to take a sobriety test, and then charged him with a DUI and a noise infraction.

Lange is just chock full of troubling indicators of a greater tyranny at work.

Overcriminalization: That you can now get pulled over and cited for honking your horn while driving and listening to music illustrates just how uptight and over-regulated life in the American police state has become.

Make-work policing: At a time when crime remains at an all-time low, it’s telling that a police officer has nothing better to do than follow a driver seemingly guilty of nothing more than enjoying loud music.

Warrantless entry: That foot in the door is a tactic that, while technically illegal, is used frequently by police attempting to finagle their way into a home and sidestep the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.

The definition of reasonable: Although the Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless and unreasonable searches and seizures of “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” where we run into real trouble is when the government starts dancing around what constitutes a “reasonable” search. Of course, that all depends on who gets to decide what is reasonable. There’s even a balancing test that weighs the intrusion on a person’s right to privacy against the government’s interests, which include public safety.

Too often, the scales weigh in the government’s favor.

End runs around the law: The courts, seemingly more concerned with marching in lockstep with the police state than upholding the rights of the people, have provided police with a long list of exceptions that have gutted the Fourth Amendment’s once-robust privacy protections.

Exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement allow the police to carry out warrantless searches: if someone agrees to the search; in order to ferret out weapons or evidence during the course of an arrest; if police think someone is acting suspiciously and may be armed; during a brief investigatory stop; if a cop sees something connected to a crime in plain view; if police are in hot pursuit of a suspect who flees into a building; if they believe a vehicle has contraband; in an emergency where there may not be time to procure a warrant; and at national borders and in airports.

In other words, almost anything goes when it comes to all the ways in which the government can now invade your home and lay siege to your property.

Thus we tumble down that slippery slope which might have started out with a genuine concern for public safety and the well-being of the citizenry only to end up as a self-serving expansion of the government’s powers that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment while utterly disregarding the rights of “we the people.”

Frankly, it’s a wonder we have any property interests, let alone property rights, left to protect.

Think about it.

That house you live in, the car you drive, the small (or not so small) acreage of land that has been passed down through your family or that you scrimped and saved to acquire, whatever money you manage to keep in your bank account after the government and its cronies have taken their first and second and third cut…none of it is safe from the government’s greedy grasp.

At no point do you ever have any real ownership in anything other than the clothes on your back.

Everything else can be seized by the government under one pretext or another (civil asset forfeiture, unpaid taxes, eminent domain, public interest, etc.).

The American Dream has been reduced to a lease arrangement in which we are granted the privilege of endlessly paying out the nose for assets that are only ours so long as it suits the government’s purposes.

And when it doesn’t suit the government’s purposes? Watch out.

This is not a government that respects the rights of its citizenry or the law. Rather, this is a government that sells its citizens to the highest bidder and speaks to them in a language of force.

Under such a fascist regime, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which declares that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation,” has become yet another broken shield, incapable of rendering any protection against corporate greed while allowing the government to justify all manner of “takings” in the name of the public good.

What we are grappling with is a government that has forfeited its purpose for existing.

Philosophers dating back to John Locke have long asserted that the true purpose of government is to protect our rights, not just our collective rights as a people, but our individual rights, specifically our rights to life, liberty and property. As James Madison concluded in the Federalist Papers, “Government is instituted no less for the protection of the property than of the persons of individuals.”

What we have been saddled with is a government that has not only lost sight of its primary reason for being—to protect the people’s rights—but has also re-written the script and cast itself as an imperial overlord with all of the neo-feudal authority such a position entails.

Let me put it another way.

If the government can tell you what you can and cannot do within the privacy of your home, whether it relates to what you eat, what you smoke or whom you love, you no longer have any rights whatsoever within your home.

If government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, gathering with friends to worship in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

If school officials can punish your children for what they do or say while at home or in your care, your children are not your own—they are the property of the state.

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.

If police can forcefully draw your blood, strip search you, probe you intimately, or force you to submit to vaccinations or lose your so-called “privileges” to move about and interact freely with your fellow citizens, your body is no longer your own—it is the government’s to do with as it deems best.

Likewise, if the government can lockdown whole communities and by extension the nation, quarantine whole segments of the population, outlaw religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, and “stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease,” then you no longer have a property interest as master of your own life, either.

This is what a world without the Fourth Amendment looks like, where the lines between private and public property have been so blurred that private property is reduced to little more than something the government can use to control, manipulate and harass you to suit its own purposes, and you the homeowner and citizen have been reduced to little more than a tenant or serf in bondage to an inflexible landlord.

If we continue down this road, the analogy shifts from property owners to prisoners in a government-run prison with local and federal police acting as prison guards. In such an environment, you have no rights.

So what can we do, short of scrapping this whole experiment in self-government and starting over?

At a minimum, we need to rebuild the foundations of our freedoms.

What this will mean is adopting an apolitical, nonpartisan, zero tolerance attitude towards the government when it oversteps its bounds and infringes on our rights.

We need courts that prioritize the rights of the citizenry over the government’s insatiable hunger for power at all costs.

We need people in the government—representatives, bureaucrats, etc.—who honor the public service oath to uphold and defend the Constitution.

Most of all, we need to reclaim control over our runaway government and restore our freedoms.

After all, we are the government. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, “we the people” are supposed to be the ones calling the shots. As John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, rightly observed: “No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.”

Source: https://bit.ly/384IzIp

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

“What’s been most striking to me is just how one-sided the rules are when Americans take on their own government…. It has been dismaying to learn the extent to which rules and laws shield the government from accountability for its abuses—or even lawbreaking…. It’s been a long and frightening lesson…. The rules seem rigged to protect government lawlessness, and the playing field is uneven. Too many processes favor the government. The deck is still stacked.” —  Journalist Sharyl Attkisson

The system is rigged.

The system is rigged, the government is corrupt, and “we the people” continue to waste our strength by fighting each other rather than standing against the tyrant in our midst.

Because the system is rigged, because the government is corrupt, and because “we the people” remain polarized and divided, the police state will keep winning and “we the people” will keep losing.

Because the system is rigged and the U.S. Supreme Court—the so-called “people’s court”—has exchanged its appointed role as a gatekeeper of justice for its new role as maintainer of the status quo, there will be little if no consequences for the cops who brutalize and no justice for the victims of police brutality.

Because the system is rigged, there will be no consequences for police who destroyed a private home by bombarding it with tear gas grenades during a SWAT team raid gone awry, or for the cop who mistakenly shot a 10-year-old boy after aiming for and missing the non-threatening family dog, or for the arresting officer who sicced a police dog on a suspect who had already surrendered.

This is how unarmed Americans keep dying at the hands of militarized police.

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

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

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

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

Do you know how many different ways a cop can kill, maim, torture and abuse someone without being held liable?

The cops know: in large part due to training classes that drill them on the art of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from being bullied, badgered, beaten, broken and spied on by government agents.

This is how “we the people” keep losing.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Harlow v. Fitzgerald (1982) that suing government officials for monetary damages is “the only realistic avenue” of holding them accountable for abusing their offices and violating the Constitution, it has ostensibly given the police and other government agents a green light to shoot first and ask questions later, as well as to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.

Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

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

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

Unfortunately, we’ve been traveling this dangerous road for a long time now.

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

Indeed, as Reuters reports, qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights.” Worse, as Reuters concluded, “the Supreme Court has built qualified immunity into an often insurmountable police defense by intervening in cases mostly to favor the police.”

The system is rigged.

Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless searches. In Anderson v. Creighton, the Supreme Court ruled that FBI and state law enforcement agents were entitled to qualified immunity protections after they were sued for raiding a private home without a warrant and holding family members at gunpoint, all in a search for a suspected bank robber who was not in the house.

Police can claim qualified immunity for warrantless arrests based on mere suspicion. In Hunter v. Bryant, the Court ruled that police acted reasonably in arresting James Bryant without a warrant in order to protect the president. Bryant had allegedly written a letter that referenced a third-party plot to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, but police had no proof that he intended to harm Reagan beyond a mere suspicion. The charges against Bryant were eventually dropped.

Police can claim qualified immunity for using excessive force against protesters. In Saucier v. Katz, the Court ruled in favor of federal law enforcement agents who forcefully tackled a protester as he attempted to unfurl a banner at Vice President Gore’s political rally. The Court reasoned that the officers acted reasonably given the urgency of protecting the vice president.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back. In Brosseau v. Haugen, the Court dismissed a lawsuit against a police officer who shot Kenneth Haugen in the back as he entered his car in order to flee from police. The Court ruled that in light of existing case law, the cop’s conduct fell in the “hazy border between excessive and acceptable force” and so she did not violate clearly established law.

Police can claim qualified immunity for shooting a mentally impaired person. In City of San Francisco v. Sheehan, the Court ruled in favor of police who repeatedly shot Teresa Sheehan during the course of a mental health welfare check. The Court ruled that it was not unreasonable for police to pepper spray and shoot Sheehan multiple times after entering her room without a warrant and encountering her holding a knife.

Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.

Police can stop, arrest and search citizens without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. In a 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gave police the go-ahead to embark on a fishing expedition of one’s person and property, rendering Americans completely vulnerable to the whims of any cop on the beat.

Police officers can stop cars based on “anonymous” tips or for “suspicious” behavior such as having a reclined car seat or driving too carefully. In a 5-4 ruling in Navarette v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that police officers, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” can stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. Then in State v. Howard, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that motorists who recline their car seats are guilty of suspicious behavior and can be subject to warrantless searches by police. That ruling, coupled with other court rulings upholding warrantless searches and seizures by police renders one’s car a Constitution-free zone.

Americans have no protection against mandatory breathalyzer tests at a police checkpoint, although mandatory blood draws violate the Fourth Amendment (Birchfield v. North Dakota). Police can also conduct sobriety and “information-seeking” checkpoints (Illinois v. Lidster and Mich. Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz).

Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. In Maryland v. King, a divided U.S. Supreme Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious” offenses. The end result of the ruling paves the way for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.

Police can use the “fear for my life” rationale as an excuse for shooting unarmed individuals. Upon arriving on the scene of a nighttime traffic accident, an Alabama police officer shot a driver exiting his car, mistakenly believing the wallet in his hand to be a gun. A report by the Justice Department found that half of the unarmed people shot by one police department over a seven-year span were “shot because the officer saw something (like a cellphone) or some action (like a person pulling at the waist of their pants) and misidentified it as a threat.”

Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes.” In Florida v. Harris, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state, provided the use of a K-9 unit takes place within a reasonable amount of time (Rodriguez v. United States).

Not only are police largely protected by qualified immunity, but police dogs are also off the hook for wrongdoing. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer who allowed a police dog to maul a homeless man innocent of any wrongdoing.

Police can subject Americans to strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided U.S. Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington, the Court declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches—some involving anal and vaginal probes—without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.

Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King, the U.S. Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.

Police can use knock-and-talk tactics as a means of sidestepping the Fourth Amendment. Aggressive “knock and talk” practices have become thinly veiled, warrantless exercises by which citizens are coerced and intimidated into “talking” with heavily armed police who “knock” on their doors in the middle of the night. Andrew Scott didn’t even get a chance to say no to such a heavy-handed request before he was gunned down by police who pounded aggressively on the wrong door at 1:30 a.m., failed to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shot and killed the man when he answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

Police can carry out no-knock raids if they believe announcing themselves would be dangerous. Police can perform a “no-knock” raid as long as they have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile or give occupants a chance to destroy evidence of a crime (Richards v. Wisconsin). Legal ownership of a firearm is also enough to justify a no-knock raid by police (Quinn v. Texas). For instance, a Texas man had his home subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household. The homeowner was actually shot by police through his closed bedroom door.

Police can recklessly open fire on anyone that might be “armed.” Philando Castile was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop allegedly over a broken tail light merely for telling police he had a conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times in the presence of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. A unanimous Supreme Court declared in County of Los Angeles vs. Mendez that police should not be held liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a shack where a homeless couple had been sleeping because the grabbed his BB gun in defense, fearing they were being attacked.

Police can destroy a home during a SWAT raid, even if the owner gives their consent to enter and search it. In West v. Winfield, the Supreme Court provided cover to police after they smashed the windows of Shaniz West’s home, punched holes in her walls and ceilings, and bombed the house with so much tear gas that it was uninhabitable for two months. All of this despite the fact that the suspect they were pursuing was not in the house and West, the homeowner, agreed to allow police to search the home to confirm that.

Police can suffocate someone, deliberately or inadvertently, in the process of subduing them. “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry following the deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd, both of whom died after being placed in a chokehold by police. Dozens more have died in similar circumstances at the hands of police who have faced little repercussions for these deaths.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are dealing with a nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat.

So what’s the answer to reforming a system that is clearly self-serving and corrupt?

Abolishing the police is not the answer: that will inevitably lead to outright anarchy, which will give the police state and those law-and-order zealots all the incentive it needs to declare martial law.

Looting and violence are not the answer: As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, “A riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt.” Using the looting and riots as justification for supporting police brutality is also not the answer:  As King recognized, “It is not enough … to condemn riots… without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

Police reform is necessary and unavoidable if we are to have any hope of living in an America in which freedom means something more than the right to stay alive, but how we reform the system is just as important as getting it done.

We don’t need to wait for nine members of a ruling aristocracy who primarily come from privileged backgrounds and who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo to fix what’s broken in America.

Nor do we need to wait for 535 highly paid politicians to do something about these injustices only when it suits their political ambitions

And we certainly don’t need to wait for a president with a taste for totalitarian tactics to throw a few crumbs our way.

This is as much a local problem as it is a national one.

Be fair. Be nonviolent. Be relentless in your pursuit of justice for all.

Let’s get it done.

Source: https://bit.ly/2YJrle3

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

 

“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.”—Steve Silberman, The New York Times

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

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

Particularly if you value that person’s life.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people are being 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.

Unfortunately, police—trained in the worst case scenario and thus ready to shoot first and ask questions later—increasingly pose a risk to anyone undergoing a mental health crisis or with special needs whose disabilities may not be immediately apparent or require more finesse than the typical freeze-or-I’ll-shoot tactics employed by America’s police forces.

Just recently, in fact, 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 empower the police to act as judge, jury and executioner.

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 latest 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.

Indeed, disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers.

That’s according to a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation,  which 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 CIT (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.”

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—is to make encounters with police safer for all individuals all across the board.

Source: https://bit.ly/2mndta1

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

 

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

Despite the finger-pointing and outcries of dismay from those who are watching the government discard the rule of law at every turn, the question is not whether Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler but whether the American Police State is the new Third Reich.

For those who can view the present and past political landscape without partisan blinders, the warning signs are unmistakable: the Deep State’s love affair with totalitarianism began long ago.

Indeed, the U.S. government so admired the Nazi regime that following the second World War, it secretly recruited Hitler’s employees, adopted his protocols, embraced his mindset about law and order, implemented his tactics in incremental steps, and began to lay the foundations for the rise of the Fourth Reich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, the FBI employs more than 35,000 individuals and operates more than 56 field offices in major cities across the U.S., as well as 400 resident agencies in smaller towns, and more than 50 international offices. In addition to their “data campus,” which houses more than 96 million sets of fingerprints from across the United States and elsewhere, the FBI has also built a vast repository of “profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor.” The FBI’s burgeoning databases on Americans are not only being added to and used by local police agencies, but are also being made available to employers for real-time background checks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had the government tried to ram such a state of affairs down our throats suddenly, it might have had a rebellion on its hands.

Instead, the American people have been given the boiling frog treatment, immersed in water that slowly is heated up—degree by degree—so that they’ve fail to notice that they’re being trapped and cooked and killed.

“We the people” are in hot water now.

The Constitution doesn’t stand a chance against a federalized, globalized standing army of government henchmen protected by legislative, judicial and executive branches that are all on the same side, no matter what political views they subscribe to: suffice it to say, they are not on our side or the side of freedom.

From Clinton to Bush, then Obama and now Trump, it’s as if we’ve been caught in a time loop, forced to re-live the same thing over and over again: the same assaults on our freedoms, the same disregard for the rule of law, the same subservience to the Deep State, and the same corrupt, self-serving government that exists only to amass power, enrich its shareholders and ensure its continued domination.

Can the Fourth Reich happen here?

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

Source: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_rise_of_the_american_gestapo_has_it_already_happened_here

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

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