Posts Tagged ‘police state’

How do you trust a government that continuously sidesteps the Constitution and undermines our rights? You can’t.

When you consider all the ways “we the people” are being bullied, beaten, bamboozled, targeted, tracked, repressed, robbed, impoverished, imprisoned and killed by the government, one can only conclude that you shouldn’t trust the government with your privacy, your property, your life, or your freedoms.

Consider for yourself.

Don’t trust the government with your privacy, digital or otherwise. In the two decades since 9/11, the military-security industrial complex has operated under a permanent state of emergency that, in turn, has given rise to a digital prison that grows more confining and inescapable by the day. Wall-to wall surveillance, monitored by AI software and fed to a growing network of fusion centers, render the twin concepts of privacy and anonymity almost void. By conspiring with corporations, the Department of Homeland Security “fueled a massive influx of money into surveillance and policing in our cities, under a banner of emergency response and counterterrorism.” For instance, all across the country, police are installing Flock Safety license plate readers as part of a public-private partnership program between police and the surveillance industry. These cameras, which upload data in real time to fusion crime centers, signal a turning point in the transition from a police state to a police-driven surveillance state.

Don’t trust the government with your property. In yet another effort to legitimize warrantless searches, police are employing “hit-and-hold” tactics in which police enter a home, carry out an initial sweep of the property, handcuff the occupants, then wait for official search warrants to be secured and applied retroactively. In the meantime, police have managed to bypass the Fourth Amendment. The rationale, to prevent possible destruction of evidence, is the same one used to deadly effect with no-knock raids. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Hard-working Americans are having their bank accounts, homes, cars electronics and cash seized by police under the assumption that they have allegedly been associated with some criminal scheme.

Don’t trust the government with your finances. The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are being forced to foot the bill for the government’s fiscal insanity. The national debt is $31.3 trillion and growing, and we’re paying more than $300 billion in interest every year on that public debt, yet there seems to be no end in sight when it comes to the government’s fiscal insanity. According to Forbes, Congress has raised, extended or revised the definition of the debt limit 78 times since 1960 in order to allow the government to essentially fund its existence with a credit card.

Don’t trust the government with your health. For all intents and purposes, “we the people” have become lab rats in the government’s secret experiments, which include MKULTRA and the U.S. military’s secret race-based testing of mustard gas on more than 60,000 enlisted men. Indeed, you don’t have to dig very deep or go very back in the nation’s history to uncover numerous cases in which the government deliberately 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. Unfortunately, the public has become so easily distracted by the political spectacle out of Washington, DC, that they are altogether oblivious to the grisly experiments, barbaric behavior and inhumane conditions that have become synonymous with the U.S. government, which has meted out untold horrors against humans and animals alike.

Don’t trust the government with your life: At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences. The number of Americans killed by police continues to grow, with the majority of those killed as a result of police encounters having been suspected of a non-violent offense or no crime at all, or during a traffic violation. According a report by Mapping Police Violence, police killed more people in 2022 than any other year within the past decade. In 98% of those killings, police were not charged with a crime.

Don’t trust the government with your freedoms. For years now, the government has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the American people, letting us enjoy just enough freedom to think we are free but not enough to actually allow us to live as a free people. Freedom no longer means what it once did. This holds true whether you’re talking about the right to criticize the government in word or deed, the right to be free from government surveillance, the right to not have your person or your property subjected to warrantless searches by government agents, the right to due process, the right to be safe from militarized police invading your home, the right to be innocent until proven guilty and every other right that once reinforced the founders’ belief that this would be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” On paper, we may be technically free, but in reality, we are only as free as a government official may allow.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the U.S. government is certainly not looking out for our best interests, nor is it in any way a friend to freedom.

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

Unfortunately, what we have been saddled with is, in almost every regard, the exact opposite of an institution dedicated to protecting the lives and liberties of its people.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, “we the people” should have learned early on that a government that repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, spies, kills, maims, enslaves, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority, and abuses its power at almost every turn can’t be trusted.

Source: https://bit.ly/3W36IW2

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”—Montesquieu, Enlightenment philosopher

For those wondering what to expect from the government in 2023, it looks like we’re going to be in for more of the same in terms of the government’s brand of madness, mayhem, corruption and brutality.

Digital prisons. Unceasingly, the government and its corporate partners are pushing for a national digital ID system. Local police agencies have already been given access to facial recognition software and databases containing 20 billion images, the precursor to a digital ID. Eventually, a digital ID will be required to gain access to all aspects of life: government, work, travel, healthcare, financial services, shopping, etc. Before long, biometrics (iris scans, face print, voice, DNA, etc.), will become the de facto digital ID.

Precrime. Under the pretext of helping overwhelmed government agencies work more efficiently, AI predictive and surveillance technologies are being used to classify, segregate and flag the populace with little concern for privacy rights or due process. All of this sorting, sifting and calculating is being done swiftly, secretly and incessantly with the help of AI technology and a surveillance state that monitors your every move. AI predictive tools are being deployed in almost every area of life.

Mandatory quarantines. Building on precedents established during the COVID-19 pandemic, government agents may be empowered to indefinitely detain anyone they suspect of posing a medical risk to others without providing an explanation, subject them to medical tests without their consent, and carry out such detentions and quarantines without any kind of due process or judicial review.

Mental health assessments by non-medical personnel. As a result of a nationwide push to train a broad spectrum of so-called gatekeepers in mental health first-aid training, more Americans are going to run the risk of being reported by non-medical personnel and detained for having mental health issues.

Tracking chips for citizens. Momentum is building for corporations and the government alike to be able to track the populace, whether through the use of RFID chips embedded in a national ID card, microscopic chips embedded in one’s skin, or tags in retail products.

Military involvement domestically. The future, according to a Pentagon training video, will be militaristic, dystopian and far from friendly to freedom. Indeed, all signs point to the battlefield of the future being the American home front. Anticipating this, the government plans to have the military work in conjunction with local police to quell civil unrest domestically.

Government censorship of anything it classifies as disinformation. In the government’s ongoing assault on those who criticize the government—whether that criticism manifests itself in word, deed or thought—government and corporate censors claiming to protect us from dangerous, disinformation campaigns are, in fact, laying the groundwork now to preempt any “dangerous” ideas that might challenge the power elite’s stranglehold over our lives.

Threat assessments. The government has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state. Before long, every household in America will be flagged as a threat and assigned a threat score. It’s just a matter of time before you find yourself wrongly accused, investigated and confronted by police based on a data-driven algorithm or risk assessment culled together by a computer program run by artificial intelligence.

War on cash. The government and its corporate partners are engaged in a concerted campaign to shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient. This push for a digital currency dovetails with the government’s war on cash, which it has been subtly waging for some time now. In recent years, just the mere possession of significant amounts of cash could implicate you in suspicious activity and label you a criminal.

Expansive surveillance. AI surveillance harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and widespread surveillance technology to do what the police state lacks the manpower and resources to do efficiently or effectively: be everywhere, watch everyone and everything, monitor, identify, catalogue, cross-check, cross-reference, and collude. Everything that was once private is now up for grabs to the right buyer. With every new AI surveillance technology that is adopted and deployed without any regard for privacy, Fourth Amendment rights and due process, the rights of the citizenry are being marginalized, undermined and eviscerated.

Militarized police. Having transformed local law enforcement into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are moving into the next phase of the transformation, turning the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone extraction software, Stingray devices and so much more.

Police shootings of unarmed citizens. Owing in large part to the militarization of local law enforcement agencies, not a week goes by without more reports of hair-raising incidents by police imbued with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a battlefield approach to the communities in which they serve. Police brutality and the use of excessive force continues unabated.

False flags and terrorist attacks. 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. This has become the shadow government’s modus operandi regardless of which party is in power: 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.

Endless wars to keep America’s military’s empire employed. The military and security industrial complexes that have advocated that the U.S. remain at war, year after year, are the very entities that will continue to profit the most from America’s expanding military empire abroad and here at home.

Erosions of private property. Private property means little at a time when SWAT teams and other government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, wound or kill you, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends 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.

Overcriminalization. The government has increasingly adopted the authoritarian notion that it knows best and therefore must control, regulate and dictate almost everything about the citizenry’s public, private and professional lives. Overregulation and overcriminalization have been pushed to such outrageous limits that federal and state governments now require on penalty of a fine that individuals apply for permission before they can grow exotic orchids, host elaborate dinner parties, gather friends in one’s home for Bible studies, give coffee to the homeless, let their kids manage a lemonade stand, keep chickens as pets, or braid someone’s hair.

Strip searches and the denigration of bodily integrity. Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, forcibly take our DNA, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Individuals—men and women alike—continue to be subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops.

Censorship. First Amendment activities are being pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. Free speech zones, bubble zones, trespass zones, anti-bullying legislation, zero tolerance policies, hate crime laws and a host of other legalistic maladies dreamed up by politicians and prosecutors have conspired to corrode our core freedoms. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remains the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

Taxation Without Any Real Representation. As a Princeton University survey indicates, our elected officials, especially those in the nation’s capital, represent the interests of the rich and powerful rather than the average citizen. We are no longer a representative republic. With Big Business and Big Government having fused into a corporate state, the president and his state counterparts—the governors—have become little more than CEOs of the Corporate State, which day by day is assuming more government control over our lives. Never before have average Americans had so little say in the workings of their government and even less access to their so-called representatives.

Year after year, the government remains the greatest threat to our freedoms, and yet year after year, “we the people” allow ourselves to be suckered into believing that politics will fix what’s wrong with the country.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is the very definition of insanity.

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

The danger signs were everywhere in 2022.

With every new law enacted by federal and state legislatures, every new ruling handed down by government courts, and every new military weapon, invasive tactic and egregious protocol employed by government agents, we were reminded that in the eyes of the government and its corporate accomplices, “we the people” possess no rights except for that which the Deep State grants on an as-needed basis.

Totalitarian paranoia spiked. What we have been saddled with is a government so power-hungry, paranoid and afraid of losing its stranglehold on power that it has conspired to wage war on anyone who dares to challenge its authority. In a Machiavellian attempt to expand its powers, the government unleashed all manner of dangers on an unsuspecting populace in order to justify its demands for additional powers to protect “we the people” from emerging threats, whether legitimate, manufactured or overblown.

The state of our nation suffered. The nation remained politically polarized, controlled by forces beyond the purview of the average American, and rapidly moving the nation away from its freedom foundation. The combined blowback from a contentious presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Americans being 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, and the criminalization of lawful activities.

Thought crimes became a target for punishment. For years now, the government has used all of the weapons in its vast arsenal—surveillance, threat assessments, fusion centers, pre-crime programs, hate crime laws, militarized police, lockdowns, martial law, etc.—to target potential enemies of the state based on their ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that might be deemed suspicious or dangerous. In other words, if you dare to subscribe to any views that are contrary to the government’s, you may well be suspected of being a domestic terrorist and treated accordingly. In 2022, those who criticized the government—whether that criticism manifested itself in word, deed or thought—were flagged as dangerous alongside consumers and spreaders of “mis- dis- and mal-information.”

Speech was muzzled. Those who want to monitor, muzzle, catalogue and censor speech continued to push for social media monitoring, censorship of flagged content that could be construed as dangerous or hateful, and limitations on free speech activities, particularly online. Of course, it’s a slippery slope from censoring so-called illegitimate ideas to silencing truth. Eventually, as George Orwell predicted, telling the truth will become a revolutionary act. If the government can control speech, it can control thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.

Kill switches aimed to turn off more than just your car. Vehicle “kill switches” were sold to the public as a safety measure aimed at keeping drunk drivers off the roads, but they were a perfect metaphor for the government’s efforts to not only take control of our cars but also our freedoms and our lives. For too long, we have been captive passengers in a driverless car controlled by the government, losing more and more of our privacy and autonomy the further down the road we go.

Currency went digital. No matter how much money the government pulls in, it’s never enough, so the government came up with a new plan to make it even easier for its agents to seize Americans’ bank account. In an Executive Order issued in March 2022, President Biden called for the federal government to consider establishing a form of digital money. Digital currency will provide the government and its corporate partners with a mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.

The government spoke in a language of violence. Police violence killed three people a day. Warrior cops—trained in the worst-case scenario and thus ready to shoot first and ask questions later—did not make us or themselves any safer. Despite this, President Biden’s pledged to expand law enforcement and so-called crime prevention through a $30 billion “Fund the Police” program.

Cancel culture became more intolerant. Cancel culture—political correctness amped up on steroids, the self-righteousness of a narcissistic age, and a mass-marketed pseudo-morality that is little more than fascism disguised as tolerance—shifted us into an Age of Intolerance, policed by techno-censors, social media bullies, and government watchdogs. Everything has now become fair game for censorship if it can be construed as hateful, hurtful, bigoted or offensive provided that it runs counter to the established viewpoint.

Homes were invaded. Government agents routinely violated the Fourth Amendment at will under the pretext of public health and safety. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways the government and its corporate partners-in-crime used surveillance technology to invade homes: with wiretaps, thermal imaging, surveillance cameras, and other monitoring devices.

Political theater kept the public distracted. Having devolved into a carefully calibrated exercise in how to manipulate, polarize, propagandize and control a population, the political scene provided ample diversions with its televised Jan. 6 committee hearings, the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings, and more.

Bodily integrity was undermined. Caught in the crosshairs of a showdown between the rights of the individual and the so-called “emergency” state, concerns about COVID-19 mandates and bodily integrity remained part of a much larger debate over the ongoing power struggle between the citizenry and the government over our property “interest” in our bodies. This debate over bodily integrity covered broad territory, ranging from abortion and forced vaccinations to biometric surveillance and basic healthcare. Although the Supreme Court overturned its earlier rulings recognizing abortion as a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment, it did nothing to resolve the larger problem that plagues us today: namely, that all along the spectrum of life—from the unborn child to the aged—the government continues to play fast and loose with the lives of the citizenry.

The government’s fiscal insanity reached new heights. The national debt (the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back) hit $30 trillion. That translates to roughly $242,000 per taxpayer. It’s estimated that the amount this country owes is now 130% greater than its gross domestic product (all the products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by the citizens). That debt is also growing exponentially: it is expected to be twice the size of the U.S. economy by 2051.

Surveillance got creepier. On any given day, the average American going about his daily business was monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. In such a surveillance ecosystem, we’re all suspects and databits to be tracked, catalogued and targeted. With every new AI surveillance technology that was adopted and deployed without any regard for privacy, Fourth Amendment rights and due process, the rights of the citizenry were marginalized, undermined and eviscerated.

Precrime became more fact than fiction. Under the pretext of helping overwhelmed government agencies work more efficiently, AI predictive and surveillance technologies were used to classify, segregate and flag the populace with little concern for privacy rights or due process. All of this sorting, sifting and calculating was done swiftly, secretly and incessantly with the help of AI technology and a surveillance state that monitors your every move. Where this becomes particularly dangerous is when the government takes preemptive steps to combat crime or abuse, or whatever the government has chosen to outlaw at any given time.

The government waged psychological warfare on the nation. The government made clear in word and deed that “we the people” are domestic enemies to be targeted, tracked, manipulated, micromanaged, surveilled, viewed as suspects, and treated as if our fundamental rights are mere privileges that can be easily discarded. Aided and abetted by technological advances and scientific experimentation, the government weaponized violence; surveillance, pre-crime and pre-thought campaigns; digital currencies, social media scores and censorship; desensitization campaigns; fear; genetics; and entertainment.

Gun confiscation laws put a target on the back of every American. Red flag gun laws (which authorize government officials to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others) gained traction as a legislative means by which to allow police to remove guns from people suspected of being threats. Red flag gun laws merely push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.

The burden of proof was reversed. Although the Constitution requires the government to provide solid proof of criminal activity before it can deprive a citizen of life or liberty, the government turned that fundamental assurance of due process on its head. Each and every one of us is now seen as a potential suspect, terrorist and lawbreaker in the eyes of the government. The groundwork has been laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation, or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the government—or whoever happens to be calling the shots at the time—thinks. And if the powers-that-be think you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides.

The Supreme Court turned America into a Constitution-free zone. Although the Court’s rulings on qualified immunity for police who engage in official misconduct were largely overshadowed by its politically polarizing rulings on abortion, gun ownership and religion, they were no less devastating. The bottom line: there will be no consequences for cops who brutalize the citizenry and no justice for the victims of police brutality.

The FBI went rogue. The FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people ran the gamut from surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, and intimidation tactics to harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, and that’s just based on what we know.

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

The military industrial complex waged more wars. America’s part in the showdown between Russia and the Ukraine conveniently followed on the heels of a long line of other crises which have occurred like clockwork in order to keep Americans distracted, deluded, amused, and insulated from the government’s steady encroachments on our freedoms.

The Deep State went global. We’ve been inching closer to a new world order for the past several decades, but COVID-19, which saw governmental and corporate interests become even more closely intertwined, shifted this transformation into high gear. This new world order—a global world order—made up of international government agencies and corporations owes its existence in large part to the U.S. government’s deep-seated and, in many cases, top-secret alliances with foreign nations and global corporations. This powerful international cabal, let’s call it the Global Deep State, is just as real as the corporatized, militarized, industrialized American Deep State, and it poses just as great a threat to our rights as individuals under the U.S. Constitution, if not greater.

Authoritarian madness escalated. You didn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or even anti-government to recognize the slippery slope that starts with well-meaning intentions for the greater good and ends with tyrannical abuses no one should tolerate. When any government is empowered to adopt a comply-or-suffer-the-consequences mindset that is enforced through mandates, lockdowns, penalties, detention centers, martial law, and an utter disregard for the rights of the individual, there should be reason for concern.

The takeaway: the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, if there is any means left to us for thwarting the government in its relentless march towards outright dictatorship, it rests—as it always has—at the local level, with “we the people.”

Unless we work together to push back against the government’s overreach, excesses and abuse, 2023 will be yet another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for freedom.

Source: https://bit.ly/3jrcC5D

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.”—Howard Thurman, theologian and civil rights activist

The Christmas story of a baby born in a manger is a familiar one.

The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable (a barn), where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. Warned that the government planned to kill the baby, Jesus’ family fled with him to Egypt until it was safe to return to their native land.

Yet what if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later.

What if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, Jesus had been born at this moment in time? What kind of reception would Jesus and his family be given? Would we recognize the Christ child’s humanity, let alone his divinity? Would we treat him any differently than he was treated by the Roman Empire? If his family were forced to flee violence in their native country and sought refuge and asylum within our borders, what sanctuary would we offer them?A singular number of churches across the country have asked those very questions in recent years, and their conclusions were depicted with unnerving accuracy by nativity scenes in which Jesus and his family are separated, segregated and caged in individual chain-link pens, topped by barbed wire fencing.

Those nativity scenes were a pointed attempt to remind the modern world that the narrative about the birth of Jesus is one that speaks on multiple fronts to a world that has allowed the life, teachings and crucifixion of Jesus to be drowned out by partisan politics, secularism, materialism and war, all driven by a manipulative shadow government called the Deep State.

The modern-day church has largely shied away from applying Jesus’ teachings to modern problems such as war, poverty, immigration, etc., but thankfully there have been individuals throughout history who ask themselves and the world: what would Jesus do.

What would Jesus—the baby born in Bethlehem who grew into an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day (namely, the Roman Empire) but spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, and pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire—do about the injustices of our  modern age.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked himself what Jesus would have done about the horrors perpetrated by Hitler and his assassins. The answer: Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler for attempting to undermine the tyranny at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asked himself what Jesus would have done about the soul-destroying gulags and labor camps of the Soviet Union. The answer: Solzhenitsyn found his voice and used it to speak out about government oppression and brutality.

Martin Luther King Jr. asked himself what Jesus would have done about America’s warmongering. The answer: declaring “my conscience leaves me no other choice,” King risked widespread condemnation as well as his life when he publicly opposed the Vietnam War on moral and economic grounds.

Even now, despite the popularity of the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) in Christian circles, there remains a disconnect in the modern church between the teachings of Christ and the suffering of what Jesus in Matthew 25 refers to as the “least of these.

Yet this is not a theological gray area: Jesus was unequivocal about his views on many things, not the least of which was charity, compassion, war, tyranny and love.

After all, Jesus—the revered preacher, teacher, radical and prophet—was born into a police state not unlike the growing menace of the American police state. When he grew up, he had powerful, profound things to say, things that would change how we view people, alter government policies and change the world. “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and “Love your enemies” are just a few examples of his most profound and revolutionary teachings.

When confronted by those in authority, Jesus did not shy away from speaking truth to power. Indeed, his teachings undermined the political and religious establishment of his day. It cost him his life. He was eventually crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be.

Can you imagine what Jesus’ life would have been like if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, he had been born and raised in the American police state.

Consider the following if you will.

Had Jesus been born in the era of the America police state, rather than traveling to Bethlehem for a census, Jesus’ parents would have been mailed a 28-page American Community Survey, a mandatory government questionnaire documenting their habits, household inhabitants, work schedule, how many toilets are in your home, etc. The penalty for not responding to this invasive survey can go as high as $5,000.

Instead of being born in a manger, Jesus might have been born at home. Rather than wise men and shepherds bringing gifts, however, the baby’s parents might have been forced to ward off visits from state social workers intent on prosecuting them for the home birth. One couple in Washington had all three of their children removed after social services objected to the two youngest being birthed in an unassisted home delivery.

Had Jesus been born in a hospital, his blood and DNA would have been taken without his parents’ knowledge or consent and entered into a government biobank. While most states require newborn screening, a growing number are holding onto that genetic material long-term for research, analysis and purposes yet to be disclosed.

Then again, had Jesus’ parents been undocumented immigrants, they and the newborn baby might have been shuffled to a profit-driven, private prison for illegals where they first would have been separated from each other, the children detained in make-shift cages, and the parents eventually turned into cheap, forced laborers for corporations such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Walmart, and Victoria’s Secret. There’s quite a lot of money to be made from imprisoning immigrants, especially when taxpayers are footing the bill.

From the time he was old enough to attend school, Jesus would have been drilled in lessons of compliance and obedience to government authorities, while learning little about his own rights. Had he been daring enough to speak out against injustice while still in school, he might have found himself tasered or beaten by a school resource officer, or at the very least suspended under a school zero tolerance policy that punishes minor infractions as harshly as more serious offenses.

Had Jesus disappeared for a few hours let alone days as a 12-year-old, his parents would have been handcuffed, arrested and jailed for parental negligence. Parents across the country have been arrested for far less “offenses” such as allowing their children to walk to the park unaccompanied and play in their front yard alone.

Rather than disappearing from the history books from his early teenaged years to adulthood, Jesus’ movements and personal data—including his biometrics—would have been documented, tracked, monitored and filed by governmental agencies and corporations such as Google and Microsoft. Incredibly, 95 percent of school districts share their student records with outside companies that are contracted to manage data, which they then use to market products to us.

From the moment Jesus made contact with an “extremist” such as John the Baptist, he would have been flagged for surveillance because of his association with a prominent activist, peaceful or otherwise. Since 9/11, the FBI has actively carried out surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations on a broad range of activist groups, from animal rights groups to poverty relief, anti-war groups and other such “extremist” organizations.

Jesus’ anti-government views would certainly have resulted in him being labeled a domestic extremist. Law enforcement agencies are being trained to recognize signs of anti-government extremism during interactions with potential extremists who share a “belief in the approaching collapse of government and the economy.

While traveling from community to community, Jesus might have been reported to government officials as “suspicious” under the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” programs. Many states, including New York, are providing individuals with phone apps that allow them to take photos of suspicious activity and report them to their state Intelligence Center, where they are reviewed and forwarded to law-enforcement agencies.

Rather than being permitted to live as an itinerant preacher, Jesus might have found himself threatened with arrest for daring to live off the grid or sleeping outside. In fact, the number of cities that have resorted to criminalizing homelessness by enacting bans on camping, sleeping in vehicles, loitering and begging in public has doubled.

Viewed by the government as a dissident and a potential threat to its power, Jesus might have had government spies planted among his followers to monitor his activities, report on his movements, and entrap him into breaking the law. Such Judases today—called informants—often receive hefty paychecks from the government for their treachery.

Had Jesus used the internet to spread his radical message of peace and love, he might have found his blog posts infiltrated by government spies attempting to undermine his integrity, discredit him or plant incriminating information online about him. At the very least, he would have had his website hacked and his email monitored.

Had Jesus attempted to feed large crowds of people, he would have been threatened with arrest for violating various ordinances prohibiting the distribution of food without a permit. Florida officials arrested a 90-year-old man for feeding the homeless on a public beach.

Had Jesus spoken publicly about his 40 days in the desert and his conversations with the devil, he might have been labeled mentally ill and detained in a psych ward against his will for a mandatory involuntary psychiatric hold with no access to family or friends. One Virginia man was arrested, strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having “mental health issues,” and locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait.

Without a doubt, had Jesus attempted to overturn tables in a Jewish temple and rage against the materialism of religious institutions, he would have been charged with a hate crime. More than 45 states and the federal government have hate crime laws on the books.

Had anyone reported Jesus to the police as being potentially dangerous, he might have found himself confronted—and killed—by police officers for whom any perceived act of non-compliance (a twitch, a question, a frown) can result in them shooting first and asking questions later.

Rather than having armed guards capture Jesus in a public place, government officials would have ordered that a SWAT team carry out a raid on Jesus and his followers, complete with flash-bang grenades and military equipment. There are upwards of 80,000 such SWAT team raids carried out every year, many on unsuspecting Americans who have no defense against such government invaders, even when such raids are done in error.

Instead of being detained by Roman guards, Jesus might have been made to “disappear” into a secret government detention center where he would have been interrogated, tortured and subjected to all manner of abuses. Chicago police have “disappeared” more than 7,000 people into a secret, off-the-books interrogation warehouse at Homan Square.

Charged with treason and labeled a domestic terrorist, Jesus might have been sentenced to a life-term in a private prison where he would have been forced to provide slave labor for corporations or put to death by way of the electric chair or a lethal mixture of drugs.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, given the nature of government then and now, it is painfully evident that whether Jesus had been born in our modern age or his own, he still would have died at the hands of a police state.

Thus, as we draw near to Christmas with its celebration of miracles and promise of salvation, we would do well to remember that what happened in that manger on that starry night in Bethlehem is only the beginning of the story. That baby born in a police state grew up to be a man who did not turn away from the evils of his age but rather spoke out against it.

We must do no less.

Source: https://bit.ly/3HND57M

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

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

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

It gets worse by the day.

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

This is how the slippery slope begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are few communities without a SWAT team today.

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

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

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

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

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now add killer robots into that scenario.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet it may already be too late for that.

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

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

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

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

As Biddle concludes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

The votes are in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These tactics are not really new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The result?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember: no one is spared in a police state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

Things are falling apart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are not getting better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Essentially, it comes down to training and accountability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

We’re living in two worlds.

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

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

All is not as it seems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where does that leave us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wake up, America.

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

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

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

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

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

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

Especially if you value that person’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there were also important distinctions, reports the Post.

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

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

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

Where does this leave us?

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

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

As The Washington Post points out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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