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Posts Tagged ‘USA PATRIOT Act’

12 Myths Fueling Government Overreach in Times of Crisis | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on April 26, 2021

Politics cannot be put aside. Politics is what politicians and political interest groups do. Partisanship is inevitable as political actors who seek conflicting ends struggle for maximum control of the government.

https://mises.org/wire/12-myths-fueling-government-overreach-times-crisis

Robert Higgs

Congress and the president have adopted many critically important policies in great haste during brief periods of perceived national emergency. During the first “hundred days” of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in the spring of 1933, for example, the government abandoned the gold standard, enacted a system of wide-ranging controls, taxes, and subsidies in agriculture, and set in motion a plan to cartelize the nation’s manufacturing industries. In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted in a rush even though no member of Congress had read it in its entirety. Since September 2008, the government and the Federal Reserve System have implemented a rapid-fire series of bailouts, loans, “stimulus” spending programs and partial or complete takeover of big banks and other large firms, acting at each step in great haste.

Any government policymaking on an important matter entails serious risks, but crisis policymaking stands apart from the more deliberate process in which new legislation is usually enacted or new regulatory measures are usually put into effect. Because formal institutional changes—however hastily they might have been made—have a strong tendency to become entrenched, remaining in effect for many years and sometimes for many decades, crisis policymaking has played an important part in generating long-term growth of government through a ratchet effect in which “temporary” emergency measures have expanded the government’s size, scope, or power.

It therefore behooves us to recognize the typical presumptions that give crisis policymaking its potency.

The twelve propositions given here express some of the ideas that are advanced or assumed again and again in connection with episodes of quick, fear-driven policymaking—events whose long-term consequences are often counterproductive.

1. Nothing like the present situation has ever happened before. If the existing crisis were seen as simply the latest incident in a series of similar crises, policy makers and the public would be more inclined to relax, appreciating that such rough seas have been navigated successfully in the past and will be navigated successfully on this occasion, too. Fears would be relieved. Exaggerated doomsday scenarios would be dismissed as overwrought and implausible. Such relaxation, however, would ill serve the sponsors of extraordinary government measures, regardless of their motives for seeking adoption of these measures. Fear is a great motivator, so the proponents of expanded government action have an incentive to represent the current situation as unprecedented and therefore as uniquely menacing unless the government intervenes forcefully to save the day.

2. Unless the government intervenes, the situation will get worse and worse. Crisis always presents some sort of worsening of something: the economy’s output has fallen; prices have risen greatly; the country has been attacked by foreigners. If such untoward developments were seen as having occurred in a one-off manner, then people might be content to stick with the institutional status quo. If, however, people project the recent changes forward, imagining that adverse events will continue to occur and possibly to gather strength as they continue, then they will object to a “do nothing” response, reasoning that “something must be done” lest the course of events eventuate in an utterly ruinous situation. To speed a huge, complex, “anti-terrorism” bill through Congress in 2001, George W. Bush invoked the specter of another terrorist attack. Barack Obama, Invoking the specter of economic collapse, rushed through Congress early in 2009 the huge Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act before any legislator had digested it. In a February 5, 2009, op-ed in the Washington Post, he wrote, “If nothing is done … our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.”1 At a February 9 press conference, he said “[A] failure to act will only deepen this crisis,” and “could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.”2

3. Today is all-important; we must act immediately.

See the rest here

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The Rutherford Institute :: Enemies of the Deep State: The Government’s War on Domestic Terrorism Is a Trap | By John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead |

Posted by M. C. on January 27, 2021

“This is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends. What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? [The proposed legislation could create] a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.”—Tulsi Gabbard, former Congresswoman

Additionally, according to Michael C. McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, the bureau now “classifies domestic terrorism threats into four main categories: racially motivated violent extremism, anti-government/anti-authority extremism, animal rights/environmental extremism, and abortion extremism.”

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.

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/enemies_of_the_deep_state_the_governments_war_on_domestic_terrorism_is_a_trap

By John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead

“This is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends. What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? [The proposed legislation could create] a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.”—Tulsi Gabbard, former Congresswoman

This is how it begins.

We are moving fast down that slippery slope to an authoritarian society in which the only opinions, ideas and speech expressed are the ones permitted by the government and its corporate cohorts.

In the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, “domestic terrorism” has become the new poster child for expanding the government’s powers at the expense of civil liberties.

Of course, “domestic terrorist” is just the latest bull’s eye phrase, to be used interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist,” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.”

Watch and see: we are all about to become enemies of the state.

In a déjà vu mirroring of the legislative fall-out from 9/11, and the ensuing build-up of the security state, there is a growing demand in certain sectors for the government to be given expanded powers to root out “domestic” terrorism, the Constitution be damned.

If this is a test of Joe Biden’s worthiness to head up the American police state, he seems ready.

As part of his inaugural address, President Biden pledged to confront and defeat “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism.” Biden has also asked the Director of National Intelligence to work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in carrying out a “comprehensive threat assessment” of domestic terrorism. And then to keep the parallels going, there is the proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021, introduced after the Jan. 6 riots, which aims to equip the government with “the tools to identify, monitor and thwart” those who could become radicalized to violence.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss the sleight of hand.

This is the tricky part of the Deep State’s con game that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

It follows the same pattern as every other convenient “crisis” used by the government as an excuse to expand its powers at the citizenry’s expense and at the expense of our freedoms.

As investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald warns:

“The last two weeks have ushered in a wave of new domestic police powers and rhetoric in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’ that are carbon copies of many of the worst excesses of the first War on Terror that began nearly twenty years ago. This New War on Terror—one that is domestic in name from the start and carries the explicit purpose of fighting ‘extremists’ and ‘domestic terrorists’ among American citizens on U.S. soil—presents the whole slew of historically familiar dangers when governments, exploiting media-generated fear and dangers, arm themselves with the power to control information, debate, opinion, activism and protests.”

Greenwald is referring to the USA Patriot Act, passed almost 20 years ago, which paved the way for the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since Sept. 11, 2001.

Some members of Congress get it.

In a letter opposing expansion of national security powers, a handful congressional representatives urged their colleagues not to repeat the mistakes of the past:

“While many may find comfort in increased national security powers in the wake of this attack, we must emphasize that we have been here before and we have seen where that road leads. Our history is littered with examples of initiatives sold as being necessary to fight extremism that quickly devolve into tools used for the mass violation of the human and civil rights of the American people… To expand the government’s national security powers once again at the expense of the human and civil rights of the American people would only serve to further undermine our democracy, not protect it.”

Cue the Emergency State, the government’s Machiavellian version of crisis management that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

This is the power grab hiding in plain sight, obscured by the political machinations of the self-righteous elite. This is how the government continues to exploit crises and use them as opportunities for power grabs under the guise of national security. Indeed, this is exactly how the government added red flag gun laws, precrime surveillance, fusion centers, threat assessments, mental health assessments, involuntary confinement to its arsenal of weaponized powers.

The objective is not to make America safe again. That has never been the government’s aim.

Greenwald explains:

“Why would such new terrorism laws be needed in a country that already imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world as the result of a very aggressive set of criminal laws? What acts should be criminalized by new ‘domestic terrorism’ laws that are not already deemed criminal? They never say, almost certainly because—just as was true of the first set of new War on Terror laws—their real aim is to criminalize that which should not be criminalized: speech, association, protests, opposition to the new ruling coalition.”

So you see, the issue is not whether Donald Trump or Roger Stone or MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell deserve to be banned from Twitter, even if they’re believed to be spouting misinformation, hateful ideas, or fomenting discontent.

Rather, we should be asking whether any corporation or government agency or entity representing a fusion of the two should have the power to muzzle, silence, censor, regulate, control and altogether eradicate so-called “dangerous” or “extremist” ideas.

This unilateral power to muzzle free speech represents a far greater danger than any so-called right- or left-wing extremist might pose.

The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

Yet where many go wrong is in assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or challenging the government’s authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state and locked up like a dangerous criminal.

Eventually, all you will really need to do is use certain trigger words, surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, drive a car, stay at a hotel, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, question government authority, or generally live in the United States.

The groundwork has already been laid.

The trap is set.

All that is needed is the right bait.

With the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior sensing software, government agents have been busily spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state.

It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.

What’s more, the technocrats who run the surveillance state don’t even have to break a sweat while monitoring what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, how much you spend, whom you support, and with whom you communicate. Computers by way of AI (artificial intelligence) now do the tedious work of trolling social media, the internet, text messages and phone calls for potentially anti-government remarks, all of which is carefully recorded, documented, and stored to be used against you someday at a time and place of the government’s choosing.

For instance, police in major American cities have been using predictive policing technology that allows them to identify individuals—or groups of individuals—most likely to commit a crime in a given community. Those individuals are then put on notice that their movements and activities will be closely monitored and any criminal activity (by them or their associates) will result in harsh penalties. 

In other words, the burden of proof is reversed: you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.

Dig beneath the surface of this kind of surveillance/police state, however, and you will find that the real purpose of pre-crime is not safety but control.

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.

This is the same government that 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.

For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.

Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.

According to one FBI latest report, you might also be classified as a domestic terrorism threat if you espouse conspiracy theories, especially if you “attempt to explain events or circumstances as the result of a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others” and are “usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.”

Additionally, according to Michael C. McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, the bureau now “classifies domestic terrorism threats into four main categories: racially motivated violent extremism, anti-government/anti-authority extremism, animal rights/environmental extremism, and abortion extremism.”

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.

Again, where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention.

In fact, U.S. police agencies have been working to identify and manage potential extremist “threats,” violent or otherwise, before they can become actual threats for some time now.

In much the same way that the USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, allowing the government to establish a far-reaching domestic spying program that turned every American citizen into a criminal suspect, the government’s anti-extremism program renders otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutter, drive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social media, appear mentally ill, serve in the military, disagree with a law enforcement official, call in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or a remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, or appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom.

Be warned: once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.

You will be tracked wherever you go.

You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly.

This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.

The government has been building its pre-crime, surveillance network in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the corporate sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).

If you’re not scared yet, you should be.

Connect the dots.

Start with the powers amassed by the government under the USA Patriot Act, note the government’s ever-broadening definition of what it considers to be an “extremist,” then add in the government’s detention powers under NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.

To that, add tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones and balloons that are beginning to blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the picture, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify so-called criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re starting to understand how easy we’ve made it for the government to identify, label, target, defuse and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata.

There’s always a price to pay for standing up to the powers-that-be.

Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, you don’t even have to be a dissident to get flagged by the government for surveillance, censorship and detention.

All you really need to be is a citizen of the American police state.

WC: 2528

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

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

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Love It or Leave? – Doug Casey’s International Man

Posted by M. C. on October 13, 2020

Sooner or later, the temporary relief of living in a location that’s a partial solution becomes a lesser relief. The trouble is: Once a government has been in the habit of treating its productive class as cash cows – and has put in place the laws that allow it to milk them – it rarely relinquishes its grip on them for long.

Essentially, this means that at some point, the light is switched on in the mind of a particular cow – the realisation that the ultimate objective is to get beyond the borders of governmental control.

https://internationalman.com/articles/love-it-or-leave/

by Jeff Thomas

Countries that are in the decline stages tend to lose their best and brightest.

What happens is that, as a country becomes more socialistic, it attracts thousands of new residents who are seeking free stuff. They wish to cash in – to live off the state.

But someone has to pay for that free stuff. And of course, that means that the more productive people in the country are handed the tab.

As a country grows more socialistic, an ever-larger number of dependent people must be paid for by those who are productive. This, of course, diminishes the retained earnings of those who have been productive.

What happens then is that a quiet exodus begins to take place. The very people who are ordered to pay the bill for everyone else tend to look for greener pastures.

In most every case, the first inclination is to look for a better corner of the country in which to live. Generally, it’s a location – a state, a city, a town – where the taxes are less, the crime is lower and the level of freedom is greater.

After all, you don’t really want to leave your country; you just want to free yourself from the burdens your government is placing upon you.

Unfortunately, it’s that last bit that ultimately inspires expatriation.

Those who choose a partial exit – say to Florida, Texas, or even Puerto Rico – at some point discover that the government that had treated them as a cash cows, ready to be milked to pay for government’s increasing entitlements, does not wish to lose its herd of cows.

Sooner or later, the temporary relief of living in a location that’s a partial solution becomes a lesser relief. The trouble is: Once a government has been in the habit of treating its productive class as cash cows – and has put in place the laws that allow it to milk them – it rarely relinquishes its grip on them for long.

Essentially, this means that at some point, the light is switched on in the mind of a particular cow – the realisation that the ultimate objective is to get beyond the borders of governmental control.

I’ve found, over the years, that those who are planning an exit tend to do it quietly.

But why should this be so?

Well first, they realise that their move will not be popular and they don’t wish to be explaining themselves to others. Second, they want it to go smoothly and they’d rather slip away than have anyone try to get in their way.

Therefore, the early exiters tend not to be noticed. Their numbers are small in comparison to the numbers of incoming largesse-seekers.

So, what happens to those who are now becoming aware that their government is bleeding them dry? Since they tend not to be aware that others have exited before them, they’re likely to feel quite alone, which is a great deterrent to their own inclination to leave. Since they don’t know anyone else who’s made an exit, it’s understandable if they feel that leaving simply isn’t an option.

What, then, is the tendency in such people? How do they deal with the situation?

Well, for the most part, they tend to tolerate the injustice, even though further weight continues to be added to the millstone around their necks.

But they do say, “This isn’t fair. We’re not going to take much more of this.”

And the key here is in those last four words. For the great majority of those who are oppressed by an overreaching government, the trigger never quite gets pulled. Instead, with every new burden, they tend to say, “Not much more.”

And governments recognise that, as long as the burden is added gradually, most people are foolish enough to tolerate the increases endlessly.

As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Quite so. People can only be dominated if they accept domination.

The numbers that actually pull the trigger and leave are therefore quite low.

And in this there’s an advantage: Although thousands are now leaving the US every year and their numbers are growing, they are not at present in the millions or even in the hundreds of thousands.

It’s for this reason that those who choose to cease being milk cows may still make a fairly quiet exit.

At present, there’s an exit tax, but its threshold is relatively high. And although the government has begun to disallow travel offshore, those who are persistent can still find an opportunity to do so.

However, this possibility may cease in the near future.

As economic woes worsen in the US, more people will decide that they don’t wish to have their government lessen the ability to make a living and raise taxes to pay for the government’s loss in revenue.

Even now, the exit door is beginning to close, as the government realises that the trend has begun.

Unknown to most Americans, all of the restrictions needed to literally close the doors on the departure of both wealth and people have been passed into law, primarily under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011.

These restrictions are not yet implemented. They’re intended to be implemented automatically, should a president declare a national state of emergency for any reason.

If, for example, an economic crisis were to unfold, as it’s presently doing, it’s likely that a state of emergency would be declared.

Similarly, if civil unrest were to escalate for any reason, it’s likely that, at some point, a state of emergency would be declared.

Therefore, for any milk cow who is considering an exit to greener pastures, the window of opportunity may well close relatively soon.

Those who may love their country, but do not love what it’s become, may choose to leave the herd whilst greener pastures remain an option.

Editor’s Note:The prospect of a disputed US presidential election amid the global pandemic is not only a possible scenario but a likely one.

It could lead to enormous and unprecedented effects, such as mass unrest in American cities, stock market convulsions, a dollar collapse, and much more.

That’s precisely why making the right moves in today’s turbulent political, financial, and social environment is absolutely crucial.

URGENT VIDEO: The Day After—How to Prepare for What’s Coming After the 2020 Election

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Prepare To Have Your Worldview Obliterated – Caitlin Johnstone

Posted by M. C. on April 8, 2020

Right now that’s the primary piece of advice I have to offer: stay skeptical, stay intellectually honest, and keep your perspectives malleable. If we are more interested in the truth than we are in being proven right or in feeling smug, then we are likely on a collision course with future revelations that will change our ideas about how the world is functioning in some pretty significant ways.

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2020/04/07/prepare-to-have-your-worldview-obliterated/

The first draft of the civil rights-eroding USA PATRIOT Act was magically introduced one week after the 9/11 attacks. Legislators later admitted that they hadn’t even had time to read through the hundreds of pages of the history-shaping bill before passing it the next month, yet somehow its authors were able to gather all the necessary information and write the whole entire thing in a week.

This was because most of the work had already been done. CNET reported the following back in 2008:

“Months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, [then-Senator Joe] Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of ‘terrorism’ that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detention of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode ‘constitutional and statutory due process protections’ and would ‘authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.’

Biden’s bill was never put to a vote, but after 9/11 then-Attorney General John Ashcroft reportedly credited his bill with the foundations of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“Civil libertarians were opposed to it,” Biden said in 2002 of his bill. “Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act. He said, ‘Joe, I’m introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994.’”

I point this out because it is now more important than ever to be aware that power structures (and their goons like Biden) can and will seize on opportunities to roll out pre-existing authoritarian agendas. We know it happened after 9/11, and we may be absolutely certain that it is happening now.

Commentator and satirist CJ Hopkins has a long, long, long, long ongoing thread on Twitter right now compiling dozens and dozens of creepy Orwellian steps that have been taken by governments around the world and by Silicon Valley tech giants in response to the virus over the last three weeks. I emphasize how long the thread is because if you think you’ve finished scrolling through it you probably haven’t; make sure you keep clicking “more replies” until you get to the current entries.

I strongly encourage everyone to scroll through the thread when you get a chance to get a sense of the scale and scope of the drastic measures that are being implemented around the world, and maybe bookmark it and keep checking back now and then for updates. The entire thread is comprised of mainstream media articles with excerpts; some entries are more jarring than others, but taken as a whole it becomes clear that we’re looking at a whole lot of power being handed over to the kinds of institutions which historically don’t do good things when given a lot more power.

And these are just the steps we know about.

To what extent are these drastic, intrusive, authoritarian measures justified? The answer, in my estimation, isn’t clear yet. There are too many unknowns about the virus, too many unknowns about the responses to it, and too many unknowns about exactly what is going on behind the veil of secrecy in opaque government agencies around the world. There’s an argument expert epidemiologists are making that there’s no time to get perfectly certain of these things before dealing with a pandemic, that speed is of the essence and hesitating due to fear of maybe getting something wrong can cost millions of lives. Maybe that’s true; I’m not an epidemiologist and I do not know.

What I do know is that enormous changes are happening, and that powerful people are definitely conspiring to advance their own interests as this unfolds. There are many theories about who specifically is conspiring with whom and the specific manner in which they are doing so, and they’re being dismissed by establishment loyalists as “conspiracy theories” as though that in and of itself constitutes some sort of argument. That conspiracies are happening is actually just a fact that is obvious to any adult with a mature understanding of the world, and it can be useful to come up with theories about how that might be occurring; calling theories about conspiracies the thing that they are in a disparaging tone does not actually invalidate them.

There are a ton of theories about what’s going on behind the scenes with this pandemic and the policies that are being put in place to respond to it. Some are smart and relatively well-founded, some are stupid and rooted in generalized paranoia or partisan idiocy, many contradict each other, and many could potentially fit together in some way. I personally haven’t seen enough evidence for any one theory to throw my weight behind it, but I am watching carefully, and I am glad that the hive mind is chewing on this riddle.

One thing I will put my weight behind right now is the prediction that those of us who are dedicated to truth are going to have to drastically revise our worldviews in the coming months. There are such large-scale shifts happening in such an unclear information environment that the only thing we should expect is the unexpected; this virus is shaking things up (and being used to shake things up) in ways we don’t really understand yet, and even before the virus the world’s dominant power structures were acting very weird. This means our ideas about what’s going on in the world will likely have to undergo some revising in the relatively near future; the bigger the revelations, the more revision will be necessary.

Right now that’s the primary piece of advice I have to offer: stay skeptical, stay intellectually honest, and keep your perspectives malleable. If we are more interested in the truth than we are in being proven right or in feeling smug, then we are likely on a collision course with future revelations that will change our ideas about how the world is functioning in some pretty significant ways. If this doesn’t sound possible to you, it’s only because you currently lack the humility, intellectual honesty and cognitive flexibility to understand that you may not be seeing the full picture yet.

Things are shifting; all we can do is keep our minds agile enough to shift with them. Prepare to have your worldview obliterated.

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Fredrickson: Don’t let constitutional rights be a victim of this virus | Opinion | news-journal.com

Posted by M. C. on March 27, 2020

https://www.news-journal.com/opinion/fredrickson-don-t-let-constitutional-rights-be-a-victim-of/article_ac663588-6d5d-11ea-bd73-6bd78fe4d483.html

Courts across the country are grappling with how to continue operations in the face of the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular how to comply with the requirements of the Speedy Trial Act for criminal defendants. While most of Congress’ attention is focused on how to respond to the looming financial meltdown, the Trump Justice Department is floating language to be included in one of the relief packages to address the burden on the judiciary. Some of the department’s proposal are sensible; others would be dangerous incursions on fundamental constitutional rights.

The department’s draft language, as reported by Politico, seeks modification of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow greater use of videoconferencing, even at times without the defendant’s agreement. With COVID-19’s rapid transmission between individuals, and the danger it poses to certain groups of people, such a move might have some merit. Similarly, the Justice Department’s proposal to extend the statute of limitations in criminal and civil cases during an emergency “and for one year following the end of the national emergency” has some merit, though an additional year is excessive. The courts too are facing a significant slowdown as staff works remotely and others are getting sick.

But the Justice Department’s request doesn’t stop there. Instead, the department has also included an idea that should be immediately rejected: letting federal court chief judges halt all court proceedings during an emergency. This provision would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.” In its draft language shared with Congress, the Justice Department argues that the new provision would ensure more consistency in the procedures adopted in different courthouses.

What is most chilling about this proposal is what it would do to habeas corpus, the constitutional guarantee that a detained person has the right to appear in court for a determination of whether his or her detention is lawful. The Justice Department language would allow a judge to order someone who had simply been arrested, but not charged or convicted, to be held until the judge determines the emergency is over.

This proposal is chillingly reminiscent of the Bush administration’s overreach in the aftermath of 9/11. In 2001, it moved quickly to send Congress legislation to address the economic impact of the terrorist attack and strengthen national security authorities, all of which Congress passed with little dissent. The USA Patriot Act, one of the most far-reaching proposals, was passed into law less than two months after the attack, granting greatly expanded surveillance and deportation powers to federal law enforcement. The Patriot Act both broadened the definition of immigrants who were deportable and eliminated many procedural protections for such individuals. Any immigrant “certified” a threat to national security could be detained indefinitely.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others challenged that provision, arguing it was unconstitutional to allow the indefinite detention of individuals arrested and not charged with a terrorism offense if they had an immigration status violation — like overstaying a visa — but could not return to their home country.

Though the Supreme Court has not ruled definitively on the constitutionality of indefinite detention, in June 2003, the Justice Department’s inspector general affirmed the arrests and detentions of hundreds of immigrants, mostly Arab, Muslim or South Asian men, had been “indiscriminate” and “haphazard” and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the predecessor to Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had been regularly detaining individuals not linked to criminal activity or terrorism.

Now, Trump’s Justice Department is seizing on the pandemic as an excuse to push for a major rollback in civil liberties. President Donald Trump has shown an admiration for autocrats around the world, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is a classic move of such leaders to use a crisis to advance policies they have long supported. Indeed. Trump has already instituted tighter border restrictions because of covid-19 and further limited asylum applications.

Even if Congress does not agree to the new detention policy, Trump is endowed, as president, with other authorities he can use now that must be closely scrutinized. Even a president admired for his leadership during crisis, Franklin D. Roosevelt, ordered people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast to be put in internment camps. After 9/11, Congress gave the Bush administration almost everything it asked for, resulting in flawed legislation with vast civil liberties violations. We must demand Congress not forget those lessons.

 

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covertress: The USA Patriot Act

 

 

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2002 Landmarks on the Road to “1984” Orwellian Hell – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on August 31, 2019

…columnist William Safire captured the sweep of the new surveillance system: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’”

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/2002-landmarks-on-the-road-to-1984-orwellian-hell/

by

Next month will be the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Politicians
and bureaucrats wasted no time after that carnage to unleash the
Surveillance State on average Americans, treating every person like a
terrorist suspect. Since the government failed to protect the public,
Americans somehow forfeited their constitutional right to privacy. Despite
heroic efforts by former NSA staffer Edward Snowden and a host of
activists and freedom fighters, the government continues ravaging American
privacy.

Two of the largest leaps the largest leaps towards “1984” began in 2002. Though neither the Justice Department’s Operation TIPS nor the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program was brought to completion, parcels and precedents from each program have profoundly influenced subsequent federal policies.

In July 2002, the Justice Department unveiled plans for Operation TIPS — the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. According to the Justice Department website, TIPS would be “a nationwide program giving millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others a formal way to report suspicious terrorist activity.” TIPSters would be people who, “in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement.” The feds aimed to recruit people in jobs that “make them uniquely well positioned to understand the ordinary course of business in the area they serve, and to identify things that are out of the ordinary.” Homeland Security director Tom Ridge said that observers in certain occupations “might pick up a break in the certain rhythm or pattern of a community.” The feds planned to enlist as many as 10 million people to watch other people’s “rhythms.”

The Justice Department provided no definition of “suspicious behavior” to guide vigilantes. As the public began to focus on the program’s sweep, opposition surfaced; even the U.S. Postal Service briefly balked at participating in the program. Director Ridge insisted that TIPS “is not a government intrusion.” He declared, “The last thing we want is Americans spying on Americans. That’s just not what the president is all about, and not what the TIPS program is all about.” Apparently, as long as the Bush administration did not announce plans to compel people to testify about the peccadilloes of their neighbors and customers, TIPS was a certified freedom-friendly program.

When Attorney General John Ashcroft was cross-examined by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on TIPS at a Judiciary Committee hearing on July 25, he insisted that “the TIPS program is something requested by industry to allow them to talk about anomalies that they encounter.” But, when George W. Bush first announced the program, he portrayed it as an administration initiative. Did thousands of Teamsters Union members petition 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over “anomalies”? Senator Leahy asked whether reports to the TIPS hotline would become part of a federal database with millions of unsubstantiated allegations against American citizens. Ashcroft told Leahy, “I have recommended that there would be none, and I’ve been given assurance that the TIPS program would not maintain a database.” But Ashcroft could not reveal which federal official had given him the assurance.

The ACLU’s Laura Murphy observed, “This is a program where people’s activities, statements, posters in their windows or on their walls, nationality, and religious practices will be reported by untrained individuals without any relationship to criminal activity.” San Diego law professor Marjorie Cohn observed, “Operation TIPS … will encourage neighbors to snitch on neighbors and won’t distinguish between real and fabricated tips. Anyone with a grudge or vendetta against another can provide false information to the government, which will then enter the national database.”…

Total Information Awareness: 300 million dossiers

The USA PATRIOT Act created a new Information Office in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In January 2002, the White House chose retired admiral John Poindexter to head the new office. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explained, “Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American, an outstanding citizen, who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving the military.” Cynics kvetched about Poindexter’s five felony convictions for false testimony to Congress and destruction of evidence during the investigation of the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages exchange. Poindexter’s convictions were overturned by a federal appeals court, which cited the immunity Congress granted his testimony.

Poindexter committed the new Pentagon office to achieving Total Information Awareness (TIA). TIA’s mission is “to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists — and decipher their plans — and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts,” according to DARPA. According to Undersecretary of Defense Pete Aldridge, TIA would seek to discover “connections between transactions — such as passports; visas; work permits; driver’s licenses; credit cards; airline tickets; rental cars; gun purchases; chemical purchases — and events — such as arrests or suspicious activities and so forth.” Aldridge agreed that every phone call a person made or received could be entered into the database. With “voice recognition” software, the actual text of the call could also go onto a permanent record.

TIA would also strive to achieve “Human Identification at a Distance” (HumanID), including “Face Recognition,” “Iris Recognition,” and “Gait Recognition.” The Pentagon issued a request for proposals to develop an “odor recognition” surveillance system that would help the feds identify people by their sweat or urine — potentially creating a wealth of new job opportunities for deviants.

TIA’s goal was to stockpile as much information as possible about everyone on Earth — thereby allowing government to protect everyone from everything. New York Times columnist William Safire captured the sweep of the new surveillance system: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’” Columnist Ted Rall noted that the feds would even scan “veterinary records. The TIA believes that knowing if and when Fluffy got spayed — and whether your son stopped torturing Fluffy after you put him on Ritalin — will help the military stop terrorists before they strike.”…

In September 2003, Congress passed an amendment abolishing the Pentagon’s Information Office and ending TIA funding. But by that point, DARPA had already awarded 26 contracts for dozens of private research projects to develop components for TIA. Salon.com reported, “According to people with knowledge of the program, TIA has now advanced to the point where it’s much more than a mere ‘research project.’ There is a working prototype of the system, and federal agencies outside the Defense Department have expressed interest in it.” The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is already using facial recognition systems at 20 airports and the Transportation Security Administration is expected to quickly follow suit.

Two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo sent a secret memo to the White House declaring that the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches was null and void: “If the government’s heightened interest in self-defense justifies the use of deadly force, then it also certainly would justify warrantless searches.” That memo helped set federal policy until it was publicly revealed after Barack Obama took office in 2009. Unfortunately, that anti-Constitution, anti-privacy mindset unleashed many federal intrusions that continue to this day, from the TSA to the National Security Agency to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

This article was originally published in the August 2019 edition of Future of Freedom.

 

 

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