IRS, Congress Hold Our Liberty In Contempt

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This past week, the Justice Department announced it would not charge former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner with contempt of Congress. Some members of Congress requested that Lerner be charged with contempt after she refused to testify at a congressional hearing investigating her role in denying or delaying the applications for tax-exempt status of “tea party” and pro-limited government organizations.

Cynics might suggest it is not surprising that a former government official would avoid prosecution for refusing to tell Congress about how federal employees abused their power to help the incumbent administration. These cynics have a point, but the problem goes beyond mere partisanship. Government officials are rarely prosecuted for even the most blatant violations of our liberties. In contrast, federal prosecutors routinely pursue criminal charges against whistleblowers. For example, the only American prosecuted and imprisoned in relation to the government’s use of torture was whistleblower John Kiriakou!

While some officials like Lois Lerner who find themselves at the center of a high-profile scandal or partisan dispute can expect harsh treatment from Congress, this is the expectation, not the rule. Executive branch officials usually receive deferential treatment from members of Congress. I recall one hearing on government surveillance where a representative actually apologized to a government official because Congress had the gall to ask that official to testify about the government’s ongoing surveillance of the American people.

In contrast, private citizens called before Congress are harangued and even bullied. Congress should stop using the hearing process to intimidate private citizens and start using it to intimidate those government officials who are threatening our liberty. For example, Congress should continue to investigate the IRS’s ongoing attempts to silence organizations that work to advance free markets and individual liberty.

My Campaign for Liberty organization has had to battle an IRS demand that it hand over personal information regarding some of its top donors. The IRS is either ignoring, or ignorant of, the numerous precedents protecting the right of organizations like the Campaign for Liberty to protect their members’ privacy from government officials.

The IRS is drafting a new regulation that would empower the agency to revoke an organization’s tax-exempt status if that organization sends out a communication to its members or the general public mentioning a candidate for office by name sixty days before an election or thirty days before a primary. By preventing groups from telling their members where candidates stand on issues like Audit the Fed and repeal of the PATRIOT Act, this anti-First Amendment regulation benefits those politicians who wish to hide their beliefs from the voters.

Since the IRS’s power stems from the tax system, the only way to protect our liberty from this agency is to eliminate the tax code. Promising to end the IRS is a popular applause line for politicians wishing to appear as champions of liberty. This week, John Koskinen, the current IRS commissar, responded to these cries to end the IRS by pointing out that shutting down the IRS would deprive Congress of the revenue needed to fund the welfare-warfare state. Koskinen has a point. Congress cannot shut down the IRS until it enacts major reductions in all areas of government spending.

Politicians who vote for warfare abroad and welfare at home–yet claim they want to shut down the IRS–should not be taken seriously. Freeing the people from the IRS’s tyranny is one of the best reasons to end the welfare-warfare state and return the federal government to its constitutional limitations.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Operation Jade Helm: Should We Be Worried?

Boston militarized policetank

For two months this summer, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will conduct Realistic Military Training (RMT) Operation Jade Helm 15 (JH 15) in seven Southwestern U.S. states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Military spokesmen say the operation is merely a standard training exercise designed to prepare Special Forces troops for warfare overseas.

According to the London Daily Mail, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria said: “‘This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for Army Special Operations Forces because they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice.’”

Units participating in the operation include Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, USAF Special Operations Command, USMC Special Operations Command, USMC Expeditionary Units, Army 82nd Airborne Division, and Interagency Partners (whatever and whoever that is). Over 1,200 troops will participate. For purposes of the exercise, the states of Utah and Texas, and parts of southern California, are designated as “hostile.” Local mayors and county commissions have been notified of the operation and have already signed off on it.

To be sure, the U.S. military often conducts off-base exercises; there is nothing new about that. However, this operation might be the largest off-base training exercise on the U.S. mainland. It is certainly one of the most aggressive.

In this exercise, Special Forces troops will practice all sorts of activities including extractions, searches and seizures, urban camouflage, etc. According to the Houston Chronicle, “[A]mong the planned exercises, soldiers will attempt to operate undetected among civilian populations.

“Residents, in turn, will be asked to report suspicious activity in order to gauge the effectiveness of the soldiers.”

See the London Daily Mail report here:

Special Forces Set To Swarm Southwest And Operate Undetected Among Civilians In Massive Military Exercise

According to USSOCOM, the exercises will only be conducted between 11pm and 4am. Pray tell, how difficult will it be for Special Forces troops (the best of the best) to operate undetected and “blend in” during the middle of the night? That part of the military’s description makes no sense to me at all.

We already have millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on mass media advertising that tells people, “If you see something, say something.” Now we are going to “practice” reporting “suspicious activity”? Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when such an idea would have been considered abhorrent by the American people as resembling Nazi Germany or Red Russia too much. Then again, most of our World War II generation has passed, hasn’t it?

The Internet is abuzz with speculation that these exercises are not designed to prepare U.S. troops for overseas operations, but are actually designed to prepare U.S. troops for aggressive operations against the American citizenry.

At the risk of sounding paranoid, ever since 9/11, our federal government has targeted America’s homeland for all sorts of surveillance, spying, snooping, etc. The National Security Agency (NSA) routinely collects virtually all electronic communications, telephonic transmissions, etc., from the entire American citizenry. The U.S. Congress and federal courts have become nothing more than rubber stamps for an executive branch of government determined to know the most intimate details of every person in the nation. The United States now has the dubious distinction of being the most spied-on country in the history of the world.

For the first time in U.S. history, we have U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), a full active military division (3rd Infantry Division), assigned to the Continental United States. We have the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has turned our local and State police agencies into miniature military units, and has armed them with all sorts of military weaponry and equipment–including some of the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment in the world.

The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, NDAA, etc., authorize the federal government to basically treat the U.S. citizenry as “enemy combatants.” As far as the passage of these laws is concerned, we Americans have already lost our right to trial by jury, habeas corpus, the right to have an attorney, the right to a speedy trial, the right to be secure in our persons, houses, effects, etc. Martial Law may not be the experience of most U.S. citizens YET, but understand that the laws are already in place for such an event.

The whole idea of practicing “extractions” (a nice word for kidnappings) in U.S. cities sends chills up my spine. Using the aforementioned laws, this kind of activity has already been made “legal” in this country. So, first we have laws authorizing such activity, and now our military troops are practicing doing it? Please tell me, again, how we have nothing to worry about.

Folks, please take a look at what is happening in this country: our local and State police are being militarized; we have ubiquitous laws being proposed and passed (by both major parties) denying the Bill of Rights; we have Twentynine Palms Marine Corps surveys asking Marines if they would turn their guns on the U.S. citizenry; we have repeated attempted gun confiscation coming from Washington, D.C.; we have hundreds of military field-grade officers being dismissed because of their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution; we have a federal foreign policy that seems hell-bent on inciting most every country in the world against us, while practically giving a red-carpet invitation for any would-be terrorist to waltz across our southern border; we have a CIA that gives some of the most powerful weapons in the world to just about any third-world resistance group (including elements of Al Qaeda and, believe it or not, ISIS) that comes along (The U.S. government is far and away the largest gun dealer in the world!), while its sister government organizations, such as the ATF, think we Americans can’t be trusted with .223 ammunition; we have Democrat and Republican presidential administrations alike that use the IRS as a political mafia against people with dissenting opinions; we have a national news media that has become nothing more than a propaganda ministry for the federal government; we have politicians from both parties in Washington, D.C., that can only be described as blood-thirsty war-mongers; we have politicians at the local and State levels who seem determined to turn their communities into a Police State (and some Homeowner Associations are even more Naziesque than the federal government); and, for the most part, we have an apostate, cowardly church pulpit that is doing its dead-level best to turn the Christian people of America into sheepish servants of the state.

I THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE GOOD REASON TO BE A LITTLE PARANOID.

I posted a few preliminary thoughts on my Facebook page regarding this subject before writing this column. Here are a few comments from my Facebook followers:

James: “Jade Helm. Jade is blue. Helm is German for helmet. Blue Helmet. UN blue helmets?”

Jeanie:  “Their supposed reasons for this exercise [don’t] make sense. They won’t be blending in with civilians in third world countries. The only purpose I can see is to use force against us one day.”

Mark: “Pastor, just because we are a bit paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out to get us.”

Lou: “‘Blending in.’ LOL.”

Jason: “The exercise itself is not a direct danger. It is, however, practice to [acclimate] soldiers and citizens to military action in their neighborhoods.”

And, of course, there is this kind of response from Terry: “Worry? No! We should worry about you.” [Meaning, yours truly.]

I invite readers to “Like” my Facebook page. I often post comments on my Facebook page that do not make it into my column. Go to my Facebook page at:

Chuck Baldwin Facebook

I realize it is extremely difficult for Americans to believe that their own government could actually turn against them. And, I’m sure that many people will tell me that to think otherwise is alarmist and extremist. But, isn’t that exactly what the citizens of every country overtaken by its own government said? “That can’t happen here,” have been the last words of millions.

The fact is, the vast majority of us cannot know what the true intention of Operation Jade Helm might really be–and that includes the military personnel who are commanding it and participating in it. I am convinced of this much: the federal government–and its propaganda ministry in the national news media–almost NEVER tells us the truth. Of that much, I am absolutely certain.

© Chuck Baldwin

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Jesus Died In A Police State

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If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”―Lenny Bruce

If you buy into the version of Christianity Lite peddled by evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham, who recently advised Americans to do as the Bible says and “submit to your leaders and those in authority,” then staying alive in the American police state depends largely on your ability to comply, submit, obey orders, respect authority, and generally do whatever a cop tells you to do.

If, however, you’re one of those who prefers to model themselves after Jesus Christ himself—a radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn—rather than subscribe to the watered-down, corporatized, simplified, gentrified, sissified vision of a meek creature holding a lamb that most modern churches peddle, then you will understand better than most how relevant Jesus’ life and death are to those attempting to navigate the American police state.

Indeed, it is fitting, at a time when the nation is grappling with moral questions about how best to execute death row prisoners (by electric chair, lethal injection, or shooting squad), whether police should be held responsible for shooting unarmed citizens (who posed no threat and complied with every order), and to what extent we allow the government to dictate, monitor, and control every aspect of our lives (using Stingray devices, license plate readers, and all manner of surveillance technology), that we remember that Jesus Christ—the religious figure worshiped by Christians for his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection—died at the hands of a police state.

Those living through this present age of militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, and invasive surveillance might feel as if these events are unprecedented. Yet while we in the United States may be experiencing a steady slide into a police state, we are neither the first nor the last nation to do so.

Although technology, politics, and superpowers have changed over time, the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being have remained the same: control, power, and money. Indeed, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, a police state extends far beyond the actions of law enforcement.  In fact, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr.

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Yet for all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America–and yet they are striking.

Secrecy, surveillance, and rule by the elite. As the chasm between the wealthy and poor grew wider in the Roman Empire, the ruling class and the wealthy class became synonymous, while the lower classes, increasingly deprived of their political freedoms, grew disinterested in the government and easily distracted by “bread and circuses.” Much like America today, with its lack of government transparency, overt domestic surveillance, and rule by the rich, the inner workings of the Roman Empire were shrouded in secrecy, while its leaders were constantly on the watch for any potential threats to its power. The resulting state-wide surveillance was primarily carried out by the military, which acted as investigators, enforcers, torturers, policemen, executioners, and jailers. Today, that role is fulfilled by increasingly militarized police forces across the country.

Widespread police presence. The Roman Empire used its military forces to maintain the “peace,” thereby establishing a police state that reached into all aspects of a citizen’s life. In this way, these military officers, used to address a broad range of routine problems and conflicts, enforced the will of the state. Today, SWAT teams, comprised of local police and federal agents, are employed to carry out routine search warrants for minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud.

Citizenry with little recourse against the police state. As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless, and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation.

Perpetual wars and a military empire. Much like America today with its practice of policing the world, war and an over-arching militarist ethos provided the framework for the Roman Empire, which extended from the Italian peninsula to all over Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe, extending into North Africa and Western Asia as well. In addition to significant foreign threats, wars were waged against inchoate, unstructured, and socially inferior foes.

Martial law. Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons, and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.

A nation of suspects. Just as the American Empire looks upon its citizens as suspects to be tracked, surveilled, and controlled, the Roman Empire looked upon all potential insubordinates, from the common thief to a full-fledged insurrectionist, as threats to its power. The insurrectionist was seen as directly challenging the Emperor. A “bandit,” or revolutionist, was seen as capable of overturning the empire and was always considered guilty and deserving of the most savage penalties, including capital punishment. Bandits were usually punished publicly and cruelly as a means of deterring others from challenging the power of the state. Jesus’ execution was one such public punishment.

Acts of civil disobedience by insurrectionists. Starting with his act of civil disobedience at the Jewish temple, the site of the administrative headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, Jesus branded himself a political revolutionary. When Jesus “with the help of his disciples, blocks the entrance to the courtyard” and forbids “anyone carrying goods for sale or trade from entering the Temple,” he committed a blatantly criminal and seditious act, an act “that undoubtedly precipitated his arrest and execution.” Because the commercial events were sponsored by the religious hierarchy, which in turn was operated by consent of the Roman government, Jesus’ attack on the money chargers and traders can be seen as an attack on Rome itself, an unmistakable declaration of political and social independence from the Roman oppression.

Military-style arrests in the dead of night. Jesus’ arrest account testifies to the fact that the Romans perceived Him as a revolutionary. Eerily similar to today’s SWAT team raids, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, in secret, by a large, heavily armed fleet of soldiers. Rather than merely asking for Jesus when they came to arrest him, his pursuers collaborated beforehand with Judas. Acting as a government informant, Judas concocted a kiss as a secret identification marker, hinting that a level of deception and trickery must be used to obtain this seemingly “dangerous revolutionist’s” cooperation.

Torture and capital punishment. In Jesus’ day, religious preachers, self-proclaimed prophets, and nonviolent protesters were not summarily arrested and executed. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors normally allowed a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that appeared to threaten the Roman Empire. The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes, and claimed to be the rightful King—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion, which was usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries, and the worst criminals.

Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate “as a disturber of the political peace,” a leader of a rebellion, a political threat, and, most gravely—a claimant to kingship, a “king of the revolutionary type.” After Jesus is formally condemned by Pilate, he is sentenced to death by crucifixion, “the Roman means of executing criminals convicted of high treason.”  The purpose of crucifixion was not so much to kill the criminal, as it was an immensely public statement intended to visually warn all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, and banditry. After being ruthlessly whipped and mocked, Jesus was nailed to a cross.

As Professor Mark Lewis Taylor observed:

The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, “Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.”

Jesus—the revolutionary, the political dissident, and the nonviolent activist—lived and died in a police state. Any reflection on Jesus’ life and death within a police state must take into account several factors: Jesus spoke out strongly against such things as empires, controlling people, state violence, and power politics. Jesus challenged the political and religious belief systems of his day. And worldly powers feared Jesus, not because he challenged them for control of thrones or government but because he undercut their claims of supremacy; and he dared to speak truth to power in a time when doing so could—and often did—cost a person his life.

Unfortunately, the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power, and politics. Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism, and empire.

As Professor Taylor notes, “The power of Jesus is one that enables us to critique the nation and the empire. Unfortunately, that gospel is being sacrificed and squandered by Christians who have cozied up to power and wealth.” Ultimately, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be an example for our modern age.

Photo credit: American Spirit / Shutterstock.com

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

The Wolf Is Guarding The Hen House: The Government’s War On Cyberterrorism

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The game is rigged, the network is bugged, the government talks double-speak, the courts are complicit and there’s nothing you can do about it.”—David Kravets, reporting for Wired

Nothing you write, say, text, tweet, or share via phone or computer is private anymore. As constitutional law professor Garrett Epps points out, “Big Brother is watching…. Big Brother may be watching you right now, and you may never know. Since 9/11, our national life has changed forever. Surveillance is the new normal.”

This is the reality of the internet-dependent, plugged-in life of most Americans today.

A process which started shortly after 9/11 with programs such as Total Information Awareness (the predecessor to the government’s present surveillance programs) has grown into a full-fledged campaign of warrantless surveillance, electronic tracking, and data mining, thanks to federal agents who have been given carte blanche access to the vast majority of electronic communications in America. Their methods completely undermine constitution safeguards; and yet no federal agency, president, court, or legislature has stepped up to halt this assault on our rights.

For the most part, surveillance, data mining, etc., is a technological, jargon-laden swamp through which the average American would prefer not to wander. Consequently, most Americans remain relatively oblivious to the government’s ever-expanding surveillance powers, appear unconcerned about the fact that the government is spying on them, and seem untroubled that there is no way of opting out of this system. This state of delirium lasts only until those same individuals find themselves arrested or detained for something they did, said, or bought that runs afoul of the government’s lowering threshold for what constitutes criminal activity.

All the while, Congress, the courts, and the president (starting with George W. Bush and expanding exponentially under Barack Obama) continue to erect an electronic concentration camp the likes of which have never been seen before.

A good case in point is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), formerly known as CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act). Sold to the public as necessary for protecting us against cyber attacks or internet threats such as hacking, this Orwellian exercise in tyranny-masquerading-as-security actually makes it easier for the government to spy on Americans, while officially turning Big Business into a government snitch.

Be warned: this cybersecurity bill is little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing or, as longtime critic Senator Ron Wyden labeled it, “a surveillance bill by another name.”

Lacking any significant privacy protections, CISA, which sacrifices privacy without improving security, will do for surveillance what the Patriot Act did for the government’s police powers: it will expand, authorize, and normalize the government’s intrusions into the most intimate aspects of our lives to such an extent that there will be no turning back. In other words, it will ensure that the Fourth Amendment, which protects us against unfounded, warrantless government surveillance, does not apply to the Internet or digital/electronic communications of any kind.

In a nutshell, CISA would make it legal for the government to spy on the citizenry without their knowledge and without a warrant under the guise of fighting cyberterrorism. It would also protect private companies from being sued for sharing your information with the government, namely the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in order to prevent “terrorism” or an “imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm.”

Law enforcement agencies would also be given broad authority to sift through one’s data for any possible crimes. What this means is that you don’t even have to be suspected of a crime to be under surveillance. The bar is set so low as to allow government officials to embark on a fishing expedition into your personal affairs—emails, phone calls, text messages, purchases, banking transactions, etc.—based only on their need to find and fight “crime.”

Take this anything-goes attitude towards government surveillance, combine it with Big Business’ complicity over the government’s blatantly illegal acts, the ongoing trend towards overcriminalization (in which minor acts are treated as major crimes), and the rise of private prisons (which have created a profit motive for jailing Americans); and you have all the makings of a fascist police state.

So who can we count on to protect us from the threat of government surveillance?

It won’t be the courts. Not in an age of secret courts, secret court rulings, and an overall deference by the courts to anything the government claims is necessary to its fight against terrorism. Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging the government’s massive electronic wiretapping program. As Court reporter Lyle Denniston notes:

Daoud v. United States was the first case, in the nearly four-decade history of electronic spying by the U.S. government to gather foreign intelligence, in which a federal judge had ordered the government to turn over secret papers about how it had obtained evidence through wiretaps of telephones and Internet links.  That order, however, was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, whose ruling was the one the Justices on Monday declined to review…. One of the unusual features of the government’s global electronic spying program is that the individuals whose conversations or e-mails have been monitored almost never hear about it, because the program is so shrouded in secrecy — except when the news media manages to find out some details.  But, if the government plans to use evidence it gathered under that program against a defendant in a criminal trial, it must notify the defendant that he or she has been monitored.

It won’t be Congress, either (CISA is their handiwork, remember), which has failed to do anything to protect the citizenry from an overbearing police state, all the while enabling the government to continue its power grabs. It was Congress that started us down this whole Big Brother road with its passage and subsequent renewals of the USA Patriot Act, which drove a stake through the heart of the Bill of Rights. The Patriot Act rendered First Amendment activists potential terrorists; justified broader domestic surveillance; authorized black bag “sneak-and-peak” searches of homes and offices by government agents; granted the FBI the right to come to your place of employment, demand your personal records, and question your supervisors and fellow employees, all without notifying you; allowed the government access to your medical records, school records, and practically every personal record about you; and allowed the government to secretly demand to see records of books or magazines you’ve checked out in any public library and Internet sites you’ve visited.

The Patriot Act also gave the government the green light to monitor religious and political institutions with no suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they told anyone that the government had subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation; monitor conversations between attorneys and clients; search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without showing probable cause; and jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, among other things.

And it certainly won’t be the president. Indeed, President Obama recently issued an executive order calling on private companies (phone companies, banks, Internet providers, you name it) to share their customer data (your personal data) with each other and, most importantly, the government. Here’s the problem, however: while Obama calls for vague protections for privacy and civil liberties without providing any specific recommendations, he appoints the DHS to oversee the information sharing and develop guidelines with the attorney general for how the government will collect and share the data.

Talk about putting the wolf in charge of the hen house.

Mind you, this is the same agency, rightly dubbed a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast,” that is responsible for militarizing the police, weaponizing SWAT teams, spying on activists, stockpiling ammunition, distributing license plate readers to state police, carrying out military drills in American cities, establishing widespread surveillance networks through the use of fusion centers, funding city-wide surveillance systems, accelerating the domestic use of drones, and generally establishing itself as the nation’s standing army, i.e., a national police force.

This brings me back to the knotty problem of how to protect Americans from cyber attacks without further eroding our privacy rights.

Dependent as we are on computer technology for almost all aspects of our lives, it’s feasible that a cyberattack on American computer networks really could cripple both the nation’s infrastructure and its economy. So do we allow the government liberal powers to control and spy on all electronic communications flowing through the United States? Can we trust the government not to abuse its privileges and respect our privacy rights? Does it even matter, given that we have no real say in the matter?

As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, essentially, there are three camps of thought on the question of how much power the government should have; and which camp you fall into says a lot about your view of government—or, at least, your view of whichever administration happens to be in power at the time, for the time being, the one calling the shots being the Obama administration.

In the first camp are those who trust the government to do the right thing—or, at least, they trust the Obama administration to look out for their best interests. To this group, CISA is simply a desperately needed blueprint for safeguarding us against a possible cyberattack, with a partnership between the government and Big Business serving as the most logical means of thwarting such an attack. Any suggestion that the government and its corporate cohorts might abuse this power is dismissed as conspiratorial hysterics. The problem, as technology reporter Adam Clark Estes points out, is that CISA is a “privacy nightmare” that “stomps all over civil liberties” without making “the country any safer against cyberattacks.”

In the second camp are those who not only don’t trust the government but think the government is out to get them. Sadly, they’ve got good reason to distrust the government, especially when it comes to abusing its powers and violating our rights. For example, consider that government surveillance of innocent Americans has exploded over the past decade. In fact, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin has concluded that, as a result of its spying and data collection, the U.S. government has more data on American citizens than the Stasi secret police had on East Germans. To those in this second group, CISA is nothing less than the writing on the wall that surveillance is here to stay, meaning that the government will continue to monitor, regulate, and control all means of communications.

Then there’s the third camp, which neither sees government as an angel or a devil, but merely as an entity that needs to be controlled–or as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, bound “down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.” A distrust of all who hold governmental power was rife among those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. James Madison, the nation’s fourth president and the author of the Bill of Rights, was particularly vocal in warning against government. He once observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”

To those in the third camp, the only way to ensure balance in government is by holding government officials accountable to abiding by the rule of law. Unfortunately, with all branches of the government, including the courts, stridently working to maintain its acquired powers, and the private sector marching in lockstep, there seems to be little to protect the American people from the fast-growing electronic surveillance state.

In the meantime, surveillance has become the new normal; and the effects of this endless surveillance are taking a toll, resulting in a more anxious and submissive citizenry. As Fourth Amendment activist Alex Marthews points out:

Mass surveillance is becoming a punchline. Making it humorous makes mass surveillance seem easy and friendly and a normal part of life…we make uneasy jokes about how we should watch what we say, about the government looking over our shoulders, about cameras and informers and eyes in the sky. Even though we may not in practice think that these agencies pay us any mind, mass surveillance still creates a chilling effect: We limit what we search for online and inhibit expression of controversial viewpoints. This more submissive mentality isn’t a side effect. As far as anyone is able to measure, it’s the main effect of mass surveillance. The effect of such programs is not primarily to thwart attacks by foreign terrorists on U.S. soil; it’s to discourage challenges to the security services’ authority over our lives here at home.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

How DNA Is Turning Us Into A Nation Of Suspects

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“The year is 2025. The population is 325 million, and the FBI has the DNA profiles of all of them. Unlike fingerprints, these profiles reveal vital medical information. The universal database arrived surreptitiously. First, the Department of Defense’s repository of DNA samples from all military personnel, established to identify remains of soldiers missing from action, was given to the FBI. Then local police across the country shadowed individuals, collecting shed DNA for the databank. On the way, thousands of innocent people were imprisoned because they had the misfortune to have race-based crime genes in their DNA samples. Sadly, it did not have to be this way. If only we had passed laws against collecting and using shed DNA….”—Professor David H. Kaye

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

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

By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof. Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking, or user bias. Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Consequently, no longer are we “innocent until proven guilty” in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crimebehavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious; and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometrics, license plates, and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals.

The government’s questionable acquisition and use of DNA to identify individuals and “solve” crimes has come under particular scrutiny in recent years. Until recently, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where, and how it could access someone’s DNA. That has all been turned on its head by various U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including the recent decision to let stand the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling in Raynor v. Maryland, which essentially determined that individuals do not have a right to privacy when it comes to their DNA.

Although Glenn Raynor, a suspected rapist, willingly agreed to be questioned by police, he refused to provide them with a DNA sample. No problem. Police simply swabbed the chair in which Raynor had been sitting and took what he refused to voluntarily provide. Raynor’s DNA was a match, and the suspect became a convict. In refusing to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court gave its tacit approval for government agents to collect shed DNA, likening it to a person’s fingerprints or the color of their hair, eyes, or skin.

Whereas fingerprint technology created a watershed moment for police in their ability to “crack” a case, DNA technology is now being hailed by law enforcement agencies as the magic bullet in crime solving. It’s what police like to refer to a “modern fingerprint.” However, unlike a fingerprint, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.”

With such a powerful tool at their disposal, it was inevitable that the government’s collection of DNA would become a slippery slope toward government intrusion. Certainly, it was difficult enough trying to protect our privacy in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Maryland v. King that likened DNA collection to photographing and fingerprinting suspects when they are booked, thereby allowing the government to take DNA samples from people merely “arrested” in connection with “serious” crimes. At that time, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that as a result of the Court’s ruling, “your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

Now, in the wake of this Raynor ruling, Americans are vulnerable to the government accessing, analyzing, and storing their DNA without their knowledge or permission. As the dissenting opinion in Raynor for the Maryland Court of Appeals rightly warned, “a person desiring to keep her DNA profile private, must conduct her public affairs in a hermetically sealed hazmat suit…. The Majority’s holding means that a person can no longer vote, participate in a jury, or obtain a driver’s license, without opening up his genetic material for state collection and codification.”

All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. That DNA is also being collected in the FBI’s massive national DNA database, code-named CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), which was established as a way to identify and track convicted felons and has since become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

Indeed, hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. However, in many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely. What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future–including their inclinations to be followers, leaders, or troublemakers.

For the rest of us, it’s just a matter of time before the government gets hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America, or through the collection of our “shed” or “touch” DNA.

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

Yet as scientist Leslie A. Pray notes:

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

What this means is that if you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name. As Forensic magazine reports, “As officers have become more aware of touch DNA’s potential, they are using it more and more. Unfortunately, some [police] have not been selective enough when they process crime scenes. Instead, they have processed anything and everything at the scene, submitting 150 or more samples for analysis.” Even old samples taken from crime scenes and “cold” cases are being unearthed and mined for their DNA profiles.

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

If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way: Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty. As I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, now we are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.

Of course, there will be those who point to DNA’s positive uses in criminal justice, such as in those instances where it is used to absolve someone on death row of a crime he didn’t commit; and there is no denying its beneficial purposes at times. However, as is the case with body camera footage and every other so-called technology that is hailed as a “check” on government abuses, in order for the average person—especially one convicted of a crime—to request and get access to DNA testing, they first have to embark on a costly, uphill legal battle through red tape; and, even then, they are opposed at every turn by a government bureaucracy run by prosecutors, legislatures, and law enforcement.

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

Yet if there are no limits to government officials being able to access your DNA and all that it says about you, then where do you draw the line? As technology makes it ever easier for the government to tap into our thoughts, our memories, and our dreams, suddenly the landscape becomes that much more dystopian.

With the entire governmental system shifting into a pre-crime mode aimed at detecting and pursuing those who “might” commit a crime before they have an inkling, let alone an opportunity, to do so, it’s not so far-fetched to imagine a scenario in which government agents (FBI, local police, etc.) target potential criminals based on their genetic disposition to be a “troublemaker” or their relationship to past dissenters. Equally disconcerting: if scientists can, using DNA, track salmon across hundreds of square miles of streams and rivers, how easy will it be for government agents to not only know everywhere we’ve been and how long we were at each place–but collect our easily shed DNA and add it to the government’s already burgeoning database?

As always, there will be those voices—well-meaning, certainly—insisting that if you want to save the next girl from being raped, abducted, or killed, then we need to give the government all the tools necessary to catch these criminals before they can commit their heinous crimes.

It’s hard to argue against such a stance. If you care for someone, you’re particularly vulnerable to this line of reasoning. Of course we don’t want our wives butchered, our girlfriends raped, or our daughters abducted and subjected to all manner of atrocities. But what about those cases in which the technology proved to be wrong, either through human error or tampering? It happens more often than we are told.

For example, David Butler spent eight months in prison for a murder he didn’t commit after his DNA was allegedly found on the murder victim and surveillance camera footage placed him in the general area the murder took place. Conveniently, Butler’s DNA was on file after he had voluntarily submitted it during an investigation years earlier into a robbery at his mother’s home. The case seemed cut and dried to everyone but Butler, who proclaimed his innocence. Except that the DNA evidence and surveillance footage was wrong: Butler was innocent.

That Butler’s DNA was supposedly found on the victim’s nails was attributed to three things: one, Butler was a taxi driver–“and so it was possible for his DNA to be transferred from his taxi via money or another person, onto the murder victim”; two, Butler had a rare skin condition causing him to shed flakes of skin—i.e., more DNA to spread around, much more so than the average person; and three, police wanted him to be the killer, despite the fact that “the DNA sample was only a partial match, of poor quality, and experts at the time said they could neither say that he was guilty nor rule him out.”

Moreover, despite the insistence by government agents that DNA is infallible, New York Times reporter Andrew Pollack makes a clear and convincing case that DNA evidence can, in fact, be fabricated. Israeli scientists “fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva,” stated Pollack. “They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.” The danger, warns scientist Dan Frumkin, is that crime scenes can be engineered with fabricated DNA.

Now if you happen to be the kind of person who trusts the government implicitly and refuses to believe it would ever do anything illegal or immoral, then the prospect of government officials—police, especially—using fake DNA samples to influence the outcome of a case might seem outlandish. But for those who know their history, the probability of our government acting in a way that is not only illegal but immoral becomes less a question of “if” and more a question of “when.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom