"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on rather than off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Friday, July 18, 2014

10 Reasons America Is A Police State

What do you think of when you hear the term "police state?" Chances are you conjured up an image of jack-booted Nazis storming down the streets terrorizing people with German Shepherds; or maybe you thought of Soviet Russia? North Korea? Of Orwell's Oceania?

A police state can actually be a lot more familiar, but since we were born our heads have been filled with so much nationalist propaganda that we refuse to believe we're not the "freest" country in the world. The truth is, being "freer" than people in some other countries doesn't mean we 're actually free; it just means our masters are slightly nicer than theirs.

Here are ten legitimate reasons America is a police state:

1. The Police Are As Well Equipped As The Army

Police forces all over the country have been beefing up their arsenal over the past two decades, but since 9/11 the blurry line between "police force" and "standing army" has simply been erased. As military equipment was brought home from Iraq, a lot of it was soaked up by civilian law enforcement. These guys are buying tanks (well, MRAPs). These guys too. And armored cars and trucks. And night-vision goggles, planes, helicopters, drones, and, of course, guns. Oh, and the Department of Homeland Security is slated to purchase 704,000,000 rounds over the next four years. And for what?

2. The Government Spies On Its Own Citizens

The recent revelations about the NSA's PRISM program only highlighted what everyone with a brain already knew: of course our government spies on us. The NSA, FBI, and local law enforcement can track your cell phone usage, listen to your (recorded) phone calls and pull your phone records or medical records without a warrant, track your internet usage, your emails, your location, or hack into your computer and spy on you through your webcam. They can turn on the camera or microphone in your smartphone remotely, even if your phone is off.

Facebook colludes with the Department of Defense to manipulate your emotional state by filtering your news feed. Microsoft altered the architecture of Skype to comply with government demands for accessibility, making it easier for police and Federal agents to collect your chat and user data.Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint accept government subsidies in exchange for your personal data. The FBI is pursuing ways to monitor Gmail, cloud storage, and all forms of internet communication.

All for your own good, of course.

3. The Government Seeks To Eliminate Whistle-Blowers

Whistle-blowers sacrifice everything that is important to them - their money, friends, family, careers, freedom and even their lives - to expose abuses of power and corruption by those in government. Instead of being praised and protected, they are labeled as "traitors" and "terrorists" and jailed into submission or hunted into exile by the vengeful State.

Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is a former US Army intelligence analyst, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents and several videos to WikiLeaks. In one video, named "Collateral Murder" by WikiLeaks features an Apache helicopter firing on and killing three journalists, including 2 Reuters reporters. The helicopter also shot up a van that had pulled up to assist the members of the first groups, wounding two children but killing their father:

The Army classified all the adult deaths as insurgents and claimed it did not know how they died.

For exposing government-sanctioned murder, Chelsea Manning was jailed for 1,294 days without charges before finally being sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for espionage, theft, and fraud.

Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents that he had gathered while he was working as an NSA contractor for Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton. He exposed the existence of several NSA-run global and domestic spying programs, including the PRISM data mining program. He sparked a discussion about government secrecy and spying on innocent people, and was rewarded by being hunted out of the country. He currently has temporary asylum in Russia, and is wanted by the U.S. for espionage.

4. We Actually Have Free Speech Zones
2004 Democratic National Convention Free Speech Zone
That's right. According to the Supreme Court, you do have the right to free speech, but only at certain times and places. Want to protest against the President? No problem, just do it way over there, out of earshot and behind that fence guarded by guys with guns.  Most colleges and universities have established and enforced "free speech zones." One student, for example, was ordered to stop handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.

In 2011, the "Trespass Bill" was passed, establishing a "no-protest bubble" around any government official guarded by the Secret Service.

Still feeling free? It only gets better...

5. The Government Is Engaged In A Never-Ending War

War gives those in government the excuse they need to further strip us of our liberties. Inevitably, government expands during a war - as Murray Rothbard said, "War is the health of the State." Luckily for us, we have not one but two endless wars going on at the moment: the War On Drugs and the War On Terror.

The War On Drugs is our government's war against its own citizens and its start signaled the very beginning of the budding police state in our country. Just for owning a plant or a powder, the government can seize your bank account, your car, your house, and you. And they'll probably kill your dog, too. According to the ACLU, 62% of SWAT raids from 2011-2012 were targeting drugs.

The U.S. has 25% of the world's prisoner population but only 5% of the world's total population. Of our prisoners, 1-in-4's most serious charge is drug-related. All of this to stop regular people from making their own decisions with their own bodies. Many people say the War On Drugs is a failure, but the "drugs" part was only a cover to make the reality more palatable to your average person: the true intent of the Drug War is control, and it's been wildly successful in that regard.

The War On Terror is a way for the government to ensure it always has a war to fight and an enemy to rally the population against no matter how bad things get here. The cycle goes as follows:
  • America bombs/invades/overthrows the government of/economically controls/otherwise diplomatically interferes with a much weaker nation for whatever gain.
  • People living in, for example, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or Syria get pissed off at America for bombing/invading them or making a pawn out of their government. They begin to fight back, whether as an "insurgency" or through terror attacks.
  • America soldiers/civilians getting killed angers American population. Free reign is given to the government to "git them ter'ists."
  • America invades/bombs/otherwise diplomatically intervenes again, except also in a few more countries, pissing even more people off.
  • Politicians, banks, arms companies, shipping companies, telecom companies, and anyone else with cozy government contracts make bank from the gigantic surge in government spending and regulation of the daily lives of the people.
The War On Terror scares people into giving up their liberties in exchange for safety. The government can place entire cities under martial law, or classify anyone as a "terrorist," strip them of their rights and send them to a military prison without charges - and all to cheers of a confused, paranoid mob. This leads us to our next issue...

6. The Legislation Is Already In Place

9/11 scared our country into the Patriot Act, one of the government's biggest attacks on our civil liberties to date. It was signed into law by George W. Bush forty-five days after 9/11. It authorized, among other things, the indefinite detention of immigrants; the search of homes and businesses without the knowledge or consent of the owner; and the use of National Security Letters, allowing federal agents access to your financial, e-mail, and telephone records without a court-ordered warrant. 

Even earlier, on September 14, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), giving the President the broad, sweeping power to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Expanding on the AUMF, Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) declares the entire world - including America - as a military battlefield in the War On Terror, allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process (charge or trial) at the discretion of the President, among other things.

A new executive order, entitled The Establishment Of The Council Of Governors (PDF), allows the President to appoint a body of ten state governors to work with the Federal government on the "synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities within the United States." Combine this with Executive Directive 51, which allows the President to declare a state of emergency regardless of whether or not there is actually anything going on, and assume what are basically dictatorial powers during such an emergency.

7. The Government Has Prison Camps
FEMA camp in Linden, NJ.
 UPDATE: As predicted, this part of the post has received the most flak. I was debating replacing it, but I've decided to leave it and let you make up your mind about this issue. Once again, emergency/internment (whatever you believe they'll be used for) camps are being built all around the country. Considering what I've already covered here, plus the fact that our government has previously imprisoned entire groups of innocent Americans during wartime, it's really not too far of a stretch to realize the possibility that the camps could be used for something other than their stated purpose, especially during a time of extreme paranoia.

I know some people reading this still have the utmost faith and trust in our government no matter how much they're abused, and this one's a hard pill to swallow even for those who do not. But these camps are real. You may not believe that they are to be used for nefarious purposes, but I don't find it a hard puzzle to piece together.

H.R. 645, or the "National Emergency Centers Establishment Act,"orders the construction of "Emergency Centers" throughout the country, to be controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the event of a very vaguely defined "emergency." There are over 800 of these facilities.

For a while, the camps were completely empty, yet still guarded by armed agents. Recently, however, homeless people in some areas have been given a "choice" between jail or a FEMA camp. In N.J, Hurricane Sandy evacuees were moved into FEMA camps (extra source). FEMA also "helped" in New Orleans after Katrina. FEMA has been called in to assist with the recent "dumping" of thousands of Mexican children and teenagers over the border into the U.S.. Also, one of Obama's solutions is... more detention centers.

The police state gains traction by picking off the "undesirables" of society and those who either garner no sympathy from or are simply forgotten or ignored by the general public. If there were another terror attack, do you really think those in power would hesitate to start filling these camps up with "potential threats?"

8. There's A Double-Standard For Agents Of The Government
A signature theme of the police state is that its agents are above the law. We've all heard stories about police abuse, whether it's headline news like the Rodney King beating or something even more criminal that somehow slides under the radar. You hear about cops and Federal agents breaking the laws they are supposed to enforce, and instead of being punished for it they're simply sent home for a couple days (with pay).

Recently, a handcuffed man was executed by a police officer in El Paso, Texas. The police report claimed that the gunshot wound the man died from was actually from the man striking his head on a doorway. But oops, there's a video. The man died six days later in a hospital, and a grand jury refused to indict the officer

A 95-year-old man in a nursing home was tasered to death after being shot five times with shotgun beanbag rounds. In August of 2013, a Delaware man was charged with two felonies - assaulting an officer and violently resisting arrest - after being shot six times by an officer he had invited into his home. The officer was given a two-week paid vacation while the man recovered from surgery in a hospital. Fortunately, the man was acquitted.

In Georgia, an infant was mutilated and put into a coma when a flashbang grenade was thrown into his crib during a drug raid. No arrests were made and the police found neither drugs nor the supposed dealer for whom they were looking.

A SWAT officer in Texas was shot and killed and three others wounded during a "no-knock" raid targeting drugs, although no drugs were found on the premises. The 50-year-old man is three counts of attempted capital murder for making a split-second decision to defend himself against a group of what he probably thought were criminal home-invaders.

Your family pet is a favorite target for raiders as well. Every 98 minutes, a dog is killed by law enforcement. In fact, the raiders are taught to do so upon entering a house with a dog. In Baltimore, a cop was placed on leave (read: given a paid vacation) for shooting a family's dog. How many police officers have been killed by dogs over the past 50 years? Zero. Even some cow somewhere out there has killed a cop.

When you put someone in a position of authority and then take away their accountability for their action, they are bound to abuse that authority. And they have guns: U.S. police fire more bullets in a month than German police do in a year. You shouldn't be too surprised to hear that you are eight times more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist. All a cop needs to do is claim he did it in self-defense an he's immediately given the benefit of the doubt.

9. They Really Are Trying To Take Your Guns

Many would argue (and I would agree) that gun confiscation is the most important step toward a police state; after all, the only real check against a dictatorial government is an armed populace. Those who argue that the government is not seeking to eliminate the right to bear arms are incapable of understanding a trend. Many times you'll hear people say, "no one is coming for your guns," and these people are often the very ones who also rant about how "assault rifles" should be banned and how the government "needs to do something" about gun violence.

The recent push has been for "national background checks" and a "national registry," which is ridiculously naive considering that if you're planning on committing a crime and you have half a brain, you're probably not going to use a gun registered to yourself, and you're probably not going to leave it at the scene of the crime as a gift to the investigator. Plus, we already have background checks and all legally purchased guns are already registered. Plus-plus, actual criminals won't be going through any background checks when they purchase a firearm that's either unregistered or has had the serial number scratched off.

What happened to "the right to bear arms . . . shall not be infringed?" In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police began the widespread confiscation of civilian firearms. A New Jersey mother was charged with "terroristic threats" and her weapons were confiscated after she recited the Constitution at a tax dispute assembly. A Vietnam veteran was barred from owning a gun because of a 45-year-old misdemeanor. A single mother of three from Philadelphia faces three years in prison for possessing a licensed gun while driving in New Jersey.

Between twenty and one-hundred thousand people have been suddenly and arbitrarily turned into criminals due to Connecticut's new gun control law. In New York, a newspaper used public records to publish an interactive map of thousands of gun owners, including names and addresses. New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law the NY SAFE Act, widely considered one of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Recently, a man was arrested under the SAFE Act for having nine bullets in his magazine (two over the limit of seven set by law). Gun owners are being incrementally criminalized in a country that only exists because of the right to bear arms.

10. Our Government Executes Its Own Citizens Without Trial

Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan were killed in Yemen by a drone strike by the CIA based on "secret evidence." Al-Awlaki and Khan, suspected terrorists, were also U.S. citizens but were never formally charged with a crime or put on trial. Even Saddam Hussein, - a genocidal dictator - was given a trial. Anwar and Samir, terrorist or not, should have been given a trial. The fact that they probably were terrorists would make anybody less likely to care about the assassination. Once again, the government erases all of our liberties by picking off the "undesirables" of society.

Anwar's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was also killed by the drone strike. Eric Holder claims Abdulrahman "was not targeted."

Not that it really matters in a police state, but the Fifth Amendment reads, " . . . no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law . . ." for a reason. Yet now our presidents have kill lists.

In sum, even if you're still clinging to the idea that the United States isn't a police state and that things "aren't that bad," you cannot deny that all the pieces of the puzzle are in place for a rapid descent into an Orwellian nightmare.

Also see: 
Recommended reading (click to purchase from Amazon.com):

by George Orwell

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

by William Shirer

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