Category Archives: NSA

Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government

The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.

― Thomas Jefferson, (Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville(

It is time to recalibrate the government.

For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.

By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.

We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.

This COVID-19 pandemic has provided the government with the perfect excuse to lay claim to a long laundry list of terrifying lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level) that override the Constitution: the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die, and impose health mandates on large segments of the population.

These kinds of crises tend to bring out the authoritarian tendencies in government.

That’s no surprise: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.

This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separate and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes law professor William P. Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”

Unadulterated power in any branch of government is a menace to freedom.

There’s no point debating which political party would be more dangerous with these powers.

The fact that any individual—or branch of government—of any political persuasion is empowered to act like a dictator is danger enough.

So what can we do to wrest back control over a runaway government and an imperial presidency?

It won’t be easy.

We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority.

This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.

We are viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.

We are being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.

We have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.

In the name of national security, we’re being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.

In other words, freedom—or what’s left of it—is threatened from every direction.

The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

In other words, the American police state is alive and well and flourishing.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we insist on it.

We have arrived at the dystopian future depicted in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, which is no future at all.

Set in the year 2020, V for Vendetta (written and produced by the Wachowskis) provides an eerie glimpse into a parallel universe in which a government-engineered virus wreaks havoc on the world. Capitalizing on the people’s fear, a totalitarian government comes to power that knows all, sees all, controls everything and promises safety and security above all.

Concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” Populist uprisings and protests are met with extreme force. The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.

Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?

As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”

Clearly, our leaders have stopped listening to the American people.

We are—and have been for some time—the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government—faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars.

What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?

In V for Vendetta, as in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, it takes an act of terrorism for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny: in Vendetta, V the film’s masked crusader blows up the seat of government, while in Erik Blair, freedom fighters plot to unmask the Deep State.

These acts of desperation and outright anarchy are what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.

This way lies madness.

Then again, this madness may be unavoidable unless we can wrest back control over our runaway government starting at the local level.

How to do this? It’s not rocket science.

There is no 10-step plan. If there were a 10-step plan, however, the first step would be as follows: turn off the televisions, tune out the politicians, and do your part to stand up for freedom principles in your own communities.

Stand up for your own rights, of course, but more importantly, stand up for the rights of those with whom you might disagree. Defend freedom at all costs. Defend justice at all costs. Make no exceptions based on race, religion, creed, politics, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. Vote like Americans, for a change, not Republicans or Democrats.

Most of all, use your power—and there is power in our numbers—to nullify anything and everything the government does that undermines the freedom principles on which this nation was founded.

Don’t play semantics. Don’t justify. Don’t politicize it. If it carries even a whiff of tyranny, oppose it. Demand that your representatives in government cut you a better deal, one that abides by the Constitution and doesn’t just attempt to sidestep it.

That’s their job: make them do it.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all freedoms hang together. They fall together, as well.

The police state does not discriminate. Eventually, we will all suffer the same fate.

The post Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited

Once upon a time a new class of people emerged. They were scholars and elitists, ‘special people,’ well ensconced in academia, politics, economics and military intelligence. They righteously demanded eradication of current norms and established ways of being. They insisted that prevailing antiquated inferior practices be replaced with new better ways of living. This required a purging of the old system by any means necessary. Accordingly, those who dissented were either re-indoctrinated, thrown in jail, exiled to other lands or done away with.

These notable visionaries pontificated a whole new outlook on life. Society will prosper! The masses will flourish! There will be no class! We are one!

Eventually, with reluctance or zeal everyone got on board with all the life affirming rhetoric. Well, except for those few unsavory stragglers who were always throwing in a wrench by daring to question the ruling thought system. To adequately manage these problematic skeptics a committee of the purest of the pure, the moral gatekeepers if you will, devised a game plan.

Appealing to the collective quest for power and belonging, the committee ventured forth with teasing out who was aligned and who deviated from partisan loyalty. Some good old fashioned spying would do the trick! Most important, they had to concoct a strategy to nullify those pesky beliefs that sullied right thinking.

To diminish ideological impurities the committee established an auxiliary sub-committee. In charge of assembling and broadcasting interesting and distracting stuff that would encourage agreement amongst the multitudes, the sub-committee culled and re-culled all sorts of stories! With unified intent they agreed that by playing to the collective instinctual need for tribal belonging and highlighting the ethos of upward mobility while simultaneously igniting fear, all-encompassing compliance would be ensured.

Harking back to unconscious reminders of the ‘primal horde’ and raising hopes and fears, proved to be a revolutionary form of thought control. The committee and sub-committee were very pleased. The campaign was so persuasive that without a hitch, it incited the common folk to evince an onslaught of aggression towards those who persisted in thinking for themselves. In fact, it was recognized as their moral and civic duty!

Indeed, this ‘us versus them’ strategy worked beautifully, but there was still more to be done to guarantee complacency. To offset the irritating concerns with the recent unavoidable interruption of economic activity, needs had to be gratified. Hence, with the sanction of Executive Order everyone in the land received monetary incentives. These social safety nets allowed folks to stay home, insulated from the dangers in the world while being entertained in the comfort of their living rooms!

Naturally just in case, a contingency plan was devised.

“Should all else fail,” the committee members concurred, “we will simply raise taxes or go to war to pillage the resources of some unsuspecting nation… for the purpose of humanitarian intervention of course!”

Hence, with the populace sufficiently dutiful and distracted, the rulers in charge got to the important work of brainstorming and changing the world.

Of course, this Kafkaesque allegory is a simplified account of historical trends. It is a repetitive reality that all forms of government irrespective of ideology, are ultimately reducible to the rule of a few global elitists. Likewise, the mass dissemination of a collectively revered ideology accompanied by the manipulation of information has always been standard procedure whenever power has been transferred from one elite class to another.

For instance, when we examine the French revolution, and the Bolshevik’s Russian revolution it’s clear how goals of reform formulated by select elites, drove the movements. These elitist intellectuals introduced a new doctrine that appealed to the people and catalyzed rebellion against the monarchy and the aristocracy.

Revisiting the onset of the French Revolution (1789), reveals the emergence of a new class which had great wealth but no political power. This new class wanted wealth and power, but the monarch class (royalty) refused to share power because of the historic notion that it was their inherent Divine right to rule. This dilemma ignited mutiny.

The monarchy was brought down and a new ruling class known as the Bourgeoisie (middle class) was established. We see a similar trajectory (1917) during the first World War when the Russian Monarch was also brought down by the elite class known as the Bolsheviks.

In both revolutions the violent seizure of power required the support, or at the very least the compliance of the citizenry. Naturally this meant that the throngs were seduced with proclamations of unbridled freedoms. Eventually however, public opinion was policed and injurious speech became a criminal offense subject to execution. Traitors were to be exposed and annihilated.

Accordingly, the Reign of Terror, under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, achieved their political goals through executing enemies of the revolution. Euphemistically referred to as the Committee of Public Safety, this powerful war council leveled extreme measures to protect the security of the new regime.

Similarly, the Bolshevik’s Red Terror emulated the Reign of Terror. The removal of state enemies entailed the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of suspected subversives, many who were tortured and executed. Any hint of opposition signified guilt.

Like their predecessors, contemporary elites who possess comparatively greater power and influence within institutions, organizations, and movements engineer decisive political outcomes. In this age of advanced technology, these architects of group indoctrination are members of a powerful superclass. They determine foreign policy, run the government, industry, and the worlds of finance and media. How they mobilize their influence has tremendous bearing not just on the collective mindset, but also on morality.

Charismatic leaders and celebrities are enlisted by these global elitists to promote prescriptive beliefs and agendas. Our susceptibility to aggrandizing and mythologizing of high-ranking people and eminent personalities, who by the way are no more capable than the average person of assuming a political role or declaring scientific expertise, sways us to adapt and conform.

Social psychologist Gustave Le Bon (1895 / The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind) explained how the collective group mind yields to instincts, resulting in a singular mindset. This phenomenon eradicates individual critical thought and makes ‘subordinate’ members of the group malleable to indoctrination and suggestion by powerful leaders.

Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who achieved acclaim as the “father of public relations” due to his masterful understanding of the psychological workings of propaganda, expanded on Le Bon’s ideas. His writings about how collective collusion with a dominant ideology encapsulated the principle, “if you are not for us, then you must be against us.”

Le Bon and Bernays analysis of the mob mentality is evidenced in the aggressive posturing of political correctness and cancel culture. Through the daily utilization of identification with race, class, gender, religion, nationality and political ideology, special interest groups and the elite corporate media shape the group mind. Carefully crafted campaigns uphold imperialist values, state sponsored violence and incontestable lockdowns.

By championing shaming and cruelty, under the guise of moral superiority, folks submit to the will of the group. This incites boycotts, marred reputations, social ostracism and destroyed livelihoods. In the spirit of moral relativism, it’s all chalked up to ‘the greater good’.

Consequently, we are distracted by what we are instructed to align with, oblivious to the machinations of corporate interests and motives disguised as humanitarian intervention.

Attempts to think for oneself in accordance with a personal moral code, or even factual information is met with an onslaught of aggression.

Still, there will always be those few non-conformists who oppose the ruling thought system. They are the subversives, the whistle-blowers, the conspiracy theorists. (Julian Assange, Martin Luther King, Karen Silkwood, Frank Serpico, Kathryn Bolkovac, Edward Snowden, Gary Webb, Berta Cáceres. The list goes on.) As freedom of expression is restricted to the overriding popular opinion, their controversial views are squelched and the Orwellian corruption of language and thought ensues.

As Edward Snowden endeavored to reveal, the National Security Agency (NSA) in direct violation of the 4th amendment, engages in warrantless surveillance of large volumes of Americans’ phone content and e-mail messages. Agents within the National Security Agency (NSA), have anonymously told the New York Times that the spy agency monitors millions of e-mail communications and telephone calls made by Americans.

This infringement on private communication continues to take on new meaning as government officials are working directly with Facebook to limit the spread of “misinformation.” The escalation of censorship under another name (i.e., managing domestic terrorism and disinformation) appears virtuous. Even while the Biden administration recently moved to shut down the websites of 33 foreign media outlets, it was spun as security protection, not an obvious attack on the 1st amendment.

Nevertheless, being spoon fed questionable narratives through mass deception campaigns dubbed as journalism is nothing new. Instituted in the early 1950s, the Mockingbird Project revealed the CIA’s involvement with major US news media. Through bribing journalists and publishers, propaganda was peddled to the masses. Acclaimed Watergate Reporter Carl Bernstein wrote a piece in 1977 for Rolling Stone magazine, “The CIA and the Media” in which he imparted, that since the early 1950’s the CIA “secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers, both English and foreign language which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives.”

Now with six corporations controlling 90 per cent of media outlets in the U.S. (AT&T, CBS, Comcast, Disney, News Corp and Viacom) it’s not a huge surprise that the press has acclimated to the expectations of these corporatized media giants.

In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found, “Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today…. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four in ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.”

Capitalizing on survival fears the government sponsored corporatized media bans, persecutes and censors those who deviate from popular opinion. Oppositional views are vilified, in effect muzzling those who question popular narratives. Regrettably many take the bait and participate in random emotionally charged exchanges that culminate in a mob mentality and a snitch culture. Aggressive social norms quickly take hold as hateful communication infiltrates a throng of followers. Competitive rancor and righteous indignation usurps the possibility of rational discourse when group shaming is exalted as a noble feat.

Ironically the proverbial silver lining is that eventually it all self destructs. Elitists and the masses end up fighting amongst themselves, maligning each other for not measuring up to fanatical purity tests.

As Plato conveyed in The Republic, mediocrity is our hubris and our demise. It is what brings down all systems.

Plato also imparted that those who know how to govern, ‘The Philosopher Kings’, are the wise, just elders who through debating and resolving with dialogue and intellect, contribute to mankind’s evolution. They are capable of upholding George Orwell’s interpretation of liberty as “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Indeed it is only when we have the freedom to choose and think for oneself that true morality can flourish. Until then forbidden perspectives will continue to go underground. Regrettably, that which could benefit from examination will not only remain hidden, it is destined to quietly foment into backlash and dissent waiting to erupt.

  • First published at Dialogue & Discourse.
  • The post When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Papers Instead of Human Lives: The Sentencing of Daniel Hale

    In May 2019, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, that famous bastion of anti-whistleblowing fervour, unsealed an indictment charging former intelligence analyst Daniel Everett Hale with five counts of providing classified information to a reporter.  The first four focused on obtaining national defense information, retaining and transmitting that information, causing the communication of that same information and disclosing classified communications intelligence information. The fifth alleged the theft of government property.

    Yet again, the US government was making use of the beastly Espionage Act of 1917.  Between 2009 and 2013, Hale worked with the US Air Force and National Security Agency.  He was then contracted by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to work as a toponymist.

    His work during his time in the NSA and as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – to identify targets for assassination for the US drone program – was performed at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  His sin, or what his attorney Jesselyn Radack prefers to call “committing the truth”, was to reveal classified documents revealing the distinct viciousness, and essential senselessness, of the US military’s drone program.  His motivation: “to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

    The contribution made by Hale in revealing the costs occasioned by drone deployment is impossible to diminish.  The documents, numbering some 150, showed how the policy of selecting targets was presumptuous rather than thorough.  The targeting was also far from precise.

    In the context of whistleblowing, the disclosure of the watchlisting rulebook became almost canonical in significance.  According to Betsy Reed, the editor-in-chief of The Intercept, which prosecutors imply to have been the recipient of Hale’s trove, the rulebook detailed “the parallel judicial system for watchlisting people and categorizing them as known or suspected terrorists without needing to prove they did anything wrong.”  Such rules, also applicable to US citizens, could be used to bar individuals from flying and permit their detention in airports and at borders “while being denied the ability to challenge government declarations about them.”  As Reed reminds us, the disclosure of the book fuelled “dozens of legal actions and important court victories for the protection of civil liberties.”

    In March, Hale pleaded guilty to one count.  Defence attorneys Todd Richman and Cadence Mertz argued in their submission that altruistic motives, along with the fact that the government had adduced no evidence showing that actual harm had arisen from the leaks, should be taken into account in sentencing. “He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States drone program.”

    In a handwritten letter to Judge Liam O’Grady, Hale describes a world of trauma, doubt and mourning.  There were the “bonding ceremonies” with peers over watching “war porn” featuring footage of previous drone strikes.  “I sat by watching too; said nothing and felt my heart breaking into pieces.”  There was the feeling of guilt as a defence contractor in participating in the “collective delusion and denial that was used to justify our exorbitant salaries”.

    President Barack Obama’s remarks about the drone program again deserved a mention.  The president had praised the certitude in such strikes and their cautious discrimination.  “But from what I knew, of the instances where civilians plausibly could have been present, those killed were nearly always designated enemies killed in action unless proven otherwise.”

    This was a form of war that could never claim to have a sliver of honour.  “The victorious rifleman, unquestionably remorseful, at least keeps his honor intact by having faced off against his enemy in the battlefield,” Hale reflects.  “But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetrated?”

    In their sentencing papers, prosecutors Gordon Kromberg and Alexander Berrang countered by claiming that Hale’s actions enabled “the most vicious terrorists in the world” to obtain “documents classified by the United States as ‘Secret’ and ‘Top Secret’ – and thought that such documents were valuable enough to disseminate to their own followers in their own manuals.”  Kromberg, just as he did with his efforts to extradite Julian Assange from the United Kingdom, has a rather fanciful view about what damaging the US national interest looks like.

    The prosecutors even insisted that the harm caused by Hale was more severe than that of former NSA contractor Reality Winner’s disclosures.  Winner’s sentence of five years was the harshest ever imposed on a whistleblower prosecuted for disclosing documents to a journalist in breach of the Espionage Act.

    On July 27, Hale received his sentence of 45 months – less than Winner’s but brutal nevertheless.  “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take – precious human life,” he told US District Judge Liam O’Grady.  “I couldn’t keep living in a world in which people pretend that things weren’t happening that were.  Please, your honour, forgive me for taking papers instead of human lives.”

    O’Grady’s remarks to Hale were full of the casuistry typical behind punishing whistleblowers.  The gist here is that Hale could have done it differently.  The prosecution had not thrown the book at him “for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people”.  “A majority of Americans would have commended you for coming forward.”  Hale could well have remained a whistleblower “without leaking any of these documents, frankly.”  A suggestion both implausible and foolish.

    Using the press, in others, had been inappropriate, and probably the result of manipulation by the fourth estate.  “I think you were motivated because of your conscience, but I also think you were motivated because of your desire to please the journalists.”  The journalists in question “had to know you were facing almost certain prosecution, but they went forward and did what they did.”  With such views as those held by O’Grady, the deep state will have every reason to crow with satisfaction.

    Despite having little time for the avenue Hale took to manifest his concerns, the judge left room in his remarks to reproach the Air Force for the “inexcusable decision” of sending such a man to Afghanistan and assigning him the task of analysing video footage of drone strikes.  Hale’s history of serious mental disturbance was ignored and his treatment, on returning, had been “a horrible injustice”.

    The conviction and sentencing of Hale continues a tendency of successive administrations to target whistleblowers using a statute that negates the public interest defence.  Altruistic motives are irrelevant to the means by which information is disclosed.  In this case, exposing papers was far more serious to the imperium than the taking of human lives.

    The post Papers Instead of Human Lives: The Sentencing of Daniel Hale first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    That Old Story: Spying on Friends

    One has to be repeatedly reminded that the theatre of international relations knows no friends and only national interests, whatever those might be.  Intelligence services, being an expression of those interests, do not necessarily discriminate in targeting their quarry.  The revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 about warrantless and unwarranted surveillance by the US National Security Agency was revealing on this point, though it merely confirmed centuries of understanding in politics: In our friends and foes, we mistrust.

    Having spilled such valuable beans, Snowden readied us for what should have been regarded as banal, even farcical.  As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists summarised, “The rule is that everybody spies on everybody – except when they have an agreement not to.”  And, just in case you were in doubt “they may still do so.”  In terms of the United States, he was not shy: “We are photographing and listening to the entire globe.”

    The entire globe naturally includes peeking into the affairs of one’s allies.  “Even among friends,” a serious Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University said in 2013, “a lot of espionage takes place, and some of that espionage is targeted against national security.”  Kupchan sees this as solid bookkeeping. “There is more mundane day-to-day intelligence gathering, which is focusing on intelligence that would be relevant to American statecraft: who is likely to be the next foreign minister, what’s Germany’s position on negotiations with Iran?”

    Snowden showed how the NSA exploited its partnership with various intelligence networks to get a leg up into the surveillance of various allies. One of these partnerships involved Denmark.  The relationship with the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste or FE), it transpired, involved conducting surveillance upon senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France and Germany.  This says much about the Danish political experiment, a small establishment in search of a relevant, collaborative purpose.  To that end, the FE-NSA enterprise involved using XKeyscore, an NSA-developed software tool revealed by Snowden, which intercepts calls, texts and chat messages received and sent from the phones of the officials.

    The 2013 exposure prompted an internal investigation into the Danish Defence Intelligence Service codenamed “Operation Dunhammer”.  The findings of the Dunhammer report were then aired in selective form across a range of media networks: Danmarks Radio, NRK, SVT Nyheter, NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Le Monde.

    When asked to comment on the issue, Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen reiterated with bone dull tediousness “that this government has the same attitude as the former Prime Minister expressed in 2013 and 2014 – systematic wiretapping of close allies is unacceptable.”

    As always with such disclosures, there is much ventilating fury, feigned surprise and naïve implausibility.  This lies in the residue of desperation and misplaced expectation: fidelity undermined and compromised.

    On such occasions, the outraged claim they had no idea, even in the face of news that was old news.  Peer Steinbrück’s words of hurt to the German broadcaster ARD were angry but rehearsed for the occasion. It was, claimed the former Social Democratic Party candidate for chancellor, “grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed … spying on top representatives.”  By way of contrast Patrick Sensburg of the commission with oversight over Germany’s intelligence services, barely bats an eyelid.  Denmark, he assumes, had not deliberately intercepted the communications of top politicians.  A sweet suggestion.

    France’s Europe Minister, Clément Beaune, stayed to the script in strolling fashion, calling the findings “extremely serious”, though his views should be taken at a pinch.  According to Beaune, “We need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors in their cooperation with American services.”  But this came with a neat, even comic caveat. “Between allies, there must be trust, a minimal cooperation.”  Clearly, the minimal aspect prevailed here.

    Towards the northern European states, the Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist could hardly be said to be outraged in an interview with SVT Nyheter.  The behaviour of such figures before scandal is to treat it as an interlude of interest.  He acknowledged the Danish response that such eavesdropping on allies was “unacceptable”, which was mighty fine of him.  He was also adamant that espionage activity from his country was not directed at Danish or Norwegian politicians (the Germans and French do not warrant a mention), suggesting that the Swedes are just that much better in all of this.

    Deafening silences have followed in Washington and Copenhagen in the intelligence community.  The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the NSA, and the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, have declined to comment.  Former chiefs of the FE, Lars Findsen and Thomas Ahrenkiel, are keeping mum about the matter.

    As with President Barack Obama before him, Joe Biden will face a few questions on his visit to Europe in a fortnight.  He was, in Snowden’s view, “well-prepared to answer for this when he soon visits Europe since, of course, he was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around.  There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only in Denmark, but their senior partner as well.”

    The only thing of interest that may come of these meetings is the cold realisation that espionage reduces all relationships to those of adversaries.  Misnamed friends cannot be trusted in the business of gathering intelligence.

    The post That Old Story: Spying on Friends first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Time for a New Toolbox

    Though his story has been widely disseminated by now, before Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong he sent a box of classified documents by snail mail from Hawaii (marked mysteriously “from B. Manning”) to a writer in New York, which made its way, unopened, from person to person until it reached journalists Laura Poitras and Glen Greenwald, who went on to meet with Snowden and tell his story of global panoptic surveillance affecting just about everybody online.

    The story, Snowden’s ToolBox: Trust in the Age of Surveillance, by Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge, is, as the authors emphasize, a story of trust in an age of paranoia and suspicion. They’re keen to tell us, tag-team style, how the world has changed since the events of 9/11, with the militarization of the Internet, and the rise of surveillance capitalism, leading to a pervasive sense that privacy is no longer viable. We’ve succumbed to the sad notion that if we have ‘nothing to hide’ then we needn’t worry about Big Brother watching over us.

    Many readers will be familiar with Jessica Bruder’s work through the adaptation of her travel memoir, Nomadland, which recently won the Oscar for best film, and for which she worked with the director Chloé Zhao to create a screenplay. Her road travels, living the life of a nomad for months, and talking Studs Terkel-like to American wanderers, travelling from job to job as a lifestyle, jibes quite nicely with co-author Dale Maharidge’s background. Maharidge won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for And Their Children After Them, his follow-on to the James Agee study of Alabama sharecroppers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. They’re People people, and so are the cadre of journalists and independent filmmakers they hook up with in telling this side story.

    The first half of the book retells the now-familiar story of how and why Edward Snowden stole highly classified documents from NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and handed them over to Poitras and Greenwald, who went on to make a film, Citizenfour, and detail his revelations in the Guardian. The co-authors quote Snowden judiciously; in an interview shortly after he outs himself on TV, Snowden tells us that the surveillance state he’s seen represents “an existential threat to democracy…I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

    Bruder explains that Snowden had wanted to have his revelations run in the New York Times, the nation’s preeminent paper of record, but was seriously bummed out when they quashed an October 2004 article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau that exposed Stellar Wind, the government’s illegal dragnet of American electronic communications. The Bush administration had denied such activity.

    Bruder writes, “Approaching the New York Times…was out of the question. Snowden didn’t have confidence that the newspaper would have the guts to break the story… The scoop was scheduled to run right before the 2004 elections, but Executive Editor Bill Keller deferred to Bush administration officials, who claimed the revelations would damage national security.” When the story finally broke, more than a year later, it caused a political furor and popular outcry.

    A more intriguing section in Snowden’s Toolbox comes when Bruder talks about how Poitras and Greenwald got together after the Snowden revelations began running in the Guardian and were invited by Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar to start up a new publication — The Intercept. It was meant to be a solid alternative to the corporatized MSM and a trustworthy reporting platform for whistleblowers. The publication garnered and poached some of the best journalistic talent from NYT and WaPo and elsewhere and seemed, at first, like the Travelling Wilburys of journalism.

    But there was trouble from the start. The Terms of Service (TOS) made it clear that readers could be expected to have their presence at the site logged and their comments scanned by Google Adsense and Amazon’s algorithms. Such surveillance was troublesome, if for no other reason than that the Intercept’s readership were probably the types the State would want to gather details about.

    It recalled the deal that Greenwald had signed with Amazon to promote his Pulitzer Prize-winning post-Snowden account of the surveillance state, No Place to Hide. Viewers of the site were offered an opportunity to receive Greenwald’s book for free, if they applied and were successfully approved for an Amazon credit card. The application details would be processed by Chase, who Greenwald had once excoriated for their corrupt practices. But more importantly, by accepting the deal from Amazon, Greenwald was effectively promoting the forwarding of private information to a corporation that would collect and store that data – from exactly the kind of readers the State would be eager to parse.

    We learn that Laura Poitras, co-founder of The Intercept, was turned down when she wanted to continue working with the Snowden trove of documents, which First Look Media, owner of The Intercept, told her “the company would own all rights to any publication that resulted from our writing about the Snowden archive.” And that, she continues, “Notes we took at the archive would be confiscated for review — and possible redaction — by the Intercept.” And she added: “I laughed. The experience felt like something out of Kafka. And it gave me a sense of déjà vu, echoing how the NSA and the FBI had shut down our request to see our files.” The Intercept has since stopped writing altogether about the Snowden archive.

    It gets worse when the reader learns that Laura Poitras was stiffed by The Intercept in her compensation package. Bruder writes, “Laura had been facing challenges of her own at the company, including the startling realization that her compensation was far below that of her male colleagues Greenwald and (Jeremy) Scahill.” Unbeknownst to her, Scahill and Greenwald had renegotiated their contracts, and the resulting pay disparity was “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

    Toward the end of the book, Bruder and Maharidge, the leit motif is repeated. Trust — at the interpersonal level, work environment and social contract with the State — is key. They write, “Trust is the basis of all cooperative action in a free society. It’s the feeling of fellowship that allows people to take risks and grow. It’s also the underpinning of democracy. And it’s fragile, easy to undermine.”

    Succinct, true, and well put.

    All in all, Snowden’s Toolbox is a good read, with humor, intelligence, and a welcome sense of journalistic collegiality. An Appendix offers a “toolbox” of stuff journalists and readers can do to maintain their privacy and the documents of their whistleblowing sources.

    The post Time for a New Toolbox first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19

    A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power.
    ― Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, October 1962

    For good or bad, COVID-19 has changed the way we navigate the world.

    It is also redrawing the boundaries of our world (and our freedoms) and altering the playing field faster than we can keep up.

    Owing in large part to the U.S. government’s deep-seated and, in many cases, top-secret alliances with foreign nations and global corporations, it has become increasingly obvious that we have entered into a new world order—a global world order—made up of international government agencies and corporations.

    This powerful international cabal, let’s call it the Global Deep State, is just as real as the corporatized, militarized, industrialized American Deep State, and it poses just as great a threat to our rights as individuals under the U.S. Constitution, if not greater.

    We’ve been inching closer to this global world order for the past several decades, but COVID-19, which has seen governmental and corporate interests become even more closely intertwined, has shifted this transformation into high gear.

    Fascism has become a global menace.

    It remains unclear whether the American Deep State (“a national-security apparatus that holds sway even over the elected leaders notionally in charge of it”) answers to the Global Deep State, or whether the Global Deep State merely empowers the American Deep State. However, there is no denying the extent to which they are intricately and symbiotically enmeshed and interlocked.

    Consider the extent to which our lives and liberties are impacted by this international convergence of governmental and profit-driven corporate interests in the surveillance state, the military industrial complex, the private prison industry, the intelligence sector, the security sector, the technology sector, the telecommunications sector, the transportation sector, the pharmaceutical industry and, most recently, by the pharmaceutical-health sector.

    All of these sectors are dominated by mega-corporations operating on a global scale and working through government channels to increase their profit margins. The profit-driven policies of these global corporate giants influence everything from legislative policies to economics to environmental issues to medical care.

    Global Disease

    The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled us into a whole new global frontier. Those hoping to navigate this interconnected and highly technological world of contact tracing, vaccine passports and digital passes will find themselves grappling with issues that touch on deep-seated moral, political, religious and personal questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers.

    We are about to find our ability to access, engage and move about in the world dependent on which camp we fall into: those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have not.

    “It is the latest status symbol. Flash it at the people, and you can get access to concerts, sports arenas or long-forbidden restaurant tables. Some day, it may even help you cross a border without having to quarantine,” writes Heather Murphy for the New York Times. “The new platinum card of the Covid age is the vaccine certificate.”

    This is what M.I.T. professor Ramesh Raskar refers to as the new “currency for health,” an apt moniker given the potentially lucrative role that Big Business (Big Pharma and Big Tech, especially) will play in establishing this pay-to-play marketplace. The airline industry has been working on a Travel Pass. IBM is developing a Digital Health Pass. And the U.S. government has been all-too-happy to allow the corporate sector to take the lead.

    Global Surveillance

    Spearheaded by the National Security Agency (NSA), which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, the surveillance state has come to dominate our government and our lives.

    Yet the government does not operate alone. It cannot. It requires an accomplice.

    Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of our massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental bureaucracy.

    Take AT&T, for instance. Through its vast telecommunications network that crisscrosses the globe, AT&T provides the U.S. government with the complex infrastructure it needs for its mass surveillance programs. According to The Intercept:

    The NSA considers AT&T to be one of its most trusted partners and has lauded the company’s ‘extreme willingness to help.’ It is a collaboration that dates back decades. Little known, however, is that its scope is not restricted to AT&T’s customers. According to the NSA’s documents, it values AT&T not only because it ‘has access to information that transits the nation,’ but also because it maintains unique relationships with other phone and internet providers. The NSA exploits these relationships for surveillance purposes, commandeering AT&T’s massive infrastructure and using it as a platform to covertly tap into communications processed by other companies.

    Now magnify what the U.S. government is doing through AT&T on a global scale, and you have the “14 Eyes Program,” also referred to as the “SIGINT Seniors.” This global spy agency is made up of members from around the world (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, India and all British Overseas Territories).

    Surveillance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these global alliances, however.

    Global War Profiteering

    War has become a huge money-making venture, and America, with its vast military empire and its incestuous relationship with a host of international defense contractors, is one of its biggest buyers and sellers.

    The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth. For example, while erecting a security surveillance state in the U.S., the military-industrial complex has perpetuated a worldwide military empire with American troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

    Although the federal government obscures so much about its defense spending that accurate figures are difficult to procure, we do know that since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $1.8 trillion in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (that’s $8.3 million per hour). That doesn’t include wars and military exercises waged around the globe, which are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

    The illicit merger of the global armaments industry and the Pentagon that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against more than 50 years ago has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation’s fragile infrastructure today. America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour)—and that’s just what the government spends on foreign wars. That does not include the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the globe.

    Incredibly, although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure,  spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. There’s a good reason why “bloated,” “corrupt” and “inefficient” are among the words most commonly applied to the government, especially the Department of Defense and its contractors. Price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire.

    It’s not just the American economy that is being gouged, unfortunately.

    Driven by a greedy defense sector, the American homeland has been transformed into a battlefield with militarized police and weapons better suited to a war zone. President Biden, marching in lockstep with his predecessors, has continued to expand America’s military empire abroad and domestically in a clear bid to pander to the powerful money interests (military, corporate and security) that run the Deep State and hold the government in its clutches.

    Global Policing

    Glance at pictures of international police forces and you will have a hard time distinguishing between American police and those belonging to other nations. There’s a reason they all look alike, garbed in the militarized, weaponized uniform of a standing army.

    There’s a reason why they act alike, too, and speak a common language of force: they belong to a global police force.

    For example, Israel—one of America’s closest international allies and one of the primary yearly recipients of more than $3 billion in U.S. foreign military aid—has been at the forefront of a little-publicized exchange program aimed at training American police to act as occupying forces in their communities. As The Intercept sums it up, American police are “essentially taking lessons from agencies that enforce military rule rather than civil law.”

    This idea of global policing is reinforced by the Strong Cities Network program, which trains local police agencies across America in how to identify, fight and prevent extremism, as well as address intolerance within their communities, using all of the resources at their disposal. The cities included in the global network include New York City, Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis, Paris, London, Montreal, Beirut and Oslo.

    The objective is to prevent violent extremism by targeting its source: racism, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, etc. In other words, police—acting as extensions of the United Nations—will identify, monitor and deter individuals who exhibit, express or engage in anything that could be construed as extremist.

    Of course, the concern with the government’s anti-extremism program is that it will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.

    Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the private 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).

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

    Are you starting to get the picture now?

    On almost every front, whether it’s the war on drugs, or the sale of weapons, or regulating immigration, or establishing prisons, or advancing technology, or fighting a pandemic, if there is a profit to be made and power to be amassed, you can bet that the government and its global partners have already struck a deal that puts the American people on the losing end of the bargain.

    We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’re certainly on that downward trajectory now, and things are moving fast.

    The “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has perished.

    In its place is a shadow government—a corporatized, militarized, entrenched global bureaucracy—that is fully operational and running the country.

    Given the trajectory and dramatic expansion, globalization and merger of governmental and corporate powers, we’re not going to recognize this country 20 years from now.

    It’s taken less than a generation for our freedoms to be eroded and the Global Deep State’s structure to be erected, expanded and entrenched.

    Mark my words: the U.S. government will not save us from the chains of the Global Deep State.

    Now there are those who will tell you that any mention of a New World Order government—a power elite conspiring to rule the world—is the stuff of conspiracy theories.

    I am not one of those skeptics.

    I wholeheartedly believe that one should always mistrust those in power, take alarm at the first encroachment on one’s liberties, and establish powerful constitutional checks against government mischief and abuse.

    I can also attest to the fact that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I have studied enough of this country’s history—and world history—to know that governments (the U.S. government being no exception) are at times indistinguishable from the evil they claim to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

    And I have lived long enough to see many so-called conspiracy theories turn into cold, hard fact.

    Remember, people used to scoff at the notion of a Deep State (a.k.a. Shadow Government). They used to doubt that fascism could ever take hold in America, and sneer at any suggestion that the United States was starting to resemble Nazi Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

    As I detail in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re beginning to know better, aren’t we?

    The post The Global Deep State: A New World Order Brought to You by COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    How to Respond to the Evils of Our Age

    The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.—Martin Luther King Jr. (A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967)

    In every age, we find ourselves wrestling with the question of how Jesus Christ—the itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist who died challenging the police state of his time, namely, the Roman Empire—would respond to the moral questions of our day.

    For instance, would Jesus advocate, as so many evangelical Christian leaders have done in recent years, for congregants to “submit to your leaders and those in authority,” which in the American police state translates to complying, conforming, submitting, obeying orders, deferring to authority and generally doing whatever a government official tells you to do?

    What would Jesus do?

    Study the life and teachings of Jesus, and you may be surprised at how relevant he is to our modern age.

    A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire, and providing a blueprint for standing up to tyranny that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him.

    Those living through this present age of government lockdowns, immunity passports, militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, invasive surveillance and the like might feel as if these events are unprecedented. However, the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being are no different today than they were in Jesus’ lifetime: control, power and money.

    Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day was characterized by secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state.

    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.”

    Indeed, the police state in which Jesus lived (and died) and its striking similarities to modern-day America are beyond troubling.

    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 the NSA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the 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, 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.

    Ultimately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, 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.

    After all, there is so much suffering and injustice in the world, and so much good that can be done by those who truly aspire to follow Jesus Christ’s example.

    We must decide whether we will follow the path of least resistance—willing to turn a blind eye to what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the “evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence”—or whether we will be transformed nonconformists “dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”

    As King explained in a powerful sermon delivered in 1954, “This command not to conform comes … [from] Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.”

    Furthermore:

    We need to recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and refused to shape their witness according to the mundane patterns of the world.  Willingly they sacrificed fame, fortune, and life itself in behalf of a cause they knew to be right.  Quantitatively small, they were qualitatively giants.  Their powerful gospel put an end to such barbaric evils as infanticide and bloody gladiatorial contests.  Finally, they captured the Roman Empire for Jesus Christ… The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!

    …Honesty impels me to admit that transformed nonconformity, which is always costly and never altogether comfortable, may mean walking through the valley of the shadow of suffering, losing a job, or having a six-year-old daughter ask, “Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?”  But we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence.  Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.  To be a Christian, one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties and agonizing and tragedy-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way that comes only through suffering.

    In these days of worldwide confusion, there is a dire need for men and women who will courageously do battle for truth.  We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds?  Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul saving music of eternity?

    The post How to Respond to the Evils of Our Age first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Democratic Party Fascism: 2020 Edition

    Now that Joe Biden will be America’s next president, it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the choices for his cabinet, White House staff, and national security positions. There are some real crazies here, as we shall see. As we dig deeper and deeper, what emerges is a network of people whose views can quite literally be defined as fascist. This is not to deny that in many ways Trump and his administration were worse than many of these officials profiled below. What is noteworthy is that Biden’s team of imperialists is potentially more competent at wielding power and using the machinery of empire; or the national security state as it’s sometimes called, to further the genocidal and ecocidal agendas of US foreign policy, by advocating for more disastrous “interventions” abroad.

    Again, to reiterate, I am in no way arguing that Republicans are the better choice. In fact, the Democrat foreign policy agenda is slightly better, but that is not saying much. The point is that both parties are two sides of the same coin in support of capitalism and empire, and that Democrats harbor many of the same fascist ideas as their Republican colleagues; they are simply better at hiding it and are more subtle about their intentions. The point of this essay is to expose that Democrats are also culpable in advancing neo-fascist ideology and there are many more similarities than differences between the parties. It’s slightly painful to have to point this all out, but the abysmal political discourse and low level of critical thinking, the polarization of politics, and the reactivity of those who think about politics as binary choices between good and evil leads to the inevitable “you’re criticizing x; you must be a supporter of y”. Just because this essay focuses on Democrats does not mean the same problems don’t also apply to Republicans.

    Starting with the president-elect, Biden claims to have learned from his past “mistakes”. The mistakes are many — being against school integration in the seventies, sponsoring the 1994 crime bill, leading Democrats to favor going to war in Iraq in 2003, and the continuation of the global war on terror (even if the name was changed) during the Obama presidency. Biden is a war criminal and a depraved person — so if it were possible for him to change, he would not allow for the appointment of the nefarious individuals profiled below. But he’s not going to change, and his underlings in power aren’t either.

    Spinning through the revolving door of public bureaucracy and corporate executive and board member positions in the private sphere, the individuals profiled below define one of the core features of fascism: the fusion of public and private life in the service of nationalist and imperialist conquest. In no particular order, here are some of the most fascistic and egregiously awful ideas and life choices from a few of Biden’s appointments.

    Anthony Blinken

    Anthony Blinken is Biden’s pick for Secretary of State. He has worked in various foreign policy positions in the Obama administration. From the beginning, he supported the war in Libya and the genocidal US-backed Saudi Arabian war against Yemen. So he is a very typical bureaucratic, hawkish, liberal interventionist apparatchik. He’s just another boring psycho who probably sleeps like a baby while people are sold into slavery in Libya and kids die of starvation and cholera in Yemen every day due to policies he devised and continues to advocate for.

    What makes him interesting are his connections, and many are documented in an article in The Prospect titled “How Biden’s Foreign Policy Team Got Rich”, as well as a Politico piece entitled “The secretive consulting firm that’s become Biden’s Cabinet in waiting”, both of which I rely heavily on here. Along with Michele Flournoy (who was floated as Biden’s Defense Department pick before Lloyd Austin was chosen, both of whom we’ll get to) Blinken worked for a consultancy firm called WestExec Advisors. One of Blinken and Flournoy’s paymasters was one John Thain, a former Merrill Lynch executive, who like Trump, once had a golden toilet and conned his company out of millions.

    Like most consulting firms getting fat and rich off helping military contractors, their “work” involves helping large corporations secure contracts by flashing their credentials and contacts, navigating tricky international trade laws and using legal loopholes to secure contracts for clients, leveraging diplomatic intricacies to work with unsavory/unstable/dictatorial foreign powers, as well as using cloak and dagger skills honed as US diplomats to secure backroom deals for multinationals and foreign governments. Sitting at the intersection of banking, military defense, advanced technology, and international relations, these consultants exercise a whole lot of power and influence that the ruling classes cannot do overtly — so they use lowly, greedy, corrupt diplomats like Blinken and Flournoy who function basically as lobbyists and middle-men for the military industrial complex; doing the dirty work of greasing trading partners and dealing with corrupt foreign leaders and the comprador class abroad.

    Now, as The Prospect points out, Flournoy’s private sector consulting firm was tied almost exclusively towards defense contracts. Another WestExec employee, one Robert Work, is a former Marine officer who sits on the board of Raytheon. Yet another employee of WestExec is Avril Haines (profiled below), who worked in the CIA under Gina Haspel and approves of CIA torture and assassination programs. Flournoy also worked on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, who, by the way, consults directly for the Saudi government in military, engineering, and logistics as it massacres civilians in Yemen. As business partners, Blinken and Flournoy are joined at the hip: they both approve and preside over the most pernicious and destructive aspects of the imperial directives within the national security state.

    Neera Tanden

    Neera Tanden is Biden’s pick for director of Office of Management and Budget. In 2011, following the US and NATO bombing of Libya, an internal email from Tanden to her think tank Center for American Progress was leaked to The Intercept. Here is what Tanden wrote:

    We have a giant deficit, they have a lot of oil. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me.

    This is exactly how fascists talk. This is exactly what Donald Trump said about seizing Syrian oil fields for US control and profiteering. Just like Trump, Tanden is infamous for being a notorious Twitter addict and a toxic online personality. She’s also been accused of punching a journalist.

    Of course, what she’s advocated for, the stealing of another nation’s natural resources, is a gross violation of international law, and it’s not exactly a secret that she wrote this. So why is there no outrage from Democrats? Are they that narrow-minded that they’re unaware, or simply don’t care, or believe that Tanden can learn from her “mistakes”, or what? Probably a combination of all of the above, yet it doesn’t matter, as the Democrats just like Republicans, cannot be bothered to be held responsible for the horrible things they say and do. The leadership of both parties believes that they are the elect; great beings that while fallible ultimately are destined to rule regardless of the stupidity or destructiveness of their whims. Apparently nothing disqualifies them.

    Ezekiel Emanuel

    Mr. Emanuel has been picked to be a part of Biden’s Covid-19 task force. He is the brother of the one and only Rahm Emanuel, a real piece of work in his own right (who was Obama’s chief of staff, and Chicago’s former mayor). Ezekiel is a medical doctor, and chair of Medical Ethics (this is relevant) at University of Pennsylvania.

    He managed to write a piece in The Atlantic in 2014: “Why I Hope to Die at 75“. He lists quite a few reasons, such as the declining quality of life for seniors. Then, he shows his true colors, because he explains that one of the major factors in his view is how seniors are no longer contributing to society, and therefore create strains on health care, the economy, etc. He writes that “but the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us”. Oh, really now? He continues: “The deadline [of dying at 75] also forces each of us to ask whether our consumption is worth our contribution.”

    Hang on, there’s more. In a 2019 interview with MIT Technology Review, Emmanuel doubles down and says that:

    When I look at what [the elderly] do, almost all of it is what I classify as play. It’s not meaningful work. They’re riding motorcycles; they’re hiking. Which can all have value—don’t get me wrong. But if it’s the main thing in your life? Ummm, that’s not probably a meaningful life.

    Yes, you are reading this right. Our elders who’ve worked their asses off their entire lives for corporations and a government that does not give one single fuck about them should not be entitled to enjoy their retirement because they “play” too much. They are no longer contributing in a manner considered productive or meaningful to this super-genius doctor and bioethicist, therefore, he questions their right to exist, because they are useless consumers in his view.

    So, just to be clear here, this is straight up fascist and eugenicist rhetoric. The elderly (and by extension the disabled) are not worthy of life because they no longer work. As he repeatedly implies in both articles, the elderly are a drain on societies’ precious resources. The best he can muster not to sound like a complete ass is he acknowledges the communal ties and “mentorship” the elderly provide, yet even when he tries to seem empathetic it comes off as phony and cold. Elder’s aren’t just mentors teaching us how to contribute more and be more “productive”, they are role models who impart wisdom on how to live a decent life. How about instead we honor, cherish, and look up to our elders not only because they have lessons to teach us, but because they are human beings and worthy of dignity and respect regardless of how “productive” they are. How about we acknowledge that seniors have much more to teach us than can be quantified in a research paper, Dr. Emanuel? How about we realize that seniors are one of the only groups left in our narcissistic society that truly embody the humility, gratitude, and reverence for life that we all claim to want to emulate?

    Lloyd Austin

    Lloyd Austin is a retired 4-star general who once headed Central Command (CENTCOM) in the US military. Now, he serves on the board of Raytheon, one of the largest defense companies in the world which self-reinforces the belief that our modern war machine is necessary to “create jobs” and “stimulate the economy”, and which sells billions in weapons to various dictatorial regimes around the globe.

    Once again, notice the revolving door phenomenon. You acquisition a crap-ton of weapons as a general, use them to kill and maim a whole lot of innocent people on the other side of the world, and you are rewarded after leaving “public service” with a “job” where you show up to a meeting every six months for a hefty salary and a golden parachute of stock options.

    This is modern day fascism. There are no more gas chambers, but there are slave-labor private prisons, concentration camps for undocumented immigrants, multiple wars raging abroad, and trillions of dollars flowing into defense, intelligence, and security agencies which only make things more dangerous and insecure for the vast majority of the world’s population, even in the West. The only difference is the media is much better at propaganda today, with much greater capabilities to convince people to rationalize and compartmentalize the immense devastation of today’s lone imperial and colonial superpower, the USA.

    Avril Haines

    Haines has been nominated for the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). In this role she would oversee the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies, most notably, of course, the CIA and NSA. She previously worked her way up through the State Department before becoming the Deputy Director of the CIA in the Obama administration. Obviously only a very dangerous and deluded person would take on such a role anyways, and what’s notable is she supported Gina Haspel as CIA director, who was an architect of the CIA’s torture program. She also worked directly with Obama and John Brennan in the extra-judicial assassination drone bombing program.

    As noted above, Haines worked for WestExec Advisors as a consultant. It’s also been reported that one of her clients was Palantir. Palantir, for those who don’t know, is owned by libertarian billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, and most of their work is tied in with military and intelligence contracts. Palantir was started with CIA money, as the New York Times and others have reported. It’s been reported widely that one of Palantir’s clients is, in fact, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, which has used its secretive computer surveillance programs to hunt down, arrest, and deport undocumented immigrants. Thiel is also connected to AI facial recognition software start-ups, and Palantir software can also be used by domestic police forces to spy on potential suspects and “criminals”.

    So, yet again the Democratic “good guy/gal” spooks like Haines have been caught red-handed working for the same fascistic authoritarians that fund Trump, that lock up innocent Latinos who come to the US in search of a better life, and that brutally murder civilians on the other side of the globe while they get rich off military contracts, in which they set the policies for in the public sector, and then consult for in the private sphere. Is this not as depraved as anything we’ve heard in the past four years about Trump and his administration? Again, where is the outrage? This is such a blatant double-standard, and the lack of any real serious reporting on these issues once again blows out of the water any notion of a “fair and balanced” political stance in the media.

    Jake Sullivan

    Sullivan has been tapped as Biden’s National Security Advisor. Much like Blinken, he is a liberal-interventionist-imperialist, boring law-nerd psycho who worked in the State Department under Clinton and shifted to Biden’s advisor under Obama after Clinton left State.

    There is not much to go on with Sullivan. He is a model liberal elitist national security state technocrat, a faceless drone, a cipher. In case one thought that, since he worked under Obama, he would have some sense of restraint or at least “respectable” liberal decorum, his wife, as it turns out, used to advise John McCain and Joe Lieberman, two of the most bellicose US senators of the past few decades. According to liberal and conservative logic, you’d think that would make for some awkward dinner conversations. But these are not people with any real convictions or beliefs. They are hollow, empty vessels, nihilists in a sense. This guy is an archetypal centrist bureaucrat.

    Biden referred to Sullivan as having a “once in a generation intellect”. Coming from such a mediocre mind, that’s really not saying much, but what it means in empire-speak is that this dude actually possesses levers of power and influence to play multiple sides of government in order to smooth over differences in service of America’s imperial ambitions.

    In Conclusion

    For the love of all that is holy, don’t get it twisted and think that these people were somehow chosen for their positions in spite of these “mistakes”. The paper trail shows a blood-drenched path where they are willing to plan and commit whatever war crimes it takes for their self-aggrandizement, personal enrichment, and to better serve their oligarchic masters. Further, they are actually competent at what they do, which is piloting the death machine that we call the US Empire. These are not good people on the sidelines or the fringes of developing US domestic and foreign policy. These are the architects of a modern-day neo-fascism cloaked in the guise of “liberal democracy”.

    Rather, each of these individuals have been selected precisely because they espouse such dangerous and deadly views, are willing to advocate for them without any ability to critically examine their actions or what the consequences will be. They are all well trained at leveraging their connections within the military industrial complex to serve the ruling classes and their capitalist, colonialist, and fascist agendas.

    The post Democratic Party Fascism: 2020 Edition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Julian Assange: Covid Risks and Campaigns for Pardon

    Before the January 4 ruling of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in the extradition case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher will continue to endure the ordeal of cold prison facilities while being menaced by a COVID-19 outbreak.  From November 18, Assange, along with inmates in House Block 1 at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, were placed in lockdown conditions.  The measure was imposed after three COVID-19 cases were discovered.

    The response was even more draconian than usual.  Exercise was halted; showers prohibited.  Meals were to be provided directly to the prisoner’s cell.  Prison officials described the approach as a safety precaution.  “We’ve introduced further safety measures following a number of positive cases,” stated a Prison Service spokesperson.

    Assange’s time at Belmarsh is emblematic of a broadly grotesque approach which has been legitimised by the national security establishment.  The pandemic has presented another opportunity to knock him off, if only by less obvious means.  The refusal of Judge Baraitser to grant him bail, enabling him to prepare his case in conditions of guarded, if relative safety, typifies this approach.  “Every day that passes is a serious risk to Julian,” explains his partner, Stella Moris.  “Belmarsh is an extremely dangerous environment where murders and suicides are commonplace.”

    Belmarsh already presented itself as a risk to one’s mental bearings prior to the heralding of the novel coronavirus.  But galloping COVID-19 infections through Britain’s penal system have added another, potentially lethal consideration.  On November 24, Moris revealed that some 54 people in Assange’s house block had been infected with COVID-19.  These included inmates and prison staff.  “If my son dies from COVID-19,” concluded a distressed Christine Assange, “it will be murder.”

    The increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Belmarsh has angered the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer.  On December 7, ten years from the day of Assange’s first arrest, he spoke of concerns that 65 out of approximately 160 inmates had tested positive.  “The British authorities initially detained Mr. Assange on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Sweden in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct that have since been formally dropped due to lack of evidence.” He was currently being “detained for exclusively preventive purposes, to ensure his presence during the ongoing US extradition trial, a proceeding which may well last several years.”

    The picture for the rapporteur is unmistakable, ominous and unspeakable.  The prolonged suffering of the Australian national, who already nurses pre-existing health conditions, amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  Imprisoning Assange was needlessly brutal.  “Mr. Assange is not a criminal convict and poses no threat to anyone, so his prolonged solitary confinement in a high security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis.”  Melzer suggested immediate decongestion measures for “all inmates whose imprisonment is not absolutely necessary” especially those, “such as Mr Assange, who suffers from a pre-existing respiratory health condition.”

    Free speech advocates are also stoking the fire of interest ahead of Baraitser’s judgment.  In Salon, Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, penned a heartfelt piece wondering what had happened to the fourth estate.  “Where is the honest reporting that we all so desperately need, and upon which the very survival of democracy depends?”  Never one to beat about the bush, Waters suggested that it was “languishing in Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh.”  To extradite Assange would “set the dangerous precedent that journalists can be prosecuted merely for working with inside sources, or for publishing information the government deems harmful.”  The better alternative: to dismiss the charges against Assange “and cancel the extradition proceedings in the kangaroo court in London.”

    In the meantime, a vigorous campaign is being advanced from the barricades of Twitter to encourage President Donald Trump to pardon Assange.  Moris stole the lead with her appeal on Thanksgiving.  Pictures of sons Max and Gabriel were posted to tingle the commander-in-chief’s tear ducts.  “I beg you, please bring him home for Christmas.”

    Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has added her name to the Free Assange campaign, directing her pointed wishes to the White House.  “Since you’re giving pardons to people,” she declared, “please consider pardoning those who, at great personal sacrifice, exposed the deception and criminality in the deep state.”

    Pamela Anderson’s approach was somewhat different and, it should be said, raunchily attuned to her audience.  She made no qualms donning a bikini in trying to get the president’s attention.  “Bring Julian Assange Home Australia,” went her carried sign, tweeted with a message to Trump to pardon him.  Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Intercept, proved more conventional, niggling Trump about matters of posterity.  “By far the most important blow Trump could strike against the abuse of power by CIA, FBI & the Deep State – as well as to impose transparency on them to prevent future abuses – is a pardon of @Snowden & Julian Assange, punished by those corrupt factions for exposing their abuses.”  Alan Rusbridger, formerly editor of The Guardian, agrees.

    While often coupled with Assange in the pardoning stakes, Edward Snowden has been clear about his wish to see the publisher freed.  “Mr. President, if you grant only one act of clemency during your time in office, please: free Julian Assange.  You alone can save his life.”  As well meant as this is, Trump’s treasury of pardons is bound to be stocked by other options, not least for himself.

    The post Julian Assange: Covid Risks and Campaigns for Pardon first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    O, Homo Contractus, Where Art Thou?

    “Deep State” derives from a John le Carré spy novel.  It is an expression bandied about rather frequently these days. It’s in danger of losing its meaning the more it becomes just another little buzzword from Hiveworld, busy bobbing among the festive fields of corn-cockle until exhaustion sets in.  There is a real, non-fictional Deep State, and it’s important that we come to understand what it is, before we are driven shallow by the incessant digital stim of the trite and trivial from the cybersphere of internet ‘updates.’

    One of the more mature and sober descriptions of what the Deep State is, and what it does, came from former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren in a discussion, back in 2014, “The Deep State: Hiding in Plain Sight,” with Bill Moyers.  Lofgren spent 28 years working on the Senate and House Budget committees.  He described the Deep State as “a hybrid of corporate America and the national security state.”  It is a place, says Moyers, “where elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.”

    “We’re having a situation where the Deep State is essentially out of control,” Lofgren tells Moyers. “It’s unconstrained. Since 9/11 we have built the equivalent of three Pentagons around the DC metropolitan area, holding defense contractors, intelligence contractors, and government civilians involved in the military-industrial complex [MIC].”  Ostensibly, they all work together to keep America safe under the emotional rubric of “Never Again.”

    But there’s more.  The Deep State has literally declared the Internet a battlefield. There’s no democracy on a battlefield.  To help keep the Internet safe from perceived enemies, the MIC, or Deep State, has contracted with corporations, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook to police the cybersphere by gathering information on each and every human online and sharing it with the government.  Thus, the Deep State spends a lot of time searching for and stalking the alleged spies and traitors amongst us, while the corporations are given the green light to exploit and play with our deepest desires. In short, the Deep State is at war with privacy. We are the last frontier. (Think of your obesity as ‘economic expansion,’ and an act of ‘patriotism’. Ten hut!)

    In “Anatomy of the Deep State,” a follow-up essay to the Moyers interview, Lofgren writes:

    That the secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century: drone strikes, data mining, secret prisons and Panopticon-like control on the one hand; and on the other, the ordinary, visible parliamentary institutions of self-government declining to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.

    I thought of Moyers and Lofgren’s discussion as I reconsidered “Homo Contractus,” perhaps the most important chapter of Edward Snowden’s recently released memoir, Permanent Record.  Snowden, the repentant whistleblowing Deep Stater, expands on and clarifies the inherent corruption and darkness of Deep State doings, and paints an inescapable picture of a dystopian nightmare underway.

    Gone are the days of public service, of wanting to be a shiny, unhailed cog in the machinery of American Exceptionalism — flaws and all — such as Snowden’s father and grandfather had gladly been.  “I had hoped to serve my country,” writes Snowden. “but instead I went to work for it. This is not a trivial distinction.”

    Moyers and Lofgren provide us with an abstract overview of the situation, but Snowden brings the nuts and bolts. To get around congressional hiring limits, Deep State agencies hire private contractors who are off the books — no real public accountability for deeds, and, in most cases, we don’t even know who they are.  Lofgren has estimated, “There are now 854,000 contract personnel [as of 2014] with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.”  They are virtually a whole sub-species of worker that Snowden refers to as “homo contractus.”  They run the surveillance state show — some of them looking for enemies of the state, and others on the look-out for enemies of Deep State doings. In the war zone, they call the shots without any input from the public.

    Members of Congress go along with this arrangement, says Snowden,  because “[Deep State] directors and congresspeople are rewarded, after they retire from office, by being given high paying positions and consultancies with the very companies they’ve just enriched. From the vantage of the corporate boardroom, contracting functions as governmentally assisted corruption.”  Private companies wait for public servants to obtain top security clearances, then they poach them through Job Fairs, where public servants are offered huge salary increases doing the same job for a private company — and, as Lofgren’s statistic indicates, many are jumping the ship of state to go yachting with the corporates.

    Take Snowden, he was hired at such a fair by a BAE sub-shell company called COMSO (Snowden never learned what the acronym stood for).  At the interview he negotiated his salary up, at the recruiter’s insistence, because a 3-5% kick-back to the recruiter, from the government, made it worthwhile. He went from $30K to $60K in the negotiation play. Says Snowden, “Bumping up salaries was in everyone’s interest—everyone’s, that is, except the taxpayer’s.” He was a contractor, but he was doing the same work as a public servant. Later in his career he was hired by Dell computers, then Booz Allen Hamilton, each time merely switching business cards, but working at CIA headquarters for the CIA, a homo contractus spook among the spooks. No public accountability.

    Snowden says homo contractus brings with it a different kind of energy — something “sinister.”  Not governed by a sense of public service, a certain arrogance and elitism become the filters of their deeds.  The military-industrial complex is bound together in a negative agreement — homo contractus hiring is a skirting of the law, and a profit-making arrangement.  Contractors, says Snowden, often see their work as “inherently apolitical, because they’re based on data, whose prerogatives are regarded as preferable to the chaotic whims of the common citizen.” In other words, they know better than democracy.  Snowden adds, “That can be intoxicating, at least for a teetotaler like me. Also, all of a sudden you have not just the license but the obligation to lie, conceal, dissemble, and dissimulate.”

    Out of this comes governmental policies that push and sustain the interests — not of the commonweal — but of the parallel government that exists between private players and the Deep State.  The net result is a revolving door between the ever-expanding Intelligence Community and private companies, each sharing in the spoils of the public purse.  So, we read of DARPA directors jumping to Google, and Google’s work with drones for the Pentagon. Amazon ends up devising  web services for the CIA, and Jeff Bezos’ other project, The Washington Post, becomes the conduit of choice for anonymous intelligence agency leaks.  We discover that Facebook sells the information of its users to private firms, and experiments with human emotions that may have relevance to intelligence agencies.

    It can get even more sinister.  If the Deep State wants to go to war, without public approval, and for profit motives, it can use its technology to spy on individuals to uncover compromat, such as what the Bush administration ordered in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, when it tried to dig up dirt on UN Security Council members to strong-arm them into voting for war. When their deeds were leaked, the US went to war anyway — backed only by phony WMD claims.  Hundreds of thousands of casualties have ensued.

    It may yet get even more sinister.  Many of the cybersecurity firms that operate today are manned by analysts and techies who are themselves products of homo contractus. Crowdstrike features ex-FBI agents. They were also “politically aligned” with the DNC, which is interesting, if for no other reason, than it was the FBI’s James Comey who did as much damage as anyone to Hillary’s campaign. It raises the question whether there were homo contractuses on duty during the events that unfolded. You just don’t know: Edward Snowden’s business card read “Dell,” but he worked for the CIA. Hmph.

    More bewildering was the testimony that Kevin Mandia of Mandiant gave before a Congressional subcommittee on intelligence back in 2011.  It was double-take stuff:

    The majority of threat intelligence is currently in the hands of the government. Indeed, more than 90% of the breaches MANDIANT responds to are first detected by the government, not the victim companies. That means that 9 in every 10 companies we assist had no idea they had been compromised until the government notified them.

    Gobsmack time.  But it gets better. Mandia has reported in the past an incident where he slid a folder across the desk of a skeptical corporate executive (he was confident in his company’s security integrity) and the exec is described as being shocked to find in the folder deep secrets of the company.  Mandiant was hired.

    Mandiant’s Kevin Mandia broke his cyberteeth at the Pentagon as an intelligence officer.  After fumbling around for a few years, including a stint at ManTech — a cybersecurity company full of ex-spooks — he and his Mandiant associates are said to have solved the puzzle of the New York Times and Washington Post breaches in 2014, which ended up in the indictment of a cadre of soldiers from China — America’s preferred enemy at the time.  From there, things blossygossled. Mandiant got famous overnight, one thing led to another, until Mandia found himself being bought out by cybersecurity company FireEye, a CIA-funded start-up, for a billion bucks. Mandia was made FireEye’s Chief Operating Officer.

    Again this highlights the opacity that masks the Deep State doings when it employs homo contractus. We don’t know what they get up to, despite being on the public dollar, indirectly.  Mandiant, like CrowdStrike, was responsible for evaluating the server breach at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.  As Mandia has already acknowledged, he has in the past received insider information from the government, regarding breaches at corporations.  One wonders whether CrowdStrike or Mandiant, or any other cybersecurity contractor, received a tip-off regarding the DNC breach, and that’s why it was never forensically examined — although that didn’t stop an ‘opinion of cause’ being issued by three intelligence heads, leading to the MSM’s under-critical acceptance of Russian hacking.

    Further, as if we need more worry, such a homo contractus arrangement with the Deep State, already undemocratic, appears to be metastasising overseas.  The CIA and NSA are helping repressive regimes, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, build their own bespoke and state-of-the-art (naturally) surveillance regimes, and watch indifferently as these tyrants with too much dinosaur money use the technology to spy on “enemies,” including dissidents.  How un-American.

    Already, there has been cause for alarm, as companies like DeepMatter, employing ship-jumping analysts from the NSA, go after American dissidents and journalists too.  The NSA and CIA are virtually beyond law in these countries.  What they couldn’t get away with in America, they can do with impunity in SA and the UAE. Even Google’s work with Dragonfly, a project designed to give China a search engine devoid of human rights queries, suggests we are now in the business of exporting panopticon products.

    As Mike Lofgren told Bill Moyers a few years back now, the Deep State is “the red thread that runs through the history of the last three decades. It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion of our civil liberties and perpetual war.” We’ve been warned now for a few years by the likes of Moyers, Snowden and others.  None of them are conspiracy-theorists. Snowden certainly believes we have entered into dystopia territory.  Which would mean democracy is finished as a global solution to population management.

    Only the self-proclaimed gods of digi-stim know what happens next.