This article was originally published by John W. Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute.
“This is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends. What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? [The proposed legislation could create] a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.”—Tulsi Gabbard, former Congresswoman
This is how it begins.
We are moving fast down that slippery slope to an authoritarian society in which the only opinions, ideas, and speech expressed are the ones permitted by the government and its corporate cohorts.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol, “domestic terrorism” has become the new poster child for expanding the government’s powers at the expense of civil liberties.
Of course, “domestic terrorist” is just the latest bull’s eye phrase, to be used interchangeably with “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist,” to describe anyone who might fall somewhere on a very broad spectrum of viewpoints that could be considered “dangerous.”
Watch and see: we are all about to become enemies of the state.
In a déjà vu mirroring of the legislative fallout from 9/11, and the ensuing build-up of the security state, there is a growing demand in certain sectors for the government to be given expanded powers to root out “domestic” terrorism, the Constitution be damned.
If this is a test of Joe Biden’s worthiness to head up the American police state, he seems ready.
As part of his inaugural address, President Biden pledged to confront and defeat “a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism.” Biden has also asked the Director of National Intelligence to work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in carrying out a “comprehensive threat assessment” of domestic terrorism. And then to keep the parallels going, there is the proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2021, introduced after the Jan. 6 riots, which aims to equip the government with “the tools to identify, monitor and thwart” those who could become radicalized to violence.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the sleight of hand.
This is the tricky part of the Deep State’s con game that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.
It follows the same pattern as every other convenient “crisis” used by the government as an excuse to expand its powers at the citizenry’s expense and at the expense of our freedoms.
As investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald warns:
“The last two weeks have ushered in a wave of new domestic police powers and rhetoric in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’ that are carbon copies of many of the worst excesses of the first War on Terror that began nearly twenty years ago. This New War on Terror—one that is domestic in name from the start and carries the explicit purpose of fighting ‘extremists’ and ‘domestic terrorists’ among American citizens on U.S. soil—presents the whole slew of historically familiar dangers when governments, exploiting media-generated fear and dangers, arm themselves with the power to control information, debate, opinion, activism and protests.”
Greenwald is referring to the USA Patriot Act, passed almost 20 years ago, which paved the way for the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption, and abuse.
Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since Sept. 11, 2001.
Some members of Congress get it.
In a letter opposing the expansion of national security powers, a handful of congressional representatives urged their colleagues not to repeat the mistakes of the past:
“While many may find comfort in increased national security powers in the wake of this attack, we must emphasize that we have been here before and we have seen where that road leads. Our history is littered with examples of initiatives sold as being necessary to fight extremism that quickly devolve into tools used for the mass violation of the human and civil rights of the American people… To expand the government’s national security powers once again at the expense of the human and civil rights of the American people would only serve to further undermine our democracy, not protect it.”
Cue the Emergency State, the government’s Machiavellian version of crisis management that justifies all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.
This is the power grab hiding in plain sight, obscured by the political machinations of the self-righteous elite. This is how the government continues to exploit crises and use them as opportunities for power grabs under the guise of national security. Indeed, this is exactly how the government added red flag gun laws, precrime surveillance, fusion centers, threat assessments, mental health assessments, involuntary confinement to its arsenal of weaponized powers.
The objective is not to make America safe again. That has never been the government’s aim.
“Why would such new terrorism laws be needed in a country that already imprisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world as the result of a very aggressive set of criminal laws? What acts should be criminalized by new ‘domestic terrorism’ laws that are not already deemed criminal? They never say, almost certainly because—just as was true of the first set of new War on Terror laws—their real aim is to criminalize that which should not be criminalized: speech, association, protests, opposition to the new ruling coalition.”
So you see, the issue is not whether Donald Trump or Roger Stone, or MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell deserve to be banned from Twitter, even if they’re believed to be spouting misinformation, hateful ideas, or fomenting discontent.
Rather, we should be asking whether any corporation or government agency or entity representing a fusion of the two should have the power to muzzle, silence, censor, regulate, control, and altogether eradicate so-called “dangerous” or “extremist” ideas.
This unilateral power to muzzle free speech represents a far greater danger than any so-called right- or left-wing extremist might pose.
The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American an extremist in word, deed, thought, or by association.
Yet where many go wrong is in assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or challenging the government’s authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state, and locked up like a dangerous criminal.
Eventually, all you will really need to do is use certain trigger words, surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, drive a car, stay at a hotel, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, question government authority, or generally live in the United States.
The groundwork has already been laid.
The trap is set.
All that is needed is the right bait.
With the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware, and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior sensing software, government agents have been busily spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state.
It’s the American police state’s take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Phillip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package.
What’s more, the technocrats who run the surveillance state don’t even have to break a sweat while monitoring what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, how much you spend, whom you support, and with whom you communicate. Computers by way of AI (artificial intelligence) now do the tedious work of trolling social media, the internet, text messages, and phone calls for potentially anti-government remarks, all of which is carefully recorded, documented, and stored to be used against you someday at a time and place of the government’s choosing.
For instance, police in major American cities have been using predictive policing technology that allows them to identify individuals—or groups of individuals—most likely to commit a crime in a given community. Those individuals are then put on notice that their movements and activities will be closely monitored and any criminal activity (by them or their associates) will result in harsh penalties.
In other words, the burden of proof is reversed: you are guilty before you are given any chance to prove you are innocent.
Dig beneath the surface of this kind of surveillance/police state, however, and you will find that the real purpose of pre-crime is not safety but control.
Red flag gun laws merely push us that much closer towards a suspect society where everyone is potentially guilty of some crime or another and must be preemptively rendered harmless.
This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations, and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.
For instance, if you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you could be at the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.
Moreover, as a New York Times editorial warns, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the police if you are afraid that the government is plotting to confiscate your firearms, if you believe the economy is about to collapse and the government will soon declare martial law, or if you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car.
According to one FBI latest report, you might also be classified as a domestic terrorism threat if you espouse conspiracy theories, especially if you “attempt to explain events or circumstances as the result of a group of actors working in secret to benefit themselves at the expense of others” and are “usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.”
Additionally, according to Michael C. McGarrity, the FBI’s assistant director of the counterterrorism division, the bureau now “classifies domestic terrorism threats into four main categories: racially motivated violent extremism, anti-government/anti-authority extremism, animal rights/environmental extremism, and abortion extremism.”
In other words, if you dare to subscribe to any views that are contrary to the government’s, you may well be suspected of being a domestic terrorist and treated accordingly.
Again, where many Americans go wrong is in naively assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or harmful in order to be flagged and targeted for some form of intervention or detention.
In fact, U.S. police agencies have been working to identify and manage potential extremist “threats,” violent or otherwise, before they can become actual threats for some time now.
In much the same way that the USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, allowing the government to establish a far-reaching domestic spying program that turned every American citizen into a criminal suspect, the government’s anti-extremism program renders otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.
In fact, all you need to do these days to end up on a government watch list or be subjected to heightened scrutiny is use certain trigger words (like cloud, pork, and pirates), surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, limp or stutter, drive a car, stay at a hotel, attend a political rally, express yourself on social media, appear mentally ill, serve in the military, disagree with a law enforcement official, call in sick to work, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, appear confused or nervous, fidget or whistle or smell bad, be seen in public waving a toy gun or anything remotely resembling a gun (such as a water nozzle or remote control or a walking cane), stare at a police officer, question government authority, or appear to be pro-gun or pro-freedom.
Be warned: once you get on such a government watch list—whether it’s a terrorist watch list, a mental health watch list, a dissident watch list, or a red flag gun watch list—there’s no clear-cut way to get off, whether or not you should actually be on there.
You will be tracked wherever you go.
You will be flagged as a potential threat and dealt with accordingly.
This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.
The government has been building its pre-crime, surveillance network in concert with fusion centers (of which there are 78 nationwide, with partners in the corporate sector and globally), data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).
If you’re not scared yet, you should be.
Connect the dots.
Start with the powers amassed by the government under the USA Patriot Act, note the government’s ever-broadening definition of what it considers to be an “extremist,” then add in the government’s detention powers under NDAA, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.
To that, add tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones and balloons that are beginning to blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go, and whatever you do. And then to complete the picture, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify so-called criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms, and prognostication programs.
Hopefully, you’re starting to understand how easy we’ve made it for the government to identify, label, target, defuse and detain anyone it views as a potential threat for a variety of reasons that run the gamut from mental illness to having a military background to challenging its authority to just being on the government’s list of persona non grata.
There’s always a price to pay for standing up to the powers-that-be.
Yet as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, you don’t even have to be a dissident to get flagged by the government for surveillance, censorship, and detention.
All you really need to be is a citizen of the American police state.