Monday, March 4, 2013

Post-Constitutional America: The Trap is Closing

Post-Constitutional America: The Trap is Closing
article by Peter Farmer

“A government big-enough to give you everything you want, is big-enough to take everything that you have.” —President Gerald Ford, Address to Joint Session of Congress, 12 August 1974

By tradition, Americans are accustomed to referring to themselves as free citizens of a constitutional republic, and not subjects of an all-powerful ruler or state. Today, however, evidence continues to mount that we are no longer a free people and no longer live in a constitutional republic.

 The increasing size and scope of government at all levels has been a fact of life in the United States for quite some time, but in recent years – especially since the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks – that growth has accelerated dramatically. Under the Obama regime, it has gone exponential.

During the First World War, Randolph Bourne famously stated “War is the health of the state.”
How prescient his words remain almost a century after he first uttered them – for a state of war offers nearly-ideal conditions for government to seize and consolidate powers that far-exceed its peacetime boundaries.

In the months following the September 11th attacks, the Bush administration and Congress created the Department of Homeland Security and enacted the Patriot Act. In the panicked, near-hysterical post-attack political climate, the vast new and often extra-constitutional powers assumed by the federal government were deemed a necessary measure, and objections to these developments were brushed aside. A few clear-eyed observers noticed the Orwellian names of the new agencies and laws – a harbinger of things to come – but their warnings were largely ignored.

Whatever the intentions of George W. Bush, there can be little argument that the nescient national security super-state he helped to create has proven to fit the iron fist of his successor, Barack Obama, like a glove. Using a combination of executive orders, unaccountable appointed “czars,” extrapolations and modifications of existing regulations, and old-fashioned political strong-arming, Obama and his ideological comrades have shredded the constitution and seized vast new powers for themselves and the federal government.

Consider the following developments, which have unfolded since the man from Chicago took over in early 2009…
In March, 2012, Obama signed an executive order for the National Defense Resources Preparedness Act, whose language authorizes the White House and cabinet-level departments of the federal government to seize control of any and all food, water, energy, health resources, transportation and “all other materials, services and facilities” in the U.S. that it deems necessary – even if the nation is not experiencing emergency conditions. The NDRPA heavily-modified existing language from E.O. 8248, passed in 1939 during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. NDRPA effectively strips Americans of their right to own property and also subjects them to unreasonable search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Each year, Congress passes a national defense authorization act (NDAA), which appropriates funds for the annual operation of the military and also sets forth modifications to national defense policy. Buried within its pages, the 2012 NDAA contained language authorizing the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely without due process or habeas corpus, if they are suspected of being “terrorists” or what the act terms “covered persons.”

In addition to being a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act – which prohibits the U.S. military from conducting combat operations on American soil – the NDAA effectively abolishes the constitutional right to due process. The term “covered persons” is sufficiently vague as to be meaningless and thereby can be stretched to accommodate whatever purpose the government desires. In short, this is bureaucrat-speak for the government giving itself carte blanche to do whatever it pleases, the constitution be damned.

In July, 2012, Small Wars Journal - a mainstream military affairs publication, published an article entitled “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A Vision of the Future” by Kevin Benson and Jennifer Weber, which considered the prospect of military anti-insurgency operations on American soil; the purported “enemy” under their scenario were “’Tea Party’ insurrectionists.’”

In February 2013, without warning - the Department of Defense took over a Houston-area high school for conducting urban warfare drills; alarmed local residents mistook blank training rounds for actual gunfire. Days earlier, urban warfare drills – including exercises by low-flying Blackhawk helicopters shooting blanks – took place in and over downtown Miami.  Similar exercises have taken place over the last year in fourteen other American cities.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Agency and other parts of the federal government recently have contracted for the purchase of 1.7 billion rounds of ammunition, including a recent purchase of 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow-point handgun ammunition.  Under the Geneva Conventions, for humanitarian reasons the use of hollow-point (HP) bullets is prohibited during warfare between nations. However, domestic law-enforcement and other agencies are legally permitted to use HP ammunition. Additionally, DHS, TSA and other agencies have contracted for substantial amounts of 5.56mm rifle ammunition, and other calibers as well. Responding to inquiries, Federal spokespersons have stated that the purchases are routine and for training purposes only. Under analysis, the facts tell a different story…
During the height of combat operations in Iraq, the U.S. military had a monthly small arms ammunition “burn rate” (rate of usage) of approximately 5.5 million rounds of all calibers and types. Using that yardstick, the federal government has recently purchased enough ammunition for a domestic “war” of more than 25 years duration.

Why do these civilian agencies need that much ammunition? Hollow-point bullets are designed explicitly for anti-personnel use. The government claims this ammunition is strictly for target practice and annual qualifications drills. If so, why is so much HP ammunition required?

Are they preparing to fight a war? Do they know something we do not?  It should also be noted that these purchases amount to a form of back-door gun control – via restricting the ammunition supply to the civilian firearms market.

In a related development, the company Law Enforcement Targets, Inc. – which supplies DHS and other agencies with training materials – came under harsh criticism after disclosures that it is marketing a new line of targets call the “No Hesitation” series, which depict images of pregnant women, children and the elderly on marksmanship targets. The existence of such products proves that the government isn’t telling the truth about its motives.

In addition to the foregoing, it has just been disclosed that DHS has purchased 2,717 military-surplus MRAP (i.e., mine resistant ambush protected) armored personnel carriers from the military and is retrofitting them for use with that agency. The 18.9-ton MRAP was designed for service in combat; specifically, to withstand small-arms fire, improvised explosive devices, mines, rocket-propelled grenades and other military-grade threats. Why does a civilian agency of the federal government need such equipment – and in such quantity?
The National Security Administration (NSA), the agency of the government responsible for collecting foreign electronic/signals intelligence and conducting cryptanalysis, is opening a massive new data collection center in Utah. By law, the NSA is limited to conducting foreign signals intelligence activities – but whistle-blowers have come forward to disclose that the data center in Bluffdale, Utah will collect not only foreign signals, but domestic ones as well. When operable, the facility will have the ability to comprehensively collect and store all cell phone, text message, e-mail, and internet search engine traffic – not only collected from other nations, but those originating in the United States.

Americans are - to a large extend unknowingly - being enclosed in a massive surveillance grid being constructed by government and large business concerns.  A national discussion and debate about the wisdom and ethicality of such measures has not occurred. The powers-that-be have simply decided that it is their right to surveil ordinary citizens – and have done so.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus disclosed in an interview shortly before resigning, that transformational new technologies will make it possible for agencies like the CIA to surveil and spy upon ordinary citizens in their own homes, automobiles and places of business, “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.” Common household items/goods such as automobiles, refrigerators, washers-dryers and thermostats will be “chipped,” connected to the internet and mined for data.

Has anyone reminded Petraeus that the Central Intelligence Agency is a foreign intelligence agency, one whose mission does not include spying on Americans in their own homes and communities?

It isn’t only household objects being wired for surveillance, either – but ubiquitous devices in the surrounding outdoor environment, such as streetlights. Streetlights? Yes, that is correct – high-tech streetlights funded by the government are being installed all over the country and have the capability to record both audio and video content. Starting in 2015, electronic data recorders – aka “black boxes” similar to those found in airliners – will be mandatory on all new vehicles – including privately-owned automobiles. These, too, will be linked to the data-collection networks.

Americans have grown accustomed to reading about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over foreign battlefields, but what about drones over our own soil? Inevitably, these systems have been pressed into use domestically by the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies, ostensibly only for patrolling our northern and southern borders. However, it has now come to light that DHS is modifying its Predator Type B unmanned aerial vehicles to be used for domestic surveillance. DHS requirements for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the contractor doing the modifications, stipulate that the system shall be capable of “identifying a standing human being at night as armed or not” and also of direction-finding and signal capture of mobile phones, two-way radios and other forms of electronic communications. How long before live ordnance is hung beneath the wings of these remotely-piloted aircraft now operating over American soil?

The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, remind us that the price of liberty is vigilance and that those willing to trade freedom for the illusion of security will end up neither free nor secure.
Patriots, be warned – the trap is closing. America is rapidly becoming a garrison state.

Peter Farmer is a historian and commentator on national security, geopolitics and public policy issues. He has done original research on wartime resistance movements in WWII Europe, and has delivered seminars on such subjects as political violence and terrorism, the evolution of conflict, combat medicine, and related subjects. Mr. Farmer is also a scientist and a medic.

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