"We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail… [J.] Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him."—US President Harry S. Truman
So begins a commentary by our guest, the constitutional attorney and author John. W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Foundation, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organisation headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia. With his article—"America's Gestapo : The FBI's Reign of Terror"—as our focus, we discuss the significance of the FBI in the seemingly-inexorable transformation of the USA into a police state, and consider the example of Jesus as an activist in Roman-occupied Palestine.
Original Audio Notes Non-verbatim transcript by Pam Barker, staff writer for The Liberty Beacon
John Whitehead: My book is about all the things we’re seeing today, including the NSA surveillance of all American citizens. Most people don’t realize that the NSA downloads two billion emails daily on American citiziens – million of text messages, Facebook pages, etc. In fact, the FBI admits that they go on, in addition to other government agencies, and pretend to be your friend and report on you. One reason they do this, and this has just developed, it’s what governments call ‘threat assessments’ which means they monitor what you post on FB, Twitter, your arrest records, speeding tickets, etc. And they create an algorithm or threat assessment of everything you’ve done.
In this country (US), you’ve got green which is minimal threat, yellow for potential threat, and red – this is someone they have to watch out for. Here they have SWAT Team Rates. They have over 80,000 SWAT Team Rates where police crash through your door wearing black armored outfits – kids get shot often in these situations simply because they’re in the wrong home.
This is up from just 3,000 in the 1980s. It’s mainly for marijuana possession in the US.
So what we’re seeing here with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), all federal agencies have been armed by them. Agents have armored vehicles and they’re dressed like the military with helmets and guns, and they even use hollow-point bullets. They have 1.6 million of these bullets at their disposal. These expand on contact – it’s the bullets they blow your arms off. In many countries they’re against the law because they violate various international treaties. The US Department of Fisheries now have hollow-point bullets and armored vehicles.
So American has basically become a place of ‘domestic tyranny’, a phrase used by Alexander Solzhenistzyn – he talked about all this. It’s getting quite frightening.
So I’m warning the people of Britain and other countries – do NOT go down this road. You don’t want these people crashing through your doors in the middle of the night just because you’ve gone around on FB goofing around by posting a picture of your hand that looks like a gun, for example. Be careful about joking around on Facebook. You can get reported to the police and even arrested for this. They’re watching everything.
JC: Things that are happening here chime with this. So from the title of your book you see all this as actually targeting the American people themselves as a primary motive – Battlefield America - War ON the American people?
JW: America has a lot of military action around the world. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, dropped over 23,000 bombs in the Middle East just last year.
America by the way is looking at lot like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, as I say in my book. The government admit they’re watching everything. There’s nothing you can do here that’s basically private anymore.
It’s a warning to other countries: do not go down this road.
JC: Your commentaries at Rutherford.org are very informative and challenging. One particular one called ‘America’s Gestapo – the FBI’s Reign of Terror’. I want to ask you about that in a moment. Please tell us more about the Rutherford Institute itself. You set that up back in 1982. What happened around 1982 that made you form this organisation?
JW: I was a young lawyer. Many people were coming to me who couldn’t get help from other legal groups – mainly Christians, some Jews, etc. I started the Rutherford Institute based on that. I raise money and we represent them for free if we take on their case. Since then I’ve handled virtually every kind of case.
Here we have a Bill of Rights with a First Amendment which is the right to free speech. We also have a Fourth amendment which means police shouldn’t be crashing through your door in the middle of the night. Although they do.
So we’re protecting people’s rights and hopefully are trying to stop this country from sliding into fascism. I have several chapters in my book Battlefield America which are about the fear that we’re heading in this direction. People had better be alert. It’s a warning to other countries.
JC: Of course, part of this slide into fascism is where people start spying on each other. And here in your article, you say: ‘As part of the government’s so-called ongoing war on Terror, the nation’s de facto secret police force is now recruiting students and teachers to spy on each other and report anyone who appears to have the potential to be ‘anti-government’ or ‘extremist’.’ So can you tell us about this recruitment program? How is it being implemented?
JW: It’s a high school course where students are trained to identify an extremist, or a terrorist in this country (US). This is what the armed troops in the USA are aimed at fighting – so-called domestic extremists. Yet the FBI admits that crime in America is at a 40-year low. So Americans are not very violent or criminal.
But in 2009, Obama’s government issued 3 memos called ‘Right-wing extremism’ [external PDF], ‘Left-wing extremism’ [external PDF] and ‘Operation Vigilant Eagle’. These extremism memos basically were targeting returning veterans; the right-wing groups were people who opposed to abortion – they were all considered extremists.. In the left-wing memo, amazingly, it was groups like PETA and environmentalist groups – they were considered extremists who needed watching. The 3rd was Operation Vigilant Eagle memo which targeted returning veterans; supposedly they need watching. In America, most of the people coming back from Afghanistan have all been diagnosed with PSTD and can’t even get a hunting rifle. They’re not allowed to get access to any weapons. So they’re automatically classified as extremists.
In fact, we’ve defended returning army veterans who’ve simply disagreed on Facebook with Obama’s policy. They’ve been arrested and put in jail for this. We’ve got them out of jail.
JC: So all they’ve done is to disagree with US foreign policy?
JW: Exactly! And this is part of the program that they’re teaching high school students in this country – how to spot an extremist. If you’ve read this program, it targets people who may just wear strange makeup one day or does anything strange or out of sequence. We’re supposed to report on them.
Again, I mentioned Nazi Germany … the police didn’t need SWAT team rates in Germany because people were reported on by neighbours and so-called friends. Most of the people who went to concentration camps were the products of this system.
So in the US, we’re training people – even neighbours – to watch each other and report any kind of suspicious behaviour. That’s enough to get you listed as an extremist. And you can be rounded up and talked to by a government agent.
We defend radio talk show hosts here that complain about the government. One complained about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, and when he got home that night, the FBI were waiting for him. They were listening to his radio show. They’re listening to everything here. It’s a very frightening scenario.
JC: So in 2009, one of the documents you were talking about that came out at this time was called ‘right-wing extremism’ and in the piece you wrote, language is constructed so that words like ‘antigovernment’, ‘terrorist’ and ‘extremist’ are used pretty much interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing.
JW: Yes, it’s anybody who doesn’t like government. Under Obama and those 3 memos, terrorist and extremist were used in the same sentence. So we can conclude that if you don’t like the way government is being run in this country, you’ll be labelled a terrorist.
We had a decorated marine who was pulled out of his home by a SWAT team and ended up for a week in a mental hospital before we got him out. All he’d done was to oppose Obama vigorously in his FB posts.
JC: What I find disturbing is that in the UK we have programmes like this shaping up. We have a so-called Prevent Duty where teachers and lecturers and people in public service are supposed to watch their students for signs of ‘non-violent extremism’. And the UK government wants to roll out these things called ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ and ‘Extremism Banning Orders’ for non-violent extremism. Yet they won’t clearly define what that means. Well, they give a half-baked definition – it’s ‘active or vocal opposition to fundamental British values’ which, when you drill down, it means people who speak against ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for other faiths and beliefs.’ And that’s as tight as the definition gets. But what does this actually mean, to speak out against democracy? Almost anybody could get caught by these definitions.
JW: On my site, rutherford.org, I wrote an article called ‘Dangerous Speech’ which discussed how America’s Founding Fathers, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, would be put in jail today for being extremists and anti-government.
Here’s the point: in free countries you have a right to speak out against government, providing it’s non-violent. The people we see speaking out in the USA are not violent people yet they’re being rounded up and put in jail, labelled as terrorists.
What I’m concerned about when people rat on others, it completely undermines trust in each other. We’re losing the right to privacy. I know it’s happening in the UK, too. You have Google and Facebook there, and Facebook boasts that they know what time we get up and go to bed. They’re also mapping the world. And they work closely with the NSA and government under million dollar contracts. They collect information for the government.
If we don’t see more people speaking up for freedom in the UK, US and other countries, we’re moving into a One World type situation – or One World Government - where there will be very little freedom left. And combine that with the development of drones – the US has 40 military bases flying drones over people – scanning devices, weapons, tapping into your WiFi uploading your information, etc.
JC: You brought up the New World Order. That of course is one of many things on the list that the witness James Wesley Rawles talks about – a belief in this conspiracy now puts you on the suspicion list.
JW: There’s no doubt that’s all happening. The NSA has their ECHELON Program and the Five Eyes program – they’re snooping on what you’re doing in Britain. They have bases all over the world. Google is all over the world and works intimately with the NSA and FBI. So does Facebook.
JC: People need to know the kinds of things they’re looking for. This guy Rawles worked in law enforcement for 18 years apparently, and said these things were flagged up in training sessions as reasons to be suspicious. This included a belief in the New World Order conspiracy, being concerned about civil liberties, home schooling, constitutional rights and religious views concerning the Book of Revelation and that the Antichrist might be coming on the scene one day. These are normal beliefs! It’s all extraordinary.
JW: Sure, fear of an economic collapse is another one, buying gold, voicing fears of Big Brother or Big Government. They’re all items to be watched. They’re teaching the kids in the schools to be doing this, too.
JC: But everybody is concerned about Big Government these days after the Snowden revelations. So children are being taught that everybody is to be suspected and they’re being taught to shut their minds off.
JW: I’ve talked to kids in elementary schools here and they have forbidden words that they can’t say. It’s one of my great fears – we’ll be afraid to speak and that privacy is disappearing. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley both said that we were heading this way because of technology – they were prophets.
But most people have not kept up with where technology is going, yet all of a sudden, it’s already here – it’s already happened. It’s about the loss of privacy and the New World Order. Once you start talking about an idea in public, then it’s already arrived.
So I’m hoping young people today will clue in, get involved and do something about it. But I’m afraid that given the fact that it’s being drummed into kids’ heads here to report on those that are different to the government – we’re moving down a really bad road.
JC: And this came over from looking at the the link you put to the FBI video titled ‘Don’t be a puppet’. They do say on that video that that they’re concerned about ‘violent extremism’, and they also note that it’s legal to have hateful or extremist beliefs providing you don’t commit crimes or violence based on those beliefs. But they constantly associate non-violent activity with violence. Surely that tells children they shouldn’t be associated with these so-called ‘twisted’ beliefs and values mentioned on the website.
JW: One of the forbidden words children shouldn’t be associated with today is the G word. One child told me about this, and I asked ‘what’s the G word ?’ She said ‘I can’t say it’ so on a piece of paper she spelled out the word ‘guns’. So I asked how you describe what the Americans troops are carrying in their hands in Afghanistan, and what the police are carrying. In this country the police are armored to the hilt. Do you say he’s carrying a G or a gun? And she wouldn’t say the word.
You may be opposed to guns, but you can’t SAY that word?! What kind of mentality creates censorship where you can’t say a word? And that’s what’s being taught in the schools today.
JC: You make the point in the article that we concentrate very much on the NSA given the Snowden revelations, but actually the FBI resources are very extensive. How extensive are they?
JW: Their annual budget is 83 billion dollars! They have 56 field offices in the country and smaller offices throughout the country. They have the biggest DNA and facial imprint database. They have it all. They’re basically becoming a pre-crime unit. See the film Minority Report. It’s about pre-crime. That’s why I talked about threat assessment earlier. They’re trying to stop crime before it happens. The problem is, you have to arrest innocent people. And we’re seeing that with cases here at the Rutherford Institute.
If we look at the history of the FBI, which I talk about in my article on the website, it targeted Martin Luther King, the great civil rights activist in this country, who only ever talked about non-violence. They collected 17,000 pages of information against him to try to put him away. They collected a huge file on John Lennon simply because he was a peace activist – he was against war. There’s a long list of non-violent good people targeted by the FBI. And they have so many resources with which to do it.
And they’re moving FBI agents into local police departments in America whose sole job is to watch social media – Twitter, e-mails and Facebook for extremism. And they have unlimited resources to do it. 83 billion dollars and the biggest DNA database in the world.
And they’re also looking into family history via your DNA to see if there’s a troublemaker in your past. Genetically, are you more prone to creating trouble?
But in history, rebellion is the basis of freedom, people who rebel, who say they don’t like it. Like MLK and John Lennon.
Yes, it all happened already with the Cointelpro Program before in the 1950s to 1970s, but technology has changed things now: it allows them to do more things now and watch people much more. In my opinion, Martin Luther King would have been stopped if they had had today’s technology. He had a past which wasn’t great.
In fact, King was threatened and told to commit suicide by an FBI agent because they threatened to release the unsavoury stuff they had on his life. This is the government doing this! Should the government be doing this stuff?
JC: You also say they are involved in entrapment in a big way. Can you give us an idea about that?
JW: Yes, they have a long history and this is coming from credible sources like the New York Times and The Guardian. The FBI will meet with certain people they think are potential terrorists and urge them to be informants. It then arrests them when they commit a crime. They also pay people up to 85,000 dollars a year in this country to be informants to mingle with groups. Back in the 1960s, FBI agents would blend into hippie groups by growing their hair long and smoke weed with them while reporting on them, trying to entrap them. There’s a long history of all that. It’s all in my book.
JC: You also mentioned National Security Letters but I don’t know what the status of that is. Is that part of the FBI toolbox?
JW: That came into being with the US Patriot Act in this country after 9/11. They’re basically letters which aren’t approved by a judge or anyone. They (FBI) show up at banks and universities and get information on you. Banks and educational institutions are not allowed to tell you that the FBI has been there. There’s a code of silence. Thousands are used each year, and people are intimidated into silence.
But here’s the thing - with all the technology they have now, bank and health records are all available online. Nothing is private anymore because everything is electronic.
JC: You talk about their surveillance capabilities. They can intercept cell phone calls with Stingray technology, landline communications with Trigger Fish, but they also have the ability to remotely program people’s computers to give up all the information on those computers. That was proposed in 2014. Can they actually do that now?
JW: Yes - they can turn on your cell phone at a distance – it becomes a microphone, and your laptop becomes a camera.
Stingray devices are basically small boxes that fit into police cars. They’re fake cell phone towers that fool your cell phone. They drive by your home and download everything on your cell phone. The FBI got caught here about 2 months ago They have dirt boxes that they fly in private airplanes over your house from the 7 major airports in this country. They act like fake cell phone towers. They fly over cities and collect everything from cell phones, computers and laptops. They admit now they do that.
JC: So this is what they call ‘network investigative techniques’ ?
JW: Yes! In the old James Bond movies, it was called ‘spying’ but now they call it something else.
JC: The Guardian says that this technique involves ‘clandestinely installing malicious software or malware onto a computer that in turn allows federal agents effectively to control the machine, downloading all its digital contents, switching its camera or microphone on or off, and even taking over other computers in its network.’ That reminds me of a guest we had on a few weeks ago called Charles Strange, who said that he was given a disc by the navy that he put in his computer, which put a virus on the computer and all the information was copied to who knows where. So there’s a bit of evidence it’s definitely going on.
JW: It’s going on. Countries that have sophisticated technology like this – the UK, the US, China – it’s happening in all those places. I’ve warned people - people who have left this country and gone to other countries like South America or the Philippines. With the technology they have now like the NSA’s Echelon, which has bases all over the world, and the Five Eyes Program, they’re snooping on everything. Getting away from the government these days if they consider you a terrorist or extremist is very very difficult.
JC: We have something of a paradox here – the more people become aware of this, in one sense that’s a good thing then we can think what we can do about it. But becoming aware of this means it has a chilling effect on free speech. And I think that’s one of the main purposes of this in terms of social engineering: they WANT to chill free expression, so how do we deal with this paradox?
JW: You make a really good point. Social engineering is what it is. It’s basically telling people to shut up, go home and watch television. The average American watches 150 hours of TV a month, the average young person is watching a screen device up to 32 hours a week. So that’s what they want you to do – go home, relax and let us run things.
The problem is, with the SWAT team rate and all that stuff, you don’t have to do anything wrong. That’s usually the question I get: if I’m not doing anything wrong, John, why should I be worried ? I tell them you don’t have to do anything wrong. You can get on the extremist list for saying something stupid on Facebook.
So how do we push it back ? Get active, go out there, go to your government, get your picket signs – do what people in the past have done to hopefully get your government’s attention and say we’re not satisfied with the way things are going. But do it non-violently. I think John Lennon was right – they want you to be violent so they can accuse you of being violent, mean people. Martin Luther King said it – don’t be violent, that’s stupid. Get together into groups and protest. Show the government you disagree.
But today, I find it’s very difficult to get people organized, to get out there and be active.
JC: So you’re saying to people to put yourself on the line where you could be called an extremist.
JW: Yeah. I know a lot of people who do that. More and more people are saying to me they don’t like it and want to do something about it. So I’m saying do what the great men of the past did. They didn’t like it and didn’t put up with it. George Orwell and other great writers from Great Britain saw it all first and told us to fight back against it.
JC: But you said to fight back non-violently. But we also have to be careful of agents provocateurs. That was part of Cointelpro too. Wasn’t it in Canada just a few years ago where some police officers were carrying rocks in a Security and Prosperity Partnership protest? We need to be aware that that kind of thing could be happening.
JW: It happens here as well. In some riots here in 2014 and 2015, there were what are called paid crisis actors. The government actually uses those. The Department of Homeland Security is the ringleader in that in this country.
There’s the Halo Group, Crowds on Demand and MoveOn.org. You can look them up online. Their job is to discredit what the real protest is doing. So be very very careful. FBI agents also infiltrate protest groups to make them go the wrong way.
JC: You talk about the great people of the past, and perhaps the greatest person of the past we need to look back to is Jesus, and some people might be surprised by that. You mentioned in a commentary that he died in a police state, and you say we think of him as meek and mild, but we forget that he was a very radical person in many ways. What can we learn from his ministry to help us today?
JW: There was a reason he was targeted by the Romans, why he was crucified. In those days, Romans crucified people who were their political adversaries. When Jesus went into the Temple with a whip and disrupted commerce – they blocked the ingress and egress of the doors – he was considered a radical in his day. The Roman empire was a tyrannical state, but it didn’t seem to bother him despite the dangers. He wasn’t meek and mild – he said what he thought. He was arrested at night, by a snitch by a way, by an informant and he was arrested by a kind of SWAT team that dragged him. And he didn’t even get a fair trial. Go on my website and check that out.
Jesus was certainly someone who spoke out about injustice, but here’s the key – he did it non-violently.
JC: One question before we end, you talk of the necessity of standing our ground. But in protest situations we do run up against the difficulty of law enforcement personnel who are being propagandized about this job. How do we reduce the possibility of conflict in these situations?
JW: I’ll be honest – it’s going to be very difficult. I’m a lawyer and I deal with people here who want to protest. I warn them to be careful, that they could be infiltrated by the government and cause disruption.
In this country when people plan protests and do e-mails, the FBI read their e-mails and go and meet with them, and they warn them – threaten them - ahead of time that they could get into trouble.
The power of our armored police and armored government agents today make it very difficult. We’re up against something today that people like Martin Luther King did not face in their day. We live in a very strong police surveillance state. It’s going to be difficult.
But I always tell people at the end of the day that when we die – and I believe we go on to a better place, you’ll be asked what did you do to make things better? Did you do something to make things better or did you just sit around, watch TV and smile? Did you snitch on your neighbour, or did you take a stand for truth and freedom? And I’m saying I’d rather take a stand for truth and freedom and have a better ride on the other side.
JC: Absolutely. Fantastic words to end with. I totally agree with you. I do thank you ever so much for joining us on the programme. It’s been very interesting. How do we find your website and your book?
JW: My site is Rutherford.org and my book is Battlefield America – a War on the American People. It’s available on Amazon.