03/1/20

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & Abusive

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s unlikely that there is a single federal alphabet organization less popular among the readership of this website than the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. These are the people who gave us both the Siege at Ruby Ridge and the Siege of Waco. What’s more, they may well be engaged in an entirely unconstitutional exercise: monitoring and patrolling the gun ownership of law-abiding citizens.

There’s also a solid case to be made that the ATF is a rogue organization, the most corrupt of the federal alphabet agencies. This can be seen through a number of scandals beginning with Ruby Ridge, threading through the siege at Mount Carmel in Waco, and continuing to the notorious “Fast and Furious” scandal.

While firearms owners, weapons enthusiasts and Second Amendment advocates might have a special bone to pick with the ATF, we believe that all freedom-loving Americans should be concerned about the overreach, lawlessness, and lack of accountability in this organization. Roman poet Juvenal once posed an important (and famous) question about powerful justice officers: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” – Who is to guard the guardians?

All told, there are over 20,000 firearms laws and regulations on the books at the state and federal level. Many of these contradict each other or are written with a lot of room for interpretation. Gun owners and gun dealers are easy prey for a corrupt and lawless federal agency that wants to twist its arms outside the bounds of the law.

It’s also worth considering what overreach and lack of accountability other federal organizations are responsible for that we don’t know about, simply because they do not have the same spotlight on them as the ATF – a reminder that the scandals mentioned above are just the ones that we know about.

We recommend reading this article in concert with our other articles on the ATF: WacoRuby Ridge and Fast and Furious. Each of these contains familiar tropes with regard to the ATF: Entrapment, “lost” evidence, a total lack of accountability, aggressive policing tactics where discretion would probably have saved lives, and a vengeful manner of doing business.

The Pre-History of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe ATF’s genesis lies all the way back in 1886, as a part of the Department of Treasury. Then it was known as the Revenue Laboratory within the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The pre-history of the ATF can then be traced through the Bureau of Prohibition, itself a branch of the Bureau of Internal Revenue formed in 1920. The Bureau of Prohibition was then spun off as an independent agency under the umbrella of the Treasury Department in 1927, before becoming a part of the Justice Department in 1930, and eventually merged into the FBI briefly in 1933.

In December 1933, Prohibition was repealed and the Prohibition Bureau became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In 1942, they were also tasked with enforcing federal firearms laws, which were scant at the time, to say the least – remember that fully automatic machine guns were legal until 1986.

In the early 1950s, the Bureau of Internal Revenue became the Internal Revenue Service that we all know and love today. As part of this reorganization of federal alphabet agencies, the Alcohol Tax Unit was tasked with collecting tobacco taxes as well and became known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD).

It was with the 1968 Gun Control Act that the agency became the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division of the IRS, and also received some jurisdiction over bombings and arson. In 1972, it became a fully independent bureau of the Treasury Department – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (B.A.T.F). It was here that the Bureau became tasked more with the enforcement of the law around firearms than it did about collecting taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

A Long History of Abuse and Corruption in the ATF

The ATF had a bad reputation long before the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco. They were subject to Congressional hearings in the late 70s and early 80s because their methods for securing a case were considered overzealous. Evidence at the hearings was presented by American citizens who had been charged, experts who had closely studied the Bureau, and internal officials from the Bureau. The Senate sub-committee investigating declared:

“Based upon these hearings, it is apparent that ATF enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.”

The ATF was considered especially harmful because they often targeted people who not only didn’t know they were doing anything wrong but had absolutely no malicious intent at all. Their efforts focused on gun collectors rather than stopping street crime. Indeed, the same investigation found that 75 percent of all ATF prosecutions were targeted at people who had no knowledge that they were breaking the law and had no intent to do anything criminal.

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) was squarely aimed at reducing the abuses of the Bureau. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the 1968 Gun Control Act, FOPA allowed for increased interstate sales of long arms, shipping ammunition through the U.S. mail, ended record keeping requirements on most forms of ammunition, and protected the transportation of otherwise illegal firearms across state lines (“safe passage”).

This is also the act that largely prohibited the ownership of fully automatic machine guns by civilians, so it certainly wasn’t perfect.

Ruby Ridge and Waco

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveFollowing FOPA in 1986, the next big chapters in ATF history are the sieges at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993. These events lead directly to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The Siege at Ruby Ridge

In 1992, Ruby Ridge, Idaho, was the site of an 11-day standoff between the ATF and Randy Weaver – who had been entrapped by the ATF into violating the law regarding the barrel length of a shotgun. They attempted to coerce him into becoming a snitch inside the Aryan Nations (which, as it turned out, was basically an organization entirely full of snitches). When he refused, the ATF moved forward with prosecution.

There was a series of bureaucratic SNAFUs that led to Weaver not knowing what his court date was, missing it, and then deciding not to show up at all out of the very legitimate fear that he would not get a fair shake. So the Marshal Service came in, guns blazing in tactical gear, and did what the feds are perhaps best known for: They shot Weaver’s dog. Unfortunately, it went further than that. They also shot his 14-year-old son Sammy in the back and his wife through a door while she held their infant child.

Patriots descended onto the scene and 11 days later, Weaver came out. He was tried and acquitted of all charges except for failure to appear.

The Siege at Waco

The next year, the ATF had a similar situation in Waco, Texas, where they were investigating a religious group known as the Branch Davidians. Here, the ATF (according to many accounts) was more interested in performing for television cameras than they were in enforcing the law. They used aggressive policing tactics against a group of people who had not been convicted of – or even formally charged with – any crime. The final result was a 51-day siege, at the end of which 82 Branch Davidians (including women and children) were gunned down or burned to death.

Each of these events was directly cited by Timothy McVeigh as radicalizing for him on his road to attacking the federal building at Oklahoma City, stating:

“I chose to bomb a federal building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost the bombing was a retaliatory strike; a counter-attack for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s Hostage Rescue and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government – like the Chinese – was deploying tanks against its own citizens.”

Expanded Powers Post-9/11

Unsurprisingly, the ATF was rewarded for its indiscretions with broader police powers post-9/11, when any three-letter alphabet agency was basically given carte blanche to run roughshod over the civil rights of American citizens. This included an expanded jurisdiction over fuels used in amateur rocketry.

It’s worth briefly noting that the ATF (actually the BATFE, as their agents are quick to tell anyone who will listen) has a bit of a chip on its shoulder because there is a perception that the agency is made up of FBI rejects. The ATF tends to not cooperate with the FBI, something people hoped would end when the ATF was moved from Treasury to Justice. But the so-called “battle of the badges” continues. Each wants to investigate terrorist attacks involving explosives, and there are no clear federal guidelines about which gets which.

The Harassment of Gun Show Buyers and Sellers

Starting in May 2004 and ending (as far as we know) in August 2005, the ATF worked with local police in Richmond, VA, to harass and intimidate otherwise legal gun buyers. People at eight different gun shows were approached by officers and discouraged from buying guns. Gun salesmen were targeted, interrogated, and accused of doing business without a license. Buyers were detained without charge and had their homes visited by ATF agents – all for exercising a Constitutionally protected right. An ATF letter demanded the appearance of buyers to appear before the ATF and explain their purchases. Soon after, the ATF visited the homes of buyers from a Pittsburgh, PA gun show, demanding to see their papers for purchases and arresting those who refused to comply.

All of this was just the lead up to Operation Gunrunner, better known as the Fast and Furious Scandal, an official policy of allowing certain illegal weapons purchases to go through between 2006 and 2011. It led to the deaths of a Border Patrol Agent and some of the weapons in question were even used in a terrorist attack.

The Baiting of Hmong Refugees

One of the more disgusting ATF escapades post-9/11 was right out of their old entrapment handbook: They baited a bunch of Hmong refugees from the Communist regime in Laos into buying illegal weapons over a period of years. It’s worth noting that these men were hardly hardened revolutionary militants. In many cases, they were elderly and infirm men. Even the prosecution admits that their stated goal was not to overthrow the Communist government in Laos but to arm the native Hmong to protect themselves.

Charges were eventually dropped when a judge told the feds they had no case. But the whole ordeal lasted almost four years and cost tens of millions of dollars. The defendants saw deteriorating health throughout the case – imagine your father or grandfather having to deal with a dubious criminal prosecution in his advancing age.

The Entrapment of Mentally Disabled Teenagers

Have you heard about the ATF entrapping mentally disabled teenagers and coercing them into getting neck tattoos? You read that right, the ATF opened up a fake head shop that it used for (what else?) entrapment. In this case, a 19-year-old mentally disabled drug addict was manipulated by agents into getting the logo for a shill business tattooed on his neck. This was allegedly to keep him from finding out that he was unwittingly informing for the government, a defense so stupid that a federal judge repeatedly and pointedly asked the ATF to explain how suggesting that someone else get a neck tattoo was a method of preventing agents from blowing their cover.

The ATF was ordered by a judge to pay for the removal of the tattoo. But this was apparently not the only example of the ATF using what it euphemistically refers to as a “low IQ informant” – there was another case earlier that same year, with another shill business.

Part of the problem with the ATF is that the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. For example, a Bureau audit in September 2008, found that the ATF had waylaid no less than 76 weapons and 418 laptop computers.

Just How Bad Is the ATF?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s no surprise to our readers that we’re not the biggest fans of federal alphabet agencies. So one might be tempted to ask exactly what the big deal is about the ATF. Why single them out for criticism?

The ATF is a unique corrupt federal alphabet agency. Indeed, the Trump Administration has gone so far as to cut the organization’s funding. This is part of a broader mood that the ATF is unique among federal alphabet agencies. While there’s rarely a thirst in Washington to scale back federal police powers, the ATF is so controversial even within the halls of official power, that the executive branch – of all places – has looked for ways to constrain it.

The complaints about the ATF are not by any means limited to civilians who they have wronged. As an example, the ATF received 400 employee complaints within one two-year period. This is an astounding number of complaints for an organization that only has 5,000 employees.

What’s more, internal agents who complain are often subjective to punitive measures within the agency, meaning that what resources aren’t being spent on entrapping citizens are being used to persecute what slim opposition to corruption exists within the organization – so how much of their time and money are they using to lock up bad guys?

Indeed, the ATF has been accused of making threats of rape and murder against ATF agents and their families when those agents make good faith reports of corruption and misconduct within the organization. Much of the corruption from the perspective of ATF agents acting in good faith and their families can be found at Clean Up ATF and their forums, a website that we highly encourage people to check out.

The astonishing thing is the sheer volume of complaints ranging from petty corruption to reprisals against agents seeking reform to sexual misconduct and beyond. We take no stance on whether or not each and every accusation against the ATF is accurate. Nor do we take the stance of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” However, drilling down and looking at the individual complaints, and evaluating each on their own merit, will likely lead you to rather sinister conclusions about the ATF.

What Does the ATF Really Do With Your Form 4473?

Federal Form 4473, also known as the Firearms Transaction Record, is well known to everyone who has ever purchased a firearm. You think that after you fill that out, it goes to some kind of ultra-secure ATF repository – but absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the form just sits wherever you bought it until the company goes out of business, at which time it’s transferred to the ATF at long last.

What this means is that the Form 4473 is not only insecure but basically a form of kabuki similar to the security theater people undergo every time they go through an airport. Finding the document is just about impossible, even when they have a suspect or a weapon. It’s the ultimate needle in a haystack problem, with as many as 70 phone calls required for the average trace. A single big-box retailer might send in as many as 50,000 for one moderately busy location closing.

Of course, there is always another sinister aspect to such intrusions: Grooming us all for an increasingly obvious police state.

The Beltway Sniper case presents an illustrative example: There the ATF went out and collected every Form 4473 from all of Maryland and Virginia. This was a precedent for future fishing expeditions, where the ATF can go out, collect as many forms as they want with dubious legal standing, and now have de facto gun registrations for everyone that they collected forms about.

The ATF Slush Fund: Is the ATF a Rogue Agency?

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveThe answer to this question very much depends on what one means. So what do we mean when we ask if the ATF is a rogue agency?

Simply put, we mean: Is the ATF even beholden to the federal government and our elected officials? Is there accountability? The answer is… kind of.

It’s worth noting again that the ATF has had its budget first frozen, which is an effective budgetary cut, then explicitly cut. What’s more, we discussed the Senate investigations of the early 1980s above. And each of the scandals we have covered elsewhere on the website (Ruby Ridge in 1993, Waco in 1994, and Operation Gunrunner in 2010) have had their own investigations. But we think there is one scandal not covered here that is particularly damning when considering whether or not the ATF is a rogue agency.

Over the course of several years, the ATF built up a slush fund that was used without Congressional or executive oversight through a rather unlikely revenue stream: Cigarettes.

Anyone who knows anything about organized crime knows that, silly as it may sound, illegally selling cigarettes is still big business. There’s still a lot of money to be made out of knocking over a truck carrying cigarettes, then selling them well below market value and without paying any of the relevant taxes. This, indeed, is one of the things the ATF is actually supposed to be looking into – if you remember, this was one of their first assignments.

The New York Times uncovered this operation in February 2017. And at first, it looked like a few bad apples in one office. However, what the Times found was that this was a nationwide operation based out of the Bristol, VA office. Anytime an agent wanted money for an operation, they didn’t go through the official channels of power. They simply called the Bristol office, which had tons of money thanks to their partnership with a cigarette wholesaler.

Unsurprisingly, the slush fund was not only spent on investigative expenses. Two informants were paid a whopping $6 million each – good work if you can get it. One agent, in particular, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on real estate, electronics and donations to his church and children’s sports teams. Other purchases included a $21,000 NASCAR suite and a trip to Las Vegas.

Mixing private and public funds is highly illegal. The ATF, at long last, acknowledges that there was no legal justification for the slush fund. But again, this was not a rogue field office or rogue agents: ATF headquarters was openly steering agents to the Bristol office whenever they needed money for something. There were no prosecutions, Congress was kept in the dark, and the Justice Department went out of their way to cover for those involved. This abuse of funds is nothing special – civil asset forfeiture funds are frequently misused. However, the difference is how the funds were acquired.

Tens of millions moved through the bank account in question before it was shut down in 2013. No one knows exactly how much money was involved, because no one was keeping track.

How the ATF Slush Fund Worked

This slush fund bears special examination because it is an example of the ATF as a rogue agency, not one that is “simply” corrupt in the same way as other federal alphabet agencies. Worthy of note is the manner in which headquarters facilitated the use of the slush fund, but also how it began and how it operated on a day-to-day basis.

Thomas Lesnak was a well-liked ATF agent. Affable, he was generally thought of as a “good cop.” He had the groundbreaking idea that the ATF would catch cigarette smugglers, not by setting up front companies, but by working with an actual, existing company.

The ATF agents allowed Big South Wholesale to conduct illegal cigarette sales so that the ATF could then catch smugglers and their customers who often paid in illegal weapons and stolen goods. This is very similar to Operation Gunrunner in that the ATF allowed legitimate businesses to commit crimes so that they could track criminals based on these purchases.

This was already illegal. That’s because undercover operations have a series of protocols designed to ensure transparency. Undercover operations are supposed to run entirely on government money so that there can be government oversight of how the money is being spent. In this case, the money was largely put into a personal account owned by the owner of Big South Wholesale. The spending out of this account, which Congress didn’t even know about, was controlled by Lesnak.

What the money was spent on could be an article all by itself. Credit cards, a fleet of luxury cars, vending machines with hidden cameras, and the personal American Express bills of ATF agents were just some of the perks of working for the ATF and being in the know about this fund. It was a long list as one might expect from an account that ran into the tens of millions.

It gets worse. One of the requirements of keeping this slush fund on the hush-hush meant that the ATF always needed guilty pleas. What this meant in practice was that the ATF was bribing suspects to plead guilty. One defendant testified that he was paid $100 cash monthly, plus the rent on his house while he was in jail, plus a first-class plane ticket to plead guilty to charges.

It wasn’t government whistleblowers who uncovered the scheme, either: U.S. Tobacco thought something was amiss and decided to look into it. They were then informed that the ATF was running their own private lemonade stand out of the warehouse. They raided it and sued the nominal owners for $24 million. The target of their biggest investigation, Paraguayan tobacco company Tabesa, had their own become President of Paraguay.

When notified, the ATF didn’t do anything. No one was prosecuted or even reprimanded. Lesnak retired soon afterward, presumably with a full pension.

It’s easy to get angry at the corruption of the ATF, and with good reason. But what might get lost in the legitimate indignation of a federal alphabet agency profiting off of cigarette smuggling is that the bad guys got away.

Cigarette smuggling admittedly sounds a little silly, but it is often done as part of money laundering operations for much more serious crimes. Not only did the ATF do something highly illegal, they also let other actual criminals get away. There’s a lot more going on here than a simple case of “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

Who Watches the Watchmen?

The ATF is a classic example of what happens when a federal alphabet agency is given increasing police powers with no meaningful oversight. In the case of the ATF, it’s resulted in a whole lot of crime.

There is also the small question of to what degree the activities of the ATF are Constitutionally protected. While this is an open question for a number of federal alphabet agencies (especially in the era of Congress largely delegating its legislative powers to bureaucracies), it is an especially sharp question with regard to firearms, which are Constitutionally protected in a way that, for example, recreational drugs are not.

The ATF goes out of its way to avoid Congressional oversight in a manner that is more similar to the CIA than it is the DEA or the FBI.

Weaponizing the ATF

History of the ATF: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Became Corrupt & AbusiveIt’s not news that gun grabbers have been ineffective at achieving their goals through the regular legislative process. There’s simply no appetite in American politics for a large-scale gun ban or even firearms registration. Every time they attempt it, the attempt falls flat and they’re back to, for example, trying to get payment systems to refuse services to gun owners and weapons retailers.

However, there is a more troubling avenue that gun grabbers are beginning to take. Following up on the recent love affair of leftist liberals with the CIA and the FBI (anyone old enough to remember the Bush Administration, remembers when the NPR set considered these to be tyrannical and Orwellian institutions), the Democratic Party is now looking to the ATF to do what it cannot do through the legislature: Take people’s guns away and send a chilling effect over the gun market.

The “Keeping Gun Dealers Honest Act” stands in the great American legislative tradition of duplicitously Orwellian bill names. While it mostly just stands to make already illegal activity even more illegal, it has some rather chilling provisions that include closer ATF oversight of gun dealers, stiffer penalties for falsified forms (remember that the ATF is mostly going after people making honest mistakes), ATF discretion when it comes to granting gun licenses, and allowing the ATF to demand certain dealers conduct physical inventories.

It is worth raising the question of what might happen with the ATF under an aggressively anti-Second Amendment administration and Congress. Imagine, if you will, what the Obama Administration with the 111th Congress might look like in today’s far more polarized landscape. This was when the Democrats had a significant majority in both houses of Congress, as well as a friendly rubber stamp in the White House. What would such a government do with the ATF?

Nothing good.

Whither the ATF?

In 2014, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, proposed disbanding the ATF entirely, giving its duties to more general law enforcement agencies. Those related to weapons, arson, explosives, and terrorism would be given to the FBI. Those related to alcohol and tobacco smuggling would be handed off to the DEA. Congress failed to act on his bill. He introduced the bill again the next year and was met with similar results. Sensenbrenner did not mince words:

“The ATF is a largely duplicative, scandal-ridden agency that lacks a clear mission… it is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership. For decades it has been branded by high-profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies. … Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently.”

While nothing ever came of this, the Trump Administration began attempting to strip the alcohol and tobacco responsibilities from the agency. This is part of a more general attempt by Republican officials to, in the words of a Mother Jones article “kneecap the ATF.”

We should be so lucky. The ATF is a rogue organization with a dubious Constitutional mandate. This is not a position of the anarchist-libertarian extreme, but one that anyone with the evidence in front of them and a lick of common sense could come to.

02/27/20

The Waco Siege: What Happened When the Feds Laid Siege to the Branch Davidian Compound

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

history of the Waco Siege“The record of the Waco incident documents mistakes. What the record from Waco does not evidence, however, is any improper motive or intent on the part of law enforcement.”

Joseph Biden, U.S. Senator, Delaware (D) and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which issued the Waco Investigation Report

The siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, is an important event in American history because it directly led to one of the biggest terrorist attacks on American soil – the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. It’s not necessary to defend this act of terrorism to understand why the entire freedom movement of the time was so incensed by it. Indeed, it stood as a symbol of federal overreach and the corruption of the Clinton Administration.

It’s important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the siege of Waco, just as it is important to do so with the siege of Ruby Ridge or the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. With every event, it is important to stick to the facts and what can be extrapolated from them to make the strongest argument about what went wrong and why, and what could be done differently in the future.

Background: Who Are the Branch Davidians?

The Branch Davidians were a tiny offshoot of mainstream Seventh-Day Adventism. This stemmed from an earlier split between the main church and a group called Shepherd’s Rod, The Rod or the Davidians. It was effectively a reform movement within Adventism, albeit with some beliefs considered heretical by the mainstream church, none of which are important or relevant for this discussion.

The Branch Davidians were established some 20 years later, and a much more radical departure from Seventh-Day Adventism born from disappointment at the failure of earlier prophecies to materialize. There was some wrangling over the leadership of the group after the death of its founder, but Vernon Howell, better known to the world as David Koresh, ultimately won out over the wife and son of the founder.

Everyone liked Howell when he first showed up at the compound in 1981, including the head of the organization at the time, Lois Roden, with whom he had an affair, despite a more than 40-year age gap (he was in his late 20s, she was in her late 60s). He wanted to have a child with her, one that he believed would be the Chosen One of their religion.

Her son, George Roden, took over upon her death, which led to a power struggle between the two. Roden challenged Howell to raise the dead, going so far as to exhume a corpse for this purpose. Howell attempted to file charges against Roden over the grave robbing, but the police told him that more evidence was needed.

It was then that Howell and seven of his followers raided the compound armed with five .223 caliber semiautomatic rifles, two 22 caliber rifles, two 12-gauge shotguns, and almost 400 rounds of ammunition. They said they were trying to collect evidence of illegal activity on the compound, but forgot to bring a camera with them for that purpose. This was the definitive split where Howell won control of the Branch Davidian church at Mount Carmel. Those who did not follow him continued to use this name and argue that he was never rightfully in possession of it.

It was then that Vernon Howell became David Koresh, a name based on the historical King David and Cyrus the Great (“Koresh” is the Hebrew version of “Cyrus”).

By 1989, Koresh began marrying the members’ wives and daughters, some as young as 12, which was cited as a reason for the eventual raid. He claimed this came from an order from God. The men in the group other than Koresh were to remain celibate.

The Sinful Messiah

Koresh first began getting media attention from the Waco Tribune-Herald in February 1993. “The Sinful Messiah” was the name of a series of articles by Mark England and Darlene McCormick about Koresh and his followers. The articles mostly revolve around the child abuse claims and Koresh’s claim that he had over a dozen children, some of them with girls as young as 12.

Additionally, the group was suspected by local law enforcement of “stockpiling” illegal weapons. Local law enforcement alerted the ATF in May 1992, based on a call from a concerned UPS driver. By June 9th, the ATF had officially opened an investigation into the group.

This is perhaps the time to begin talking about some of the misconceptions or smears about the Branch Davidians. We are agnostic as to whether or not the group was a “cult,” as this can be defined differently by different people. However, the notion that Koresh kept his people in line with either mesmerism or fear does not square up with reports to Congress and elsewhere from survivors of the group. What’s more, rather than the dregs of Waco, many in the group were educated, most were religiously serious, and the group eschewed drugs and junk food.

Contrary to popular belief, Koresh did not claim to be the Second Coming of Christ, but rather to be a new messiah for a new age. The term “sinful messiah” was in fact one of Koresh’s own coinage, meaning that he was a messiah-like Christ but, unlike Christ, had a sinful nature.

The allegations of child abuse that prompted the final siege on Mount Carmel is even highly in dispute. Most of the allegations against Koresh come from either disgruntled former members or those involved in child custody battles. The church was investigated by state authorities but not prosecuted because no solid evidence was ever found. That Koresh married a 14-year-old girl is true, but this would have been totally legal with parental consent at the time – so what were state authorities supposed to do?

Assuming that the allegations of child sexual abuse were true – and we consider them to be extremely dubious – what was the ATF or the FBI doing there? And how does opening fire, throwing hand grenades, poison gassing and burning alive children serve to protect them? These are the important questions that stand as a stunning indictment of federal law enforcement, even if one accepts that child abuse was taking place within the compound.

As with Ruby Ridge, the allegations of the federal government and their toadies in the corporate media are distortions (“Koresh claims to be Christ”), dubious (“Koresh is abusing children”) and, more to the point, irrelevant (“The Branch Davidians were cooking meth”). The FBI and ATF were on the scene in Waco for one reason and one reason alone: To serve a search warrant to determine whether or not the Branch Davidians were making automatic weapons.

The Raid of Waco

The actual events of the raid can be difficult to tease out. Each side disagrees as to what the sequence of events was.

What we know is that, based on an affidavit filed by Davy Aguilera, the ATF obtained a search warrant. This was based on the testimony of a postal agent about what he considered to be suspicious deliveries to Mt. Carmel. However, none of the deliveries were in and of themselves illegal and included items such as 45 AR-15 upper receivers and five M-16 upper receivers.

The search warrant was mostly based on the number of weapons possessed by the Davidians. But in the United States of America, we have the right to own as many weapons as we can afford. What’s more, the notion that the Davidians were “stockpiling” weapons is a red herring: They were selling weapons (legally) in addition to buying them, so “inventory” might be the more accurate term for what they had at Mt. Carmel.

According to Dick J. Reavis, author of The Ashes of Waco:

“One of the prophecies that has been around Mt. Carmel since 1934 called for an ultimate confrontation between God’s people, or those at Mr. Carmel, and the forces of an armed apostate power called Babylon . . . Perhaps with that in mind, in 1991, the Davidians began studying armaments and buying and selling guns. He (Koresh) pretty quickly found out there is a lot of money to be made at gun shows and he and other people started going to gun shows. And they bought and sold. They bought items that weren’t guns, and they bought items that were guns. We now say, or the press now says, most people say, they stockpiled weapons. All gun dealers stockpile weapons. We call those stockpiles an inventory. There was an inventory of weapons at Mt. Carmel. A number of guys were involved in the gun shows, just as a number were involved in souping up and restoring cars, and just as a number were involved in playing in the band. There were circles or knots or subsets of people who had hobby interests that were only indirectly related to theology, and guns were one of those interests.”

The ATF’s raid, codenamed “Showtime,” was moved up one day in response to a local newspaper’s article on the Davidians. The local sheriff was not aware of the raid, but the Davidians knew it was coming. The ATF chose to raid the property rather than pick up Koresh while he was in town. An ATF agent who had infiltrated the group reported that they knew of the raid and that his cover was blown. When asked what they were doing when he left the property on the day of the raid, he said that the Davidians were praying.

There was another factor influencing the ATF’s decision to raid the Davidians when they did: Money. According to Henry Ruth, one of three independent reviewers of the Treasury Department’s report on Waco:

“With appropriations hearings a week away, a large successful raid for the ATF would’ve proposed major positive headlines for the agency. It would’ve helped counter the narrative of the ATF as a rogue agency. And it would’ve spread fear about radical fringe groups which would put pressure on Congress to increase its budget. Part of their motivation was to use the siege at Waco as a publicity stunt.”

There is much discussion and debate about who fired first, however, there is ample evidence that it was the ATF when they went to shoot the Davidians’ dogs in their kennels on the way to surrounding the compound. What’s more, the ATF showed up in a cattle trailer protected by a tarp, wearing no body armor. They were not dressed for an armed confrontation with apocalyptic religious extremists.

A ceasefire was negotiated by local authorities. The sheriff claims that the ATF only withdrew once they were out of ammunition. What this means is that if the Branch Davidians were the dangerous extremists they were portrayed as they could have easily shot down every ATF agent either then or when they went out to recover their dead. They did not; the Davidians honored the ceasefire.

“They could’ve killed every ATF agent out there the day of the raid, had they kept shooting. But when they said they would leave their property, they quit shooting. They were highly protective of their property.”

Jack Harwell, Sheriff, McLennan County

And so began the 51-day standoff in Waco, Texas.

The Waco Standoff

The standoff is frequently thought of as a benign and inert non-confrontation. However, this is untrue. While it’s true that no shots were fired, there was a virtual constant low-level assault on the compound in the form of noise (rabbits being slaughtered, jet planes, pop music, and other loud noises), threatening tank movements and poison gas, and flash-bang grenades. Federal agents would frequently give the middle finger to or “moon” the people inside Mt. Carmel.

The tanks were used to crush the outer perimeter, outbuildings, private vehicles belonging to the Branch Davidians, and were repeatedly rolled over the grave of Branch Davidian Peter Gent, despite protests from both Branch Davidians and federal negotiators.

While none of this is acceptable, two of these activities bear special examination: the gas and flash-bang grenades.

The “tear gas” used against the compound was military-grade, a type that can turn toxic very easily. The federal agents knew there were children and even infants in the house, children too small for any gas mask to cover. They shot the grenades in anyway, effectively considering the suffering of the children inside as acceptable collateral damage. Further, flash-bang grenades are deadly and certainly violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the ceasefire.

Koresh became concerned with the safety of the group due to increasingly aggressive tactics. All told, 11 people left the Davidian house, all of whom were arrested as material witnesses, with one indicted for conspiracy to commit murder. Children inside were increasingly unwilling to leave Koresh’s side, especially once they learned that the children who had previously left had been separated from their mothers and other women in the group who had been caring for them.

Communication predictably began to break down. The FBI considered using snipers to take out Koresh and other leaders of the movement and feared a mass suicide. However, Koresh denied such a thing was imminent and those leaving the compound had seen no plans in place for mass suicide.

How the Media Portrayed the Standoff

Koresh and the Davidians watched what the ATF and other federal agents were saying publicly about the initial raid during their 51-day standoff. The public narrative didn’t line up with what the Davidians had experienced, making negotiations even more difficult:

Jim Cavanaugh, ATF negotiator: Well, I think we need to set the record straight, and that is that there was no guns on those helicopters (used in the initial raid). There was National Guard officers on those helicopters . . .
Koresh: Now Jim, you’re a d*mn liar. Now let’s get real.
Cavanaugh: David, I . . .
Koresh: No! You listen to me! You’re sittin’ there and tellin’ me that there were no guns on that helicopter!?
Cavanaugh: I said they didn’t shoot. There’s no guns on . . .
Koresh: You are a d*mn liar!
Cavanaugh: Well, you’re wrong, David.
Koresh: You are a liar!
Cavanaugh: OK. Well, just calm down . . .
Koresh: No! Let me tell you something. That might be what you want the media to believe, but there’s other people that saw too! Now, tell me Jim again. You’re honestly going to say those helicopters didn’t fire on any of us?
Cavanaugh: What I’m sayin’ is . . . now I listened to you, now you listen to me, OK?
Koresh: I’m listening.
Cavanaugh: What I’m sayin’ is that those helicopters didn’t have mounted guns. OK? I’m not disputing the fact that there might have been fire from the helicopters. If you say there was fire from the helicopters and you were there that’s OK with me. What I’m tellin’ you is there was no mounted guns, ya know, outside mounted guns on those helicopters.
Koresh: I agree with you on that.
Cavanaugh: Alright. Now, that’s the only thing I’m sayin’. Now, the agents on the helicopters had guns.
Koresh: I agree with you on that!
Cavanaugh: You understand what I’m sayin’?
Koresh: I agree with you.
Cavanaugh: OK, OK. So see, we’re not even in dispute and Steven’s getting all worked up over it.
Koresh: Well, no. What the dispute was over, I believe Jim, is that you said they didn’t fire on us from the helicopters.
Cavanaugh: Well, what I mean is a mounted gun . . . like a, you know, like a mounted machine gun.
Koresh: Yeah. But like that’s beside the point. What they did have was machine guns.

This distrust by the Davidians of the ATF and their lead negotiator, Jim Cavanaugh, helped exacerbate the standoff.

The Final Siege of Mount Carmel

The newly-minted U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was unhappy with the progress being made at Waco, and invoked (what else) the abuse of children in her pitch for a resolution to the conflict. For his part, President Clinton, who had dealt with a similar situation as Governor of Arkansas in 1985 – with The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of the Lord – initially urged waiting out the group. Reno, however, cited antsy agents and budgetary concerns. Ultimately, Clinton told her to do whatever she thought was best.

The FBI Hostage Rescue Team – derisively nicknamed the “Hostage Roasting Team” and which denied any evidence of child abuse – came armed with 50 caliber rifles and punched holes in the walls of the building with explosives so they could pump CS poison gas into a building with small children and infants inside. The plan was to announce to the group that there was no plan to take the house by force while slowly pumping greater amounts of CS gas inside to increase pressure on them to leave.

The fires began around noon on the final day of the standoff. The FBI maintains that they were started deliberately by the Davidians, with some survivors claiming that the FBI started the fires either intentionally or accidentally. Footage of the Davidians talking about gasoline seem to refer to them making Molotov cocktails to fight the FBI with.

Nine people left the building during the fire. The remaining people inside all died either from the fire, smoke inhalation, were buried alive by rubble or were shot. Some showed signs of death by cyanide poisoning, which would likely have been a result of the burning CS gas. All told, there were 76 deaths.

FBI claims in the 51 days during the standoff they never fired a single shot. Then 27 of the people in the compound died of bullet wounds. Then those were self-inflicted or inflicted by other members inside the compound. Federal investigators considered suicide as a possible form of gunshot death for the Davidians. It did not consider forced execution to be a likely cause of death.

An exchange between Sen. Chuck Schumer and Assistant Attorney General Edward Dennis in the Clinton Administration in the subsequent congressional investigation summed it up best:

Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Congressman, New York (D): We’ve heard that in the 51 days the FBI was involved, they did not fire a single shot . . . First, That would mean quite certainly that 27 of the people who died in the compound, I think the autopsy report showed 27, I may be off by one or two, who died of bullet wounds, those were self-inflicted or inflicted by other members within the compound . . .

Edward Dennis, Former Assistant Attorney General, Clinton Administration: I think that’s a key issue. The fact that Koresh was capable of setting the fire, of killing his own followers, that parents were capable of killing children, or adults were capable of killing children, really says more about the mentality of the individual that you were dealing with and the difficulty in trying to figure out the best way to talk he and his followers out of that compound.

After the Raid

Today the only building on the site is a small chapel erected years after the raid. The building itself was razed. The incoming head of the ATF, John Magaw, was critical of the raid and made the Treasury Department’s Blue Book report on the matter required reading for incoming agents.

Nine Branch Davidians received sentences of up to 40 years for counts including voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges. Several other Davidians, including foreign nationals, were imprisoned indefinitely as material witnesses. Derek Lovelock, a British national, was held in McLennan County Jail for seven months, with the bulk of this time in solitary confinement. Livingstone Fagan claims to have been repeatedly beaten by guards at Leavenworth and other places. It was here that Fagan claims he was sprayed with cold water by a high-pressure hose before the guards put an industrial fan outside of his cell. Guards strip-searched him every time he left his cell, so he began refusing exercise.

Over 100 civil suits were brought against the government by Branch Davidians and their surviving families. Most of these were dismissed before ever coming before a jury. Where cases were brought to court, the Davidians were ruled against. A jury in San Antonio, however, acquitted Branch Davidians in the killing of four ATF agents on grounds of self-defense.

Perhaps the most important piece of evidence that the ATF fired first was lost. Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin testified under oath that the right-hand entry door to the building had only incoming bullet holes in it. A Texas state trooper testified that he saw two men load what looked like that door into a Uhaul. The Branch Davidians argued at trial that the condition of the left-hand door (i.e., intact) means that the right-hand door was not destroyed in the fire, but “lost” on purpose. There seems to be no better explanation considering how buttoned down the crime scene was and the stakes involved in shielding the ATF and other federal agents from the investigation.

The door was not the only evidence that was “lost.” The ATF’s footage of the original raid was also mysteriously (and miraculously, depending on what side you’re on) somehow lost. All this, despite congressional demands to produce both:

“I will just make one comment to the witnesses relative to the video and the front door. We have consistently asked as a committee to get a copy of the videotape which they now say is blank. We have asked for the door, and the door is missing.”

William H. Zeliff, Jr., U.S. Congressman, New Hampshire (R)

What the Waco Siege Tells Us About the Federal Government

The Waco siege does not provide any new or stunning insight into the federal government or how it operates. It does, however, confirm something that we know all too well: That when the federal government makes mistakes, its tendency is not to address and remedy those mistakes but to double down, come back harder, and take every measure they can to conceal their wrongdoing.

However, there is another more sinister strand to this story: Did the FBI kill men, women, and children because of budgetary concerns?

There is some evidence to suggest that they did. Federal law prevents the military from enforcing federal law. What’s more, any training that law enforcement agencies receive from the military must be paid out of their own budgets – unless the training is for enforcing “drug laws.” Late Congressman Steven Schiff of New Mexico testified that, ”In order for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to have obtained the military assistance they did receive, not because of the Posse Comitatus Act, but because of existing military policy, they misrepresented to the military that this was an anti-drug raid when it was never an anti-drug raid.”

In David Hardy’s “This is Not an Assault,” he stresses, “Once the military trainers pointed out that the ATF would have to pay, the ATF suddenly claimed that the Davidians – who in fact eschewed hard liquor, tobacco, cow’s milk, and junk food – were a ‘dangerous extremist organization’ believed to be producing methamphetamine.”

There is no evidence that the Branch Davidians were in any way involved in drug production. There is, however, ample evidence to suggest that the federal government callously ignored the lives and safety of those inside to grandstand before cameras and justify bigger budgets.

01/28/20

The Oregon Standoff: Understanding LaVoy Finicum’s Death & the Management of BLM Land

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

history of the Oregon standoffWhen one talks about the Bundy Family, the first thing that springs to mind is the standoff in Nevada in 2014. However, perhaps even more important is the standoff and occupation at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Indeed, the two events are often conflated because Ammon Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, the man who stood up to the federal government over “grazing fees” on the Bureau of Land Management land.

The occupation was a highlight for both the militia and the sovereign citizen movement as well as proponents of states’ rights. The main argument from those occupying the land is that the federal government is mandated by law to turn over the land that they manage to the individual states in which the land sits. This, they argued, was particularly true of the Bureau of Land ManagementUnited States Forestry Service, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service land.

The 2016 Oregon standoff was over two ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands – despite the fact that the men, a father and son pair named Dwight and Steven Dwight Hammond, did not want their support.

Harney County in rural eastern Oregon is one of the largest counties in the United States by landmass, but one of the smallest when it comes to population. With a mere 7,700 people, cows outnumber humans in Harney by a factor of 14-to-1. Nearly three-quarters of the land in the county is federally managed. The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by then-President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. It’s a large area of the county and surrounding area at 187,757 acres.

How Federal Land Management Works

history of the Oregon standoffWhile each federal agency manages land differently, it is worth taking a closer look at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a template case for how federal land management works in general.

The BLM manages fully 1/8th of all the landmass of the United States. The Bureau was created by then-President Harry S. Truman in 1946, through the combination of two existing federal agencies – the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. Most BLM land is concentrated in 12 Western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

There’s truth to the idea that BLM lands are largely lands that no one wanted to settle. The actual land is remnants held for homesteading that no homesteaders actually claimed. Ranchers, however, often use the land for grazing with 18,000 permits and leases held for 155 million acres. There are also over 63,000 gas and oil wells, as well as extensive coal and mineral mining. So while the land might be land that individuals don’t want to live on and farm, it is far from without value.

Part of the controversy in both the Nevada and Oregon standoffs was the question of ownership of these public lands. Cliven Bundy did not feel obligated to pay grazing fees for what is ostensibly “public” land that, the argument goes, is not owned by the federal government at all, but no one in particular. Similarly, the men who were convicted of “arson” on federal land weren’t terrorists or thrill-seeking firebugs. It was part of a longer-standing dispute with the federal government over their right to graze cattle on the land that started with the pair doing controlled burns that became uncontrolled. They became a cause celebre for the Bundy crew because they were another symbol of the conflict over who rightfully owned the land.

This comes down to a question of ownership: Can the federal government simply decide that it “owns” 1/8th of the country that is supposed to be set aside for the general public? Does the federal government have such authority or does this authority reside with the states? Homesteading was technically still allowed until 1976 (1986 in Alaska), but the formation of the BLM in 1964 effectively spelled the end of homesteading in the lower 48. The argument of Ammon Bundy and company was that the federal government had no such authority, which instead rested with the states.

In a certain sense, this is a purely academic question. In another sense, the federal government owns whatever it says it does, because who is going to say otherwise? However, this was the theory and argument that underpinned the occupation of the Wildlife Refuge.

What is Agenda 21?

It is briefly worth addressing “Agenda 21” before moving on, as many of those involved in the standoff believed in this. The veracity of Agenda 21 is not important for our purposes. What is important is that many of the people involved in the standoff believed it to be true.

Agenda 21 is a name for a supposed United Nations statement on reducing the world population from above 7 billion to below 1 billion. Those who believe this is a goal of the United Nations believe that it will take place effectively by hoarding everyone off of the land and into cities, where they will be reliant upon others for food production. They also believe that it will take the form of state-funded or state-mandated abortions. In some cases, they believe that autism caused by vaccines is a way to lower the population since people with autism are far less likely to have children than those without.

This is an important context for the standoff because some of those involved believed that they were not fighting for the freedom of two men they believed to be wrongfully convicted of arson or even over obscure questions of natural and Constitutional law, but for their very lives, livelihood, and posterity against a tyrannical would-be one-world government. One does not need to agree with the world view of these people to see it as an important factor in the standoff.

Who Are Bundy and Finicum?

history of the Oregon standoffAmmon Bundy is a name probably known to many readers of this website. He is the son of Cliven Bundy, the man who had previously stood up to the BLM over grazing rights in Nevada in 2014. Ammon had recently formed the group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. A faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Ammon believed, as did his father, that his resistance to the federal government was not merely political, but specifically ordered by God.

Lavoy Finicum, also a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was another leader of the movement. Like Cliven Bundy, Finicum decided that he was no longer going to pay grazing fees to the BLM. He published a video on YouTube where he stated that he did not believe that it was legal for the federal government to own the land in question, and cited Cliven Bundy as a direct inspiration for his new stand against the federal government. He refused to pay $12,000 in fees accrued in under six months.

Finicum had also been on the federal radar after he was erroneously named in a case against William Keebler, who planted a bomb at a BLM cabin. If there are any MSNBC viewers out there, you might know Finicum as “tarp man” due to his omnipresent blue tarp that he used to protect himself from the elements.

Background: The Hammond Arson Case

It’s not necessary to get too lost in the weeds on the Hammond arson case, however, it does bear a simple retelling. Dwight Lincoln Hammond, Jr. and his son Steven Dwight Hammond were convicted of two counts of arson in 2012, in relation to two fires they set in 2001 and 2006. The pair agreed not to appeal their sentences in exchange for having other charges dropped. The father served three months and the son served a year and a day, the whole of their sentence.

After release, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (who else?) demanded that they be resentenced. The pair were resentenced for five years, with credit for time served and ordered to return to prison. They were eventually pardoned by President Trump on July 10, 2018. However, in the interim, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne made plans for what they called a peaceful protest. The Hammonds eventually rejected the help of this protest, but it went ahead anyway.

On November 5, 2015, Bundy arranged a meeting with Sheriff David Ward for later that day. Bundy and Payne insisted that the sheriff do all that he could to protect the Hammonds from returning to prison. Ward explained that there wasn’t much he could do. He also reported that Bundy and Payne became somewhat threatening and aggressive when he told them this. It was then that the specter of an armed militia was raised.

In early December 2015, both Bundy and Hammond had moved to the area. They began organizing a “Committee of Safety” modeled on those of the Revolutionary period. Local residents began to notice a lot of outsiders in the community at this time and they weren’t exactly a welcome addition – many would aggressively ask locals about their opinion on the matter. Local police and federal employees in the area reported that they, their spouses and even their children had been followed home or to school by militia members. Open carry became common in a place where, previously, it had not.

The situation was incredibly tense. There were two public forums early in January 2016, designed to defuse tensions between locals and militia members. After a peaceful January 2nd protest ended, Ammon Bundy urged people to join him in an armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The Standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Ammon and Ryan Bundy moved to the refuge with a number of armed participants and began setting up defensive positions. Law enforcement largely avoided the area due to the tense situation and the presence of armed militia members. The standoff continued for six weeks, largely without incident. There was a lot of bluster, mostly from the Bundy camp, but not much happened for the most part. Court orders were issued and ignored. January 6th saw a fistfight between a group called “Veterans on Patrol” and militants in the refuge.

Indeed, the occupation was largely uneventful, save for the death of LaVoy Finicum. On January 26th, Finicum left the refuge with other leaders and supporters of the occupation in a two-truck convoy. It was here that federal authorities attempted to arrest him for the first time using a traffic stop. Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier were peacefully arrested at this time.

Finicum was quite nearly arrested. His truck was stopped and hit with a 40mm plastic-tipped round of pepper spray. It was at this time that he refused to kill the engine on his truck and informed officers that the only way they were going to prevent him from reaching his rendezvous point was to shoot him. He is reported to have yelled at the Oregon State Police: “You back down or you kill me now. Go ahead. Put the bullet through me. I don’t care. I’m going to go meet the sheriff. You do as you damned well please.”

Seven minutes after the stop, Finicum drove off in his truck with two passengers. His truck became stuck in the snow before a roadblock. He narrowly avoided hitting an FBI agent. He ran out of his truck and was fired upon twice by the Oregon State Police, which they did not initially disclose. One hit his truck and the other went wild as Finicum moved around in the snow. According to the FBI, he alternated between holding his hands up and reaching toward his jacket where he had a loaded semi-automatic weapon.

According to the Oregon State Police, Finicum repeatedly yelled, “You’re going to have to shoot me!” and the officers considered him a lethal threat to an officer armed only with a taser. They claimed that he reached for his pocket. Two officers fired a total of three times with a third officer holding his fire when he realized that a fourth shot wasn’t needed. He was provided with medical assistance 10 minutes after the shooting.

According to footage and witnesses featured in the documentary American Standoff, officers shot Finicum the moment he stepped out of his truck with his hands up and continued to fire shots at the vehicle as well as gas the other two passengers.

Aftermath of the Occupation

FBI Agent W. Joseph Astarita was prosecuted for five counts of lying to investigators in relation to Finicum’s death. He was acquitted on all of them. A tape of the incident was released to the public, however, as is often the case, people saw what they wanted to see. The Finicum family commissioned a private autopsy but did not share the results with the public. Finicum’s widow Jeanette filed suit against the Oregon State Police, while his family filed a wrongful death suit against the federal government, the State of Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management and many other public officials and government organizations.

The occupation continued for another two weeks but had largely lost steam as the militants’ leaders had mostly been arrested or surrendered or both. On the afternoon of February 10th, some remaining militants drove past a roadblock at high speed. Michele Fiore attempted to mediate the situation and de-escalate. This resulted in the remaining militants surrendering at 8 am the next day.

All told, 27 militants were arrested in relation to the occupation, 26 of these for a single federal count of conspiracy to impede officers of the U.S. from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation, or threats. Several of these were indicted on state charges as well.

Why Does the Oregon Standoff Matter?

The standoff in Oregon matters for two main reasons: First, it is yet another example of how an armed population can sway the hand of government. Remember that the Hammonds eventually were pardoned. But more than this, it provides a lesson in how not to go about resistance.

There is nothing to be gained by occupying an area where the local population is unsupportive. In the case of the Oregon occupation, while many in the area were sympathetic to the Hammonds and expressed such at public forums designed to mediate between the locals and the militia, the militants were largely outsiders who had come into the area to support someone who didn’t even want their support. For their part, the militiamen weren’t by all accounts going out of their way to win hearts and minds.

None of this requires absolving the federal government or the Oregon State Police for their role in the matter. It does, however, shine a light on the role of optics and tactics when confronting federal power. All things considered, this might not have been the right battle to pick.

There is one last point to be made, however: Despite the outcome, the federal government now has another example to look to that will urge it to exercise caution and restraint when dealing with armed protesters. This was not a situation like Waco or Ruby Ridge. The Second Amendment and militia movements have learned a lot from these incidents in terms of responding before things spiral out of control.

The occupation might not have been perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.

01/22/20

Deplatformed: How Big Tech Companies & Corporate America Subvert the Second Amendment

By: Sam Jacobs | Ammo.com

Deplatformed: How Big Tech and Corporate America Subvert the Second AmendmentAnyone familiar with the Bible is familiar with the Mark of the Beast: Without this mark, no man may buy or sell.

Regardless of one’s religious faith or lack thereof, there is an illustrative case in this biblical story: When one cannot buy or sell, one is metaphorically up the creek. Short of producing everything one needs oneself, buying and selling are necessary parts of virtually every modern person’s life.

In our modern world, we can begin to see a sort of Mark of the Beast: While ideas and even objects aren’t banned, they are increasingly difficult to come by, not due to government fiat, but due to the machinations of corporations hostile to the American values of freedom.

One can be in favor of the free market while recognizing a simple truth: There is no way that America’s Founding Fathers would have sat on their hands while five corporations dominated American discourse and commerce. It is hard to imagine, for example, the Founders suffering a single private bank processing most of the payments in the United States and refusing to do business with gun merchants. Alternately, one can scarcely imagine that the Founders would have sat still for three companies – all of them hostile toward American values and the Constitution – dominating political discourse and deplatforming anyone who opposed them.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves as a nation today: Guns are not illegal, but private companies will make it increasingly difficult to buy, sell or own them – up to and including pulling your bank account. You have all the freedom of speech you like, but prepare to be deplatformed or have your voice buried by large tech corporations with their thumb on the scale of American discourse.

As the American economy has become more corporatist – such that the market is controlled by the interrelation between monolithic mega-corporations, Wall Street and the state – and less capitalistic and dynamic, the American press and economy are now being dominated by forces hostile toward the American public and American values.

No less an authority than James Madison warned Americans that the First Amendment alone was not enough to protect free speech. In Federalist No. 47 and Federalist No. 51, he argued that the separation of powers was necessary to protect free speech by preventing one branch of government from accumulating too much power at the expense of the others and, indeed, the rest of society at large.

This is an important point to remember when considering the First Amendment implications of Big Tech and its war on free speech and gun freedom. The Founding Fathers did not live in a world where a few large corporations had more power than the (incredibly limited and power impoverished) government had, either at the federal or the state level. It’s doubtful that they could have conceived of such a thing.

But they did carefully consider the problem of centralized power as it pertained to the rights enshrined in the Constitution. At the end of the day, the Constitution is just a piece of paper with no ability to enforce itself. What’s more, if the Founders did not address the notion that the private sector could meaningfully and substantially circumvent rights for all Americans, it was simply because they could not conceive of such a thing, not because they were writing the private sector a blank check.

Corporate Big Brother: Banks as Gun Control

Who needs to pass gun control laws anymore? The left can simply appeal to payment systems, banks, and processors as a method of non-state gun control.

Case in point: Andrew Ross Sorkin’s December 2018 article decrying credit card companies for “financing” mass shootings. As with many arguments from the left, the premise is flawed but very simple: Because eight out of 13 shootings that killed more than 10 people in the 2010s involved a credit card purchase (though, as always, it is worth asking what counts as a mass shooting and what is being left out of the tally – more on this here), credit card companies have a responsibility to step up and stop allowing their customers to make purchases for firearms using credit cards.

This effectively amounts to a request for banks to begin surveilling the legal economic activity of their customers.

It’s not far-fetched to consider that some mass shootings have been facilitated by credit card purchases. The Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, as well as Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, used credit cards to purchase the weapons and ammunition they ultimately used to commit mass murder.

But mass shootings, particularly those not part of urban gang warfare, are incredibly rare, despite the overwhelming amount of media attention paid to them. What’s more, while statistics for such would be difficult to formulate, the vast, overwhelming majority of firearms and ammunition purchases made with credit cards are made by law-abiding citizens for entirely legal purposes. For most Americans, firearms purchases can be a spike in their normal spending for the month. And what of it? The call for credit card companies and other payment processors to monitor the economic activity of law-abiding citizens would cause an outrage if the government were to do it, so why is the American public supposed to sit still for an invasion of their privacy simply because a private company is performing the surveillance?

Anyone who has ever made a firearms purchase knows that the bill can add up quickly. The oft-demonized AR-15 can easily top $4,000 when the price of a scope, rifle case and a decent cache of ammunition are added to the bill. Even a humble handgun purchase can quickly hit over $1,000 when a good holster and ammo are tacked on. This means that millions of Americans purchasing firearms for no reason other than recreation or self-defense are going to have their personal finances investigated by a corporate Big Brother, with all the lack of transparency one can expect from a massive bank whose starting premise is “guilty until proven innocent.”

The attempt by the left to get banks to snoop on legal purchases amounts to nothing more than the stigmatization of the exercise of one of the rights enshrined in our Constitution. And while some would argue that the Constitution only limits the government’s actions, it must constantly be asked why we should allow for such an intrusion into our private lives simply because a private company is doing it.

“If you don’t like it, just make your own credit card company.”

Hardly.

Corporate Gun Control and the Mark of the Beast

Deplatformed: How Big Tech and Corporate America Subvert the Second AmendmentAfter the Parkland Shooting, the American media entered into another round of its “something must be done” (read as: your guns must be taken away) propaganda. One result of this was some of the biggest banks in the United States dropping or scaling back their relations with gun manufacturers.

JPMorgan Chase’s Chief Financial Officer Marianne Lake crowed to reporters that the company’s relationship with firearms manufacturers “have come down significantly and are pretty limited.” Bank of America announced its intention to stop extending credit to business clients manufacturing “military-style weapons.” One must, of course, ask if this applies to companies engaged in supplying the United States military itself or the increasingly militarized police found in our nation’s cities.

Bank of America stopped short at stigmatizing the retailers who sell such weapons. Citigroup, however, took the step of requiring any of its business partners to restrict firearms sales to those over the age of 21, as well as those who have not passed a background check. They also barred their partners from selling so-called “high capacity magazines” and bump stocks, which were later banned.

Amalgamated Bank went perhaps the furthest of all, refusing to invest any of its assets in companies involved in the manufacture of “firearms, weaponry, and ammunition.”

This leads into another aspect of corporate gun control: Not only is the left demanding that big banks snoop around in your legal purchases, the banks are also starting to make it more difficult for gun manufacturers to obtain the financial services banks would never dare to deny to any other law-abiding company simply on the basis of what they sell.

There is, of course, consumer push-back. For example, the somewhat successful boycott of Dick’s Sporting Goods after it ceased selling so-called “assault weapons.” But Dick’s is still in business and still not selling scary black rifles. And while you can do your business with a competitor, it still doesn’t change the fact that the message has been sent: Companies can remove legal items from their shelves in a politicized fashion with virtually no meaningful consequences.

There is also the growing specter of private companies banning customers from carrying in their stores. Huffington Post compiled a list of seven companies that do not want legal firearms being carried in their businesses. Outback Steakhouse was at the center of a story where a law enforcement officer was asked to leave because he was carrying, something that he is required to do when he is in uniform. Salesforce, a popular software platform for online retailers, will no longer do business with companies that sell virtually all forms of semi-automatic weapons.

Microsoft has put language in its Code of Conduct that prevents users from using them “in any way that promotes or facilitates the sale of ammunition and firearms.” This is another sweeping example of corporate attempts to infringe upon America’s Second Amendment rights. There is nothing illegal or immoral about owning, selling or promoting firearms. Indeed, the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment.

This is a form of corporate coercion that shows the limitations of simply relying upon the Constitution and the free market to ensure one’s rights are respected. It’s hard to imagine that the Founders would simply have thrown up their hands and accepted that corporations were making it impossible for them to exercise their rights simply because there was nothing “unconstitutional” about it.

Beyond this, however, there are two rather frightening developments.

The first is several liberal state governments skinning the cat from the other end. Rather than making it difficult or impossible to purchase firearms, they are going after the National Rifle Association. While many well-meaning people in the Second Amendment movement consider the NRA to be weak tea (and not without good reason), the fact remains that the NRA is the most public and prominent opponent of gun grabbers. The fall of the NRA at the hands of gun-grabbers (as opposed to more principled pro-Second Amendment groups) would spell disaster for gun rights in America, setting a precedent that would be used against other organizations protecting gun freedom.

The State of New York, led by Andrew Cuomo, has started attacking insurance programs offered by the NRA to its members. He has also attempted to threaten every insurer and bank in the state to not do business with the NRA. It is important to remember that the banking industry is largely centered in New York, meaning that the governor of that state has an outsized influence on how banking is done across the nation.

Another chilling example of corporate coercion goes beyond the Second Amendment and into the First: Popular veteran rights and gun blog “No Lawyers, Only Guns and Money” was removed from Blogger, a blogging platform owned by Google, on the grounds that it “promoted or sold regulated items.” The website was later restored with the explanation that it was removed by an automated system.

PayPal, the biggest payment processing system on the Internet, cannot be used for any exercise of your Second Amendment rights, nor to pay for dissident thinkers’ services such as Stefan Molyneux and Alex Jones or even Wikileaks. One is not obligated to support or defend the beliefs of any of these people or groups to see that a dangerous precedent is being set.

However, these are neither the first nor the only times that Big Tech has attempted to censor conservatives, libertarians, pro-gun freedom forces and others with opinions to the right of John McCain. Some have argued, not without solid evidence, that Big Tech is involved in a full-throttle war against conservatives and free speech on the Internet. We’re inclined to agree.

Big Tech’s War on Free Speech

There is a war against free speech and Big Tech is the one waging it. Congress has looked into this, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas leading the charge, not allowing Facebook and other Big Tech companies to weasel out of answering hard questions that the public has about censorship on the Internet.

It’s less true to say that Facebook, Google and other Big Tech platforms “lean left” than it is to say that they push a globalist, neoliberal, corporatist line that eschews any sort of values or ethics other than growth. Edward Abbey has said that the philosophy of growth for the sake of growth is also the philosophy of the cancer cell.

The Big Tech war against free speech is nothing new and there have been canaries in the coal mine for years. Everyone remembers MILO being shown the door on Twitter for a dubious accusation that he led a mob against actress Leslie Jones. But the real test case was not him, it was hacker and troll Andrew Auernheimer, commonly known by his handle “weev.”

weev (always lowercase) is difficult to defend because he has unpopular viewpoints. To wit, he has a large swastika tattooed on his chest. However, proponents of the First Amendment and free speech shouldn’t be concerned with what weev thinks or says, because what he thinks or says is irrelevant to whether or not he has the right to think it and say it. But Twitter and other Big Tech platforms were smart in choosing such an ideological pariah to test the waters.

There is a direct line to be drawn from the deplatforming of weev on Twitter to the unpersoning of Alex Jones to the shadow banning and outright deplatforming of conservative voices all across the web. Mainstream, establishment conservatives have done themselves a disservice by attempting to defend themselves against deplatforming on the basis that “I’m not a Nazi” for two reasons.

First, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Nazi or not. All legal speech should be allowed on social media, or else Big Tech is an editorial content curator, which makes it liable for anything that is posted on there. This means that your ex-spouse lying about how you missed Little Timmy’s baseball game on Facebook can be construed as defamation, for which Facebook is liable because they didn’t remove the status update. Facebook’s pretense that it is a content-neutral platform, a claim that is patently false, is what protects it from being sued every time someone lies about someone else on the platform or from being hauled into court every time that ISIS uses WhatsApp to coordinate an attack.

But the other reason is that for many on the left, there is not a tangible difference between weev, MILO, Alex Jones, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Wayne LaPierre, Ted Cruz, Ben Shapiro or the President of the United States. Anyone to the right of John McCain is seen as either a literal fascist, a fascist apologist, or a gatekeeper who opens the door to fascist ideology.

Big Tech will not stop at deplatforming actual, self-avowed fascists, nor will it stop at conspiracy theorists, edgy conservatives, or even “respectable” centrist types like Dave Rubin. To throw the far right under the bus in the hopes of satisfying Big Tech’s blood lust is a strategic mistake – it legitimizes the entire process of deplatforming, which will eventually swallow up anyone who believes in the Constitution and the rule of law. Big Tech and the left either see no difference between you and a Nazi or pretend not to because it’s politically expedient.

This is doubly important because of how many Big Tech companies are actively spying on their users. The EFF maintains an annual detailed list of who is telling the government about its users and their data, who informs users that the government is sniffing around about them, and who even bothers to disclose their data retention policies.

What this means is that if and when the federal government begins compiling a list of “potential right-wing terrorists” or “right-wing extremists” (to the extent that they do not already maintain such lists), they will have a ready-made mine of data from Big Tech, who have shown themselves to be more than willing to cooperate with the federal government, with minimal or no arm-twisting on the part of the feds. Take, for example, the Philadelphia synagogue shooter. Self-proclaimed “free speech” platform Gab was more than willing to hand over all the data they had about his account to the feds without even being asked.

Sure, no one wants to be in the position of defending a synagogue shooter. But the point is that these platforms, even the ones who allegedly have your back, have shown themselves willing to roll on their users provided enough of a fever is whipped up in the press.

Conservatives Censored on Social Media

Deplatformed: How Big Tech and Corporate America Subvert the Second AmendmentIt’s worth showing just how many mainstream, run-of-the-mill conservatives have been censored by Big Tech – it’s not just the MILOs and the weevs of the world who are being shown the door. Indeed, we believe that these types are censored not out of any actual desire to suppress so-called “hate speech,” but instead to act as a test case for setting the precedent for suppressing legal speech. Here are some examples that are worth considering:

  • Pastor Rich PenkoskiThis pastor runs a popular Facebook page, “Warriors for Christ.” He was suspended mid-sermon for criticizing the rainbow flag. He was previously banned for calling an atheist a liar and sharing verses from the Quran that called for the killing of non-Muslims.
  • Over Two Dozen Catholic PagesIn July 2017, Facebook banned several Catholic pages with millions of followers. Most were based in Brazil. Facebook removed the pages without explanation.
  • Rep. Marsha BlackburnNot even elected officials are immune from social media deplatforming. Facebook removed an ad for Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s campaign that attacked the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood.
  • Alveda KingFacebook removed paid ads from Martin Luther King’s niece Alveda King for her documentary on Roe v. Wade.
  • Ryan T. AndersonTwitter refused to run several ads from Christian radio stations for an upcoming interview with Ryan T. Anderson. Anderson is a critic of transgenderism and radical gender ideology.
  • Robert SpencerThe head of JihadWatch.org, a website covering radical Islam, was removed from social media and even had his credit cards canceled. He also claims that Google buries him in results for searches about “jihad.”
  • Brian FisherThe President of the Human Coalition notes that this anti-abortion group has had prayer apps removed from the Apple store and has had its content repeatedly removed from Twitter despite taking pains to ensure that all of it is within Twitter’s narrow, anti-First Amendment guidelines.
  • PragerUPragerU is very much the picture of mainstream, run-of-the-mill, completely non-edgy conservatism on the Internet. Despite this, they repeatedly have their content removed from YouTube. Dennis Prager, head of PragerU, is suing YouTube. He notes that Delta Air Lines couldn’t say “conservatives can’t fly with us,” but YouTube, ostensibly a neutral platform, is effectively allowed to say that conservatives can’t use their services.
  • David Kyle FosterDavid Kyle Foster is a leader in the “ex-gay” movement, a group of Christians who claim that their religion has “cured” their homosexuality. His Vimeo channel, featuring over 700 personal testimonials, was pulled from Vimeo for being “hateful.”

Even the Declaration of Independence has been removed from Facebook as “hate speech” due to its “filtering program.” Yes, really. Nor is it only conservative groups who have been targeted. Moderates and leftists who don’t toe the party line – like Andy Ngo, Tim Pool, and Michael Tracey – have likewise been targeted by deplatforming and shadowbanning.

Deplatforming is not limited to social media. Chase Bank has been accused of depriving conservative voices of banking services. This returns us to the Mark of the Beast notion: What good is free speech if banks – banks – can keep you from receiving payments. And how far off are we from seeing conservative voices deprived of their ability to pay?

Imagine showing up at the grocery store and finding out that your money’s no good because you have a concealed carry permit. Sound far-fetched? So would have having your bank account closed for being a conservative activist.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? i.e., Who Watches the Watchers?

Of course, it’s important to ask for a list of left-wing groups who have been banned from social media. But somehow, left-wing groups – even those who violate the terms of service, such as several accounts dedicated to doxing right-wing accounts and inciting violence against conservatives, libertarians, and others on the right – are allowed to operate with impunity.

Indeed, it is worth asking who decides what is against the rules on Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is an answer to this question: For Twitter, it’s a “Trust and Safety Council” comprised of 12 left-wing groups and one conservative group you’ve probably never heard of: The Network of Enlightened Women. The 12 left-wing groups include the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD, both of whom have labeled mainstream conservative groups as “hate groups.”

For Facebook, they rely upon a “fact-checking” process that leverages Snopes and PolitiFact as impartial “fact-checkers.” YouTube uses the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center, both left-wing groups known for their attacks on mainstream conservative organizations. Facebook, for its part, deleted 57 of over 200 “hate groups” demanded by the SPLC in August 2017.

What Is To Be Done?

Deplatformed: How Big Tech and Corporate America Subvert the Second AmendmentThe question after reading this becomes: What should be done, if anything?

It’s difficult to imagine a situation where government interference in Big Tech is going to have the desired outcome. The result might be more and greater censorship than existed before. However, it is worth noting that Sen. Ted Cruz, not exactly known as a proponent of Big Government, has been at the forefront of attempts to hold Big Tech accountable for its censorship of conservative voices on the Internet.

But it’s quite possible that new laws and regulations are not required. What is instead required is more rigorous enforcement of the laws and regulations that are already on the books. To wit: Are Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube content-neutral platforms or are they editorial platforms? If the former, then it would seem that their case for being able to censor legal speech on their platforms is legally flimsy. If the latter, then they are responsible for everything posted on their platforms by every user. Similarly, if Google is intentionally manipulating its results to yield a politicized result, that is likely in violation of existing telecommunications statutes.

The American shift from capitalism to corporatism has had dire unintended consequences: Power has coalesced in both Washington, D.C. and many tech and media companies, such that the latter can undermine American rights and manipulate American political opinion with impunity, while the former abdicates its oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

12/15/19

Operation Fast and Furious: The Forgotten History of the ATF’s Notorious Gunwalking Scandal

Ammo.com

Operation Fast and Furious: The Forgotten History of the ATF's Gunwalking ScandalThe ATF isn’t all bad. In fact, they had a policy of letting illegal gun purchases go between 2006 and 2011. It ended up getting U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry killed on December 14, 2010, and let Mexican criminals get enough guns that they were found at over 150 crime scenes where Mexican citizens were either killed or maimed. And some of the guns were used in the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan. But other than that, it turned out just fine.

(In case you’re not picking up on it, we’re laying on the sarcasm very thick right now.)

You probably know what was officially called “Project Gunrunner” as “Operation Fast and Furious.” Started under George W. Bush, this ATF policy audaciously grew under President Obama and became indicative of the perceived attack on American gun owners by both policymakers and their friends in the establishment media.

It’s one of many scandals of the Obama Administration that was never given as much press attention as, for example, Russia buying Facebook ads about NoFap and Pizzagate. Given that the guns run by the ATF were allowed to kill hundreds and that subsequent Congressional investigations resulted in Eric Holder, President Obama’s Attorney General, becoming the first sitting cabinet member to be held in criminal contempt of Congress ever, this is shocking. At least for anyone still under the illusion that the establishment media is a fair and impartial source of information.

Sit down and get ready to dig into what is perhaps the most egregious scandal of President Drone’s administration – and there’s a lot to pick from.

What Was Project Gunrunner?

Project Gunrunner was a project of the ATF, designed to intercept weapons bound for Mexican criminal organizations. The ATF (the same people who entrapped peaceful, law-abiding citizen Randy Weaver into selling them a single sawed-off shotgun, then pursued him as if he was mounting an armed insurrection, shooting and killing his wife, son, and dog) decided to allow straw purchases (which are technically legal but often involve the crime of providing false information when purchasing a firearm) to happen in the hopes that these purchases would end up in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations.

Yes, really.

The thinking was that, rather than going after crimes considered to be small potatoes, the ATF could focus on bigger fish – organizational gun-running in the Southwest and over the border in Mexico. By letting guns purchased illegally to “walk” (i.e., not be prosecuted), the federal government can keep an eye on them, arresting people for much more serious crimes later. That’s the idea, anyway, but the execution ended up being something much different.

Beginning in 2006, the Phoenix Office of the ATF not only allowed but also facilitated and encouraged, straw purchases of firearms to known weapons traffickers. They then allowed the weapons to “walk” to Mexico. Gun Owners of America has stated that they believe this was an attempt to boost statistics for the ATF, thus securing more funding – most of the funding for this came from $40 million in competitive grants from the 2009 “stimulus package,” which was largely a giant giveaway to large banks.

(Such self-serving actions by the ATF are not unheard of. During the congressional inquiry following the ATF’s siege of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Henry Ruth, one of the three independent reviewers from the U.S. Treasury Department, testified that: “The ATF needed good publicity. With its appropriations hearings a week away, a successful raid this size would produce major positive headlines to counter the ATF’s reputation as a rogue agency whose debacles blackened the reputations of other agencies. And it would scare the public enough about fringe groups to create political pressure on Congress to increase its budget.”)

Some legitimate gun dealers objected to being involved in Project Gunrunner, as did some ATF agents, but they were strongarmed into participation by top brass. What’s more, the practices that became associated with Project Gunrunner were in opposition to long-established ATF operating procedures.

What Was Operation Wide Receiver?

What later became known as “Operation Fast and Furious” is actually only one operation among many under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner. Another was known as Operation Wide Receiver, which ran from early 2006 to late 2007, on George W. Bush’s watch.

In this case, a licensed firearms dealer notified the ATF of a suspicious purchase and was subsequently hired as a confidential informant. The ATF began monitoring straw purchases made through this dealer. During the operation, the dealer sold 450 weapons, including AR-15s chambered in .223, AKs chambered in 7.62×39, and Colt .38s. The lion’s share of these weapons were lost after moving south of the border – only 64 of the weapons were seized before crossing the Mexican border. Most of the cases for the prosecution were so flimsy that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was reluctant to pursue prosecution in any of them. The Bush-era Department of Justice declined to prosecute any of these cases.

The Obama Administration began prosecuting cases in 2010, three years after the project ended. Eventually, nine cases were prosecuted, all for process crimes, with one case dropped, five defendants pleading guilty, one sentenced and two remaining fugitives.

What Was Operation Fast and Furious?

As stated above, Operation Fast and Furious was only one of several such operations. The name itself, “Operation Fast and Furious,” is related to the fact that the suspects were involved in car racing together.

Operation Fast and Furious simply picked up the gun-walking practices which had been going on previously, as if they were new again. Once again, the operation began when a firearms dealer contacted the ATF about a suspicious purchase. Unlike Operation Wide Receiver, many of these purchases involved hundreds of weapons. What’s more, there was no official collaboration between the firearms dealers and the ATF. Perhaps most disturbing is that both Mexican law enforcement officials and the Mexico City Office of the ATF were left completely in the dark about what was going on.

In January 2010, the ATF applied for and received additional funding, and was reorganized as a strike force that included members of the ATF, FBI, DEA, and ICE, run through the United States Attorney’s Office rather than under the jurisdiction of the ATF.

The weapons dealers started raising red flags because they kept seeing the same straw buyers over the course of months purchasing the same weapons over and over again, which is highly unusual. Standard practice is that the dealers tend to only see straw buyers again at trial, if at all. What’s more, the ATF generally arrests the straw buyer and members of the larger criminal organization at the point of transfer, confiscating the weapons in the process. Not only did this not happen under Operation Fast and Furious, but top brass within the ATF prevented agents on the ground from following standard operating procedures.

All told, by June 2010, suspects surveilled under Operation Fast and Furious had purchased over 1,600 weapons at a total spend of over $1 million. At that time – not at the end of the operation – the ATF was aware of over 300 of these weapons being found at crime scenes, 179 in Mexico and 130 in the United States.

To put it bluntly, the ATF facilitated gun trafficking that resulted in crimes on American soil.

The Death of Brian Terry

On December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, along with other members of the United States Border Patrol, was on patrol about 11 miles from the Mexican border. When they came across five suspected illegal aliens, they fired bean bags and were responded to with live ammunition. During the resulting firefight, Terry was killed. Four of the suspects were arrested and two AKs found nearby were traced back to Operation Fast and Furious within hours.

The bullet that killed Terry was too damaged to be conclusively linked to the operation. The Acting Deputy Attorney General and the Deputy Chief of Staff were notified but did not think the murder of a United States Border Patrol Agent was important enough to contact the Attorney General. Eventually, ATF Agent John Dodson contacted Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was the major force behind investigating the ATF’s practice of gun-walking.

This effectively marked the end of Operation Fast and Furious. When all was said and done, approximately 2,000 weapons were purchased through straw buyers that the ATF let walk. Of these, 389 were recovered in the United States, 276 in Mexico, with the balance remaining on the streets. In at least one case, ATF Agent John Dodson was directly involved in the transfer of firearms to a known weapons trafficker.

The Fate of the Furious: What Happened to All Those Guns?

Weapons transferred with ATF compliance and assistance have continued to turn up at crime scenes long after the end of Operation Fast and Furious. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has stated on the record that he believes the weapons will continue to turn up for years to come. The weapons have been used in several high-profile crimes in Mexico, including the use of a .50-cal against a Mexican police helicopter and the murder of a Mexican beauty queen.

The most noteworthy crime the weapons have been used in, however, is the coordinated Islamist attacks on Paris in 2015, including the famous attack against the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan. The ATF itself tracked weapons used in the attack to a Phoenix dealership known to be associated with Operation Fast and Furious.

There is virtually no way to know how many people and American citizens are dead because of the unethical actions of the ATF.

Congress Investigates Operation Fast and Furious

A Congressional investigation was led by Representative Darrell Issa of California, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This was done at the behest of ATF whistleblowers.

Attorney General Eric Holder claimed ignorance about the operation, something that was later called into question by a number of sources. Meanwhile, ATF Agent Vince Cefalu was fired in June 2011, likely for his role in exposing the operation to the general public. He later testified before Congress that purchases of AKs and .50-cals were happening “daily” and that nothing was done, saying, “I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”

Several of those in charge of the operation were promoted and transferred to Washington – not fired nor even reprimanded. U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke admitted to leaking sensitive documents about Dodson, the chief whistleblower, to the public. Senator Grassley believes that Burke was falling on his sword to protect his superiors in the Justice Department. Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee laid the blame not on any senior officials within the ATF or the Justice Department, but squarely within the Phoenix Office.

Attorney General Eric Holder almost certainly withheld documents and concealed evidence, continuing to deny any knowledge of gun-walking. He was threatened with Contempt of Congress and strongarmed into appearing for the seventh time. A Congressional report on Holder described his view of the murder of Agent Terry as “a nuisance.” The report further stated that Holder knew about gun-walking in general and Operation Fast and Furious in particular – he even knew that the weapons involved in the shootout resulted in the death of Agent Terry – as far back as 2010. The Congressional report further accused Attorney General Holder of stonewalling Grassley’s investigation.

On June 20, 2012, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to recommend holding Holder in contempt of Congress. This was related to 1,300 pages of documents that the Department of Justice refused to hand over to Congress. Earlier that day, and at the request of close personal friend Holder, President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege for the first time during his administration.

On June 28, 2012, Holder received the dubious distinction of becoming the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in criminal contempt of Congress. The House voted 255-67 in favor of Holder’s refusal to disclose internal DOJ documents in response to a Congressional subpoena. Congress, likewise, voted on a civil contempt measure by a 258-95 margin. This allows the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to go to court with a civil lawsuit testing the executive privilege claim.

In March 2017, the Justice Department’s Inspector General found that the Dallas Office of the ATF could have arrested some of the men involved in ICE Officer Jaime Zapata’s death, but refused to act.

The civil case was eventually settled in 2019, with the Justice Department agreeing to release more documents at long last.

The ATF’s budget is currently frozen at 2016 levels (an effective budget cut given inflation and built-in increased expenses, like salaries and rent) and it does not have a Senate-approved director, in part because of this scandal and what some believe is a Trump Administration directive to slowly choke off the government alphabet agency – which is one of the most hated among his base.

As a parting thought: It is worth noting that this is the worst thing that the ATF has been caught doing since the attack on Randy Weaver’s family or the incineration of women and children at Waco. This raises the important question of what it is that they’re doing that we don’t currently know about.

12/7/19

USMCA “Trade Agreement”, the North American Union, an Article V convention, and Red Flag Laws: Connecting the Dots

By: Publius Huldah

The Globalists have long been in the process of setting up a dictatorial and totalitarian oligarchy over the United States.  Now they are putting the last pieces in place.  That is what is behind the pushes for the USMCA “Trade Agreement”, an Article V convention, and red-flag and other laws to disarm the American People.  The Globalists want to move the United States into the North American Union.

USMCA “Trade Agreement”

The USMCA “Trade Agreement” is, in reality, a Transfer of Sovereignty Agreement.  It provides for the economic and financial integration of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.   In addition to putting the three countries under global regulation of a host of issues such as patents, environmental regulation, labor, immigration policy, prohibition of discriminatory practices respecting sexual preferences and “gender identity” in the workplaces; 1 it puts the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in control of our economy and binds us to submit to an international monetary system which is to be administered and enforced (at least initially) by the IMF and which will replace our collapsing Federal Reserve system.2

Every word, clause, sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, and appendix of the USMCA “Trade Agreement” is in blatant violation of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

North American Union

The North American Union brings about the political integration of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.  The Task Force Report on Building a North American Community [link] sponsored by The Council on Foreign Relations provides for (among other horrors):

  • increasing the “cooperation and interoperability among and between the law enforcement agencies and militaries.” The Report thus indicates that the plan is to combine the functions of law enforcement and the militaries of the three countries, so as to create a militarized police force consisting of Canadians, Mexicans, and Americans (pages 10-12). 3
  • a North American Advisory Council, with members appointed by Canada, the United States, and Mexico, to staggered multiyear terms to “provide a public voice for North America”; and a “North American Inter-Parliamentary Group” which will have bilateral meetings every other year; and a trinational interparliamentary group to meet in the alternating year (pages 31-32).

To merge the functions of our police and military and combine it with those of Canada and Mexico; 4 and to permit a Parliament to be set up over and above the United States, is altogether repugnant to our existing Constitution.  But this is what the Globalists and the Political Elite of both parties want.  Before they can impose it on us, they need to get a new Constitution for the United States.

An Article V Convention

And that’s the purpose of an Article V convention – to get a new constitution for this Country which legalizes the USMCA “Trade Agreement” and transforms the United States from a sovereign nation to a member state of the North American Union.

But Americans don’t want another constitution, and they don’t want to be moved into the North American Union.

So!  Some of those pushing for an Article V convention, such as the “Convention of States Project” (COS) are marketing a convention to appeal to conservatives.  COS and their allies such as Mark Levin claim to be for limited government and say they want a convention to get amendments to “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government”.  Sadly, those who don’t know that our Constitution already limits the power and jurisdiction of the federal government to a tiny handful of enumerated powers [they are listed on this one-page Chart] fall for the marketing.5

But some of those pushing for an Article V convention, and certainly those financing the push for a convention, 6 actually do intend to “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government”; and they intend to do it by transferring the powers our Constitution delegates to the federal government (plus the powers reserved to the States or the People) to the global government which they are setting up over us.7

This Flyer shows why Delegates to an Article V convention (called for the ostensible purpose of proposing amendments to our existing Constitution) have the right and power to ignore their instructions and impose a new Constitution which puts us under a completely new Form of government – such as the North American Union.  

Red flag Laws & Gun Confiscation

When Americans finally see what has been done and how they have been deceived, they will be angry.  That’s why they must be disarmed now.  But all federal gun control laws for the Country at Large are unconstitutional as outside the scope of powers granted to Congress; as in violation of Article I, §8, clauses 15 & 16; and as in violation of the Second Amendment.  And any pretended State law which contradicts its State Constitution or which interferes with Congress’ power (granted by Art. I, §8, cl. 16) to “organize, arm, and discipline, the Militia”, is also unconstitutional [link].  

Red flag laws also violate the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV, §2; and the due process clauses of the 5th Amendment and §1 of the 14th Amendment. US Senator Marco Rubio’s (Fla.) malignant red flag law [link] appropriates a total of $100 Million to pay to States and Indian Tribes which pass the red flag legislation set forth in Rubio’s bill.

And Trump says respecting red flag laws, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” [link].

Stop the Globalists: Oppose the USMCA “Trade Agreement” and an Article V Convention

While the Trump Administration hammers the Globalists’ nails into our coffin, his trusting supporters censor criticism of the USMCA “Trade Agreement” – even though the Agreement is so long and incorporates so many other Agreements it is unlikely that any of them (including Trump) have read it.

And demagogues in the pay of Globalists have convinced constitutionally illiterate Americans that the solution to all our problems is to get an Article V convention.

Endnotes:

1 Christian Gomez: USMCA and the Quest for a North American Union & What’s Really in the USMCA?  Publius Huldah: The USMCA “Trade Agreement” violates our Constitution and sets up Global Government.

2 Publius Huldah: So You Think Trump Wants To Get Rid Of The Fed?

3 Meanwhile, the UN is building a global military & police force.  See “United Nations Peacekeeping” [link] and think of the ramifications of such a militarized global police force.  Who will be able to resist?

4 Mexico’s culture is notoriously criminal.  If we permit Globalists to get an Article V convention and a new Constitution which moves the United States into the North American Union, you can expect to see militarized Mexican police operating within our [former] Country.  And soon, they will be wearing blue helmets.

5 It is possible that Mark Levin and the hirelings promoting a convention (such as Mark Meckler, 6 Tom Coburn [link], and Jim DeMint [link]) don’t know what the actual agenda is.  And it is almost certain that COS’s constitutionally illiterate celebrity endorsers and lemmings don’t know.  People who don’t know that our Constitution already limits the federal government to a tiny handful of enumerated powers and that our problems are caused by ignoring the Constitution we have are easily deceived by the ridiculous claim that we must amend our Constitution to make the federal government obey it.

Our Framers always understood that the purpose of an Article V Convention is to get a new Constitution [link].  This is why James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and four US Supreme Court Justices, among others, warned against it [link].

6 It is the Globalists, primarily the Kochs and George Soros, who are funding the push for an Article V convention.  See, e.g.,

  • Kochs Bankroll Move to Rewrite the Constitution [link].
  • George Soros assault on U.S. Constitution [link]
  • Mark Meckler is president of “Citizens for Self-Governance” which launched the “Convention of States Project”. This website discusses funding for Citizens for Self-Governance.
  • Koch brothers from Conservapedia [link]

7 The transfer of power from our federal government to global government by means of the USMCA “Trade Agreement” is illustrated here.

11/19/19

Looking for Safe Servitude via Socialism

By: T F Stern | Self-Educated American

I read where roughly 52 percent of today’s younger generation believes socialism/communism would be preferable to our constitutional republican form of government; a troubling thought.

What happened that so many of our fellow citizens never figured out what America is all about?

My first thought had to do with an op-ed piece in USA Today written by Marion Smith, 30 years after the Berlin Wall’s collapse, Americans don’t understand communism’s dangers.  Hard as it may be to believe, there’s an entire generation who didn’t learn the lessons associated with the Cold War, the building of/and eventual destruction of the Berlin Wall.

For a quick course in history, one need only watch the movie, Bridge of Spies, which accurately depicts the political tension of the Cold War, one scene, in particular, showing individuals fleeing the oppression of communism

From a window seat vantage point of a train passing over ‘No Man’s Land’, we observe an attempted escape, one that lasts only moments, as border guards shoot down those trying to scale the wall into West Germany.  We watched helplessly as the image disappears from view.

What would make an individual risk his/her life to escape the clutches of communist East Germany?  Was life so bad that such a risk was considered worth it?

A better question might be, why would anyone want to exchange individual liberty under our constitutional republican form of government, imperfect as it may be, and choose to live in servitude under socialism/communism?

Before I answer; there was a devotional talk given last month at BYU Idaho by James Gordon,  Always Remember, in which he brought up the importance of having a firm recollection of the exodus from Egypt.  He brought up the plight of  Israel as they were being pursued by Pharaoh, their backs against the sea and in great fear.

10 ¶ And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them, and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.

11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.”

You know the ‘rest of the story’, that Moses parted the sea and they crossed on dry ground. They all made it to the other side, that is, all except Pharaoh’s army who were swallowed up by the sea when it came crashing down on them.

With only a little faith in God, they followed Moses, reluctantly; but they followed and were shown that their God really was God.  The story has survived for thousands of years, a reminder to have faith in God regardless of circumstances.

Fast forward to the present… those pushing for socialism/communism see our circumstances as dire; perhaps they are exaggerating what they see in order to institute their vision of Utopia, the fact remains far too many folks doubt, or never were taught about the divine nature tied with our particular constitutional republic, that would be mixing religion with government and somebody convinced the Supreme Court that schools can’t teach that stuff.

The Founders of our nation understood and referenced our dependence on God at every opportunity.  The Declaration of Independence, Constitution and included Bill of Rights represent an acknowledgment that God is the Author of our Liberty and yet godless historians have been arguing against that very fact for the past two hundred plus years.

In more recent years the public schools and places of higher learning have been taken over by socialists/communists.  We send young minds to become educated and learn how to think; instead, they’re attending indoctrination centers churning out intellectual left-leaning dummies.

There’s an entire generation that thinks we’d all be better off living under socialism/communism.  Everyone would be so much better off if we’re taken care of equally by some perfectly ordered government program.  There would be no income inequality; and besides, property is evil, nobody should have more of it than anyone else.

These young minds were never enlightened or given an explanation as to the divine nature of individual liberty or that we are indebted to our Creator for His having ordained this land to be an inheritance for those willing to follow His commandments.  If only we could impact their minds in the same way the Israelites remember the exodus from Egypt.

Listen to the politicians pandering for votes, promising the fruits of labor to all, not caring that someone else provided the fruit or that there might not be enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, much less desires. The safety net of servitude promises the basics of life; what else could you want?  Become a servant of the state and all this will be yours.

Of course, those who don’t approve will be forced to go along with it once the constitution is shredded; we’ll be a Socialist Democracy where the majority runs the show. There won’t be any restrictions keeping the state from confiscating everything and becoming all-powerful; a sad replacement for the constitutional republic God had intended.

I can hear the pleadings from those marching headlong into socialism/communism, “Let us alone, that we may serve the state…”

11/7/19

Article 5 of the US Constitution: What “Convention of States Project” (COS) isn’t telling you

By: Publius Huldah

  1. Article 5 provides two ways to amend our Constitution: Congress (1) proposes amendments and sends them to the States for ratification (this was done with our existing 27 Amendments); or (2) calls a convention for proposing amendments if two-thirds of the State Legislatures apply for it. We’ve never had a convention under Article V – they are dangerous! 1
  2. But today, various well-funded factions are lobbying State Legislators to ask Congress to call an Article V convention. One faction, the “Convention of States Project” (COS), claims to be for limited government and is marketing the convention to appeal to conservatives. COS claims (falsely) that our Framers told us to amend the Constitution when the federal government violates the Constitution.2
  3. COS’s claim is absurd – it’s like saying that since people violate the Ten Commandments, God should amend the Ten Commandments.
  4. COS’s claim is false. Not only did our Framers never say what COS claims,
  • Our Constitution already limits the power and jurisdiction of the federal government to a small handful of enumerated powers (they are listed on this one-page chart).3  Furthermore, it’s impossible to rein in the federal government with amendments because when the feds usurp powers not delegated, they are ignoring the existing constitutional limitations on their powers.
  • All of the proposed amendments produced by COS and their sympathizers markedly INCREASE the powers of the federal government by delegating powers the federal government has already usurped; by granting new powers to the federal government; by transferring power from Representatives elected by the People to the Deep State; or by stripping States of their existing sovereign powers.4 See:

Mark Levin’s “liberty” amendments: legalizing tyranny,

COS Project’s “simulated convention” dog and pony show and what they did there,

The “Regulation Freedom” Amendment and Daniel Webster,

Parental Rights Amendment: Selling You and Your Kids Out to Big Government

Wolf PAC’s Amendment for “fair and free elections”, and

Term Limits: A Palliative not a Cure 5

  1. So what’s the real agenda of those (primarily George Soros and the Kochs) who are financing the push for a convention? A convention provides the opportunity to replace our existing Constitution with a new constitution which moves us into a completely new system of government, such as the North American Union (NAU).  Under the NAU, Canada, the United States, and Mexico are economically and politically integrated and a Parliament and combined militarized police force are set up over them.6

The phrase within Article V, “a Convention for proposing Amendments”, doesn’t restrict the Delegates to the Convention to merely proposing Amendments.  Our Declaration of Independence recognizes that a People have the “self-evident Right” to throw off their government and set up a new government.7  We’ve already invoked that Right twice:  In 1776 we invoked it to throw off the British Monarchy; and in 1787, James Madison invoked it to throw off our first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation (AOC), and set up a new Constitution [the one we now have] which created a new government.

This is what happened:

There were defects in the AOC, so on Feb. 21, 1787, the Continental Congress called a convention to be held in Philadelphia

“for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation”

But the Delegates ignored their instructions from Congress, and similar instructions from their States 8 and wrote a new Constitution which created a new government.  Furthermore, the new Constitution had its own new mode of ratification:  Whereas amendments to the AOC had to be approved by the Continental Congress and all of the then 13 States; 9 the new Constitution provided at Article VII thereof, that it would be ratified when only 9 States approved it.

And in Federalist No. 40 (15th para), James Madison, who was a Delegate to the Federal “amendments” Convention of 1787, invoked that same Right as justification for the Delegates’ ignoring their instructions and writing a new Constitution which created a new government.10

  1. If we have a convention today, the Delegates will have that same power to get rid of our second Constitution and impose a third Constitution. New Constitutions are already prepared or in the works!  One of them, the Constitution for the Newstates of America, is ratified by a national referendum (See Art. XII, §1). The States don’t vote on it – they are dissolved and replaced by regional governments answerable to the new national government.
  2. So why was the convention method added to Article V? The Anti-federalists wanted it added because they wanted another convention so they could get rid of the Constitution just drafted.  James Madison and Alexander Hamilton understood that a people have the right to meet in convention and draft a new constitution whether the convention method was in Article V or not.  So this is why Madison and Hamilton went along with adding the convention method to Article V; and this is why, as early as April 1788, they and our future first US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay started warning against another convention.
  3. Using the pretext of merely getting amendments, the Globalists want a convention so they can complete their coup against us and get a new Constitution which moves us into the New World Order.
  4. States should rescind the applications they have already submitted to Congress.

Endnotes:

1 That is why James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, four US Supreme Court Justices, and other jurists & scholars warn against it!  See their words HERE.

2 See Michael Farris’s quote HERE. None of our Framers said such a silly thing as Farris claims!  Our Framers actually said the purpose of Amendments is to remedy defects in the Constitution, and they all knew that the real purpose of a convention is to get another constitution.

3 IGNORANCE is our problem.  Americans don’t know what our Constitution says.  Can you recite by heart the enumerated powers granted to Congress over the Country at Large?

4 Mark Levin’s amendment to “grant the States authority to check Congress” [p. 169 of “The Liberty Amendments”] provides that three-fifths of the state legislatures may vote to override a federal statute and certain Executive Branch regulations provided that the States do so within a certain time period.  When that time period has expired, the States are forever prohibited from exercising the override.

Levin’s amendment would strip the States of their long-recognized individual natural right – much written about by our Framers – to NULLIFY all acts of any Branch of the federal government which violate our Constitution. See Nullification: The Original Right of Self-Defense and What Should States Do When the Federal Government Usurps Power?

5 The federal term limits amendment would transfer power from US Senators and Representatives (elected by the People) to the Deep State (a massive body of nameless, faceless, and unelected bureaucrats who would become the PERMANENT AND TOTALLY UNACCOUNTABLE GOVERNING BODY).

6 For the Love of God, your Country and your posterity, READ the Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force Report on the NAU. This is what the Establishment Elite wants and can get with a convention!

7 The Declaration of Independence is part of the “Organic Law” (the Fundamental Law) of our Land.

8 This Delegate Flyer summarizes the instructions the States gave the Delegates.

9 See ART. 13 of the Articles of Confederation.

10 In Federalist No. 40 (15th para), James Madison says the Delegates knew that reform such as was set forth in the new Constitution was necessary for our peace and prosperity.  They knew that sometimes great and momentous changes in established governments are necessary – and a rigid adherence to the old government takes away the “transcendent and precious right” of a people to “abolish or alter their governments as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,” … “and it is therefore essential that such changes be instituted by some INFORMAL AND UNAUTHORIZED PROPOSITIONS, made by some patriotic and respectable citizen or number of citizens…”

10/28/19

The USA PATRIOT Act: The Story of an Impulsive Bill that Eviscerated America’s Civil Liberties

Ammo.com

The USA PATRIOT Act: The Forgotten History of the Bill that Destroyed America's Civil LibertiesThe USA PATRIOT Act provides a textbook example of how the United States federal government expands its power. An emergency happens, legitimate or otherwise. The media, playing its dutiful role as goader for greater government oversight, demands “something must be done.” Government power is massively expanded, with little regard for whether or not what is being done is efficacious, to say nothing of the overall impact on our nation’s civil liberties.

No goals are posted because if targets are hit, this would necessitate the ending or scaling back of the program. Instead, the program becomes normalized. There are no questions asked about whether the program is accomplishing what it set out to do. It is now simply a part of American life and there is no going back.

The American public largely accepts the USA PATRIOT Act as a part of civic life as immutable, perhaps even more so than the Bill of Rights. However, this act – passed in the dead of night, with little to no oversight, in a panic after the biggest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor – is not only novel, it is also fundamentally opposed to virtually every principle on which the United States of America was founded. It might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but patriots, liberty lovers and defenders of Constitutional government should nonetheless familiarize themselves with the onerous provisions of this law, which is nothing short of a full-throttle attack on the American republic.

What’s Even in the USA PATRIOT Act?

What is in the USA PATRIOT Act? In the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11then Rep. John Conyers cracked wise about how no one had actually read the act and how this was in fact par for the course with America’s laws. Thus, before delving into the deeper issues surrounding the PATRIOT Act, it is worth discussing what the act actually says. Here’s a brief look at the 10 Titles in the PATRIOT Act:

  • Title I: Enhancing Domestic Security Against Terrorism: This provision dramatically expands the powers of the President, the military and the intelligence community whenever the specter of “terrorism” is invoked. Bizarrely, it contains a provision condemning discrimination against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, which seems to have very little to do with protecting Americans from terrorism.
  • Title II: Enhanced Surveillance Procedures: Title II contains the meat of the Act with regard to massive, industrial-scale surveillance on the American public. Beyond the simple spying on Americans and their communications, Title II increases the ability of federal intelligence agencies to share your private communications with one another.
  • Title III: International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act: Not simply a section of the USA PATRIOT Act, Title III is an Act of Congress in its own right. You might have noticed how much more difficult it is to open a bank account or send a wire transfer after 9/11. You can blame this provision, which shredded banking privacy rights in the United States.
  • Title IV: Protecting the Border: Other than expanding the number of federal employees (of course), the provision of the USA PATRIOT Act charged with protecting America’s borders does little other than point toward paths for future action and study. It is worth noting that the weakest provision of the act is the only one explicitly authorized by the Constitution — protecting the border.
  • Title V: Removing Obstacles to Investigating Terrorism: Title V authorizes bounties for the apprehension of alleged terrorists, broadens government power to conduct DNA analysis, allows for greater data sharing between law enforcement agencies and, perhaps most disturbingly, requires private telecommunication carriers to comply with government requests for electronic communication records whenever requested by the FBI. It also expands the power of the Secret Service to investigate computer fraud.
  • Title VI: Providing for Victims of Terrorism, Public Safety Officers and Their Families: Perhaps the most innocuous portion of the USA PATRIOT Act, Title VI provides for a victims’ fund for victims of terrorism and their families.
  • Title VII: Increased Information Sharing for Critical Infrastructure Protection: The subtitle of this section of the act is a rather wordy way of saying that the United States federal government is allowing for law enforcement agencies to share information across jurisdictional boundaries in an easier fashion than was previously legal. To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance was given a $50,000,000 budget for 2002 and a whopping $100,000,000 budget for fiscal year 2003.
  • Title VIII: Strengthening the Criminal Laws Against Terrorism: Title VIII is where the rubber meets the road: What exactly is terrorism, according to the federal government? Unfortunately, this Title does little to clarify what terrorism is, instead focusing on declaring a number of actions (such as attacks on transit) as “terrorism,” regardless of intent.
  • Title IX: Improved Intelligence: The section subtitled “improved intelligence” largely expands the powers and responsibilities of the Director of Central Intelligence.
  • Title X: Miscellaneous: When the federal government titles a segment of a law “miscellaneous,” you know it’s going to include everything and the kitchen sink. And so it does: The definition of electronic surveillance, additional funds for the DEA in South and Central Asia, research on biometric scanning systems, a limitation on hazmat licensure and infrastructure protections are all addressed in Title X, which is a catchall for everything the federal government forgot to address in the first nine sections of the law.

Most of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were set to sunset four years after the bill was passed into law. However, the law was extended first by President George W. Bush and then by President Barack H. Obama. The latter is particularly scandalous given that, at least in part, a rejection of the surveillance culture that permeated the Bush Administration was responsible for the election of Obama in 2008.

Passing the USA PATRIOT Act

Next, it’s important to remember the environment in which the USA PATRIOT Act was passed: Post-9/11. It is not the slightest bit of exaggeration to label the environment in which the PATRIOT Act was passed as “hysterical,” nor is “compliant” a misnomer for the Congress of the time. Opposition to the Act was slim and intensive review of one of the most sweeping acts of Congress in American history was nonexistent.

All told, Congress took a whopping six weeks drafting, revising, reviewing and passing the PATRIOT Act. That’s less time than Congress typically spends on totally uncontroversial and routine bills that don’t gut the Fourth Amendment. The final vote found only 66 opponents in the House and one (Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold) in the Senate. The entire passage of the PATRIOT Act, from start to finish, took place behind closed doors. There were no committee reports or hearings for opponents to testify, nor did anyone bother to read the bill.

“Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” is the bloated and overwrought full name of the bill, crafted by a 23-year-old Congressional staffer named Chris Cylke. This ridiculous name puts the focus not on the surveillance aspects or the erosion of basic civil liberties enshrined in Western society since the Magna Carta, but on patriotism. At the time of its creation, the messaging was very clear: Real patriots support massive intrusions on civil rights. As President George W. Bush said at the time, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” This sentiment very much seemed to apply to American citizens.

While the argument that if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t fear investigation is anathema in a Constitutional republic with regard to citizens, it should be standard operating procedure when it comes to our organs of government. If we cannot expect transparency from the United States Congress – elected officials charged with representing the will of the people and protecting the Constitution – then we certainly can’t expect it anywhere else.

The Unfortunate Growth of the USA PATRIOT Act

It’s no surprise to those in the liberty movement that given an inch, the government (in particular the military-intelligence community) took a mile. Even the nebulous definition of “terrorism,” largely centered around a long litany of acts rather than the motivation behind them, has expanded to include receiving military training from a proscribed organization (without actually committing any terrorist acts or even acts of violence of any stripe) as well as “narcoterrorism” – the latter particularly convenient, as the United States government continues its losing “War on Drugs.”

Indeed, in many ways, the War on (Some) Drugs was the template for the War on Terror. Both wars have no defined enemy, no defined terms of victory. Instead, they are waged against a nebulous concept, while enjoying bipartisan support for their ever-expanding budgets. What’s more, it didn’t take long for the Feds to start using the USA PATRIOT Act for things it was never intended for, including prosecuting the War on Drugs.

Perhaps the silliest application of the USA PATRIOT Act is the prosecution of Adam McGaughey. McGaughey maintained a fansite for the television series Stargate SG-1. The Feds charged him with copyright infringement and computer fraud. In the course of their investigation, the FBI leveraged the PATRIOT Act to get financial records from his website’s ISP. This was made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act amending the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, allowing for search and seizure of ISP records.

The New York Times discovered in September 2003, that the USA PATRIOT Act was being used to investigate alleged drug traffickers without what would otherwise be sufficient probable cause. These were investigations into non-terrorist acts using a law ostensibly designed to investigate terrorism. There was some suspicion that the Act was being used to investigate crimes occurring before the act was passed, violating the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution.

In one of the biggest power grabs (excluding virtually everything we know from Edward Snowden – more on that below), the FBI sent tens of thousands of “national security letters” and procured over one million financial records from targeted businesses in Las Vegas. These businesses were primarily casinos, car rental bureaus, and storage spaces. The data obtained included financial records, credit histories, employment records, and even people’s personal health records.

The FBI maintains and databases this – and, indeed, all information collected through the USA PATRIOT Act – indefinitely. In the good old days before the PATRIOT Act, the Feds were compelled to destroy any evidence they collected on someone later found not guilty of a crime. Note that the aforementioned data collection brought to public attention by Edward Snowden (which, again – we’re getting to that) falls under this provision. Not only is the government collecting obscene amounts of private and personal information about you, they’re also storing it indefinitely with no plans to stop.

What’s more, the FBI has approached public libraries to turn over the records for specific terminals, collecting information not about specific users who might be under investigation, but about anyone who has ever used the computer at the public library. Libraries, to their credit, have been very much at the forefront of resistance against the PATRIOT Act, with some litigating compliance despite operating on small budgets and others posting “canary letters,” which effectively say “The FBI Hasn’t Been Here Yet.” The removal of such a letter would warn patrons that the FBI has been sniffing around in their records.

Indeed, the greatest criticism of the PATRIOT Act is the simplest and perhaps most obvious: Why does an act ostensibly passed to fight terrorism so drastically expand the government’s power to investigate virtually everyone else? The PATRIOT Act is not merely unconstitutional, it is an unprecedented expansion of state power in the Anglosphere, a culture based on restricted government and the primacy of individual rights.

An excellent example of this is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expansion. Most people are familiar with the term “FISA court,” but very few people actually know what it is – a special federal court created under the Carter Administration that grants approval of electronic surveillance of both citizens and resident aliens in the event that they are accused of acting in the service of a foreign power. The last part of this sentence is very important: The FISA courts are not simply for allowing surveillance of anyone that it might be expedient to collect information about. The scope of their powers is very, very limited.

Or was.

The PATRIOT Act lowered the burden of evidence required to obtain a FISA warrant for electronic surveillance and expanded the overall scope of the FISA courts. Any savvy federal agent can now drape his charges in the garb of (what else?) “national security” and obtain electronic surveillance privileges hitherto only dreamed of by investigators. FISA courts have become pliant tools in the hands of the Feds, gladly approving their requests to monitor phone and internet surveillance, as well as access to medical, financial and educational records.

The Future of the USA PATRIOT Act

Do we still need the PATRIOT Act? Did we ever? All laws are certainly a product of their times. But this seems much more acutely true of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed in a rush and under duress without due consideration.

Particularly in light of the revelations from Edward Snowden – that the government is spying on everything they possibly can – it’s worth asking if there’s any walking back. He points out that the police state apparatus was originally for drug dealers, then for terrorists, but ultimately ended up being applied to anyone and everyone.

What’s more, Bob Bullard notes another frightful aspect of the USA PATRIOT Act: Terrorism-related cases are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This means that there is little or no oversight. There is no surer hallmark of a police state than an all-powerful domestic surveillance agency with no transparency or oversight. While the USA PATRIOT Act might not create an American Stasi as such, it certainly paves the way for one.