What have we learned from Edward Snowden’s disclosures?

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A few things we have learned from Edward Snowden’s disclosures, and their aftermath:

    • U. S. intelligence officials know that we think they are doing something wrong, but they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. In fact, they feel put upon and angry.
    • Documentation matters. We knew for a long time that the feds were up to no good. Former NSA employees told us so. Seeing the NSA brag about their crimes, in PowerPoint slides, makes you take notice.
    • Court oversight and congressional oversight don’t matter. No matter what legal apparatus you put in place, or what procedures you use to safeguard privacy, the feds will do what they like. They have done what they like for at least two generations.
    • The NSA sees us as enemies. They are afraid of us. They regard people like Snowden, who point out their crimes, as spies. They want to destroy citizens who say, “You can’t do this anymore, because it violates the Constitution.”
    • To stop criminal activity in government, you have to remove criminals from power. You cannot monitor them, restrain them, or hope they will stay on a narrow path in order to win our trust. 

If you want a clean government, you have to decide what to do about people who break the law. In this case, it means you have to dismantle criminal organizations like the NSA, the CIA and the FBI. Local crime bosses are pikers compared to these people. Do not underestimate the power they hold, or their ability to do you harm. They have energetically, and secretly, asserted their power again and again.

The masters of the republic – formerly citizens – have become servants of the all-powerful state, whereas the people who formerly served the republic have become masters of the house. This transformation may reach its apogee during our lifetimes. Remember this rule of self-protection as these momentous changes develop: do not trust your masters, because they do not trust you.

Aim of the 9/11 truth movement

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We have to consider for a few moments the stated aim of individuals in the 9/11 truth movement. When people challenge their evidence, their reasoning, their implied conclusions, their analytical methods, or other elements of their case, 9/11 skeptics say that they simply request a new, impartial investigation. It is a reasonable aim, and a modest one. In its modesty, it deflects the challenges people would like to pose for the group.

A practical difficulty with this request is that movement leaders do not indicate who should conduct an impartial investigation. A qualified team of investigators would need resources, access to relevant information, and a variety of skills. They would need a charter of some sort to give their work direction and legitimacy. They would need to use methods of research that lend themselves to credible, defensible conclusions. Most of all, they would need to present their findings in a competent, reasonable manner.

With people like Cass Sunstein working for the White House, the battle lines in this conversation are already drawn. Some people will regard investigators’ results as incredible no matter what they conclude. In an adversarial arena, where so much is at stake, you have to imagine how an investigative team could produce results that would not be killed in the cradle, or – even worse in our political culture – simply ignored. Ridicule and disbelief are just two possibilities, oblivion is another.

Given these considerations, ask who would sponsor such a group of investigators. The sponsoring organization would select the group’s members, fund the group’s investigation, and help the group achieve its goals. It would facilitate the group’s activities, so the team could concentrate on research, organize and evaluate evidence, prepare summaries and reports, and assemble its results coherently. The sponsor could be inside of government, or outside of government. If inside, taxpayers would fund the investigation. If outside, money from private sources would fund the research, or volunteers would conduct the research gratis.

Whatever the source of funds, the group would need access to relevant evidence. Without access, it would have nothing to do.

To mount an independent investigation that has any connection with government would be a foolish, futile, and questionable enterprise. We already know from bad experience that government is untrustworthy. The 9/11 Commission already completed an investigation that is practically empty of answers to outstanding questions. Key agencies of government have no incentive or motivation to supply evidence required for an investigation. Why should we expect a new investigation conducted by government to improve the one it has already completed?

That leaves a privately sponsored investigation. Here the progress of research into the Kennedy assassination offers a good lesson. Efforts of private researchers over five decades revealed far more useful information about this event than the Warren Commission did in its twenty-six volumes. Pressure from private researchers, and from the public, gradually forced government agencies to make more documents available than they would have if left alone. The new evidence revealed since the Warren Commission report has made a difference. President Johnson’s purpose in creating the Warren Commission was to close the books on this crime. In that key aim, he and the Commission failed.

Credit belongs to the persistence and perseverance of all the Kennedy researchers who worked without sponsorship, without pay, and without an official charter to give weight to their results. They suffered mockery, threats, ridicule, ostracism, and contempt, yet they stayed with their research. Some individuals, like Mary Meyer, died for their loyalty to the truth. Others lost their jobs, their friends, and their reputations.

Researchers into the Kennedy assassination patiently made their case until they left their opponents looking like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A decisive preponderance of evidence has sliced off every defense for Warren Commission apologists, yet lone nut theorists continue to sputter their challenges. They used to speak so confidently, even superciliously, as if their opponents were beneath notice. Now, as evidence for a conspiracy accumulates, they stand as defeated, slightly pitiful amateurs who cannot admit they were mistaken.

As we think about prospects for a new investigation into 9/11, remember our government has become tyrannical in its desire to protect information. Certainly it is more closed about information related to 9/11 than it has been about records related to the Kennedy assassination. If government sponsored investigators could not gain access to relevant evidence, the same barriers would hold for private researchers. Freedom of Information Act requests will not do here.

As with the Kennedy assassination, private researchers have to rely on their ingenuity, their resourcefulness, and their investigative skills to make progress. We know that 9/11 is a more complex event than the Kennedy assassination. The operation required more coordination than sending a team of assassins to kill one man. Moreover, 9/11 does not have a prominent piece of evidence like the Zapruder film to serve as a touchstone for other work. The evidence about 9/11, like the operation, is more dispersed than for the Kennedy assassination.

No matter the difficulties, private groups and inidividuals will continue their work. Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, for one good example, have assembled sound evidence and arguments related to events in New York at the World Trade Center on September 11. They have professional pride, patriotism, and a sense of conscientious citizenship to motivate their work. If what the government says about 9/11 is true, then architects and engineers who design skyscrapers are incompetent and criminally negligent. If what the government says about 9/11 is false, we have some work to do. Credit belongs to this group, and to the professions it represents, for taking up this difficult fight.

Independent research into 9/11 may begin with skeptical, well reasoned assessments of official explanations. Naturally it does not end with that. Once more, the evolution of inquiry into the Kennedy assassination serves as a model for 9/11 researchers. What began as skepticism about the Warren Commission report evolved over years and decades into analysis of evidence that the official investigation ignored. Thirty years after the event, citizens demanded the government declassify records related to the murder. Fifty years after the event, numerous pieces of information assembled from multiple sources led to solid arguments that the Warren Commission was wrong.

Ultimately, government can and perhaps will have a role in uncovering what actually happened on 9/11. Under current conditions, however, no one in government would ever ever permit an open, thorough, and truthful investigation of the events that occurred in New York City, Shanksville, and Washington DC on that day. We are too close to the events, and government officials will not incriminate themselves. Neither would they do anything that compromises their ability to operate in secret.

Meantime, research conducted independently of government officials will continue – it must continue. Government would like the 9/11 truth movement to go away. We know that it will not, even if our republican freedoms continue to deteriorate. Part of the truth about 9/11, assembled in the United States and in other countries, has already convinced many citizens that the rest of the truth matters in this case. We know that, gradually, courageous people will compile evidence that places responsibility for 9/11 where it belongs.

Evidence of template based crimes

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I thought, a few years ago, when I wrote the posts that resulted in Revolution on the Ground, that the feds would come looking for me. After all, I argued that we had to find a way to put the feds out of a job, and people do not like to have their job security threatened. No evidence of a phone tap, no black cars with tinted windows sitting outside my house. This neglect is a disappointment. If the feds aren’t reading The Jeffersonian, what are they reading?

Even more dismaying would be that they read it, but consider it tame stuff. Of course, it is tame stuff, when you compare it to websites that advocate violence. Consistently, The Jeffersonian backs civil resistance, but rejects violence because it does not work. It might look attractive in the short term, but over the longer haul, violence will not achieve the outcomes democratic reformers seek.

Still, I think The Jeffersonian deserves an occasional visit from the feds. No one has confiscated my computer or carried boxes of files out my front door. No one with an official looking identification card has done anything at all! What’s the matter with the surveillance state, if it does not even check in on a suspect website from time to time?

I’m kidding. The feds have larger fish to fry, like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. When you have honest to goodness, outlaw heroes on the loose, you have to catch them and bring them to justice! You can’t spend your time on poor bloggers who practically plead for your attention. Who’s going to promote you for doing that? If you want a positive annual review, go for the people who are dangerous. If you can’t do that, conduct sting operations to nab unfortunate people you can make appear dangerous.

These thoughts come to mind as I think about the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013, alongside the story Judyth Vary Baker tells in her memoir, Me and Lee. I recommend the memoir: it is packed with interesting material. Right now, though, I want to focus on some parallels between Lee Oswald and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

    • One lived, worked, and married in the Soviet Union, the other spent time in Chechnya.
    • Both young and in a vulnerable position.
    • Both suspected of being radicalized: communist, islamist.
    • Both charged with killing a police officer.
    • Both set up in advance.
    • Both killed so they could not talk.
    • Background story for both highly sketchy and selective.
    • One worked for the CIA and the FBI, the other may have been recruited to work for the FBI.

That is a long list. Do you know which one stood out for me, shortly after the bombing a year ago? The middle one, about the murder of a police officer. Dallas police charged Oswald with the murder of J. D. Tippit, a member of the Dallas police force, with no supporting evidence. It was amazing how people latched onto the story at the time, in the traumatic aftermath of the president’s murder. Who actually killed Tippit, and why the Dallas police wanted to lay the murder on Oswald, are still mysteries.

One guess is that the Dallas police hoped, by telling their officers about Tippit’s murder, Oswald would be shot for revenge in the theater where the police arrested him. The evidence against Oswald as the president’s assassin was flimsy enough. Police had to have some reason to charge him with a second murder, where they had no evidence at all to support the accusation. If the police appear to be playing fast and loose with the evidence in the Tippit case, why would they not do the same thing with the Kennedy murder. They had to have some reason that seemed good at the time, to add the second murder to Oswald’s rap sheet.

Equally mysterious is the murder of Sean Collier, MIT security officer, early in the morning of April 19, 2013. The sequence of events that led to Sean Collier’s and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s deaths in the middle of the night were murky on April 19, and they remained murky ever since. Do not look to the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for clarification. The prosecution has no interest in uncovering details of the events that occurred that night: it knows it will obtain a conviction, no matter what happens in the courtroom. It will not reveal the truth, unless the judge forces it to do so.

I’d like to discuss the eight points above, but I cannot do that in this post. Each of these parallels offers insights into the Kennedy murder and the Boston Marathon bombing. For now, let me finish by pointing to why parallels like these might exist.

When we analyze organizational behavior, you have to remember, always remember, that organizations operate according to routines. They cannot function in any other way. To state the point even more strongly, organizations operate with most effectively when they have templates for their behavior. They can use templates to interpret their environments, and to guide them when they undertake complex activities that require planning to succeed. When you combine well understood templates with well established routines, and organization can accomplish quite a lot with a minimum of friction.

If you would like an example of a template, think of the plans for Operation Northwoods in relation to 9/11. Another example of a template, which quickly shades into standard operating routines, is to conduct a drill or an exercise in connection with an operation that has to be kept secret. Any organization that must coordinate the activities of many people at once, will rely on these templates to set a structure for the various activities. When you look for evidence of these templates across projects, or across crimes, you gain a lot of understanding into what actually occurs.

Much as the feds want to keep their activities secret, they cannot hide the routines that become visible as the activities unfold. When you start to see patterns, that is, ways of operating held in common among multiple projects, you know you have keys to the secret kingdom. Government agencies cannot keep these keys from observers who know what to look for, so they face this choice: end the criminal activities, or conduct all activities in a way that maximizes distraction and misdirection. Interestingly, efforts to maximize distraction and misdirection also become part of the standard toolbox of procedures. You can see these efforts again and again, in almost everything government agencies do now.

Here is a concluding observation. Government agencies could not operate in secret as successfully as they do, were it not for compliant media. If the media that cover government agencies went at their jobs with vigor, with the aim of uncovering government crimes, they would know what to look for. They do not expose criminal behavior, nor do they acknowledge their unwillingness to do so. They may think they do their jobs just as well as they possibly can, despite people all around who call them the lamestream media. If they managed to become less lamestream, they might see more readily the criminal behavior that lies right in front of them.

Origins of the 9/11 truth movement

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About a generation and a half elapsed between November 22, 1963, to September 11, 2001: thirty-seven years, nine months, and twenty days. If you were born the day Kennedy died, your children would be youngsters on 9/11, as I was on November 22, 1963. We let something terrible happen in 1963: criminals murdered our president, and we did not raise holy hell when they lied about what they had done. A little over thirty-seven years later, the instititutional children of those criminals struck again, and we did the same thing. We let them get away with it.

After long, careful and thorough research, we have good evidence now that we permitted a coup in 1963. A long time passed – more than forty years – before many of us understood or believed that. We don’t know yet what occurred on September 11, 2001. The events of that day present more complications than does delivery of a bullet to a leader’s head. Complex or not, we do not have fifty years to grasp the significance of 9/11. To save our republic, we have to face what happened that day as soon as possible.

Newspaper report published Thursday, September 13, 2001, in Dawson Springs, Kentucky.

To undertake this project of understanding, we should recall that the desire to discover what happened on 9/11 does not originate with a group of extremists who see a government conspiracy behind every horrible event. Efforts to learn the truth about 9/11 originate with victims’ families. Family members lost wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They lost the people they loved most without warning, in circumstances that called for explanation. These were not natural deaths: victims died at the scene of an enormous crime. When that happens, you want to know who murdered them. How and why the murderers committed the crime is also on your mind.

Each person in the towers walked into the front door of the building that sunny September morning, ready to work one more day. They took the elevator to the floor where they would meet their friends, sit at their desks, place phone calls, type messages to colleagues. Everything seemed like every other morning. Thirty minutes later, they are saying goodbye to their spouses on their cell phones, or standing at a shattered window to decide whether they ought to jump. Most of the people who died that morning had loved ones at home, in school, in cities nearby. Those family members had dinner that night with an empty space at the table, went to sleep that night with an empty space in the bed. They knew the empty space would not be filled again.

A woman places her hand on a name etched in the wall of one of the pools at the 9/11 memorial plaza in the World Trade Center site in New York Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, on the first day that the memorial was opened to the public. (AP Photo/Mike Segar, Pool)

9/11 Memorial

When something like that happens to your family, you want to know why. Your grief won’t permit you to forget. You press for an investigation, but you find quickly enough that the officials you ask are too busy for you. They tell you politely, with well-practiced indirection, we have better things to do. They tell you to go away: we’ll give you money if you go away. They tell you we already know everything we can find out. They tell you things you know cannot be true. You come to understand that they snow you and avoid you compulsively: they act under implicit orders to do so. You cannot trust them with even the simplest request or task.

The 9/11 truth movement began with family members who dealt with officials like that: dilatory officials who were dishonest, unforthcoming, deceptive, unresponsive and, in the end, unsympathetic. When the victims’ families would not give up, the president chartered the 9/11 Commission more than fourteen months after the attacks. The Commission submitted its final report nearly three years after September 11, in 2004. To show his level of support for the body he formed, the president would not speak with the Commission for the record. He did not give a reason. Anything he had to say would be privileged and private. If the president would not cooperate with the Commission, who else in the government would? By his example, the president told everyone in government to treat the Commission the same way they had treated the victims’ families. If you find out the truth, you didn’t hear it from us.

Today the 9/11 truth movement continues to comprise men and women who just want to know what happened, not extremists who pose a threat to our fair country. They pose a threat only to people in government who are complicit in government’s crimes. Cass Sunstein, a well intentioned law professor who happened upon a position of responsibility serving this group of organized criminals, called people in the movement epistemological cripples: people so unbalanced and dangerous that government law enforcement agencies should infiltrate their groups to destroy cohesion, spread rumors and lies, sow conflict, and disrupt their effectiveness. That is how a government official responds to people who just want to know how their dad or their mom wound up buried under a thousand tons of rubble, with molten steel flowing around their bodies. Sunstein ridicules parents who reject lies and excuses when they ask simple questions about why their sons and daughters died. He devises deceitful, aggressive strategies to derogate and destroy spouses who simply want to know what happened to their wives and husbands.

Instead of honest, soundly researched answers, we have a Commission report so poorly assembled that no sixth grade science student would turn it in. The difference between Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush on the matter of investigations is that Johnson launched the Warren Commission right away. If it had been up to George W. Bush, we would have had no 9/11 Commission at all. He persistently opposed any investigation, and only authorized one after Congress passed the required legislation and sent it to the White House for his signature. Since he did not explain why he resisted an investigation for so long, we can only guess. Vice-President Cheney pleaded that an investigation would distract from the administration’s Global War on Terror.

Richard Cheney

That’s an amazing excuse, when you look at it. It says, “We don’t want to find out who attacked us, because that would distract us from the people we’re attacking right now. If it turns out that we’re attacking the wrong people, that’s our bad. Meantime, we want you to go away. Don’t bother us anymore. We’ve already told you what we’re going to tell you. You already know what you need to know.”

When the vice-president, who speaks for the president, gives you an excuse like that, you know it’s a snow job. You know something is wrong.

Excuse me, can you tell me where my country went?

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Here’s an interesting sidelight of the developing crisis in Ukraine. Twice now I’ve heard in the main mainstream press – the Wall Street Journal and NPR – reference to Vladimir Putin’s false flag attacks in Russia in 1999. He used them to gin up the second Chechen war, just as we used false flag attacks to gin up wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Putin’s recent activities don’t quite count as false flag attacks in the strict sense – they haven’t occurred on his home territory – but the conventional aim still holds: stir up a war. Even better, get what you want without a war.

Vladimir Putin

What’s remarkable, of course, is that when we readily talk about these fake attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities – we assume that, of course Putin would do that sort of thing. All the evidence, including Putin’s subsequent murders, points to that conclusion. Yet we cannot see or admit that the same kind of crimes occur in our own country. Western Europeans, who sit between Russia and the United States, and who know from their own history how great powers act, don’t have any difficulty at all believing that the attacks in New York City and Washington DC were not what the government said they were. European observers were among the first to point out the truth. In the face of so much evidence – and we of all people should be able to see it, as the crimes occurred here, right in front of us – we have asserted aggressively and defensively, “It can’t happen here.”

If you want evidence of American exceptionalism, you have it in our insistence that governments of other countries commit serious crimes, but our government does not. We recognize some degree of corruption, and we try to prevent it, but we do not recognize criminality. The usual scandals are mildly entertaining. They remind us that our rulers are no better than we are, and they remind our rulers how easily distractable their subjects are: sprinkle some illicit behavior into your politics, and you do not have to concern yourself that the truly bad things you do will come to light. Altogether, when we compare our government people with their government people, American vs. Russian, we say that at least our people aren’t criminals. Our government is better than those other regimes. We want to know, as we gaze on those ever-enlarging flag pins that politicians wear in their lapels: if all the plotting required for these crimes goes on in my own government, how can I love my country? How can I trust anyone anymore?

Actually, that’s another good outcome for the criminals. It helps them tremendously if no one trusts anyone anymore. In that sense, they want you to know what dastardly things they’ve been up to, and they don’t want you to know. The feds are happy if we are ignorant about the truth behind attacks on the homeland, but they surely don’t mind the fear and distrust these attacks create. Under these conditions, government officials increase their own power, and at their pleasure bring people together in fervors of fake, propaganda-fed patriotism. Think of the street celebrations when news of bin Laden’s death circulated. When the spasm of self-congratulation subsides, you have the same isolation and mistrust that existed before the latest occasion for unifying hate.

We want to love our country for the right reasons again. We want to love our country because it does good things, stands for good ideals. That won’t happen – soon or in our lifetimes – if we don’t see the truth about the way we have acted in the world. When Putin whips up Russian nationalism in Ukraine, the rest of the world holds the entire Russian nation responsible. When we invade other countries in an aggressive “war of choice”, as we did in Iraq, the rest of the world holds the entire American nation responsible. We may make a distinction between the criminals who prey on our country, and the unfortunate country they rule, but the rest of the world does not. We may want to start over, to reinstitute the rule of law and constitutional government once more, but we cannot do that while we continue to think of ourselves as incapable of the same crimes we see our counterparts commit. Think of all the times we lectured Putin and Russia about good behavior, even as we continued to wreak death and havoc in Iraq.

Don’t mess with this man.

To conclude, read what Holman Jenkins writes in the Wall Street Journal about the 1999 attacks in Russia. Note in particular the opening sentence, where Jenkins states that the Russians regard the 1999 apartment bombings as their 9/11. It’s remarkable to me how Jenkins, a mainstream journalist in a mainstream paper, assumes so casually that 9/11 is a false flag attack. If he were to state that outright, rather than imply it by means of comparison with attacks that occurred in Russia two years earlier, he could never have entered such a statement on the Journal‘s opinion page. He seems to have slipped it in, with nary an editor taking out a red pen.

Of all the unanswered questions, the greatest concern what Russians call their 9/11. A supposedly Chechen-inspired terrorist bombing campaign in September 1999 killed nearly 300 apartment dwellers in Moscow and other cities and led directly to Mr. Putin’s political rise. In the free-wheeling Russian press of the day, respected journalists from Russia’s Moskovskaya Pravda, Italy’s La Stampa and Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet reported that such a terror wave was coming—and that it would be sponsored by the Russian state.

In the middle of the bombing campaign, Gennadiy Seleznyov, speaker of the Russian Duma, took to the rostrum on Sept. 13, 1999, to announce that an apartment building in Volgodonsk had been bombed the previous night—but the Volgodonsk bombing would not take place until three days later.

The campaign came to an abrupt halt after three perpetrators were caught planting explosives in an apartment block in Ryazan. The three turned out to be Russian security agents. After 36 hours of contradictory statements, the Kremlin cited a training exercise.

If you have any doubts about this comparison, note how Russian techniques parallel or resemble American techniques: reference to a training exercise, hints ahead of time that such an attack was on the way, the preparation of buildings for destruction in advance. You almost wonder if Cheney and friends took their inspiration from Putin’s success. He blew up some buildings, and blamed it on Chechen terrorists. Our masterminds in Washington think: “Now that’s a model we might want to follow! After all, we’ve been talking about a new Pearl Harbor. What could be better than that? Osama bin Laden would even thank us for it!”

Related article

What Putin Is Afraid Of

 

Corruption and secrecy in software systems and foreign affairs

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As we think about the issue of truth and truth telling in the context of government secrecy, we encounter another interesting connection: that between transparency and security. We associate transparency or openness with trust. Secrecy, the opposite of transparency, is more complicated. Government agencies insist secrecy is essential to protect the American people from our nation’s enemies, yet the more secretive our servants become, the more insecure we feel. Only enemies need to keep secrets from us, and our enemies have initials like NSA, CIA, and FBI.

In light of this disagreement about the purposes of secrecy, let’s see why people who insist on truth telling get into trouble, why those in power regard with apprehension anyone determined to crack secret agencies open. Let’s see why people who insist on secrecy – to protect us, they claim! – wind up being vulnerable.

Let’s start with a ubiquitous example that illustrates how openness and security are related: software systems and computer networks. Theft of private information from retailers like Target tells us that security in this area does not come automatically. What is the best way to achieve it? Consider these thoughts about the way we count votes during an election.

Right around election day, in November 2012, someone who had thought about issues of computer security published comments on the software we use to record and count votes. A couple of analysts said the software they assessed is terrible. It is poorly constructed and easy to tamper with. Therefore you can’t have confidence in the results it gives you. One analyst said that the only way to make the software trustworthy is to make it open source. So long as it is proprietary, current problems with software security, and doubtful vote counts, will persist.

At first that doesn’t seem exactly right. Why would making software open source make it more secure? After all, open source is accessible to everyone. Developers can put all kinds of bad things into open source code if they like. Then you realize that openness does not degrade security because an open system is self-correcting. Only closed systems are subject to the security problems we have seen with vote counting software.

To take another example, no one has said Linux is insecure because it is open source. No one has ever praised Microsoft’s software systems as especially secure because they are proprietary. In these cases, openness enhances security. The developers who created Linux had good reasons to build security into their product from the start. Otherwise people simply would not use it. Microsoft’s developers, given the company’s position in the market, did not have much reason to improve their product’s security until customers began to complain about it. Even then, it took years to see improvements. Even after all that, which software do you trust more: Microsoft or Linux?

If we apply this thinking to foreign affairs, we have to ask why it would not apply to national security. Why do we think that transparency compromises security in this field? If we were to conduct foreign policy as an open source affair, we would have better security as a result, not worse.

When countries create policy, and interact on the basis of those policies, transparency creates trust, and opacity creates distrust. People who distrust you become your enemies, whereas people who trust you become your friends. The more enemies you have, the more insecure you become. The more friends you have, the more you can rest secure. A reasonable foreign policy will cultivate friends and minimize enemies. Friendly relations with other countries enhances confidence, security, and safety.

If you’re an old foreign policy realist, you say “Not so fast. We don’t have friends, only interests.” Old school thinking says that everyone is a potential adversary. Rivalry and enmity come with competition, and the wide world is nothing if not an arena for competitive activity. Let’s be realistic about the use of our power, realists say, let’s understand the reasons for our success. Success comes with secrecy, because knowledge is power. When we hold key knowledge close, we will always have an advantage.

That thinking gives you software systems subject to corruption and theft, vote counting systems susceptible to fraud, and aggressive wars hatched in secret. That kind of thinking gives you assassinations, false flag attacks, coups, and propaganda. If people can’t see inside, all manner of corruption ensues. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if actual corruption exists. If people can’t see inside, they can’t tell whether corruption exists or not. Given past behavior of power holders, people can assume safely that it does exist. Power holders do not receive benefit of the doubt here.

We come to the hardest nut in this matter of security: intelligence. The Central Intelligence Agency says it cannot disclose any information that would reveal intelligence sources and methods. That covers just about everything. With this argument, it keeps its budget secret, as well as everything else it does. Note, though, that our agencies attribute intelligence failures like 9/11 to an excess of secrecy. Whether or not you believe 9/11 occurred because of nineteen Saudi Arabians with box cutters, or for some other reason, less secrecy could have prevented it. Openness would have exposed the plot in time. Transparant systems are self-correcting.

Interestingly, cloaking arguments that advocate secrecy now apply to practically everything the government does. If you ask government for information about its activities, it has multiple reasons not to reveal the truth. It adapts arguments about the need for secrecy to any situation.

Now ask yourself why government would do that. A skeptic would say that it keeps information secret because it has something to hide. That is one reason for concealing information. No matter what the motive, when a servant keeps information secret from the master, the result is always the same: loss of trust. Government officials who hide information do so for multifarious reasons. Those motives create suspicion, whether the secrets hide actual corruption or not.

Ask yourself also whether keeping secrets makes nations and people more or less secure. This question has two forms. First is whether government’s opacity in foreign and domestic affairs makes us feel more safe, or less so. If we have only perceptions of security, then the availability of information wouldn’t seem to matter so much. In that case, actual safety ebbs and flows depending on current circumstances, fortune, ephemeral plans and all the twists of history. Second is whether government secrecy actually assures greater safety for the people government claims to protect. Here history’s judgment unequivocally comes down for transparency. Secrecy hides corruption, folly, crimes, dishonesty, cruelty, treachery and incompetence, with nothing from outside to correct these ills. Secrecy is the hidden worm that brings down the edifice.

So if you distrust the claims of government when it keeps secrets, your skepticism is well placed. If people call you unpatriotic or worse as a result, ignore the charge. You have a lot of smart software engineers, and historians, on your side.

National Propaganda Radio: cheerleading and coercion go together

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We might as well call NPR National Propaganda Radio, not National Public Radio. Have you noticed the nature of their coverage of the ACA lately, as we approached the March 31 enrollment deadline? First of all, it was one of their lead stories again and again, almost as if they had signed up be part of the White House’s propaganda machine. As we approached the deadline, they kept asking, will they make it? Will they make it to seven million? Then, on the big day: “Yes! They made it!! Despite all the technical troubles, all the naysayers, opponents, stubborn states, Republicans, and everyone else who doesn’t like change that’s good for them, they made it. Good for you!”

Let’s hear it for Team Blue. They found a way to make the country eat its spinach.

Is that a 1984ish image or what? We all stand together under the Great Leader’s halo.

NPR wasn’t the only participant in this cheerleading charade, of course. As Putin annexes Crimea, and savage civil conflict from Libya to Pakistan threatens millions, the discussion here at home is whether the ACA will make its enrollment target or not. If the enrollment figure is greater than seven million, the Democrats claim success. If the enrollment figure is less than seven million, the ACA’s opponents can say the reform effort failed. How can we let government marketing lure us into this reductionist assessment of ACA’s implementation? You know in advance that Team Blue will put the ball across the goal line in the end. Team Red will have to hang their heads, humiliated again.

What we are witnessing here is not only government propaganda overtaking our national media. That has been happening for some time. We are also witnessing a national tragedy, and a national perversion. We are witnessing coercion of seven million people to purchase an expensive contract they would not otherwise have purchased. When it’s time for all those individuals who did not enroll to pay their fines, we’ll watch government extend its coercive efforts to their sorry rear ends as well. How can we let cheerleading for the home team – that is, the team in the White House – obscure what is right in front of us?

When we say that the ACA coerced seven million people into buying an expensive insurance contract, people who favor the legislation can draw us into a numbers argument quite quickly. We don’t know how many of the seven million were previously uninsured, or how many decided to trade existing contracts for a better deal on the exchanges. We don’t know what proportion of the seven million bought a contract on the exchanges because of the penalty attached if they did not. Everyone’s situation is different. Consequently the extent of coercion is hard to measure.

The ACA’s key provision, however, is the individual mandate. Its key goal has never been vague: reduce the number of people not covered, by imposing a penalty for refusal to purchase. This type of coercion is wrong, even if the the Supreme Court says the penalty is nothing but a tax. Taxes are imposed on all of us, to fund activities we agree we want to fund. You cannot enact a tax whose sole purpose is to force citizens to do something they would not do, if left free to decide for themselves.

If government can take my money for that reason, it can take my property for any purpose whatever. If the ACA and the Supreme Court hold that a fine is a tax, in a case so central to our lives, then without any trek into absurdity, all fines are taxes, and all taxes are fines. Think what has happened here. If the government doesn’t like what you are doing, or what you are not doing, it can place a levy on your property, and call it a tax if it likes. It does not have to call you into court, or follow any of the other strictures of due process. It can simply take your property, via the Internal Revenue Service, because you have broken one of its rules. Read the Bill of Rights, and ask yourself if this practice is consistent with any of the limitations on governmental power you see written there.

The ACA’s impact on freedom holds the act’s true significance. We have to stop counting enrollees. National Propaganda Radio and the White House may be clever in their cheerleading campaign, but they’re not that clever. We have to stop our impulse to analyze the ACA according to the numbers, as if the numbers tell the story. The more people who purchase insurance under the ACA’s compulsion, the greater the indictment of the act. This act has to go. We have to find some way to advance its self-destruction. We must not let it stand, any more than the country could let the Dred Scott decision stand over one hundred fifty years ago.

That decision split hairs to show how a free man was actually a slave. The ACA takes every free citizen of this republic and says to that person: you will do this thing, or you will pay. Think of how significant that is. The government will fine you, not for committing a crime, but for declining to so something you don’t care to do. That is slavery, and if we don’t recognize it as such, we have lost our sense of what freedom entails.

Related article

How the End of Obamacare’s Open Enrollment Resets the Health Care Debate

Rise up, or our country’s in ruins

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This post is not so easy to write. It’s about a subject that has troubled me for some time, but I haven’t thought about it in a productive way. The subject concerns the early promise of America, set against its more recent decline. As you’ll see, these thoughts comprehend both degradation and hope. Let’s start with some lyrics from a Bruce Springsteen song, My City of Ruins:

There’s a blood red circle,
on the cold dark ground,
and the rain is falling down.
The church door’s thrown open,
I can hear the organ’s song,
But the congregation’s gone.

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet veils of mercy,
drift through the evening trees.
Young men on the corner,
like scattered leaves.
The boarded up windows,
The hustlers and thieves,
While my brother’s down on his knees.

My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!

Now there’s tears on the pillow
darling where we slept.
and you took my heart when you left.
Without your sweet kiss,
my soul is lost, my friend.
Now tell me how do I begin again?

My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins

Now with these hands,
I pray Lord with these hands,
for the strength Lord with these hands,
for the faith Lord with these hands,
I pray Lord with these hands,
for the strength Lord with these hands,
for the faith Lord with these hands.

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Rise up

Bruce Springsteen

How often do you hear a prayer in a song by a rock star? This song is a lament, an anthem, a prayer, and a call to act in one poem.

What leader uses religious language and imagery in a political speech, or in a political context? Who have you heard talk like that since Martin Luther King? What president, since Abraham Lincoln?

The times call for a sense of urgency. That was King’s constant theme: we have to act now. Read his famous letter, a response to his critics, written while incarcerated in a prison in Birmingham. Other leaders pleaded with him to slow down – look what might happen, they said, now is not the right time. King replied, we have waited a hundred years since the Civil War, three hundred years since the founding, and you tell us to wait? You tell us now is not the right time? We have waited all this time for the freedom God gave us when we were born. We won’t wait any longer.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now, fifty years after King led the civil rights movement, we are all losing the rights he sacrificed himself for. We’re compelled to watch a hard-won reservoir of good will, integrity, and hope for freedom drain away while comfortable overlords, corrupt courtiers, and thieves steal our money and our rights. Dreadful robocops beat us with their batons, just as Bull Connor beat defenseless civil rights marchers in Birmingham. SWAT teams and other hyper-active, uniformed enforcers shoot us, just as Klanners lynched people impunitively. We cannot let this happen to us, or to our fellows. Rise up.

Crime in high places

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What should we do if we observe a prison camp that imprisons innocent people? That question arose when the United States government rounded up Japanese American citizens after Pearl Harbor, and put them in camps for the entire war. Are the guards in those camps innocent? What about the people who planned the camps, who employed the guards and gave orders to all the people required to run the camps? How would you bring those officials to account for what they did wrong?

We know that’s a difficult problem to resolve, because the people who created those camps never were brought to account. No one responsible for maintaining, overseeeing, funding, supplying, managing, staffing, or certifying the legality of those camps was ever asked, what the hell are you doing? How can you imprison American citizens without due process? Of course people did ask that  question at the time, but no one in government had to answer it.

Jerry Sandusky

What is the proper reaction of onlookers when trusted individuals or institutions in authority commit crimes? We have had some opportunity to consider that question in relation to Jerry Sandusky’s activities at Penn State. Jerry Sandusky had an opportunity to carry out his crimes because he held a position of prestige in the university’s revered football program. He had social immunity, as do church leaders and other leaders whom we respect because of their positions. We give some people the benefit of the doubt.

An adult raping a young boy is one of the worst crimes you can commit. Yet the more heinous the crime, the more our social brains and diffident hearts seem to find a way to overlook it. No one wants to make such a charge if one is not confident of support from others. We learned during Sandusky’s trial that people at Penn State knew what he was doing for a long time. Yet they could not admit it, nor did they act on their intuition.

What if the criminal institution in question is your own government? Suppose we discover that people who hold respected positions in our government are actually criminals, that their crimes include assassination, torture, international aggression, and systematic violation of our Constitution? If you wanted to find out whether government officials had participated in crimes of that magnitude, how would you do that? Would you ask people in government to find out?

When something suspicious occurs out in the provinces, so to speak, government agencies typically investigate the possibility of foul play to determine what happened, how it happened, and who was involved. If government is the main suspect in a criminal case, you cannot ask government to investigate itself. The Warren Commission and the 9/11 Commission show you the results. Yet under our laws, government agencies are the only bodies with authority to conduct criminal investigations. Can government officials commit as many crimes as they like, because no independent authority exists to call the individuals who commit these crimes to account? The most disturbing thing to note is that these officials know they are not subject to the same laws they administer for everyone else. They know that, for the time being, what they do is hidden.

What happened here?

We have already observed that the people who lost their lives in the World Trade Center did not die because of structural weakness in the buildings they occupied. When two one-hundred-ten story towers built of steel and concrete blow up right in front of you, and a third forty-seven story building collapses into itself in a matter of seconds, you ask why something like that might occur. One group of government experts says that fires in each building weakened the steel at critical points, causing a progressive collapse in all three buildings. Another group of experts, outside of government, says that  jet fuel fires cannot melt steel. Even if they could, they point out, structural weakness high in a skyscraper would not cause steel supports to give way in the floors below.

For a disagreement this fundamental, you want to gather substantive information before you reach conclusions about what happened. You would want to consider all the evidence relevant to the events in question. Further, you would seek four qualities in people who investigate a matter this important:

    • Trustworthiness.
    • Possess professional expertise to ask discerning questions, assemble relevant evidence, and draw sound conclusions from the evidence assembled.
    • Free from conflicts of interest during the investigation.
    • Resources sufficient to complete the inquiry.

Government fails the first three tests. You have to ask, then, who is left to conduct an inquiry of this type? How do you investigate a crime, or a pattern of illegal behavior, when you cannot rely on law enforcement officials to reach truthful conclusions? More to the point, why do we look to government to conduct these inquiries? That we do indicates we have not solved the problem of who will guard the guards, or overcome our in-built reluctance to know the truth about people in high places.

How can the state execute you at the end of an interrogation?

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Watch The Lives of Others. It is a film about the East German state security police. It shows, among other things, how they break people during interrogations. It shows the techniques they use to make people confess. These confessions are not so easy to obtain, since most of the transgressions they deal with are thought crimes. Once the security police decide you might be an enemy of the state, you are done. They will stay with you until you break.

Now consider this set of facts. Two members of the state security police accompany a young man to his apartment at night. They interrogate him, without an attorney, for four hours. The police say that as the young man prepared to sign a confession, he attacked them. The police say that to protect themselves, they shot the young man seven times. One of the seven bullets entered the top of the young man’s skull.

The police conduct an internal investigation, and conclude that the two officers did nothing wrong.

These facts tell the story of how Ibragim Todashev died when an FBI agent murdered him in his own apartment.

We can speculate about what happened in Todashev’s apartment that night, but we should not have to guess. No person should be subject to four consecutive hours of interrogation, even with an attorney present. How is a confession signed after an extended session in the middle of the night not a coerced confession? What threats did the FBI make to get that far?

I still cannot adjust, rationally or emotionally, to the idea that this kind of state execution can occur in our country. A young man permits FBI agents into his apartment, and four hours later he’s dead on the floor. How can that happen? By the time the internal investigation exonerates the FBI agents – what a surprise – people seem to accept that these things happen. What can you do?

To make this killing even more disturbing, it is closely connected to the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath, another set of events orchestrated under the auspices of the national security police state. If Ibragim Todashev had no connection to the two brothers accused in that bombing, he would be alive today. Instead, the FBI executed him with a bullet to the top of the head, a “finishing shot,” as people in the trade call it.

If the FBI has its wish, that is the last we will hear of Ibragim Todashev.

Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images

– Abdulbaki Todashev, the father of Ibragim Todashev, shows pictures of his son’s bullet-riddled body during a press conference in Moscow on May 30, 2013.

Update

At least, after eleven months, the FBI settled on a single account of what happened in Todashev’s apartment on May 22, 2013. Shortly after the murder, the FBI’s account was all over the place.

Here is a comment from the article, How did Ibragim Todashev die?

In America, never never never allow police to enter your house. Never open your door for police. If they have a legal right to enter they will break down the door. That is good because it shows that you did not consent to police entry. Do NOT answer police questions unless you think they will arrest, beat, or kill you if you don’t. More and more Americans hate and fear the police. Many years ago in America it was not like that. American police should never be trusted. They are extremely dangerous. Lots of psychopaths among American police. If you see police – fade away quickly – you are in danger.

Related article

How did Ibragim Todashev die?

Guardian Angel

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I just ran across an article that said hurricane Sandy reminds us how much we rely on governments to protect us. It even used the storm to say arguments criticizing the nanny state are wrong-headed. Geez. One doesn’t know where to start with statements like that. The government doesn’t protect us: we protect us. We establish various public institutions to carry out numerous cooperative activities, just as we form private institutions to carry out other cooperative activities. We don’t say that business corporations protect us, as if they have some sort of life apart from us. Neither should we ever regard government as some kind of abstract, protective entity that exists apart from us.

Yet we seem to have an in-built instinct to regard government as a replacement parent. When we leave home, who will take care of us? When we’re on our own, don’t we need someone to watch over us and help us out when trouble comes? The world is dangerous, and we don’t want to be alone.

If you agree with the premises of self-government, you know this way of thinking is dangerous in the extreme. The state as it has developed is not your friend. Of all the threats you will face in your life – from nature, from criminals, from financial uncertainty, from people who act like your friend but turn out to be otherwise – an over-powerful, out of control state is the biggest threat of all. The wolf dressed himself up to look like granny – ready nanny – to deceive Red Riding Hood. If successful, he could have a tender meal, even better than the first. The state behaves the same way. Its agents only pretend to be your friend. In this kijnd of relationship, anything other than submission to the states power brings a lot of trouble.

Consider other stories to see how deeply we crave and appreciate protection, both as children and as adults. Hansel and Gretel is a particularly scary tale, as an evil stepmother conspires to force the poor woodcutter to take his children out into the woods to abandon them there. They wanted to trust their father, but he abandoned them in the woods. Only the children’s ingenuity, courage, and perseverance save them: no one else will do it. Children love this story, frightening as it is, because brother and sister defeat the wicked witch on their own. They stick together and find a way out.

Cinderella’s treatment was equally miserable, but she stayed  hopeful. As Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters exploited her, abused her and ostracized her, she kept a cheerful outlook and hoped for better times to come. Her fairy godmother, equipped with all kinds of supernatural powers, arranged for her to meet the prince, so that, one day she would be queen. Cinderella had someone looking after her, and her magical guardian came through.

One of the most compelling stories for young people in American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird, relies on this theme. “Hey Boo,” says Scout as she recognizes Boo Radley standing in the corner. He has just rescued Scout and her brother Jem from Bob Ewell, who aimed to kill them as they walked home from a Halloween party. “Heck, someone’s been after my children,” says Atticus when he calls the sheriff. Shortly afterward, Atticus thanks Boo: “Thank you for my children.” Mr. Radley – the amazing guardian angel, the mysterious neighbor who somehow knew the children needed his help – responds in silence.

Dumbledore and Harry’s parents through all seven Harry Potter books, Odysseus when he returns home to Penelope in the Odyssey, Moses’ leading his people out of Egypt to the Promised Land in Exodus: we find this theme of protection and bravery everywhere. Our favorite stories show the theme’s power to compel our hearts and our attention.

Let’s return to government and the kind of protection it offers. It gives you a helmet before it sends you into war. I recently completed Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, a book that – like her others – contains a lot of wisdom. By her account, the French serfs in the fourteenth century wanted so much to see their king as their protector. They knew the king and his nobles exploited them. Taxes, warfare, robbery, all kinds of injustice flowed from society’s top ranks down upon the poor. The underclass resisted and revolted, several times. Even so, they hoped the king would come through to protect them. The king even dramatized his protective role at public festivals. Despite all contrary evidence, the people perceived the king, ordained by God, as the sovereign power who could redeem them from apparently inescapable misery.

Now let me tell you another story. Like Barbara Tuchman’s, this one is real – not a fantasy, a myth, or a fairy tale. Here’s a story filled with so much horror for grown-ups, they cannot stand to face it. Some months ago I watched a film titled Explosive Evidence, which investigates why two steel framed skyscrapers in the World Trade Center exploded on September 11, 2001, and why one skyscraper imploded. A segment toward the film’s end explores why people resist the conclusion that gravity did not bring these buildings down. “It can’t be true,” they say. One woman, when she realized how the buildings fell, took a long walk outside her office building. She said she could not stop sobbing as she walked block after block.

She became so upset because until then, she had thought of government as her protector. The idea that it could be anything else wrenched her world view, forced her to see that it did not necessarily act as a replacement parent. She felt as Hansel and Gretel felt when they overheard their stepmother persuade their father to take them into the wilderness to let them starve. But for that bit of eavesdropping, Hansel would not have brought bread crumbs with him. From beginning to end, Hansel and Gretel managed to save themselves because they learned the truth, about their own home and about the witch’s home. Like the woman in Explosive Evidence, we must recognize the truth about where we live, and use our wits to save ourselves.

What is the balance of authority between the president and the surveillance state?

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Obama to propose ending NSA’s phone call sweep

My first reaction to this news item from the White House: how cynical can you get? When it comes to the political application of cosmetic communications, the president’s team cannot seem to help itself.

My second reaction: how stupid do they think we are?

My third reaction: maybe it’ll work this time.

This Thursday, June 6, 2013, file photo, shows a sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.

And then you think, my God, I am as stupid as they think I am! “The triumph of hope over experience” is an often quoted Johnsonian saying, but honestly, how can anyone think that the president’s proposal to end a surveillance program will make a difference? J. Edgar Hoover didn’t worry himself about presidents’ wishes, and NSA’s monument to 1984 has progressed a long way since J. Edgar Hoover gathered dirt on Commies, the Kennedy’s, homosexuals, civil rights activists, anti-war protesters, uppity journalists, and anyone else he didn’t like.

As for the White House, one cannot distinguish PR from actual policy intentions anymore. I don’t think they can, either.

Remember World Trade Center 7

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Did the people who planned World Trade Center 7′s demolition think we wouldn’t notice? Perhaps they thought that seven hours after the twin towers exploded, we wouldn’t notice that a forty-seven story steel frame building fell into its own footprint in less than seven seconds. They were almost right. In the climate of jingoistic fear that followed 9/11, people with guts had to point it out. They had to draw our attention to it, and demonstrate the significance of this controlled demolition in the framework of the day’s events.

Skeptics say they want a smoking gun to prove wrongdoing, especially when we accuse our own government. For attorneys in court, smoking gun evidence is so fresh, material, and decisive that the other side cannot contest it.  In World Trade Center 7, the perpetrators of the 9/11 crimes handed us a smoking gun. All the evidence for destruction of building seven indicates a controlled demolition. No evidence contradicts this assessment. Seldom does one event so conclusively demonstrate prevarication and ill intent on the part of people who lie to us.

World Trade Center 7 is the brown building, with the Twin Towers directly behind.

Related film

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth deserve our gratitude and recognition. The film makers assemble good evidence here. These experts put their professional and personal reputations on the line to determine what actually happened on 9/11. They criticize the government’s reports directly. Doing so, they risk questions from their friends, ridicule from their colleagues, and even ostracism from their professional communities. We have seen people lose their livelihoods for speaking out.

If all of these professionals can face down these consequences, so can we.

Related sites

Remember Building 7

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth

Coming soon

The strange story of Eric Hufschmid

Prospects for a new investigation

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A typical exchange between a truther and a skeptical reporter might go:

Reporter: Does the official account of what happened on 9/11 hold up?
 
Truther: No.
 
R: Why do you think that?
 
T: The evidence we have doesn’t support their account. The evidence contradicts it.
 
R: What do you think actually happened?
 
T: We don’t know what actually happened. We need a new investigation to find that out.
 
R: You must have some idea, based on the evidence, what happened on 9/11.
 
T: We’ll only learn what happened if a truly independent investigation evaluates all the evidence.
 

Home page banner at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, http://www.ae911truth.org.

That raises a necessary, practical question. What person or group, in the present environment, could successfully conduct an investigation? A major task for investigators of any crime is to persuade people who have evidence to cooperate. In this case, the federal government stands accused of criminal behavior, and it holds most of the information that investigators seek! More precisely, it destroyed the evidence available at the crime scene, itself a crime, and it concealed what evidence remains behind its classification system. Given that record, how could investigators possibly persuade members of the federal government to reveal classified information about 9/11? Would the investigators set up a witness protection program for them in Russia?

Nevertheless, current campaigns for truth argue that Congress or the media, or the two together, ought to undertake an investigation. They have the resources, the argument goes, as well as independence and skills. They can be thorough and do what previous investigations did not do: follow the evidence where it leads.

We’ve already alluded to problems with this reasoning:

  • The federal government possesses information to answer the question, “What happened on 9/11?”
  • The federal government has classified most of the information it has about 9/11. Unclassified information is either destroyed or published.
  • During the first round of investigations, the federal government clearly stated that it would not release classified information related to 9/11.

Since the information required to determine what happened on 9/11 is classified, the federal government  will not release it. Another observation goes without saying. Information about 9/11, classified or simply kept secret, reveals criminal behavior. That’s another reason the government will not release it.

In this environment we have to ask, what would happen if the New York Times, or the House Intelligence Committee, convened an independent commission to investigate 9/11? What would we learn?

We know from many examples, dating back to Kennedy’s death, what suppressive measures government is willing to use when it wants to restrict information. It uses these methods whenever it wants to prevent secret information from becoming public: intimidation, distraction, impoundment, arraignments, indictments, imprisonment, solitary confinement, interrogation, detention without trial, unwarranted searches, raids, interrogation, subpoenas, murder, delay, harrassment, personal threats, threats to family members, character assassination, tax investigations, bribery, intrusive surveillance, covert surveillance, and the most common method of all – dishonesty in all its forms.

That’s why I ask: in this environment, what would an independent investigation be like? Who would conduct it? How would it be organized? What methods of inquiry would it use? What evidence would it uncover that we do not already have?

I do not want to advocate pessimism about the results of further research. I only want to say that a formal investigative body with trappings of authority and prestige can’t succeed against government’s resistance, no matter how independent it is. In light of that, independent researchers and research groups must keep up their work. They must publicize their work, too, outside of the central media outlets. For the most part, the audience for this research does not trust the major media outlets in any case.

I fear the main purpose 9/11 skeptics have in mind when they call for a new investigation is to place the imprimatur of prestige and authority on evidence we already have. They want the weight of a formal investigative body behind the evidence they have gathered, and a narrative for that evidence that is less dependent on speculative or hypothetical reasoning. That is why they mention Congress as a candidate to organize or sponsor the investigation.

Quite often, skeptics refer to the way mainstream media ignore their work. Clearly, the hope exists that if an investigative body with prestige and authority undertakes a new inquiry, that effort will receive more attention from the media. Then, they hope, more people will come to believe what the skeptics have been saying for more than a decade.

That scenario is not realistic, for the reasons given. The federal government will not release its information. A formal body, even with credibility and abundant resources, could therefore not accomplish much. Moreover, the mainstream media will not change its well established tune on 9/11 unless their putative masters in Washington call for a change.

The implication of this argument is plain: the necessary research to discover what happened on 9/11 is already underway. No person or group with more authority than Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth will appear. If existing researchers, outside of government and the media, cannot persuade people to change their minds about what happened on 9/11, people will not change their minds. Current efforts have to proceed, against government resistance, and certainly without assistance from mainstream media. In light of government’s ability to suppress evidence, we cannot hope that anyone who knows even a bit of truth about 9/11 will come clean about government’s complicity in these crimes.

The same pattern of official suppression, and gradual but persistent disclosure from independent researchers, played out over fifty years after Kennedy’s murder. We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves, as well as future investigators who have the necessary courage. We are not going to see a repeat of the Watergate hearings, I can tell you that.

That’s the answer to our question, then. Who can conduct a truly independent investigation of what happened on 9/11? The people who are already doing so: us.

Always faithful

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I have argued many times that loving your country and supporting your government are not the same thing. “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country, and overthrow the government,” is not a quotation you’ll find in Bartlett’s. When a powerful state wants to defend itself from perceived threats, it encourages everyone to consider country and government in the same light. If you offer your loyalty to one, you offer it to the other. When Edward Snowden acted to protect a vulnerable country from a criminal government, what was the first label government used to describe him? Traitor. What did he betray? He betrayed his country!

That’s exactly what a mob boss says, without irony, when an underling turns him in. He calls him a traitor. Whom did the underling betray? The boss! Traitorous behavior counts as such only in the eyes of the beholder. If you have broken the law, you have lost the ability to call someone a traitor, and have anyone take you seriously. Honor among thieves is no honor at all.

The conflation of country and government occurs both institutionally and emotionally, since we serve our country when we serve in the armed forces. We love the one, our country, and sacrifice ourselves for its sake when we enlist in the other. Who, during this process, can miss government’s desire to transfer our love of country to itself? When the department of defense refused to have flag-draped coffins photographed as they came off the plane from Iraq, what calculations do you suppose that decision required from the public relations people? Which options costs us more love and loyalty: allowing photographs, or not allowing them?

Either way, from government’s perspective, to be killed in battle is the highest service, the most sacred sacrifice of all. Let families of fallen soldiers decide for themselves what they think of it. Who organizes and deploys armed forces? Government. Who pays you when you are a soldier? Government. Who declares war? Government. Who demands your allegiance and obedience when you serve in the armed forces? Government. Who cares for you if you are wounded? Government. Who cares for your family when you are killed? Government.

You have the idea. Service in the armed forces is service to your government. Service to country is so closely bound up with service to government that we don’t bother to separate the two when we think about patriotism, protection, and betrayal. I suppose that if government fights only just wars of self-defense, you can get away with likening government’s interest with the country’s interest. When government turns criminal, however, government’s interest becomes antagonistic to the country’s interest. Interests of officials who hold power diverge from interests of citizens who do not.

Observation tells you when your country reaches a condition of vulnerability. Government endeavors to identify enemies of the state, while the state’s servants become enemies of the people. No country in such a position can survive without patriots who sacrifice their own lives to protect citizens’ rights. Government officials mock Edward Snowden because he lives in a country even less free than ours. Believe me, he does not prefer to live there. He exiled himself for a reason. He sacrificed a great deal in order to protect us from our own government.

When you hear a government official call a citizen a traitor, look hard before you judge. Look at the record of someone who would use such a word. If you judge that the accuser has integrity, that’s one thing. If you judge that the accuser speaks for a criminal enterprise, that’s another. We live in a time when making judgments of this type has become simpler than it used to be. Government has committed a series of crimes so serious, so close together, and so brazen that we cannot possibly give it benefit of doubt any longer. It has declared war on its own people, and on people abroad. Our best hope for safety lies in the integrity of patriots who resist it.

Always faithful. Semper fidelis. That’s a motto of men who carry arms for their country. The true integrity of the Marine Corps ideal is that marines declare their loyalty to each other, not to their employer, or to an abstract nation. Their comrades come first, last, and always. That’s a bond we have to remember, as we fight to protect ourselves from our government.

Rethink 9/11 Evidence

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Cues and associative memory affect our perceptions. They function as interpretive frameworks for visual evidence. Psychologists have done all sorts of experiments to test for this relationship. It turns out that remembered cues do affect the way we interpret evidence. The connection is so strong, in fact, that it can cause us to reach incorrect conclusions. That is, valid and accurately recalled cues can cause us to misinterpret evidence. That’s why it pays to compare interpretations among people who bring different cues to the same set of observations.

When frameworks help us connect familiar with unfamiliar observations, they work efficiently to help us make sense of new phenomena. The difficulty is, we don’t have a framework for what we saw when the Twin Towers came down. Airliners don’t crash into one hundred story buildings. We certainly had not seen 110-story skyscrapers explode progressively from the top down before that day. If someone speaks with authority about what we have seen, we have scant grounds to doubt the explanation if we cannot compare the authority’s evidence with something we have seen before.

World Trade Center structure.

World Trade Center structure, side view.

After the attacks, an authoritative explanation for the towers’ destruction does not take long to come. Heat from jet fuel fires weakens the steel columns and trusses that form the skeleton of each tower. When these structural columns and their associated joints give way, the entire tower collapses in a pancake effect: each story fails after the one above it fails, due to the unnatural amount of weight coming down on top of it. Thus both towers fall straight down.

The explanation sounds plausible enough. Evidence for this kind of collapse in a steel framed building does not exist, for it has never happened before. Moreover, no competing theories came forth in the days that followed the catastrophe. The wreckage did not yield relevant evidence, so before long we had computer models to show how the pancake effect would have worked. Computer models carry a lot of authority, partly because the people who develop them seem smarter than we are. Experts and specialists usually want to appear that way.

The pancake theory has a few difficulties that make it implausible. First, the buildings’ progressive destruction does not begin at the crash sites. For both towers, the destruction begins at the top of the building. Second, the weight from the upper stories does not bear directly down. The upper stories explode multi-directionally into dust and pieces of steel. The concrete disappears into fine dust, and the structural steel flies outward. The explosions start at the top of the buildings, above the crash sites, and continue past the crash sites as they advance toward the ground. Clearly, the structural steel below the explosions does not bear more weight than it did while the buildings were whole. The explosions remove weight from the top of the structure.

Admittedly, to describe the destruction at the top and all the way down the towers as explosions begs the question. They look like explosions, but perhaps pancaking, which we’ve never seen before, looks like a progressive explosion. Pancaking would not turn all of that concrete to dust, but we can leave that point for now. Let’s take a look at another difficulty: the rate of destruction.

The rate of collapse does not beg any questions about what we are seeing. Each tower comes down in a little over twelve seconds. Using a round figure of one hundred stories for the building height, each story pancaked in about 0.12 seconds, or about one-eight of a second per story. For comparison, Usain Bolt’s Olympic time in the 100 meter sprint is 9.63 seconds. Mr. Bolt takes just over four steps per second when he runs, which means each step requires about 0.24 seconds. The pancake theory requires us to accept that, by weight alone, the structural steel in each story of these gargantuan buildings collapsed in half the time Mr. Bolt requires for one step, when he sprints at a world record pace.

Here are some more rough calculations. Each tower lost about eight stories per second. Each story in the towers was a little under four meters tall. That tells us the towers came down at about thirty-two meters per second, or three times times Bolt’s velocity when he sprints at top speed. We know how fast he runs.

Suppose each floor takes only one half second to collapse. Then the building requires fifty-five seconds, not twelve, to come down. Twelve seconds to destroy a one-hundred-ten-story, steel-framed building is awfully fast. A two-story wooden house that has burned to the point of structural weakness takes longer than twelve seconds to collapse. We know that each tower contained 78,000 tons of structural steel. Below the crash sites, each tower was structurally sound. If the architects designed a building that could collapse that fast – whatever trauma it might have suffered – they designed a catastrophically unsafe building. The idea that towers that size could collapse in twelve seconds by gravity alone is not plausible.

The interpretive framework in the government’s explanation for why the towers came down is incorrect. It refers to a pancake effect that is plainly wrong. A bit more technically, the official explanation claims that the horizontal trusses that support each column unzipped from the building’s vertical columns due to the unusual stresses placed on the building’s structural components. This explanation is equally implausible. We should recognize our mistake in accepting outlandish interpretive frameworks, understand why we erred, then work toward more plausible explanations.

An alternate hypothesis proposes that the buildings exploded, from the top down. This explanation proposes that explosions removed the core columns at the base of the towers as well. Can controlled explosions explain how the Twin Towers fell in twelve seconds – about eight floors per second – better than the pancake hypothesis? Architects and structural engineers who have studied this problem closely believe the government’s explanations for structural failure are inferior. In light of evidence and explanations available from all sources, can we reinterpret existing cues and fashion new frameworks for what we saw on 9/11? Can we rethink what we see, as well as what we perceive?

Related article

At Last, How it Was Done: 9/11 and the Science of Building Demolition

More incompetence where you least want to see it

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Look back a bit on what has just happened in Ukraine and Crimea. During the weekend of February 22-23, Ukrainians replaced leaders who ordered snipers to fire on them in Kiev. Four days later, on February 27, Russian military forces moved to occupy the Crimean peninsula. Timeline: How the crisis in Ukraine unfolded contains details.

Now remember the mood coming out of Washington during those critical days. At the start, we have the usual smugness of amateurs full of themselves: yukety yuk yuk, look at Putin – he just spent fifty billion plus on the Sochi Winter Olympics to impress all of us. Now look at him, the freedom fighters in Kiev have thrown the man back on his heels! Let the Russian grizzly nurse its bloody nose!

One week after the victory in Kiev, things don’t look so great. Russia has its troops all over Crimea. It has control of the regional government. Putin says he has to protect the Russians there. Washington says, “Wait one second here! You can’t do that. Get your troops out of there, or we’ll impose sanctions.” Putin repeats the standard excuse that he has to protect Russians. He doesn’t have to add, “You want me to get out of Crimea? Make me.”

Crimean peninsula. Cities marked with white and red show Russian troop concentrations.

Here’s something interesting about the crew in Washington. From appearances, Putin’s move into Crimea took them entirely by surprise. They seemed entirely unprepared for it. In fact, Putin’s move was surprising. He didn’t have a lot of options when Viktor Yanukovych had to get out of Dodge. Most people would not have judged occupation of Crimea as an attractive or a feasible plan. Why would you want to make trouble like that? No one in Kiev was talking about taking on the Russian Black Sea fleet. The new leaders of Ukraine had enough other problems on their minds.

Vladimir Putin

So we have to see Putin’s move as opportunistic, timed to reacquire Crimea at a moment when people would notice, but no one would do anything about it. Sochi’s impresario applied the principle, never let a good crisis go to waste. Significantly, the occupation of Crimea required some preparation. You cannot mobilize thousands of troops to occupy 10,000 square miles, take over the provincial government, and face down Ukrainian armed forces without thinking in advance about how to do it. Putin accomplished the whole mission in a couple of days, leaving Washington dumbfounded.

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Map of Ukraine to show balance of Ukrainian and Russian speakers in different regions of the country.

You have to ask here, where was the vaunted and unparelleled U. S. intelligence system when we needed it? Perhaps we spent too much energy helping the Brits spy on their own citizens via their webcams. How could we not have any idea, through the long Ukrainian crisis, that Putin might take advantage of it? Ukraine has been in turmoil since November 21, a week before Thanksgiving. We had enough time during the long crisis to dismiss our western allies – consider this jewel, “Fuck the EU,” – but we didn’t have enough time to figure out what Russia might do. Do these people in Washington even care what their adversaries are thinking?

What is clear is that Washington’s foreign policymakers don’t have a clear or coherent strategy. They address each crisis one at a time. They draw red lines that don’t matter. They’re accommodating when they should be firm; they bluff when they should be direct; they have minimal leadership and no vision. Signals are so mixed now that no one can tell whether we want to lead or not. The first job of a leader is to listen. We don’t even bother to do that, let alone any of the other things leaders are supposed to do.

Here we are, then, wondering what to do now that Russia has moved to annex Crimea. Everything we do appears improvised, because it is. Improvisation is a great form of comedy, but it’s not funny in foreign policy. It’s ineffective, and it makes you wonder what could possibly be next. It makes you wish for leaders who possess some basic competence. It especially makes you wish for leaders who care about their country’s interests, who have given a little thought to what those interests are. We do not want leaders like Putin, but at least he knows what he wants.

Related articles

Victoria’s secret: how to manage the world when you think no one is listening

Three maps to help understand what’s going on in Ukraine

Paradox of the omnicompetent state

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One more time, I heard the jobs argument on the National Public Radio last night. Here is the short, simple version:

The recovery from the Great Recession has not produced enough jobs.

We’ve tried everything we can to create jobs in our country.

We don’t know what else to do, so for now we’ll have to do the best we can.

The people at NPR have repeated some version of this mantra for so long – since 2009, actually – that it seems to have become a standard syllogism in their rhetorical arsenal. They seem to believe it. They seem to expect others to believe it. I don’t know how one’s thinking can get so far off the track.

We do know what to do. Drastically lower taxes – not just the income tax, but every tax. Ruthlessly cut government’s role in the economy in every respect. Remove government as a factor in economic enterprise. Move toward the classical liberal vision of free economic exchange among autonomous individuals, with no government interference. Then you will see how hard people work.

We all know this option. We’re all familiar with Smith, Hayek, Mises, Thatcher, Reagan, and others who have advocated this path to prosperity for rich and for poor. Many people don’t want to go that way. Some find it unthinkable. So we pretend that way doesn’t exist. At least the people at NPR do. I wonder how many people have accepted this thoroughly false and pessimistic way of thinking.

The state has it’s hand in everything now, as tax collector, inspector, regulator, litigator, punisher, distributor, contractor, initiator, supplier, consumer. It exercises control, or quasi-control, over almost everything. It wants to take care of you. In doing so, it makes your life immeasurably worse.

The paradox of omnicompetent government is that is introduces incompetence everywhere. It acts as if it knows what is best for you, but it brings about what is worst. The consequence is idleness: millions who want to work, but cannot do so. We cannot pretend we are helpless in the face of this disaster. We have to own it and do whatever it takes to end it.

Same-sex unions and social acceptance

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Confusion among legal, social, and conceptual elements of gay marriage has persisted for a long time. Discussions of gay marriage do not normally separate these three strands, even though they delineate distinct lines of thought about this subject. On the legal side, of course the state cannot issue a directive that stipulates, “You two people can marry, but you two people cannot.” As Texas district court judge Orlando Garcia wrote in a recent opinion: “State-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U. S. Constitution.”

That does not mean, however, that a union between a man and a woman is the same thing as a union between two members of the same sex. Pairings between two women, two men, or between a man and a woman are plainly not the same thing. To keep our thinking straight, we should not misapply a concept merely because it seems advantageous for legal or social reasons.

Gay rights advocates who have fought this issue through the courts have common sense and civil rights behind them. Discriminatory laws do not belong on the books. We should remove them. To say that laws banning same-sex marriage discriminate unfairly, and therefore violate civil rights, does not mean that same-sex unions constitute marriage.

Same-sex unions do not constitute marriage, unless we change the way we conceive of marriage. Changing the meaning of the word means we change the way we think about the institution. It also means we have undertaken a larger project of redefinition, to reshape the social meaning and structure of marriage.

Gay rights advocates have attacked the weakest defense against these changes – discriminatory statutes. Their strategy implies the following sequence: if we end the legal prohibition of same-sex unions, the state must recognize these unions. When that happens, same-sex unions will become more common. When people see numerous same-sex unions around them, especially among people they know, they will come to accept the unions, and the people who form them, more than they have in the past. Social acceptance of same-sex unions gradually becomes a realistic outcome.

That’s not a bad strategy, or a bad result. Discriminatory social attitudes are no better than discriminatory statutes. Nevertheless, same-sex unions are not the same thing as marriage between a man and a woman. The only way to make them the same is to stipulate it, as if to say, “This airplane and this car are the same thing.” One would say, yes, both are used for transportation, both have wheels, both have engines, and both have steering controls. Another would say, of course, but one can fly and the other cannot. One can travel on interstate highways and the other cannot. One has wings and the other does not.

All comers would be right. For precision, we would still need one word for cars, and another word for airplanes. They are not similar enough to be called the same thing, but no good reason exists to discriminate against one or the other. You may prefer to travel in one or the other, but preferences do not underlie social or legal phenomena.

Nevertheless, people discriminated against cars and airplanes when they first appeared. Prejudice is ugly and unwise in every setting, whereas openness to changes and acceptance of new institutions brings benefits to people, if those changes come with good intentions and a good heart. Why should we not treat same-sex unions the same way? Why does acceptance of same-sex unions depend on calling them marriages? Acceptance of airplanes did not depend on calling them cars.

Related article

Texas Same-Sex Marriage Ban Deemed Unconstitutional

Dallas Love Project on the 50th Anniversary

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Dallas may think its reputation will never recover, after it hosted President Kennedy, Kennedy’s entourage, and Kennedy’s assassins fifty years ago. Given who carried out the murder, though, one shouldn’t blame Dallas for the crime. Cities don’t commit murders; people do. True, one notes virulent anti-Kennedy sentiments in central Texas at the time, but people who hate reside everywhere, and politicians, especially presidents, always attract their share of them. Virtually no one in Dallas wanted to see Kennedy killed. The people who planned and carried out his murder did not come from there.

Dallas law enforcement, however, bears a big load of responsibility for trying to conceal the truth about who murdered Kennedy, and about who murdered one of its own policemen, J. D. Tippit. In the days after November 22, Dallas police and prosecutors collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to hide the truth. Later, Dallas police realized the FBI consistently blamed them for various investigatory failures. By then it was too late: Dallas police couldn’t get right with anyone. The Warren Commission published its report, to document the version of events cooked up ten months earlier among the FBI, Dallas law enforcement, and other interested parties. For the most part, the deception worked.

If Dallas wanted to redeem its reputation, it should not have launched the Dallas Love Project. This idea amounts to kindergarten politics – adults commission kindergartners to broadcast sentimental sayings – sentiments with a barely disguised political motive – to make everyone feel better about their city. The plan, already underway, is to line Kennedy’s motorcade route with posters about love. Honestly. Is that how we recall our distinguished, executed leader in our struggling republic? What a saccharine, misplaced idea, given what happened in Dealey Plaza, near Houston and Elm. Underneath the watercolors, the construction paper, the Elmer’s glue and the elementary school sweetness, the wound inflicted on all of us fifty years ago still works its harm.

If Dallas aims to repair its reputation five decades on, city leaders ought to:

    • Do what they can, with local resources and fifty years of history behind them, to uncover the truth about why Kennedy died.
    • Unearth the complicity of Dallas police and prosecutors in helping the feds lie about who committed the crime.
    • Insist that the feds come clean, too.
    • Lead the rest of the country to reconsider the evidence, to reject lies and accept the honest truth, and to accept what the truth implies.
    • Organize itself to resist federal interference with its activities, and to accept help for this resistance from other cities and states.

The people of Dallas, and of Texas, have the guts, resources and motivation to undertake a truth-telling project of this magnitude. The crime took place in Texas, and local knowledge counts for a lot. Most of all, Texas has the required spirit of independence. It has the rough edges and Sam Houston-like courage to gore Washington’s detestable oxen, one after another. The CIA, the FBI, the Warren Commission, the White House, the mainstream press, and any other federal body or federal affiliate involved in planning, executing, or covering up the assassination should come under scrutiny, to the extent that people in Dallas are able to press those questions.

Locally, the coming-clean investigation can start by endorsing the doctors at Parkland hospital, by backing up what they said about Kennedy’s wounds. It can move from that significant step to the obvious: that Jack Ruby’s killing of Lee Oswald shows police incompetence, or police complicity in the contract killing. Dallas’s inquiry should leave no embarrassing omission untouched. In particular, it should reexamine everything that happened both before and after the president’s bloody Lincoln arrived at Parkland hospital’s emergency entrance.

Texas has a political tradition of not giving a damn what the feds say. If the Lone Star State – Dallas especially – were to live up to that tradition now, during this season of remembrance, it could take a healing and even heroic step. The country would respond to Dallas’s leadership in this instance.

Instead, if city leaders choose to line Kennedy’s motorcade route with bright paintings and happy sayings about love, we may as well finish our walk down Main Street with a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum, in the old Texas Schoolbook Depository. In that museum, you see and hear a story that brings shame to the city. In that museum, you see – in pictures and words – the lies that Dallas’s authorities helped create.

Optic Nerve, central symbol of the surveillance state

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The Snowden files get better and better. This week we have a report that the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters – collaborated on a project called Optic Nerve. The purpose of this program is to harvest images from people’s webcams. That is, as people engage in live video chats on their computers, the government records millions of images from the video stream: one image every five minutes, according to the program’s technical specs.

GCHQ

Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham, United Kingdom: who could have designed a better building?

Naturally the question comes up, could this disclosure possibly be true? Would surveillance agencies, who are supposed to monitor threats from foreign enemies, spy on people in their homes, using web cameras in personal computers? Here is the British government’s response:

In a statement, a GCHQ spokesman said: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.

“Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

A statement like that makes you wonder how stupid the intelligence services think we are. If intelligence officials think they can clothe their crimes in opaque, impressive language to persuade us they have done nothing wrong, how different can they be from all the other base criminals who have walked the earth and gotten caught? People caught in the act follow the same strategy: admit nothing. When the truth is out, and you want to escape punishment, that is the only strategy available to you.

The Snowden files make one thing clear to people who care to resist the surveillance state’s instrusions: turnabout is always fair play. We cannot ever hesitate to use the government’s monitoring techniques against itself. When citizens monitor government, they act in self defense. Nothing they do to protect themselves from government criminals can be called illegal by anyone.

We know from Snowden’s case that government calls these actions espionage and treason. The criminals in Washington pursue Edward Snowden as if he is a criminal. So I don’t advocate resistance lightly. For decades now, the stakes have risen for both sides, especially for civil rights groups that do not command state resources. Risks for people regarded as enemies of the state – whatever acts of self protection they undertake – have always been high.

For the most part, citizens who see the need for resistance have not organized or trained for monitoring governments, as governments have organized and trained for monitoring us. Thus we have these options:

(a) Accept government crimes. Resign ourselves to quasi-slavery.

(b) Organize and train ourselves to expose government’s crimes.

(c) Force government to stop committing crimes.

If we do not undertake (b), experience indicates we must choose between (a) and (c). That is, we become less and less free, until our servants have transformed themselves into our masters, or we use force to prevent that from happening. Neither option is good, because quasi-slavery turns us into instruments, and force turns us into warriors in a fight we are likely to lose. To follow Lao Tzu’s ancient wisdom in The Art of War, pick a fight you can win. That fight is option (b).

Blow up something and blame it on your enemy

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On September 18, 1931, the Japanese detonated some dynamite near their railway in Mukden, Manchuria. They blamed the sabotage on the Chinese, using the pretent attack as a pretext to occupy the entire province. The staged event became known as the Mukden Incident. It’s a good example of a false flag attack. Reduced to its simplest terms, the phrase means: blow something up and blame it on your enemy. You plant your opponent’s flag on your own crime.

Interestingly, the people who perpetrate false flag attacks generally care little whether their criminal demonstrations convince others or not.  The Japanese didn’t care that other countries in the region and overseas immediately suspected them of a malign, self-serving swindle. Briskly, the Japanese marched out of the League of Nations and into Manchuria. Actually, it was the reverse: they erected their puppet state, named Manchukuo, in 1932, then left the League in 1933. When you aim to build an empire, you don’t actually need to bother with the international community. You could even ask, if you don’t care about perceptions, why bother with the false flag attack to begin with?

A false flag attack does build momentum domestically. The planners needed backing in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, not sympathy from the international community. If you can make your own families and your own soldiers feel they are under attack, that’s what counts. For momentum, Mukden succeeded. Six and half years after the fireworks in Mukden, the Japanese marched into Nanjing and raped it. Two and a half years after that, Japanese torpedo bombers attacked Pearl Harbor.

Perpetrators used more than a few sticks of explosives to destroy the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7. Beyond the difference in scale, we see a couple of key similarities in the attacks. First, other countries soon came to see each attack for what it was. The so-called victim was complicit. Second, leaders used the attacks to build support for war, against China in 1932, and against Iraq in 2003. The so-called victim quickly became an aggressor.

Astonishingly, in the United States, the perpetrators truly did not care what others overseas thought. Unlike Japan, which strove to build an empire in its part of the world, the United States had a leading, dominant position all over the globe. No nation had ever exercised so much influence and power for so long a period. No great power had ever equaled its reach. Yet the United States threw its empire and leadership away so it could go to war against a couple of poor, weak states in the Middle East and south Asia. It created the conditions for aggressive military action, and did not care what anyone thought about either the conquest or the pretext for it.

We can see how much the people who blew up those buildings care what other people think when we consider their response to questions about the attacks:

You don’t see evidence that a large airliner crashed into the side of the Pentagon? Ignore the reports about what you can see and what you can’t see. Believe us, it happened. An airliner flew into the Pentagon.

You want to know more about the nineteen hijackers? We put out a list of all the hijackers right away. Why did some of the people on the list turn up alive and well in the Middle East? We don’t know about that, but as soon as we found out, we put out a new list.

You saw the Twin Towers blow up right in front of you? How can we say those steel-framed skyscrapers pancaked down, one floor at a time, in a chain reaction? You say you heard explosions in those buildings? You wonder why so much of the steel in that building melted to liquid? Stop asking questions like that – our experts have already dealt with them. We don’t want to hear them.

You don’t see evidence that an airliner crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania? It looks like the plane was shot down, because the debris is scattered over miles. Why would you detract from the heroism of the patriots who took control of that plane and sacrificed their lives for you and all of us?

You ask why the president sat reading to those school children for so long when everyone knew the country was under attack? Why would he act as if nothing unusual had happened, with his Secret Service detail standing by instead of protecting him? We’re not sure about that one.

You want to know know how World Trade Center 7 came down in free fall when nothing hit it? You keep asking us how we can claim this was anything but a controlled demolition. We’ll tell you something, you nosey bastards: we don’t want to talk about it.

Other questions come to mind, of course, as well as other unhelpful or impolite responses. Yet we cannot overlook the depressing but true point: someone blew up those buildings, and did not care  that much how it came across. When you succeed with such an attack, you put your energy into the subsequent conquest, not the pretext. That’s what George Bush meant when he said we should not investigate the 9/11 attacks, as that would distract us from the war on terror. The pretext resides in the history books only as the starting gun. It lets us begin wth a brisk but guilt-laden wind at our backs.

Whatever the perpetrators think, the reaction of people in the rest of the world matters. What citizens here in the United States think matters. If our government’s story about why the Twin Towers fell is false, and our government suppresses the truth, it won’t survive. If our government’s account is false, and it acts soon to discover or uncover the truth, it can still save itself. Do you see any evidence, past or present, that it is interested in the truth?

Why World Trade Center 7 is significant

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People say they want to see a smoking gun for evidence. That means evidence so fresh, so incontrovertible and conclusive that people can’t argue with it. Political crimes seldom offer evidence like that, as these acts emerge from processes and decisions that emphasize secrecy and deniability.

Some smoking guns are actually smoking guns. On Sunday, November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby walked up to Lee Oswald in the basement of a Dallas police station and shot him in the stomach. The country watched him do it on television. Ruby said he shot Oswald to spare the Kennedy family the pain of a trial. Something was not right about that murder. It created a suspicion that Ruby had silenced Oswald for a reason that had nothing to do with the Kennedy family.

The controlled demolition of World Trade Center 7 – passed off as an uncontrolled collapse – appeared equally implausible. No one could witness the destruction of this third skyscraper – on film or otherwise – and think it was anything other than planned. No forty-seven story skyscraper constructed of heavy steel could fall to the ground in just under seven seconds due to some scattered fires. Just as governnment offered pablum to explain why Ruby shot Oswald, it offered essentially no explanation for the destruction of World Trade Center 7. The building fell down, people. That’s all you need to know.

Three buildings destroyed on 9/11.

Progressive destruction of World Trade Center 7.

Why has the destruction of World Trade Center 7 become significant in the search for truth about 9/11? Investigators suggest these reasons:

  • It demonstrates the government is lying. The lie in this case is not a minor prevarication, but a Big Lie.
  • NIST’s investigation into WTC7′s collapse shows how government officials cook evidence to reach conclusions conceived in advance.
  • World Trade Center 7 contained information the government wanted to keep secret.
  • If government cannot come clean about World Trade Center 7, what else about 9/11 does it have to hide?

Here is something to consider in the case of World Trade Center 7. People near WTC7 during the afternoon of 9/11 knew the building would come down before it happened. A great deal of other evidence exists to show that the building’s demolition was planned, not accidental. To read about this evidence, see David Ray Griffin’s The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report About 9/11 Is Unscientific and False. His treatment of this piece of what happened that day is masterly.

Related video

The short film below discusses the destruction of World Trade Center 7:

Secret organizations, power, conflict and peace

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Back when prospective victory in the Cold War still gleamed in Ronald Reagan’s eye, analysts had some fixed ideas about why the conflict endured. The same analysts also held small hope the standoff would ever end, at least not while they had anything to say about it. One explanation for its enduring nature was the arms race, along with the fear and edginess those large arsenals caused. Another reason was the continued occupation of Eastern Europe, which the West saw as the original cause of the conflict. A third idea was that when two great powers face each other like that, neither one will back down, for reasons of status, pride, and self-protection.

Ronald Reagan proposed an explanation of his own, one that showed his understanding of the way people and groups interact when they fight. He said that we could never trust the Soviet Union – as an adversary or as an ally for peace – while its government maintained a closed society. How can you have confidence in what they say, he asked, if they do everything in secret? Reagan indicated that was true not only for the Soviets’ dealings internationally: the Communist party kept everything secret from its own citizens as well.

Not so long after Reagan’s observation, Mikhail Gorbachev promoted glasnost – openness – as the leading edge of his initiatives for change. He apparently agreed with Reagan: no one could trust the Communist Party or the Soviet Union without openness, or transparency as we now call it. No adversaries, or potential friends, within or without the Soviet Union would make peace with its leaders, unless the leaders could create some degree of trust. Gorbachev and Reagan both grasped that trust begets goodwill. Goodwill begets peace because it helps leaders recognize where their interests coincide. Distrust fosters conflict because it is the deepest form of alienation. You can try to cooperate with someone you distrust, but the relationship does not last.

In matters of secrecy and trustworthiness, the United States government in the twenty-first century has become more and more like the Soviet government during the Cold War. Governments – which include intelligence agencies, police forces, military organizations, and regulatory bodies – have always guarded information carefully for various reasons. The United States government, however, has moved strongly away from openness and toward secrecy since 9/11. Evidence for this change is everywhere, most recently in the government’s atrocious war on whistleblowers. Consequences of this change, where secrecy fosters suspicion and conflict, appear everywhere as well. Consider for instance the reactions of allied leaders who discovered the National Security Agency has been spying on them. Anger congeals into distrust in a case like that.

9/11’s clearest consequence has been a move toward thoroughgoing, omni-present operations that require secrecy to protect government’s freedom to conduct those operations. That imperative applies to military operations, torture and imprisonment, intelligence gathering and analysis, diplomacy, domestic surveillance, propaganda, threat assessment, homeland security and basic law enforcement. Practically every function of the national security state presupposes that public authorities are the sole source of information about what the state has done, is doing, or is about to do. We have no independent way to determine whether or not those authorities are honest. Therefore we have no way to know whether or not they have committed crimes.

9/11, itself a creature of the national security state, destroyed our democracy. It did so by making our government a closed organization, largely with our consent. As a result, government has alienated itself from the people it is supposed to serve. It treats those citizens as enemies – people to be feared, monitored, and controlled. In that situation, citizens naturally come to fear their government. Alienation and fear lead to conflict, and that is just what we find in the relationiship between citizens and government in our country. We cannot trust our government when most of its acts occur in secret, when it lies to cover its crimes, and when it acts in multiple ways to conceal its motives. Secret organizations with power cannot coexist in peace with other groups. They must be at war.

The Cold War ended when Gorbachev cracked open the Communist Party’s hidden ways of power. Evil memories escaped, along with the truth. An empire fell and Gorbachev lost his job, but the trust he kindled between himself and Reagan proved just enough to end a forty-five year conflict. Can the same thing happen with the conflict between citizens and government within our own country? We cannot wait two generations and half a century to learn the answer. We know that tyranny, once established, does not readily give way.

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