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James Bovard

Julian Assange Deserves a Medal of Freedom, Not a Secret Indictment

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been secretly indicted by the Trump administration’s Justice Department, “a drastic escalation” of the feds’ efforts against him, the New York Times reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and labeled Assange a “fraud,” “coward,” and “enemy.” But rather than a federal indictment, Assange deserves a tweaked version of one of Washington’s hottest honorifics.
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Beltway BS on 'Speaking Truth to Power'

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Lying and piety go together in Washington like ham and eggs. After 9/11, a profusion of government falsehoods on Iraq and other topics ravaged official credibility. The political class responded with an endless profusion of promises to “speak truth to power.” Unfortunately, there are far more Washingtonians praising honesty than there are honest politicians.

According to Wikipedia, “Speaking truth to power is a nonviolent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive or authoritarian.” Ironically, that phrase has become one of the favorite accolades in the least trusted city in America.

When seven-term congressman and low-watt Republican functionary Porter Goss was nominated in 2004 to become CIA chief, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) endorsed him after he promised to “always speak truth to power.” Fat chance: after he was confirmed, Goss speedily sent a memo to CIA employees muzzling them, declaring that their job was to “support the administration and its policies in our work.” Goss bungled the CIA so badly that the Bush administration heaved him out less than two years later. Columnist Walter Shapiro observed, “Normally under Bush, promoted-above-your-abilities incompetence is not a firing offense unless, of course, you drown an entire city.”
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We Need a #MeToo Movement for Political Consent

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The #MeToo movement is spurring millions of Americans to reconsider the meaning of consent in sexual relations. But there is another realm where far too much has been presumed because of often token gestures. Political consent is defined radically differently than the consent that people freely give in their daily lives.

The Declaration of Independence enshrined the notion that government must possess “the consent of the governed.” Unfortunately, winning politicians often claim blank checks to define the hidden meaning behind citizens’ ballots. “Consenting” on Election Day is portrayed as pre-approving anything politicians dictate in the following years.

Regardless if your candidate campaigned on a peace platform, you “consented” to any wars he might subsequently start or support . Regardless if your candidate promised to end federal crackdowns on marijuana, you “consented” to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s raids on medical cannibis cooperatives. Regardless if your candidate promised to end deficit spending, you “consented” to trillions of dollars of additional federal debt. Regardless if your candidate promised transparency and honesty, you consented to the government keeping millions of secrets and shrouding its worst abuses.

Government agencies structure their policies to make even more absurd presumptions of “consent” in daily life.
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Believe women: Apply Congress' Christine Blasey Ford test to TSA’s female victims

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In the uproar over Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, many members of Congress declared that women have a “right to be believed.” Unfortunately, Congress is ignoring legions of women who have been sexually abused thanks to the immunity Congress provides to federal agents. But a federal appeals court may grant relief despite Washington's negligence.
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James Comey and the Unending Bush Torture Scandal

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The vast regime of torture created by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks continues to haunt America. The political class and most of the media have never dealt honestly with the profound constitutional corruption that such practices inflicted. Instead, torture enablers are permitted to pirouette as heroic figures on the flimsiest evidence.
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Don't count on the FBI to clear up the Kavanaugh-Ford mess. Its record is flawed.

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After last week’s explosive congressional hearing, the Senate and the Trump administration agreed to reopen the FBI background check into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Former FBI chief James Comey wrote Sunday that “the FBI is up for this” because it is “full” of "people who just want to figure out what’s true." 

But truth has often been a scarce commodity in FBI investigations. Consider these cases stretching back decades:

- The chief of the FBI’s violent crimes section was sent to prison in 1997 for destroying a report criticizing FBI conduct in a 1992 showdown at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. A federal judge lambasted the FBI and Justice Department for misleading testimony and withholding key evidence in that landmark case.

- When a 1993 FBI tank assault against the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, ended in an inferno, FBI officials emphatically denied that they had any link to the fire. After it was revealed six years later that the FBI tanks had fired pyrotechnic devices during the assault, Attorney General Janet Reno sent US Marshals to seize Waco-related evidence at FBI headquarters.
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The Supreme Court: The Dog that Didn't Bark

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The furor over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is spurring many commentators to bewail that the Supreme Court has become too powerful. But the real problem is that the Court is now often little more than a fig leaf to provide legitimacy for a Leviathan that would have mortified the Founding Fathers. The Court’s betrayal of its constitutional role has vastly increased the stakes for the current and any future Justice nomination.
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Barack Obama's Return Just Reminds Us How He Fueled the Distrust That Led to Donald Trump

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Former president Barack Obama is back. He kicked off a series of campaign appearances last week with a blistering attack on the Trump administration and said the Republican Party had “embraced a rising absolutism.” President Donald Trump deserves plenty of harsh criticism, but Obama’s indictment is akin to the kid who killed his parents and then sought mercy from the judge because he was an orphan.
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Have you gained or lost weight? Congrats, TSA is now tracking you for suspicious activity.

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If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.

Welcome to the latest profiling idiocy from the Transportation Security Administration. TSA’s Quiet Skies surveillance program is spurring federal air marshals to target dozens of Americans each day on the flimsiest of pretexts. The secret program, first exposed by Jana Winter in The Boston Globe, is security theater at its best. 

What does it take to become a Quiet Skies target? “The criteria for surveillance appear fluid. Internal agency emails show some confusion about the program’s parameters and implementation,” The Globe noted.
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That Time the Media Cheered for Gestapo Immigration Tactics

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Every Trump voter is effectively "standing at the border, like Nazis, going 'you here, you here,'" MSNBC guest Danny Deutsch declared on Friday. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden also compared the Trump administration's immigration crackdown with Nazi concentration camps. The media is showcasing the anguish of parents and children forcibly separated at the southwestern border.

Eighteen years ago, the media had a mirror-image reaction to perhaps the most famous immigration raid in American history. Though some critics back then complained of Gestapo-like federal raid, much of the media downplayed or whitewashed the alleged brutality.

On April 22, 2000, 130 federal agents conducted a pre-dawn raid in Miami’s Little Havana section to seize Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban boy. The raid shattered doors, broke a bed, roughed up Cuban-Americans, and left two NBC cameramen on the ground, writhing in pain from stomach-kicks or rifle-butts to the head. The raid seemed to go off without a hitch until a photo surfaced taken by Associated Press stringer Alan Diaz showing a Border Patrol agent pointing his submachine gun toward the terrified boy being held by the fisherman who rescued him six months earlier from the Atlantic Ocean.

While Trump administration’s falsehoods on immigrations have been widely hammered, few people recall the Clinton administration’s rhetorical backflips. A few hours after the Elian raid, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder asserted in a press conference that the boy "was not taken at the point of a gun ." When challenged about the machine gun in the photo, Holder explained: "They were armed agents who went in there who acted very sensitively ."
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