On March 7th, my Family and 20 or so other people protested drone warfare in front of the main gate of the Battle Creek Air National Guard base in Michigan. In 2013, the base was named a Reaper Drone Operating Station and should be operational any day, if not already. Weaponized drone operators are dropping bombs from my backyard.

We stood in the mud on the side of the four-lane highway from Noon to 1pm. A few of us held signs with slogans like "Stop Drone Warfare" while others offered conversation to each other or waved at honking cars. One father and fellow protester brought fresh-popped popcorn, which he passed out in little blue bowls to the few children that were present. In between piling kernels in their mouths, the kids stomped in the water and slid on the ice behind us that had accumulated at the base of a mountain of plowed snow.

This wasn’t the type of protest that drew the media or police in riot gear. The only law enforcement present was a lone Sheriff’s deputy who was on hand to escort us across the highway from the muddy field we parked in to our assigned area. He stayed just long enough to see the bulk of us across and then drove off with a nod and a wave. The only pictures taken – outside of the ones the group took themselves – were by a pink haired woman who slowed down in the median to snap a few pictures with her camera phone.

"Who said we weren’t going to get any press," I said as she drove away.

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The recent revelation that the Israelis had obtained classified information relating to the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program should not really surprise anyone. Israel has invested a great deal of political capital in confronting Iran and convincing the American public that it poses a genuine threat. So, it would be a given that its intelligence service, Mossad, would be tasked with finding out what information is not being shared by the White House.

But the truly intriguing back-story to this development is, “how did the Israelis do it and with whom exactly did they share their information?” The information obtained was described by the White House as “eavesdropping,” which would suggest some sort of electronic interception. But as the meetings undoubtedly took place in a technically secured room, which means that it was electronically “swept” before, during, and after meetings, the conversations could not be picked up either from bugs planted inside – which would be detected – or from penetration techniques originating outside, which is possible but would require a major deployment of high-tech gear close to the target.

Eliminating a “sigint” source suggests that the intelligence was either obtained from careless conversations on unsecured phones (possible but unlikely given the tightened security in response to recent flaps over such use), or through a spy in the room feeding the information to the Israelis. A spy is, regrettably, more likely and one has to wonder if the leaker was/is part of the American delegation because the information appears to be of such a nature as to come from US sources. This would mean that the American negotiating team has been penetrated by the Israelis.

And the other issue is, of course, the question of who in Congress received the stolen information during the regular briefings that Israeli embassy staff, including intelligence officers, give to legislators on Capitol Hill. Did they know or suspect that what they were being told was obtained through Israeli espionage? Did it occur to them that the Israeli narrative on what was taking place differed in detail from what they were hearing from the White House, suggesting that something was afoot? Deference to Israeli interests is normal in many in Congress, perhaps all too normal, but a lack of awareness of the American interests at stake in the game constitutes malfeasance at a much higher level.

Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

The charges leveled against freed POW Sgt Bowe Bergdahl this week are making less and less sense the more details of Army reports emerge, as the Army had apparently concluded that Bergdahl did none of the things he’s being charged with.

Bergdahl is facing two main charges, desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The later was seen as particularly strange at the time, since the Army had already cleared him of misconduct during his near five years as a hostage months prior.

The latest details are that the Army report explicitly says Bergdahl never intended to desert, either. Bergdahl left his outpost in July 2009 to report wrongdoing, planning to walk to the nearest base to report it to senior officials.

The details of what he intended to report still haven’t come to light, but officials called them “disturbing circumstances,” adding that he “wasn’t planning to desert.” Charging him with desertion, then, makes no sense at all.

Hawks were objecting to the POW exchange last year when it happened, and have attacked Bergdahl for getting captured in the first place. It seems that this political bias against him is fueling a lot of the momentum behind the charges, as the facts that have come to light so far don’t support the charges at all.

The Intercept has a great story this morning with confidential documents revealing the official TSA warning signs.  My favorite terrorist giveaway is “excessive complaints about  the screening process.”

Ya, that was the first trick my Al Qaeda buddies told me about how to finesse airport security prior to wreaking havoc aboard a flight.

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I have whacked TSA’s behavior detection program plenty of times in recent years. Here’s an outtake from a 2013 Washington Times op-ed:

Other TSA programs have also pointlessly harassed or subjugated Americans. Gerardo Hernandez, the TSA agent slain on Friday, was part of the agency’s “behavior-detection” program involving thousands of TSA agents who “chat down” passengers at airports and watch for “micro-expressions” that signal potential trouble. Though Mr. Hernandez may have been a model employee — competent, courteous and fair-minded — that program has failed to detect a single terrorist and has spurred the arrests of thousands of travelers.

More than 30 TSA agents complained in 2012 that the behavior-detection program at Boston’s Logan International Airport had become a “a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners, but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities,” The New York Times reported. The agents relied on “terrorist profiles” such as black guys wearing baseball caps backward or Hispanics traveling to Miami. In Honolulu, some behavior-detection agents were nicknamed “Mexicutioners” for their proclivity for harassing Mexican travelers.

The behavior-detection squad at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey engaged in such blatant stereotyping that it was derided as “Mexican hunters” by other TSA agents. Some behavior-detection officers complained that their supervisors pressured them to fabricate false charges against illegal aliens to justify reporting them to law enforcement. Last June, an inspector general slammed the behavior-detection program as a perennial flop, deriding the TSA for failing to develop “performance measures” or to “accurately assess” its effectiveness.

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I have clashed with TSA screeners plenty of times over the years.  I was cross-examined by a TSA “behavior detection” officer last year when returning from  the Free State Project Liberty Forum in New Hampshire:

As I was going through the TSA checkpoint last Sunday at the Manchester, NH airport, I was cross-examined by a TSA Behavior Detection Officer (BDO). The BDO engages in “chat-downs” of travelers to select which passengers are pulled aside for special searches or third-degree interrogation.

This BDO guy was a colicky, low-watt, middle-aged white guy who looked like he signed on with TSA after receiving a pension for spending 30 years writing parking tickets in some one-horse New England town.

He  asked if I was traveling on business or pleasure.

“Business.”

“What were doing in New Hampshire?” he grumbled.

“I was giving a speech on the TSA.”

“Huh.  How did it go?”

“It was a great audience. They seemed to really enjoy the speech.”

“Okay” –  and he shrugged and signaled I could move along.

I was waiting for his followup question – and I would have told him folks liked the speech because every person there despised his agency and would like to see him thrown out of his uniform and into the street.

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Here’s a vignette of a 2011 encounter at Baltimore-Washington Airport:

I was traveling out to a conference in Las Vegas  when I got accosted at Baltimore Washington International Airport. The culprit had epaulets and more swagger than a second-term Arkansas congressman. All the women who had warned me for years that cigars would be my downfall were finally vindicated.

I was passing through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint. I was trying my damndest to be a good citizen. I had skipped going to the shooting range that morning so that my hands and shirt would not reek of cordite. I had double-checked to confirm I had not left any ammo clips in my carry-on bag. And I was not even wearing my favorite “Government Sux!” t-shirt. And I even took off my boots and send them down through the carry-on scanner.

I slipped through the magnetometer with nary a beep. But this tall prematurely balding TSA agent with bulging eyes stepped towards me, pointed, and bellowed: “WHAT’S THAT IN YOUR POCKET?!!?”

I glanced down at my shirt pocket. “It’s a cigar.”

He glared like he’d caught me smuggling a pipe bomb in my underwear.

“Let me see!!!” he barked as everyone with a 75-foot radius turned to look.

I handed it to him and explained: “It’s a brand called ‘Factory Throwouts.’ First time I tried ‘em – 20 bucks for 20 cigars, and free shipping. I like cheap cigars, but they’re too cheap even for me.”

He snorted and thrust it back at me. Perhaps he was suspicious because the cigar didn’t have a band wrapper. If it had been a Macanudo, he might have changed his attitude.

“WHAT ELSE YOU GOT IN THAT POCKET!?!”

“A business card.”

I retrieved it and showed it to him. He glanced at it the way an illiterate person looks at a map you hand him when you’re lost and seeking directions in some woebegone backwoods crossroads.

He eventually snorted that I could pass, but probably only because he couldn’t figure out whether my Cheshire Cat grin was moronic or seditious. After I passed, I turned and watched this guy for a few minutes. He was acting like a prison guard browbeating a bunch of convicts lined up to take a shower.

Following the late January guilty verdicts in the espionage trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, more proof emerged – if any more were needed – that many elite mainstream journalists abhor whistleblowers and think they should go to prison when they divulge classified information.

One would think that a business that has relied on confidential informants for some of the major investigative stories of this and the previous century would applaud whistleblowers who risk everything on behalf of the people’s right to know what its government is doing in the shadows. But looking back at cases over the last five years, we see the unedifying spectacle of some of the nation’s best-known print and broadcast journalists venting their outrage at whistleblowers’ disclosures and expressing their preference for being kept in the dark by the government in the name of national security.

Most recently, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, and an opinion writer for The Economist both weighed in critically against Sterling after his conviction. Pincus also strongly defended the integrity of the Operation Merlin program – details of which Sterling was accused of leaking to New York Times reporter James Risen – and contended that Risen gave an erroneous portrayal of portions of the program in his 2006 book “State of War.” (More about these later.)

Sterling, who has never admitted leaking any classified information, nevertheless with his conviction joined the ranks of those whistleblowers and conduits for whistleblowers who have come under fire from prominent journalists for disclosing classified information to the press – e.g., Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, and others.

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To debunk the distortions of warmongers is not to defend tyranny.


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Nuland distributes bread to protesters next to U.S. Ambassador Pyatt at Independence square in Kiev

How should libertarians assess the crisis in Ukraine? Some would have us believe that a true commitment to liberty entails (1) glorifying the “Euromaidan revolution” and the government it installed in Kiev, (2) welcoming, excusing, or studiously ignoring US involvement with that revolution and government, and (3) hysterically demonizing Vladimir Putin and his administration for Russia’s involvement in the affair. Since Ron Paul refuses to follow this formula or to remain silent on the issue, these “NATO-tarians,” as Justin Raimondo refers to them, deride him as an anti-freedom, anti-American, shill for the Kremlin.

Dr. Paul takes it all in stride of course, having endured the same kind of smears and dishonest rhetorical tricks his entire career. As he surely knows, the price of being a principled anti-interventionist is eternal patience. Still, it must be frustrating. After all he has done to teach Americans about the evils of empire and the bitter fruits of intervention, there are still legions of self-styled libertarians whose non-interventionism seems to go little further than admitting that the Iraq War was “a mistake,” and who portray opposition to US hostility against foreign governments as outright support for those governments.

“Yes, the Iraq War was clearly a mistake, but we have to confront Putin; we can’t let Iran ‘get nukes;’ we’ve got to save the Yazidis on the mountain; we must crush ISIS, et cetera, et cetera. What are you, a stooge of the Czar/Ayatollah/Caliph?”

Some of these same libertarians supported Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, and presumably laughed along with the rest of us when the neocons tried to paint him as “pro-Saddam” for opposing the Iraq War and for debunking the lies and distortions that were used to sell it. Yet, today they do not hesitate to tar Dr. Paul as a “confused Pro-Putin libertarian” over his efforts to oppose US/NATO interventions in Ukraine and against Russia. Such tar has been extruded particularly profusely by an eastern-European-heavy faction of Students for Liberty which might be dubbed “Students for Collective Security.”

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