WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pointing out that individuals awaiting trial (pretrial detainees) are particularly vulnerable to government abuse and should not be forced to prove that their alleged abusers intended to harm them in order to claim their rights were violated, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to remove restrictions some courts have imposed on civil rights lawsuits for excessive force by inmates against jail personnel, thereby discouraging the use of excessive force by prison officials. The case of Kingsley v. Hendrickson involves a Wisconsin man who alleges that he was subjected to unreasonable and excessive force in reckless disregard for his safety when prison guards forcibly removed him from his jail cell and subdued with a stun gun.

The Rutherford Institute's amicus brief in Kingsley v. Hendrickson is available at www.rutherford.org.

"In a police state, there is no need for judges, juries or courts of law, because the police act as judge, jury and law, and their version of justice is one-sided, delivered at the end of a gun, taser or riot stick," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. "Unless the courts and legislatures act soon to change this climate of government-sanctioned police brutality, we may find that there is no real difference between those who are innocent, those accused of committing crimes and those found guilty, because we will all suffer the same at the hands of government agents."

In 2010, Michael Kingsley was arrested and booked into the jail in Sparta, Wisconsin, and detained there pending his court appearances on the charges against him. About one month into his detention, guards noticed that a sheet of yellow paper was covering the light above Kingsley's bed, which was a common practice among detainees in order to dim the brightness of the facilities lights. The guards ordered Kingsley to remove the paper, but he refused, pointing out that he had not put the paper over the light. The next morning, Kingsley was again ordered to remove the paper and again he refused. The jail administrator was then called, who told Kingsley he would be transferred to another cell. Five officers then came to the cell and ordered Kingsley to stand up. Kingsley protested that he had done nothing wrong, but was told to follow the order or he would be tasered. Kingsley continued to lie face down on his bunk but put his hands behind his back and was handcuffed. The officers then pulled Kingsley off the bunk, which allegedly caused injuries to his knees and feet and inflicted pain so severe Kingsley could not stand or walk. The officers then carried him to a receiving cell, placed him face down on a bunk and attempted to remove the handcuffs. Although Kingsley denied that he resisted, the officers allegedly smashed his head into the concrete bunk and placed a knee into his back. When Kingsley told the officer to get off him, one of the officers tasered Kingsley for five seconds. As a result of this incident, Kingsley sued several officers involved, alleging that they used excessive force against him and that this violated his constitutional right to due process. The jury ruled against Kingsley, who subsequently lost his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Affiliate attorney Stephen J. Neuberger of The Neuberger Firm assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in the amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

"The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway, and jail official. The framers would be appalled." - Herman Schwartz, The Nation

Our freedoms - especially the Fourth Amendment - are being choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, Taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases - these are just a few ways in which Americans are being forced to accept that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials.

Worse, on a daily basis, Americans are being made to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are - our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.) - to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States: We are all guilty until proven innocent.

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked a federal court to reject a request by health officials to dismiss a Fourth Amendment lawsuit filed on behalf of a 37-year-old disabled man who was wrongfully arrested, strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having "mental health issues," apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait, and subsequently locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will and with no access to family and friends.

In asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to reject a motion to dismiss filed by the Valley Community Services Board (VCSB) and one of its mental health screeners, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that the screener violated clearly established law protecting citizens from unjustified mental health seizures when she allegedly recommended that Gordon Goines, a resident of Waynesboro who suffers from a neurological condition similar to multiple sclerosis, be committed as mentally ill and dangerous. A subsequent hearing showed that Goines has no mental illness and should not have been confined. The lawsuit alleges that the VCSB should be held responsible and liable for the deprivation of Goines' Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights because it allows unqualified persons to make mental health examinations.

The Institute's complaint in Gordon Goines v. David Shaw et al., is available at www.rutherford.org.

"By giving government officials the power to declare individuals mentally ill and detain them against their will without first ensuring that they are actually trained to identify such illness, the government has opened the door to a system in which involuntary detentions can be used to make people disappear," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of the award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. "Indeed, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally."

Gordon Goines resides in Waynesboro and suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition similar to multiple or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrigs disease. As a result, Goines has difficulty at times with his balance, causing him to walk unsteadily, speaks slowly and with a slur and has problems with fine motor skills. Goines has no cognitive impairment, is of above-average intelligence, and acutely aware of what is happening around him. The complaint alleges that on May 15, 2014, Goines was having problems with his cable television reception, including disconnections and extremely loud line noise and signals, and called the cable company for assistance. A technician determined that a neighbor had spliced into Goines cable and recommended Goines contact police about the theft. Goines walked across the street to the Waynesboro Police Dept. and reported the theft to one officer, who called on two other officers to follow Goines home and investigate his complaint. However, the first officer reported that Goines was having "mental health issues." The officers then proceeded to question Goines about his  "mental health issues"; Goines told them he did not have any mental health problems. The officers then asked Goines if he wanted to go talk to someone; believing they meant about the cable theft, Goines told them he did. The officers then handcuffed him and transported Goines, who pleaded to be taken home, to Augusta County Medical Center. After he arrived, he was examined by an employee of VCSB who concluded that Goines suffered from a psychotic condition and a petition for Goines' involuntary detention was filed as a result.

According to the complaint, the VCSB screener was not a licensed medical professional, clinical psychologist or social worker and so lacked the required training to diagnose mental disorders. The petition was granted and Goines was committed to Crossroads Mental Health Center and held against his will and without access to family and friends until May 20, 2014, when a subsequent hearing found that Goines had no mental illness and should not be confined. Affiliate attorney Timothy Coffield is assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Goines.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

By John W. Whitehead
February 16, 2015

"You had to live?did live, from habit that became instinct?in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."?George Orwell, 1984

None of us are perfect. All of us bend the rules occasionally. Even before the age of overcriminalization, when the most upstanding citizen could be counted on to break at least three laws a day without knowing it, most of us have knowingly flouted the law from time to time.

Indeed, there was a time when most Americans thought nothing of driving a few miles over the speed limit, pausing (rather than coming to a full stop) at a red light when making a right-hand turn if no one was around, jaywalking across the street, and letting their kid play hookie from school once in a while. Of course, that was before the era of speed cameras that ticket you for going even a mile over the posted limit, red light cameras that fine you for making safe "rolling stop" right-hand turns on red, surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software mounted on street corners, and school truancy laws that fine parents for "unexcused" absences.

My, how times have changed.

Today, there's little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence?especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home. That's because technology?specifically the technology employed by the government against the American citizenry?has upped the stakes dramatically so that there's little we do that is not known by the government.

In such an environment, you're either a paragon of virtue, or you're a criminal.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we're all criminals. This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you're walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. As I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this doesn't even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Thwarting efforts to learn how and when these devices are being used against an unsuspecting populace, the FBI is insisting that any inquiries about the use of the technology be routed to the agency "in order to allow sufficient time for the FBI to intervene to protect the equipment/technology and information from disclosure and potential compromise."

Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants and are being challenged in court. One case in particular, United States v Denson, examines how the Fourth Amendment interacts with the government's use of radar technology to peer inside a suspect's home. As Judge Neil Gorsuch recognizes in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling in the case, "New technologies bring with them not only new opportunities for law enforcement to catch criminals but also new risks for abuse and new ways to invade constitutional rights."

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. However, it seems these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Recent reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a "vehicle surveillance database" of the nation's cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and "public space" cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It's all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of "pre-crime" cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for "normal" behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being "suspicious."

Capitalizing on a series of notorious abductions of college-aged students, several states are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person's cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Radar guns have long been the speed cop's best friend, allowing him to hide out by the side of the road, identify speeding cars, and then radio ahead to a police car, which does the dirty work of pulling the driver over and issuing a ticket. Never mind that what this cop is really doing is using an electronic device to search your car without a search warrant, violating the Fourth Amendment and probable cause. Yet because it's a cash cow for police and the governments they report to, it's a practice that is not only allowed but encouraged. Indeed, developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. No word yet on whether the technology will also be able to detect the contents of that text message.

It's a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty surprises. Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras?made possible by funding from the Department of Justice?will turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you'll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The "internet of things" refers to the growing number of "smart" appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there's a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung's Smart TVs are capable of "listening" to what you say, thereby allow users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party.

Then again, the government doesn't really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Government surveillance of social media such as Twitter and Facebook is on the rise. Americans have become so accustomed to the government overstepping its limits that most don't even seem all that bothered anymore about the fact that the government is spying on our emails and listening in on our phone calls.

Drones, which will begin to take to the skies en masse this year, will be the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. This means drones that can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

And then there's the Internet and cell phone kill switch, which enables the government to shut down Internet and cell phone communications without Americans being given any warning. It's a practice that has been used before in the U.S., albeit in a limited fashion. In 2005, cell service was disabled in four major New York tunnels (reportedly to avert potential bomb detonations via cell phone). In 2009, those attending President Obama's inauguration had their cell signals blocked (again, same rationale). And in 2011, San Francisco commuters had their cell phone signals shut down (this time, to thwart any possible protests over a police shooting of a homeless man).

It's a given that the government's tactics are always more advanced than we know, so there's no knowing what new technologies are already being deployed against without our knowledge. Certainly, by the time we learn about a particular method of surveillance or new technological gadget, it's a sure bet that the government has been using it covertly for years already. And if other governments are using a particular technology, you can bet that our government used it first. For instance, back in 2011, it was reported that the government of Tunisia was not only monitoring the emails of its citizens but was actually altering the contents of those emails in order to thwart dissidents. How much do you want to bet that government agents have already employed such tactics in the U.S.?

Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we're approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between obeying the dictates of the government?i.e., the law, or whatever a government officials deems the law to be?and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.

When people talk about privacy, they mistakenly assume it protects only that which is hidden behind a wall or under one's clothing. The courts have fostered this misunderstanding with their constantly shifting delineation of what constitutes an "expectation of privacy." And technology has furthered muddied the waters.

However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one's life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life, and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it's no one's business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with, and how you spend your money.

Unfortunately, privacy as we once knew it is dead.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.

Thus, to be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government's roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.

Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw. This is the message in almost every dystopian work of fiction, from classic writers such as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury to more contemporary voices such as Margaret Atwood, Lois Lowry and Suzanne Collins.

How do you survive in the American police state?

We're running out of options. As Philip K. Dick, the visionary who gave us Minority Report and Blade Runner, advised:

"If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities."

This commentary is also available at www.rutherford.org.

"You're either a cop or little people." - Police captain Harry Bryant in Blade Runner

For those of us who managed to survive 2014 with our lives intact and our freedoms hanging by a thread, it was a year of crackdowns, clampdowns, shutdowns, showdowns, shootdowns, standdowns, knockdowns, putdowns, breakdowns, lockdowns, takedowns, slowdowns, meltdowns, and never-ending letdowns.

We've had our freedoms turned inside out, our democratic structure flipped upside down, and our house of cards left in shambles.

CHICAGO, Ill. ? At the urging of attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, a federal court has ordered a community college to cease its censorship and allow two social activists to hand out what might be perceived as "politically incorrect" informational flyers on campus. In granting the Institute's request for a preliminary injunction preventing Waubonsee Community College (WCC) from excluding Wayne Lela and John McCartney from campus, the court found that WCC discriminated against the activists on the basis of the content of their speech when it prohibited them from handing out leaflets for the organization Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment because the speech was not "consistent with the philosophy, goals and mission of the college." In holding that WCC's actions inflicted irreparable harm upon the activists, U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman noted, "provocative speech is entitled to the same protection as speech promoting popular notions." As an attorney, Judge Gettleman successfully defended the Nazis' right to march in their landmark free speech case against the Village of Skokie.

The U.S. District Court's opinion in Lela v. Waubonsee Community College is available at www.rutherford.org.

"University campuses once served as the breeding ground for much of the protests that gave rise to needed change in the 1960s?protests that altered the conscience of our nation and created a legacy for future dissenters," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: the Emerging American Police State. "We are pleased that the district court recognized the value of free speech, provocative or not, in our society. If college administrators today were allowed to have their way, college campuses would be little more than breeding grounds for compliant citizens content to speak only when spoken to, on politically correct topics guaranteed not to cause disruption or disagreement, and in Orwellian areas designated as free speech zones."

Waubonsee Community College is a two-year public institution located in Sugar Grove, Illinois. In January 2014, Wayne Lela contacted WCC officials about his desire to distribute informational leaflets on the WCC campus. He was asked to provide copies of the leaflets he proposed to hand out and provided copies of flyers from Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (HOME). The flyers reflect HOME's views about heterosexuality and homosexuality, their concerns about the impact the political climate has had on religious liberty and free speech rights, and their response to what they perceived as propaganda used to discredit those opposed to same-sex marriage. Lela subsequently received a letter denying his request to pass out flyers based on the fact that WCC "limits campus activities to events that are not disruptive of the college's education mission." Later correspondence justified the denial of access because the flyers violate WCC's policies on solicitation, use of college facilities, and ethics.

In the lawsuit against WCC and the subsequent motion for a preliminary injunction, Rutherford Institute attorneys argued the policy making the campus available for use by non-college groups provided the use is "consistent with the philosophy, goals and mission of the college" constitutes impermissible viewpoint discrimination on its face. Additionally, Institute attorneys asserted that WCC discriminated against Lela and McCartney because it forbade them from passing out flyers on the campus because of the viewpoints expressed in the flyers. The complaint also alleged that WCC's policies are unconstitutionally vague by giving unfettered discretion to college officials to determine who may or may not speak on the campus.

Affiliate attorneys Whitman H. Briksy and Noel W. Sterett of Mauck & Baker, LLC, are assisting The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Lela and McCartney's constitutional rights.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

WASHINGTON, D.C. ?In a 7-2 ruling in Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the federal government's attempts to eviscerate protections for employee speech under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). In upholding a federal air marshal's claim that he was improperly fired by the Transportation Security Administration after he leaked to the media a plan by the TSA to remove air marshals from long distance flights as a cost-savings measure, the justices affirmed a lower court ruling that federal agencies may not issue regulations that remove the protections of the WPA for certain information, requiring exemptions be specifically approved by Congress.

In an amicus curiae brief filed in the case, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute argued that government agencies should not have the power to unilaterally determine what kind of information federal employees are forbidden from disclosing, asserting that this would further tip the balance toward agencies, allowing them to exploit their rulemaking powers to target legitimate whistleblowers acting in the interest of public safety.

The Supreme Court's opinion and The Rutherford Institute's amicus brief in DHS v. MacLean are available at www.rutherford.org.

"Ironically, while the Department of Homeland Security continues to push its 'See Something, Say Something' campaign urging Americans to report suspicious behavior to the police, call it in to a government hotline, or report it using a convenient app on their smart phone, the government doesn't take kindly to having its dirty deeds publicized and, God forbid, being made to account for them," said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. "Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the Obama administration, whose actions, ranging from its reliance on secret courts, secret laws and secret surveillance in order to sidestep the rule of law to its relentless pursuit of whistleblowers, fly in the face of its claims of transparency."

Having formerly served in the U.S. Air Force and as a border patrol agent, Robert J. MacLean volunteered to serve as an air marshal in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Air marshals are federal law enforcement agents who travel undercover aboard commercial airliners. In July 2003, MacLean and other air marshals were briefed about a specific and imminent terrorist threat to long-distance flights. Despite the warning, less than three days later, MacLean and other air marshals received a text message from their superiors cancelling all overnight missions, thereby removing air marshals from long-distance flights. Believing the text message to be a mistake, MacLean contacted his superiors who confirmed the message and told MacLean this was being done to save money on overnight hotels, overtime and other travel allowances. After failed attempts to raise his concerns with independent investigators, MacLean alerted an MSNBC reporter to the government's plan to remove air marshals from many flights. The news report aired without identifying MacLean. The story produced outrage in Congress, and the DHS soon rescinded its order. MacLean's role as a whistleblower was revealed three years later, at which time, the TSA fired him for disclosing "sensitive security information" (SSI). Although the text message removing air marshals from long distance flights was not classified as SSI when it was sent, the DHS issued an order classifying it as SSI retroactively. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided with MacLean, ruling that he was entitled to argue that he was protected by whistleblower laws after he was fired by the TSA in 2006. However, lawyers for the Obama administration disputed that ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming that it effectively permits individual federal employees to override the TSA's judgments about the dangers of public disclosure.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

"Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards." - Aldous Huxley, Ends & Means

If 2014 was the year of militarized police, armored tanks, and stop-and-frisk searches, 2015 may well be the year of technologized police, surveillance blimps, and scan-and-frisk searches.

Just as we witnessed neighborhood cops being transformed into soldier cops, we're about to see them shapeshift once again, this time into robocops, complete with robotic exoskeletons, super-vision contact lenses, computer-linked visors, and mind-reading helmets.

Similarly, just as military equipment created for the battlefield has been deployed on American soil against American citizens, we're about to see military technology employed here at home in a manner sure to annihilate what's left of our privacy and Fourth Amendment rights.

For instance, with the flick of a switch (and often without your even being aware of the interference), police can now shut down your cell phone, scan your body for "suspicious" items as you walk down the street, test the air in your car for alcohol vapors as you drive down the street, identify you at a glance and run a background check on you for outstanding warrants, piggyback on your surveillance devices to listen in on your conversations and "see" what you see on your private cameras, and track your car's movements via a GPS-enabled dart.

That doesn't even begin to scrape the surface of what's coming down the pike, with law enforcement and military agencies boasting technologies so advanced as to render everything up until now mere child's play.

Once these technologies, which used to belong exclusively to the realm of futuristic sci-fi films, have been unleashed on an unsuspecting American public, it will completely change the face of American policing and, in the process, transform the landscape of what we used to call our freedoms.

It doesn't even matter that these technologies can be put to beneficial uses. As we've learned the hard way, once the government gets involved, it's only a matter of time before the harm outweighs the benefits.

Imagine self-guided "smart" bullets that can track their target as it moves, solar-powered airships that provide persistent wide-area surveillance and tracking of ground "targets," a grenade launcher that can deliver 14 flash-bang rounds, invisible tanks that can blend into their surroundings and masquerade as a snow bank or a soccer mom's station wagon, and a guided mortar weapon that can target someone up to 12 miles away.

Or what about "less lethal weapons" such as the speech-jammer gun, which can render a target tongue-tied; sticky foam guns, which shoot foam that hardens on contact, immobilizing the victim; and shock-wave generators, which use the shockwaves from a controlled explosion to knock people over.

Now imagine trying to defend yourself against such devices, which are incapable of distinguishing between an enemy combatant and a civilian. For that matter, imagine attempting to defend yourself or your loved ones against police officers made superhuman thanks to technology that renders them bullet-proof, shatter-proof, all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

Does rendering a government agent superhuman make them inhuman, as well - unable to relate to the mass of humanity they are sworn to protect and defend?

Pointing out that the clothes people wear can affect how they act, Salon.com reporter Geordie McRuer notes that "when clothing has symbolic meaning - such as a uniform that is worn only by a certain profession - it prepares the mind for the pursuit of goals that are consistent with the symbolic meaning of the clothing."

McRuer continues: "When we dress our police officers in camouflage before deploying them to a peaceful protest, the result will be police who think more like soldiers. This likely includes heightening their perception of physical threats, and increasing the likelihood that they react to those threats with violence. Simply put, dressing police up like soldiers potentially changes how they see a situation, changing protesters into enemy combatants, rather than what they are: civilians exercising their democratic rights. ...

"When police wear soldiers' clothing, and hold soldiers' weapons, it primes them to think and act like soldiers. Furthermore, clothing that conceals their identity - such as the helmets, gas masks, goggles, body armor, and riot shields that are now standard-issue for officers at peaceful protests - will increase the likelihood that officers react aggressively to the situation. As a result of the fact that they are also dressed like soldiers, they are more likely to interpret the situation as hostile and will more readily identify violence as the best solution."

While robocops are troubling enough, the problem we're facing is so much greater than technology-enhanced domestic soldiers.

We're on the cusp of a major paradigm shift from fascism disguised as a democracy into a technocratic surveillance society in which there are no citizens, only targets. We're all targets now, to be scanned, surveilled, tracked, and treated like blips on a screen.

What's taking place in Maryland right now is a perfect example of this shift. With Congress' approval and generous funding (and without the consensus of area residents), the Army has just launched two massive, billion-dollar surveillance airships into the skies over Baltimore, each three times the size of a Goodyear blimp, ostensibly to defend against cruise-missile attacks. Government officials claim the surveillance blimps, which provide highly detailed radar imaging within a 340-mile radius, are not presently being used to track individuals or carry out surveillance against citizens, but it's only a matter of time before that becomes par for the course.

In New York, police will soon start employing mobile scanners that allow them to scan people on the street to detect any hidden object under their clothes, be it a gun, a knife, or anything else that appears "suspicious." The scanners will also let them carry out enhanced data collection in the field - fingerprints, iris scans, facial mapping - which will build the government's biometric database that much faster. These scanners are a more-mobile version of the low-radiation X-ray vans used to scan the contents of passing cars.

Google Glass, being considered for use by officers, would allow police to access computer databases, as well as run background checks on and record anyone in their line of sight.

One program, funded by $160 million in asset-forfeiture funds, would equip police officers and vehicles with biometric smartphones that can scan individuals' fingerprints and cross-check them against criminal databases. The devices will also contain real-time 911 data; warrant information from federal, state, and city databases; photographs of missing persons, suspects, Crime Stoppers posters, and other persons of interest; and the latest cache of information on terror suspects.

Stand-off lasers can detect alcohol vapors in a moving car: "If alcohol vapors are detected in the car, a message with a photo of the car including its license plate is sent to a police officer waiting down the road. Then, the police officer stops the car and checks for signs of alcohol using conventional tests."

Ekin Patrol cameras, described as "the first truly intelligent patrol unit in the world," can not only detect the speed of passing cars but can generate tickets instantaneously; recognize and store the license plates of stopped, moving, or parked vehicles; measure traffic density and violation data; and engage in facial recognition of drivers and passengers.

Collectively, all of these gizmos, gadgets, and surveillance devices render us not just suspects in a surveillance state but also inmates in an electronic concentration camp. As journalist Lynn Stuart Parramore notes: "The Information Age ... has turned out rather differently than many expected. Instead of information made available for us, the key feature seems to be information collected about us. Rather of granting us anonymity and privacy with which to explore a world of facts and data, our own data is relentlessly and continually collected and monitored. The wondrous things that were supposed to make our lives easier - mobile devices, Gmail, Skype, GPS, and Facebook - have become tools to track us, for whatever purposes the trackers decide. We have been happily shopping for the bars to our own prisons, one product at a time."

Unfortunately, eager for progress and ill-suited to consider the moral and spiritual ramifications of our planned obsolescence, we have yet to truly fathom what it means to live in an environment in which we are always on red alert, always under observation, and always having our actions measured, judged, and found wanting under some law or other intrusive government regulation.

There are those who are not at all worried about this impending future, certain that they have nothing to hide. Rest assured, soon we will all have nowhere to hide from the prying eyes of a government bound and determined to know everything about us - where we go, what we do, what we say, what we read, what we keep in our pockets, how much money we have on us, how we spend that money, who we know, what we eat and drink, and where we are at any given moment. The government is also prepared to use that information against us, whenever it becomes convenient and profitable to do so.

Making the case that we're being transformed as citizens, neighbors, and human beings, Parramore identifies six factors arising from a society in which surveillance becomes the norm: a shift in power dynamics, in which the "watcher" becomes all-seeing and all-powerful; an incentive to turn citizens into outlaws by criminalizing otherwise lawful activities; diminished citizenship; an environment of suspicion and paranoia; a divided society composed of the watchers and the watched; and "a society of edgy, unhappy beings whose sense of themselves is chronically diminished."

As Parramore rightly concludes, this is "not exactly a recipe for Utopia."

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute (Rutherford.org). His award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State is available online at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

"You're either a cop or little people."?Police captain Harry Bryant in Blade Runner

For those of us who have managed to survive 2014 with our lives intact and our freedoms hanging by a thread, it has been a year of crackdowns, clampdowns, shutdowns, showdowns, shootdowns, standdowns, knockdowns, putdowns, breakdowns, lockdowns, takedowns, slowdowns, meltdowns, and never-ending letdowns.

We've been held up, stripped down, faked out, photographed, frisked, fracked, hacked, tracked, cracked, intercepted, accessed, spied on, zapped, mapped, searched, shot at, tasered, tortured, tackled, trussed up, tricked, lied to, labeled, libeled, leered at, shoved aside, saddled with debt not of our own making, sold a bill of goods about national security, tuned out by those representing us, tossed aside, and taken to the cleaners.

As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we've had our freedoms turned inside out, our democratic structure flipped upside down, and our house of cards left in a shambles.

We've had our children burned by flashbang grenades, our dogs shot, and our old folks hospitalized after "accidental" encounters with marauding SWAT teams. We've been told that as citizens we have no rights within 100 miles of our own border, now considered "Constitution-free zones." We've had our faces filed in government databases, our biometrics crosschecked against criminal databanks, and our consumerist tendencies catalogued for future marketing overtures.

We've been given the runaround on government wrongdoing, starting with President Obama's claim that the National Security Agency has never abused its power to spy on Americans' phone calls and emails. All the while, the NSA has been racing to build a supercomputer that could break through "every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world." Despite the fact that the NSA's domestic surveillance program has been shown to be ineffective at preventing acts of terrorism, the agency continues to vacuum up almost 200 million text messages a day.

We've seen the police transformed from community peacekeepers to point guards for the militarized corporate state. From Boston to Ferguson and every point in between, police have pushed around, prodded, poked, probed, scanned, shot and intimidated the very individuals?we the taxpayers?whose rights they were hired to safeguard. Networked together through fusion centers, police have surreptitiously spied on our activities and snooped on our communications, using hi-tech devices provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

We've been deemed suspicious for engaging in such dubious activities as talking too long on a cell phone and stretching too long before jogging, dubbed extremists and terrorists for criticizing the government and suggesting it is tyrannical or oppressive, and subjected to forced colonoscopies and anal probes for allegedly rolling through a stop sign.

We've been arrested for all manner of "crimes" that never used to be considered criminal, let alone uncommon or unlawful, behavior: letting our kids walk to the playground alone, giving loose change to a homeless man, feeding the hungry, and living off the grid.

We've been sodomized, victimized, jeopardized, demoralized, traumatized, stigmatized, vandalized, demonized, polarized and terrorized, often without having done anything to justify such treatment. Blame it on a government mindset that renders us guilty before we've even been charged, let alone convicted, of any wrongdoing. In this way, law-abiding individuals have had their homes mistakenly raided by SWAT teams that got the address wrong. One accountant found himself at the center of a misguided police standoff after surveillance devices confused his license plate with that of a drug felon.

We've been railroaded into believing that our votes count, that we live in a democracy, that elections make a difference, that it matters whether we vote Republican or Democrat, and that our elected officials are looking out for our best interests. Truth be told, we live in an oligarchy, politicians represent only the profit motives of the corporate state, whose leaders know all too well that there is no discernible difference between red and blue politics, because there is only one color that matters in politics?green.

We've gone from having privacy in our inner sanctums to having nowhere to hide, with smart pills that monitor the conditions of our bodies, homes that spy on us (with smart meters that monitor our electric usage and thermostats and light switches that can be controlled remotely) and cars that listen to our conversations and track our whereabouts. Even our cities have become wall-to-wall electronic concentration camps, with police now able to record hi-def video of everything that takes place within city limits.

We've had our schools locked down, our students handcuffed, shackled and arrested for engaging in childish behavior such as food fights, our children's biometrics stored, their school IDs chipped, their movements tracked, and their data bought, sold and bartered for profit by government contractors, all the while they are treated like criminals and taught to march in lockstep with the police state.

We've been rendered enemy combatants in our own country, denied basic due process rights, held against our will without access to an attorney or being charged with a crime, and left to molder in jail until such a time as the government is willing to let us go or allow us to defend ourselves.

We've had the very military weapons we funded with our hard-earned tax dollars used against us, from unpiloted, weaponized drones tracking our movements on the nation's highways and byways and armored vehicles, assault rifles, sound cannons and grenade launchers in towns with little to no crime to an arsenal of military-grade weapons and equipment given free of charge to schools and universities.

We've been silenced, censored and forced to conform, shut up in free speech zones, gagged by hate crime laws, stifled by political correctness, muzzled by misguided anti-bullying statutes, and pepper sprayed for taking part in peaceful protests.

We've been shot by police for reaching for a license during a traffic stop, reaching for a baby during a drug bust, carrying a toy sword down a public street, and wearing headphones that hamper our ability to hear.

We've had our tax dollars spent on $30,000 worth of Starbucks for Dept. of Homeland Security employees, $630,000 in advertising to increase Facebook "likes" for the State Dept., and close to $25 billion to fund projects ranging from the silly to the unnecessary, such as laughing classes for college students and programs teaching monkeys to play video games and gamble.

We've been treated like guinea pigs, targeted by the government and social media for psychological experiments on how to manipulate the masses. We've been tasered for talking back to police, tackled for taking pictures of police abuses, and threatened with jail time for invoking our rights. We've even been arrested by undercover cops stationed in public bathrooms who interpret men's "shaking off" motions after urinating to be acts of lewdness.

We've had our possessions seized and stolen by law enforcement agencies looking to cash in on asset forfeiture schemes, our jails privatized and used as a source of cheap labor for megacorporations, our gardens smashed by police seeking out suspicious-looking marijuana plants, and our buying habits turned into suspicious behavior by a government readily inclined to view its citizens as terrorists.

We've had our cities used for military training drills, with Black Hawk helicopters buzzing the skies, Urban Shield exercises overtaking our streets, and active shooter drills wreaking havoc on unsuspecting bystanders in our schools, shopping malls and other "soft target" locations.

We've been told that national security is more important than civil liberties, that police dogs' noses are sufficient cause to carry out warrantless searches, that the best way not to get raped by police is to "follow the law," that what a police officer says in court will be given preference over what video footage shows, that an upright posture and acne are sufficient reasons for a cop to suspect you of wrongdoing, that police can stop and search a driver based solely on an anonymous tip, and that police officers have every right to shoot first and ask questions later if they feel threatened.

Now there are those who still insist that they are beyond the reach of the police state because they have done nothing wrong and have nothing to fear. To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning: the danger posed by the American police state applies equally to all of us: lawbreaker and law abider alike, black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, and any other distinction you'd care to trot out.

The lesson of 2014 is simply this: in a police state, you're either a cop or you're one of the little people. Right now, we are the little people, the servants, the serfs, the grunts who must obey without question or suffer the consequences.

If there is to be any hope in 2015 for restoring our freedoms and reclaiming our runaway government, we will have to start by breathing life into those three powerful words that set the tone for everything that follows in the Constitution: "we the people."

It's time to stop waiting patiently for change to happen and, as Gandhi once advised, be the change you want to see in the world.

Get mad, get outraged, get off your duff and get out of your house, get in the streets, get in people's faces, get down to your local city council, get over to your local school board, get your thoughts down on paper, get your objections plastered on protest signs, get your neighbors, friends and family to join their voices to yours, get your representatives to pay attention to your grievances, get your kids to know their rights, get your local police to march in lockstep with the Constitution, get your media to act as watchdogs for the people and not lapdogs for the corporate state, get your act together, and get your house in order.

In other words, get moving. Time is growing short, and the police state is closing in. Power to the people!

This commentary is also available at www.rutherford.org.

"The Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don't have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. We must either learn to live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools."?Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Christmas Eve sermon, 1967

As a child, my Christmas wish list came right out of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue?toys, board games, bikes, action figures, etc. My parents, like so many in their day, belonged to the working-class poor, so while I never lacked for the necessities of life, many of the items on my wish list never came to be. Even so, I was no worse off for it.

I wish the same could be said of those still unfulfilled items on my adult Christmas wish list. Each year, I wish for the same things?an end to war, poverty, hunger, violence and disease?and each year, I find the world relatively unchanged. Millions continue to die every year, casualties of a world that places greater value on war machines and profit margins than human life.

I've seen enough of the world in my 68 years to know that wishing is not enough. We need to be doing. It's not possible to solve all of the world's problems right away. For most people, putting an end to world hunger, poverty, disease and the police state may seem too insurmountable a task to even tackle. But as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, there are practical steps each of us can take to hopefully get things moving in the right direction. Here's what I would suggest for a start:

Tone down the partisan rhetoric, the "us" vs. "them" mentality. Politicians frequently perpetuate a "good" versus "evil," "us" versus "them" rhetoric which pits citizen against citizen and allows the politicians to advance their personal, political agendas. Instead of wasting time and resources on political infighting, which gets us nowhere, it's time Americans learned to work together to solve the problems before us. The best place to start is in your own communities, neighbor to neighbor. After all, at the end of the day, it makes no difference what politician you voted for?Republican, Democrat or otherwise?politics will never be the answer. Politicians have mastered the art of creating dissension, but they're all the same. Grassroots activism is the only kind of change you can count on.

Turn off the TV and tune into what's happening in your family, in your community and your world. Read your local newspaper. Attend a school board or city council meeting. Get involved with a nonprofit that works in your community. Whatever you do, reduce your intake of mindless television and entertainment news. The only reality programming worth taking notice of is the one playing in your home and community.

Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Increasingly, people seem to be forgetting their p's and q's?basic manners that were drilled into older generations. I'm talking about simple things like holding a door open for someone, helping someone stranded on the side of the road, and saying "please" and "thank you" to those who do you a service?whether it be to the teenager bagging your groceries or the family member who just passed the potatoes. As author Robert Heinlein observed, "A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot..."

Talk less, listen more. Take less, and give more. If people spent less time dwelling on and attending to their own needs and more time trying to help and understand those around them, many of the problems we currently face could be eliminated.

Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. We have moved into the Age of Entitlement, where more and more people feel entitled to certain benefits without having to work for them. There's nothing wrong with helping those less fortunate, but as my parents taught me, there's a lot to be said for an honest day's work.

Remember that all people are endowed with inalienable rights. I've heard a lot of chatter in recent years in favor of torturing detainees and denying basic rights to non-citizens, but doing so not only goes against everything that the U.S. is supposed to stand for, but it also goes against every principle common to all world religions?forgiveness, charity, nonjudgmentalism, nonviolence, etc. America cannot continue to lambast terrorist groups for their contempt for human life and dignity when our own nation violates these same principles time and again.

Stop being a hater. Increasingly, we as a society have come to reflect the hostility at work in the world at large. This is so even in such a virtual microcrosm as Facebook, where "unfriending" those with whom you might disagree has become commonplace. How can we ever hope to curb the hatred and animosity that have spurred global terrorism over the past few decades if we can't even forgive the human failings of those in our immediate circles?

Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. There's no need to legislate tolerance through hate crime legislation and other politically correct mechanisms of compliance. True tolerance stems from a basic respect for one's fellow man or woman. And it should be taught to children from the time they can understand right from wrong.

Treat women like people, not things. If pop culture and the media are any reflection of how women and girls are viewed today?primarily as sex objects?then one can only wonder what exactly the women's rights movement has been doing in recent years. The use of sex and its impact on young girls is particularly troubling. As professor Henry A. Giroux observed: "Market strategists are increasingly using sexually charged images to sell commodities, often representing the fantasies of an adult version of sexuality. For instance, Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing franchise for young people, has earned a reputation for its risqué catalogues filled with promotional ads of scantily clad kids and its over-the-top sexual advice columns for teens and preteens; one catalogue featured an ad for thongs for ten-year-olds with the words 'eye candy' and 'wink wink' written on them. Another clothing store sold underwear geared toward teens with 'Who needs Credit Cards ...?' written across the crotch. Children as young as six years old are being sold lacy underwear, push-up bras and 'date night accessories' for their various doll collections. In 2006, the Tesco department store chain sold a pole dancing kit designed for young girls to unleash the sex kitten inside."

Value your family. The traditional family, such that it is, is already in great disrepair, torn apart by divorce, infidelity, overscheduling, overwork, materialism, and an absence of spirituality. Despite the billions we spend on childcare, toys, clothes, private lessons, etc., a concern for our children no longer seems to be a prime factor in how we live our lives. And now we are beginning to see the blowback from collapsing familial relationships. Indeed, more and more, I hear about young people refusing to talk to their parents, grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren, and older individuals left to molder away in nursing homes. Yet without the family, the true building block of our nation, there can be no freedom.

Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take part in local food drives. Take a meal to a needy family. "Adopt" an elderly person at a nursing home. Support the creation of local homeless shelters in your community. Urge your churches, synagogues and mosques to act as rotating thermal shelters for the homeless during the cold winter months.

Give peace a chance. So far, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers more than $4 trillion, and that doesn't even begin to approach the human cost in lives lost?military and civilian?and families rent asunder. The military industrial complex has a lot to gain financially so long as America continues to wage its wars at home and abroad, but you can be sure that the American people will lose everything unless we find some way to give peace a chance. We can start by bringing all of our men and women in uniform home.

Start your own teaspoon brigade. You don't have to solve all the world's problems single-handedly, nor do you have to solve them overnight. Little by little, you'll get there, but you have to start somewhere. It is up to each of us to do our part to make this a better world for all. As the legendary singer, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger once remarked to me:

I tell everybody a little parable about the "teaspoon brigades." Imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a big basket half full of rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air because it's got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us have teaspoons, and we are trying to fill it up. Most people are scoffing at us. They say, "People like you have been trying for thousands of years, but it is leaking out of that basket as fast as you are putting it in." Our answer is that we are getting more people with teaspoons every day. And we believe that one of these days or years?who knows?that basket of sand is going to be so full that you are going to see that whole seesaw going zoop! in the other direction. Then people are going to say, "How did it happen so suddenly?" And we answer, "Us and our little teaspoons over thousands of years."

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