Book Review: Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry

“There is a hidden country within the United States. It was formed from the astonishing number of secrets held by the government and the growing ranks of secret-keepers given charge over them.” So begins a synopsis of Deep State, a new book by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady.

While the book certainly delivers on dishing some of the stories surrounding past and present activities carried on in secret by the federal government, it does so in the form of a book that reads like an encomium rather than an indictment.

The accommodating and aggrandizing tone of the book is off-putting, especially in light of the publisher’s claim that “Deep State … disassembles the secrecy apparatus of the United States and examines real-world trends that ought to trouble everyone from the most aggressive hawk to the fiercest civil libertarian.”

From the first page, the authors seem smitten with the notion of painting with broad strokes the picture that there are “certain secrets necessary to defend the republic.”

Some of the hidden history laid out in Deep State includes the story of the surveillance program established by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the days after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Ambinder and Grady describe this warrantless wiretapping as “controversial” rather than with the word it deserves: unconstitutional.

The Fourth Amendment protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Any attempt by the NSA to monitor the electronic communication of an American without probable cause and without a warrant is a direct violation of that constitutional protection for a fundamental right.

Although this program is practically praised by the authors of Deep StateThe New American interviewed Thomas Drake, an eyewitness to the NSA’s assault on the Constitution.

Drake was a senior executive at the NSA who made the “mistake” of revealing to the Baltimore Sun that the NSA’s Trailblazer Project — intended to analyze data carried on in the United States and elsewhere through the Internet, cellphones, and e-mails — not only violated the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against unwarranted searches and seizures, but it was a “billion-dollar computer boondoggle.”

Other similar revelations found in Deep State include “how the increased exposure of secrets affects everything from Congressional budgets to Area 51, from Seal Team Six and Delta Force to the FBI, CIA, and NSA.”

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Obama Administration Responding to State Nullification: Intends to Press On with Obamacare

originally published at The New American Magazine

President Obama will not wait on states to enforce ObamaCare. The Obama administration has announced its intent to disregard state laws and state constitutional amendments prohibiting the enforcement of ObamaCare. Federal agents from the Department of Health and Human Services will assume absolute control over states’ health insurance industry and regulation in states that refuse to comply with the federal healthcare mandates.

In an exclusive telephone interview with The New American, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak reported that the his office has received a letter from Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) Deputy Administrator and Director Gary Cohen informing him that the federal government will impose ObamaCare regulations on insurance companies in Oklahoma. The CCIIO is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

According to a story in Politico, Doak’s colleagues in Missouri, Wyoming, and Texas have received these notifications, as well.

In a press release issue by his office after receiving Cohen’s letter, Doak writes that the “Oklahoma Insurance Department will not be participating in a collaborative effort with the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) to enforce the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”

Doak’s statement continues:

The Oklahoma Insurance Department regulates the health insurance policies sold in the state and responds to consumer questions and complaints. Our consumer assistance team receives over 30,000 phone calls and our website receives over 1,000,000 visits each year. We will continue to serve these consumers by adhering to our duties under the State Constitution and Statutes. The consumers are the ones who are going to bear the costs of these unnecessary federal regulatory burdens.

In addition to adding new fees to health insurance products that will increase prices both inside and outside the exchange, the ACA requires plans to add expensive and often unnecessary coverage benefits. These costs will impact young adults most severely due to the law’s requirement that older Americans pay no more than three times the premium of young adults. A survey of insurers by the American Action Forum found that average premiums for young, healthy adults may triple going into 2014.

“This is yet another example of continued overreach of the federal government on states’ rights,” Doak told The New American, when asked about the conflict. “This is the first shot over the bow of states” which have chosen not to enforce ObamaCare’s myriad mandates, he added.

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FAA Releases Expanded Drone License List

On February 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a fact sheet reporting that it has granted 1,428 drone licenses to entities in the United States. Of those, 327 are designated active.

There is no legal restriction on who can request a license to fly a drone and the FAA statement claims that typical purposes for the unmanned vehicles include “law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, search and rescue, military training, and other government operational missions.”

The FAA is hurrying to get all the licenses processed in order to meet the September 2015 deadline set by Congress for releasing the drones over the United States.

While there is no consensus on the number of drones that soon will begin buzzing over cities and towns in the United States, estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 of the powerful surveillance craft may begin their patrol in the domestic skies.

Of all the licenses approved by the FAA, the majority have been granted to local and state law enforcement.

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Compact for America Convention Bill Defeated in Arizona

The Compact for America’s drive to call a new constitutional convention was dealt a crushing blow in Arizona Monday.

By a vote of 3-6, Arizona HB 2328 was defeated by the House Rules Committee Monday.

This defeat must be particularly painful for the Compact for America considering it happened in the backyard of the Goldwater Institute — one of the compact’s chief supporters.

Standing before the committee for about 30 minutes, the committee’s legislative counsel, Tim Fleming, presented the outline of the con-con plan as set out in the Compact for America.

Numerous times, Fleming explained to members of the committee that the compact was unclear and led states into “unchartered territory” without the benefit of any “solid case law.”

Several of these shortcomings were additionally highlighted in questions put to Fleming by representatives on the committee.

For example, Representative Bruce Wheeler (D-District 10), asked Fleming whether delegates to the con-con created by the Compact for America would be allowed to propose amendments other than the balanced budget amendment that the Compact for America insists would be the only amendment allowed to be deliberated by the convention.

“I don’t know the answer to this,” Fleming responded, once again admitting the weaknesses of the Compact for America.

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Utah State Rep Introduces State Supremacy Firearms Act

originally published at The New American Magazine

Think Americans don’t care about the right to keep and bear arms? Think again.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 19, nearly 3,000 liberty-minded Americans disregarded temperatures in the single digits to express their opposition to impending federal gun control programs and their support for a state bill that will stop all such efforts at the borders of the Beehive State.

The legislation in question, the State Supremacy Firearms Act, is the work of first-time state representative Brian Greene (R-Pleasant Grove).

“The Utah Legislature knows what is best with respect to gun safety in our state,” Greene told the crowd gathered on the steps of the State Capitol.

Greene also shared with the rally a letter from the Utah Sheriffs’ Association to President Obama that informs the president that “no federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights — in particular Amendment 2 — has given them.”

The last line of the letter from the sheriffs brought the seriousness of the message home.

“And we are prepared,” the sheriffs write, “to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”

As The New American has reported, similar statements in defense of the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms are being issued by sheriffs all around the country.

In Utah, Representative Greene believes that sheriffs will arrest and detain any federal agent attempting to enforce any executive order or act of Congress that infringes on the right to purchase or possess firearms and ammunition.

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Oklahoma Legislator Joins Fight to Nullify ObamaCare

cross-posted from The New American Magazine

On January 16, Oklahoma State Representative Mike Ritze re-introduced a bill stopping the enforcement of ObamaCare at the borders of the Sooner State.

In a statement announcing the newest effort to protect citizens of Oklahoma from the devastating effects of the president’s healthcare law, Dr. Ritze quoted Thomas Jefferson is support of his right to reject unconstitutional federal acts. Said Ritze:

Thomas Jefferson made it perfectly clear in the Kentucky Resolution of 1799 when he wrote; “That if those who administer the general government be permitted to transgress the limits fixed by that compact, by a total disregard to the special delegations of power therein contained, annihilation of the state governments, and the erection upon their ruins, of a general consolidated government, will be the inevitable consequence.”

Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution plainly sets forth his understanding of the source of all federal power. Later in that document, Jefferson wrote:

That the several states who formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a nullification, by those sovereignties, of all unauthorized acts done under colour [sic] of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.

Simply stated, nullification is a concept of constitutional law that recognizes the right of each state to nullify, or invalidate, any federal measure that exceeds the few and defined powers allowed the federal government as enumerated in the Constitution.

Nullification is founded on the assertion that the sovereign states formed the union, and as creators of the compact, they hold ultimate authority as to the limits of the power of the central government to enact laws that are applicable to the states and the citizens thereof.

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Nevada Legislature to Consider NDAA-Nullifying Bill

On December 19, the Nevada chapters of People Against the National Defense Authorization Act (PANDA) announced the introduction of BDR 728, the Nevada Liberty Preservation Act. Sponsored by Nevada State Senator Don Gustavson, the bill will be presented to lawmakers in February, when the state legislature reconvenes.

In a statement announcing the impending introduction of the bill, the Nevada state coordinator for PANDA, Christopher Corbett, said,

I appreciate the community support backing up our efforts and the courage of those members of our governing bodies who are willing to actively protect the constitutional rights of their constituents. We need to restore the Constitutionally protected right to due process for every American.

Any day now, President Obama is expected to sign into law the 2013 version of the NDAA. The president signed the 2012 bill into law on December 31, 2011.

The NDAA contains several unconstitutional provisions that are opposed by a broad spectrum of political action groups.

For example, Sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2012 act declare the United States to be a battlefield in the “War on Terror” and authorize the president of the United States to deploy the armed forces to arrest and indefinitely detain any American he suspects of supporting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces.”

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Federalization of State Militias: Another Attack on the Second Amendment

Since the soul-shaking murder of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, one week ago, thousands of articles have been written calling for increased federal control over the right of an individual to own a gun. Such proposals are perhaps an expected though ineffectual and unconstitutional reaction to an event so horrific and inexplicable.

Of course, the right to “bear arms” is explicitly protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution and should not be subject to arbitrary and knee-jerk abridgment by those who wrongly believe that limiting access to weapons would effect a proportional decrease in violent crime.

There are many who insist that safety at school, specifically, and at home, generally, would increase were we to impose tighter restrictions on the ability to obtain firearms.

For example, in his statement following the rampage in Newtown, President Obama hinted that such stricter proposals will be forthcoming:

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South Carolina Bill Proposes Jail Time for Feds Trying to Enforce Obamacare

South Carolina may soon join the ranks of states struggling to reclaim their constitutional sovereignty stolen from them by the federal government.

On December 11, South Carolina State Representative William Chumley pre-filed a bill in the South Carolina General Assembly that would prevent the enforcement of ObamaCare within the borders of the Palmetto State.

Using language that would prohibit state officials from participating in the implementation of state healthcare exchanges or from enforcing the individual mandate that are key elements of ObamaCare, Chumley’s measure — the South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act — requires state lawmakers to “prevent the enforcement of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” [ObamaCare] within the limits of this state.”

South Carolina, a state with a long history of resisting federal despotism, joins three other states currently considering bills nullifying ObamaCare. The state legislatures of Maine, New Jersey, and Oklahoma have also had bills introduced aimed at stopping ObamaCare at the state border.

Simply stated, nullification is a concept of constitutional law that recognizes the right of each state to nullify, or invalidate, any federal measure that exceeds the few and defined powers allowed the federal government as enumerated in the Constitution. Nullification is founded on the assertion that the sovereign states formed the union, and as creators of the compact, they hold ultimate authority as to the limits of the power of the central government to enact laws that are applicable to the states and the citizens thereof.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision, state legislators and governors are boldly asserting their right to restrain the federal government, and are accordingly considering bills that will stop ObamaCare’s multitude of mandates at the state border.

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Drone Makers Push Congress to Move Up Domestic Deployment Date

The day of deployment is drawing nearer. Soon, thousands of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unmanned aerial vehicle license holders will launch their drones into the skies over the United States.

Despite the delay of lawmakers to establish constitutionally sound guidelines for the use of these eyes in the sky, a handful of congressmen are pushing to move forward the date of deployment.

Why would legislators — typically not the most hurry-happy group — be interested in accelerating the drive to permit civilian drone use?

Money.

A collaboration between Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics paints the pecuniary picture:

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives’ “drone caucus” — officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus — has helped push that agenda. And over the last four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions….

And:

House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan “drone caucus” received the lion’s share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Hearst and CRP found.

Eleven drone caucus lawmakers from California, where many aviation firms are located, received more than $2.4 million from manufacturers’ political action committees and employees during the 2012 and 2010 election cycles, according to CRP tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports.

Eight Texas House members in the caucus received more than $746,000. And four caucus members from New York got more than $185,000 from companies connected to the business of unmanned vehicles.

The big winner of the drone manufacturer lobbying lotto was Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.). According to the investigation, McKeon — cochairman of the House Unmanned Systems Caucus — received $833,650 in contributions from the drone industry. 

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