Archive for category Unconstitutional
This post comes from westernjournalism.com
Also posted on oathkeepers.org
America has done a deplorable job of caring for her veterans.
by John W. Whitehead
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”—John F. Kennedy
Just in time for Memorial Day, we’re once again being treated to a generous serving of praise and grandstanding by politicians and corporations eager to go on record as being supportive of our veterans. Patriotic platitudes aside, however, America has done a deplorable job of caring for her veterans. We erect monuments for those who die while serving in the military; yet for those who return home, there’s little honor to be found.
Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 23 million veterans who have served in World War II through Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the plight of veterans today is deplorable, with large numbers of them impoverished; unemployed; traumatized mentally and physically; struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, and marital stress; homeless (a third of all homeless Americans are veterans); subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals; and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration (VA) offices.
According to the National Veterans Foundation, the VA has had a backlog of as many as 1.2 million unprocessed claims in recent years, in addition to the fraud and mismanagement within the VA and its network of offices across the country–and secret lists containing thousands of names of veterans who were forced to wait months just to see a doctor.
While President Obama has now declared that he “will not stand” for the mistreatment of veterans under his watch, the time for words is long past. As Slate political correspondent John Dickerson observed, these inexcusable delays represent “a failure of one of the most basic transactions government is supposed to perform: keeping a promise to those who were asked to protect our very form of government.”
Then again, as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the government has been breaking its promises to the American people for a long time now, starting with its most sacred covenant to uphold and defend the Constitution. Yet if the government won’t abide by its commitment to respect our constitutional rights to be free from government surveillance and censorship, if it completely tramples on our right to due process and fair hearings, and if it routinely denies us protection from roadside strip searches and militarized police, why should anyone expect the government to treat our nation’s veterans with respect and dignity?
Indeed, in recent years, military servicemen and women—many of whom are decorated—have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance and censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights, all for daring to voice their concerns about the alarming state of our union and the erosion of our freedoms.
This article comes from Intellihub.com.
Also posted at oathkeepers.org
After putting out solicitations for sub-machine guns and Level IIIA body armor, one must wonder what the U.S.D.A. is truly getting ready for.
By Shepard Ambellas
(INTELLIHUB) — After the recent armed standoff over cattle grazing rights, which took place at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada between common supporters of the U.S. Constitution and the Bureau of Land Management, the American public got a taste of what their beloved government is really willing to do and just how far they will actually go. Now some are questioning why the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has put out active solicitations for sub-machine guns capable of firing 2-round-bursts and Level IIIA body armor, fearing a war against farmers.
According to the May 7 solicitation on FedBizOps.gov:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commercial acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsilbe or folding, magazine – 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation. NO SOLICITATION DOCUMENT EXISTS. All responsible and/or interested sources may submit their company name, point of contact, and telephone. If received timely, shall be considered by the agency for contact to determine weapon suitability.
Moreover on May 7, the U.S.D.A. put out a second solicitation requesting Level IIIA body armor in conduction with the sub-machine guns.
The solicitation posted on FedBizOps.gov reads:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC and Regional Offices, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical acquisition of ballist vests, compliant with NIJ 0101.06 for Level IIIA Ballistic Resistance of body armor. Body armor is gender specific, lightweight, trauma plate/pad (hard or soft), concealable carrier, tactical vest, undergarment (white), identification patches, accessories (6 pouches), body armor carry bag, and professional measurements. NO SOLICITATION DOCUMENT EXISITS. All responsible and/or interested sources may submit their company name, point of contact, and telephone number. If received timely, shall be considered by the agency for contact.
Shockingly, the U.S.D.A. has been terrorizing farmers for years as the documentary film Farmageddon points out. A review of the film written by Gar Smith dated Sept. 25, 2011 reads:
The first-person stories related in Kristin Canty’s new documentary, Farmageddon, may sound like people recounting the post-trauma shock of a drug-raid but these “perps” are not pot-growers or drug-smugglers, they are family farmers and members of organic produce buying clubs.
“I was at the top of the stairs and I saw a man with a gun pointed up at me. All I could see was a black hat and a black jacket. I stood there thinking this was a serial killer.”
This article was written by Michael Snyder and originally published at End Of The American Dream
Also posted on oathkeepers.org
Virtually everything that you do is being watched. Do you drive a car? Do you watch television? Do you use a cell phone? As you do any of those things, information about you is being recorded and tracked. We live at a time when personal privacy is dying. And it is not just governments that are doing this. In fact, sometimes private companies are the biggest offenders. It turns out that gathering information about all of us is very, very profitable. And both government entities and private companies are going to continue to push the envelope when it comes to high tech surveillance until people start objecting to what they are trying to do. If we continue down the path that we are currently on, it is inevitable that we will end up living in an extremely restrictive “Big Brother” police state where basically everything that we do is very closely watched, monitored, tracked and controlled. And such a day may be much closer than you think. The following are 10 examples of how “Big Brother” is steadily creeping into our daily lives…
#1 Our cars are rapidly being transformed into high tech “Big Brother” surveillance devices. In fact, a push is being made to require all new vehicles to include very sophisticated black box recorders…
As if the government wasn’t already able to track our movements on the nation’s highways and byways by way of satellites, GPS devices, and real-time traffic cameras, government officials are now pushing to require that all new vehicles come installed with black box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, ostensibly to help prevent crashes.
Yet strip away the glib Orwellian doublespeak, and what you will find is that these black boxes and V2V transmitters, which will not only track a variety of data, including speed, direction, location, the number of miles traveled, and seat belt use, but will also transmit this data to other drivers, including the police, are little more than Trojan Horses, stealth attacks on our last shreds of privacy, sold to us as safety measures for the sake of the greater good, all the while poised to wreak havoc on our lives.
Black boxes and V2V transmitters are just the tip of the iceberg, though. The 2015 Corvette Stingray will be outfitted with a performance data recorder which “uses a camera mounted on the windshield and a global positioning receiver to record speed, gear selection and brake force,” but also provides a recording of the driver’s point of view as well as recording noises made inside the car. As journalist Jaclyn Trop reports for the New York Times, “Drivers can barely make a left turn, put on their seatbelts or push 80 miles an hour without their actions somehow, somewhere being tracked or recorded.” Indeed, as Jim Farley, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Ford Motor Company all but admitted, corporations and government officials already have a pretty good sense of where you are at all times: “We know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing.”
#2 A new Michigan law will ban thousands of preppers and small farmers from owning farm animals. What are they going to do next? Ban us from growing our own food?
#3 Have you ever collected anything? If so, the FBI might swoop in and grab your collection someday even if you have not committed a crime. If you think that this sounds crazy, you should consider what happened to a man named Don Miller recently…
FBI agents Wednesday seized “thousands” of cultural artifacts, including American Indian items, from the private collection of a 91-year-old man who had acquired them over the past eight decades.
An FBI command vehicle and several tents were spotted at the property in rural Waldron, about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
The FBI did not have any evidence that a crime had been committed prior to seizing the collection, and Mr. Miller has not been arrested or charged with any crime. The FBI says that it is going to catalog the collection “to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately”…
The aim of the investigation is to determine what each artifact is, where it came from and how Miller obtained it, Jones said, to determine whether some of the items might be illegal to possess privately.
#4 A father of a 4-year-old girl has been told that he will no longer be allowed to send healthy homemade lunches with his daughter when she attends her pre-kindergarten program because they conflict with federal guidelines.
#5 Do you watch television? Well, if you have a newer television there is a very good chance that your television is watching you as well…
In November, the British tech blogger Doctorbeet discovered that his new LG Smart TV was snooping on him. Every time he changed the channel, his activity was logged and transmitted unencrypted to LG. Doctorbeet checked the TV’s option screen and found that the setting “collection of watching info” was turned on by default. Being a techie, he turned it off, but it didn’t matter. The information continued to flow to the company anyway.
#6 A plan that is being proposed in Fairfax County, Virginia would ban “frequent and large gatherings at neighborhood homes“. This would include parties, scout gatherings and home Bible studies.
#7 At a public school in Florida, a 12-year-old boy has been banned from reading the Bible during “free reading time”…
A Florida schoolteacher humiliated a 12-year-old boy in front of an entire class after she caught him reading the Bible during free reading time.
The teacher at Park Lakes Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale ordered Giovanni Rubeo to pick up the telephone on her desk and call his parents.
As the other students watched, the teacher left a terse message on the family’s answering machine.
“I noticed that he has a book—a religious book—in the classroom,” she said on the recording. “He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
#8 In the USSA, a young child cannot even build a tree fort with his friends without the threat of being confronted by the police state. Just consider what happened to one little fifth-grade boy down in Georgia a few weeks ago…
A fifth-grader says he was terrified when a police officer pointed a gun at him and his friends while they built a tree fort.
Omari Grant, 11, said he and his friends often play in a wooded area behind his home and were building a fort when a neighbor in the next subdivision called police to complain about what the boys were doing.
But no one anticipated what Omari and his mother say happened next.
“I guess the release of tension was like, ‘Mom, he had a gun in my face, Mommy. Mommy, he had a gun in my face,’” said Janice Baptiste, Omari’s mother.
The officer reportedly used very filthy language as he pointed his gun at the boys, and he forced them to get out of the tree and lay down on the ground…
“I was thinking that I don’t want to be shot today, so I just listened to what they said,” Omari said.
Omari said the officer holding his gun also used foul language and made him and his friends lay down on the ground.
“I learned that they’re supposed to help you not make you feel scared to even come outside,” Omari said.
#9 People like to joke about “the eye in the sky”, but it is no joke. Technology that was originally developed for “blanket surveillance” during the Iraq war is now returning home…
Persistent Surveillance Systems has developed a surveillance camera on steroids. When attached to small aircraft, the 192-megapixel cameras record the patterns of the planetary life they fly over for hours at a time. According to the Washington Post, this will give the police and other customers a “time machine” they can simply rewind when they need it. Placed strategically at the highest points of any town or city, these cameras could provide the sort of blanket surveillance that’s hard to avoid. The inventor of the camera, a retired Air Force officer, helped create a similar system for the city of Fallujah, the site of two of the most violent battles of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It’s just one example of how wartime surveillance technologies are returning home for “civilian use.”
#10 Have you ever purchased storable food? If so, you should know that it is now considered to be “suspicious activity” in some areas of the country. Just check out what is happening in New York state…
1-866 SAFE NYS is part of Safeguard New York, an NY State counterterrorism program that uses promotional material to encourage citizens to report people for engaging in “suspicious activity….which makes them stand out from others”.
An accompanying letter provided by the state trooper listed such “suspicious activity” as the purchase of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), flashlights, weather proof ammunition, night vision equipment, match containers, or gas masks.
For even more examples like this, please see my previous article entitled “19 Signs That America Is Being Systematically Transformed Into A Giant Surveillance Grid“.
Sadly, most Americans are totally oblivious to all of this.
Most Americans are so addicted to entertainment and to their electronic devices that they have no idea what is going on in the real world.
I came across the following video entitled “Look Up” on YouTube earlier today. I think that it does a great job of showing what our obsession with our electronic devices is doing to us. Watch it for yourself and see what you think…
This article comes from the examiner.com
by David Codrea
Also posted on oathkeepers.org
UPDATE (3/15): A video titled “ATF breaks into Ares Armor in National City” has just been posted today to YouTube. This column has now embedded the new video above. Further details will be made known when they become available.
UPDATE 2 (3/15): From Moderno.com
ATF Executes Search Warrants at Ares Armor
According to Jeremy Tuma, the Chief Operating Officer of Ares Armor, the ATF is currently executing search warrants at all Ares Armor locations.
This is from Jeremy’s Instagram page just a few minutes ago.
UPDATE 3 (3/15) from the Instagram page:
Even though they have executed a search warrant, don’t have a computer to look up prices, and are gonna be operating form a calculator, we aren’t going to let this shut us down. THE OCEANSIDE STORE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
UPDATE 4 (3/16): Get the details the mainstream media has neither the capability nor any intention of bringing you. See Warrant application shows Ares Armor referenced in wider investigation.
District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the United States District Court, Southern District of California issued an order Friday to prevent Oceanside’s gun parts supplier Ares Armor from divesting itself of inventory and records subject to a temporary restraining order the court issued Tuesday. Also included in the order was notice that the TRO did “not restrain lawful criminal proceedings,” as well as a modification of the briefing schedule ordering “the parties [to] fully address all of the facts and circumstances as alleged by one another.”
This is yet another Agenda 21 program we must watch and defend our communities against. – Shorty Dawkins, Associate Editor for Oath Keepers
by Lee Rogers
The Obama regime recently announced that they are establishing seven regional hubs designed to help Americans mitigate the alleged scourge of climate change. The first climate hubs will be established in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico. Additional subsidiary hubs will be established in Michigan, Puerto Rico and California. These so-called climate hubs are nothing more than a backdoor way for these authoritarian jackasses to exercise more control over farmers and ranchers.
First off climate change is an invented problem. The climate is always changing due to the Earth’s cyclical movement within the solar system. This is why we have seasons and different types of weather throughout the year. Climate change is not a new phenomenon and it has occurred long before man began running power plants and driving automobiles. This climate change term is now used because the original propaganda first failed in the 1970s when they said that man-made carbon emissions were responsible for causing global cooling and that we were on the brink of an ice age. When it became obvious that a new ice age was not going to happen they switched gears and claimed that man-made carbon emissions were responsible for global warming only a few decades later. So by using a neutral term like climate change it takes the unpredictability of the naturally changing climate out of the equation. As a result they can now always claim that there is a problem with some sort of human related activity because the climate by default is always changing. It is some of the most unbelievable bull shit one could imagine yet week minded fools somehow still believe it.
Scientists have even been caught manipulating their own data to fit in with this silly theory. The reason being is that any science related to this garbage gets government funding. So it is in the best interest of these scientists to continue promoting this insanity.
So here we have the Obama regime using a phony theory based off of manipulated and biased scientific data to justify the establishment of these so-called climate hubs. They are claiming the purpose of these climate hubs is to help rural communities affected by climate change. In reality this is just another power grab by the federal government to exercise control over farmers and ranchers. Under the guise of helping these people they will soon begin interfering with these operations as part of an effort to put them out of business. The federal government hates family farmers and ranchers because they represent competition to the big food manufacturers. Smaller farming and ranching operations do not have the same lobbying influence that the large corporate interests have which is why there is an incentive for the federal government to do these things. These local farms and ranches also represent a pillar of self sufficiency which is something that the federal government greatly despises. After all, how can the federal government control all of its slaves if they can grow their own food and refuse to eat the real life equivalent of Soylent Green?
Seriously though, why on earth would farmers or ranchers need the federal government to help them with to deal with changing weather? These people are already used to dealing with cyclical environmental changes so there is no good reason why these climate hubs are needed. This is especially true considering that the concept of man-made carbon emissions causing catastrophic changes to the planet have proven to be total nonsense. It is just an excuse for the federal government to meddle in their affairs.
In addition, the establishment of these climate hubs is an initiative that appears to have come out of the UN’s Agenda 21 plan. Agenda 21 was a plan developed in the early 1990s to move populations of people from rural areas into large cities under the guise of sustainable development and biodiversity. This fact alone should make people question the true purpose behind this madness.
Like almost every idea that has originated from the Obama regime, this idea sucks. There’s no reason for the federal government to involve themselves with farmers and ranchers under the guise of fighting a non-existent problem. There’s no doubt that these climate hubs will grow into a bureaucracy that will be used to help destroy small farming and ranching operations around America. This is the real reason why this system is being put into place. Over time, look for an unending amount of rules, regulations and harassment to originate from these organizations.
Posted by ocoathkeepers in Heavily Armed As Military-Style “Force Multipliers”, Parks And Wildlife Officers, Police State, Unconstitutional on January 13, 2014
This article was written by Mac Slavo and originally published at SHTFplan.com
Also posted at oathkeepers.org
You best not be a terrorist or homegrown radical extremist hiding out in the boonies of the Texas wilderness, because if you are you may well come face-to-face with the Parks and Wildlife Department’s newest rapid deployment “Scout Team.”
The unit is made up of 25 highly trained game wardens capable of deploying anywhere in the state of Texas within four hours. Armed with AR-15′s, BDU’s, and kevlar helmets, the team’s mission according to the TPWD website involves border operations, dignitary protection or any form of high-risk law enforcement, such as serving felony arrest warrants or hostage situations.
As The Dallas Observer’s Brantley Hargrove notes, “the militarization of every possible law enforcement entity in America is complete.”
[The team] is modeled after what military types call a “force multiplier,” which basically means that these guys can shoot a bunch of bullets.
“We’re steeped in tradition and very mindful of our past,” said special ops chief Grahame Jones. “It’s an important part of who we are, but we have to look to the future.”
And the future is a camo AR. Now, if Texas truly intends to secede, it’s got its own military force ready and waiting. We’ve even got a Navy! TPWD has 564 vessels, including a 65-foot gulf patrol ship, and gunboats mounted with .30 cal machine guns.
Maybe we’re a little paranoid here, but doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that every possible government related entity in this country – be it federal, state or local – is being heavily armed with assault rifles, weaponized drones and battle wagons?
The Social Security Administration, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, property code enforcement teams, and now Parks and Wildlife are all putting Department of Homeland Security’s multi-billion dollar budget to good use.
What, exactly, are these organizations planning for?
Do they know something big is about to go down?
Or is the intention here to strike fear into the populace by instilling in us that America is now a battlefield and the government is ready to go to war with anyone that stands in its way?
This article was written by Tony Cartalucci and originally published at Land Destroyer Report
Also posted at oathkeepers.org
The US has accused the Syrian government of delaying UN inspectors from accessing the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus. But now, according to Reuters, the US appears to be preparing to strike Syria militarily before the UN’s now ongoing investigation is concluded and evidence revealed to either support or conflict with the West’s so far baseless allegations.
Reuters’ article, “Syria strike due in days, West tells opposition: sources,” states that:
Western powers told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days, according to sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul.
“The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva,” one of the sources who was at the meeting on Monday told Reuters.
Clearly, such a strike would render moot both the UN inspection team’s investigation and any evidence they may find.
While the US has accused the Syrian government of obstructing an investigation that is indeed already being carried out, the impending US attack would indefinitely end the UN’s efforts. If, as the US reasons, obstructing the UN’s investigation implicates guilt, then the US has just made itself the prime suspect of what is increasingly appearing to be a staged provocation to salvage a proxy war the US and its allies have all but lost.
What “Limited Strikes” Really Means
Before the US and its allies mire the world in another unprovoked military adventure at the cost of thousands, perhaps even millions of lives, the wider strategy behind what the US is calling “limited strikes” should be fully understood.
Much of the West’s proxy war against Syria has been drawn from plans laid by the Brookings Institution versus Iran in a 2009 document titled, “Which Path to Persia?” The report stated:
…it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) -Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, pages 84-85.
Clearly those in the West intent on striking Iran (and now Syria) realize both the difficulty of obtaining a plausible justification, and the utter lack of support they have globally to carry out an attack even if they manage to find a suitable pretext. An article recently published in Slate indicates that the approval rating of a proposed assault on Syria is only 9% – making the potential war the most unpopular conflict in American history.
Brookings would continue throughout their 2009 report enumerating methods of provoking Iran, including conspiring to fund opposition groups to overthrow the Iranian government, crippling Iran’s economy, and funding US State Department-listed terrorist organizations to carry deadly attacks within Iran itself.
In Syria, each and every one of these options have also been tried, and have subsequently failed. It was revealed as far back as 2007 that the US was planning on arming and funding terrorists to overthrow the government of Syria, as reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism?”
Starting in 2011, it has become increasing clear that the so-called “freedom fighters” in Syria are in fact terrorists drawn directly from the ranks of Al Qaeda, armed, funded, and otherwise supported by NATO just as was described in Hersh’s 2007 report.
Despite these overt acts of war, and even considering an option to unilaterally conduct limited airstrikes against Iranian and now Syrian targets, Brookings indicated there was still the strong possibility Iran (and now Syria) would not allow itself to be sufficiently provoked:
It would not be inevitable that Iran would lash out violently in response to an American air campaign, but no American president should blithely assume that it would not.
The report continues:
However, because many Iranian leaders would likely be looking to emerge from the fighting in as advantageous a strategic position as possible, and because they would likely calculate that playing the victim would be their best route to that goal, they might well refrain from such retaliatory missile attacks. – Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, page 95.
Already, both Turkey’s current government and its regional partner Israel have attacked Syria on numerous occasions with Syria each time exhibiting infinite restraint.
It is then revealed that the term “limited strikes” is a euphemism for “attempted provocations” to intentionally initiate a wider conflict. While the Brookings document refers to Iran, it is clear that if the West is to topple the Syrian government now with its proxy forces already spent, it will have to do so itself with a military campaign exceeding the currently planned “limited strikes.” Additionally, realizing there is virtually no support for a war with either Syria or Iran, special interests across the West are attempting to tangle the world in this lethal conflict by disingenuously proposing, at first, something relatively benign they believe they can get away with even without popular support.
Western special interests hope that a Syrian response and the death of American and/or Israeli troops – perhaps the sinking of a US ship or the loss of multiple US aircraft – will turn the 9% approval rating for their premeditated assault on Syria into an overwhelming baying for blood across the West’s populations. Failing to elicit a response from Syria, this may be accomplished with false flag attacks, as was the case in the Gulf of Tonkin incident at the onset of the Vietnam War.
Understanding that the intentional endangerment and death of US troops and their allied counterparts is part of initiating an otherwise impossible wider war, inoculates much of an already war-weary Western population from the “rally around the flag” effect Western special interests are depending on to re-energize their failed Middle East adventure.
Criminal Courts Have Quietly Moved From “May” Convict To “Must” Convict Jury Instructions Over The Past 40 Years
By Roger Roots
August 3, 2013
In 1972, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (known popularly as “the D.C. Circuit”) issued a sharply-split thirty-six-page decision in a case entitled United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113 (D.C. Cir. 1972). The case involved the question of whether federal trial judges are under an obligation to inform jurors of their inherent right to acquit a criminal defendant even if the jury concludes that the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated a criminal statute. There is no question that juries have this power of “jury nullification.” The only question in Dougherty was whether, when or how jurors are to be informed of this prerogative.
The jury instructions given by trial judges have discernibly changed regarding this issue over the course of American history. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was common for judges to either fully inform juries of their law-vetoing authority or to provide very few instructions of any kind and let juries do as they will, which invited jurors to resolve all questions of both law and fact. But today most criminal trial judges falsely tell juries that they may only judge the facts and must follow the judges’ interpretations of the law. For example, if a modern judge determines that a law is constitutional (and almost all modern judges rule that almost all laws are constitutional) the judge will instruct jurors that they may not second-guess his interpretation. Some jury instructions even suggest to jurors—utterly falsely—that jurors will be breaking the law or may be subject to punishment if they dare to disagree with the judge regarding the law.
Jury instruction practices have varied greatly over time and between jurisdictions, so it is often difficult to make general statements about them. But as mark of original intent behind the Constitution’s jury-trial provisions, we can look to the jury instructions given by the Chief Justice of the United States in the only jury trial ever recorded with any detail in the chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court. In Georgia v. Brailsford (1794), Chief Justice John Jay (himself a Framer of the Constitution and coauthor of The Federalist Papers) gave the following instructions to the jury: “It is presumed, that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision… you [juries] have a right to take it upon yourselves to judge both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.”
These are the only jury instructions regarding juror prerogatives ever recorded as having been delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course the Supreme Court is mostly an appellate court with an extremely limited “original” or trial jurisdiction—arising only when suits between states or nations are filed directly in the Court. It appears that there may have been three jury trials in Supreme Court history (all during the 1790s) and the records are quite paltry regarding two of them.
The Dougherty case began in 1969 when nine pacifist Catholic priests and nuns broke into the D.C. offices of Dow Chemical Corporation to protest the company’s production of Napalm for the Vietnam War. The “D.C. Nine,” as they came to be known, sang hymns as they poured blood onto various office files. There were similar antiwar protests being staged elsewhere during the period, including the cases of “the “Catonsville Nine” (who burned draft board files), the “Baltimore Four” (ditto), the “Harrisburg Seven” (tried for mentioning the possible kidnapping of Henry Kissinger in intercepted letters), the “Milwaukee 14” (tried for burning draft records), and the “Harrisburg Seven” (tried for planning to arrest Henry Kissinger for waging an illegal war, after merely meeting to discuss the idea). These acts of protest, trespassing and civil disobedience (and outright property destruction in some cases) were in vogue among the ardent antiwar left of the time. (Many of these protests grew from the activism of a single Catholic Priest, the indefatigable Father Philip Berrigan.)
At the time, jury nullification was a keystone in the advocacy of American war protesters. The great leftist lawyer William Kunstler, director of the ACLU from 1964 to 1972 and a member of the national board of the ACLU for almost thirty years, made an industry out of jury-nullification arguments and authored several articles, including this brilliant law review article, on the topic. (Note that after Kunstler’s passing, the ACLU has abandoned its support for jury nullification, except where First Amendment issues develop from the persecution of jury-rights activists at courthouses.)
In the Dougherty trial, the D.C. Nine tried to get the judge to inform the jury of their inherent nullification powers. The trial judge refused, the jury convicted, and the Defendants appealed to the D.C. Circuit. On the question of whether a judge is under an obligation to fully inform juries about jury nullification, the three judges of the D.C. Circuit split sharply. Chief Judge Bazelon, one of the highest ranking judges in the federal system, issued a brilliant dissenting opinion explaining why the refusal of the trial judge to fully inform the jury constituted outright deception. “On remand the trial judge should grant defendants’ request for a nullification instruction,” wrote Bazelon, or “[a]t the very least “permit defendants to argue the question before the jury.”
‘JUDGES WOULD “NEVER” INSTRUCT JURIES THAT THEY “MUST” CONVICT!’
Unfortunately, however, Judge Bazelon was outnumbered by Judges Leventhal and Adams, who held that trial judges are under no obligation to inform jurors of their “unreviewable and unreversible power . . . to acquit.” The two-judge majority decided that juries did not need to be explicitly informed because the power of jury nullification is implicit in the overall tone of commonly-given jury instructions.
According to Judge Leventhal (with emphasis added):
The jury knows well enough that its prerogative is not limited to the choices articulated in the formal instructions of the court. . . . Even indicators that would on their face seem too weak to notice — like the fact that the judge tells the jury it must acquit (in case of reasonable doubt) but never tells the jury in so many words that it must convict — are a meaningful part of the jury’s total input. Law is a system, and it is also a language, with secondary meanings that may be unrecorded yet are part of its life.
The problem with Judge leventhal’s 1972 statement is that it is no longer true. During the 1970s, when Dougherty was decided, the common practice was for judges to use the word “must” only when instructing jurors to acquit when prosecutors fail to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, the word “should” was used when instructing jurors about their obligations when prosecutors prove their cases. But today, many courts have switched to using “must” in both commands.
Thus, a central tenet supporting the opinion of the Dougherty majority—perhaps the lynchpin of the decision—is no longer accurate. I have sat in courtrooms where judges not only tell juries they “must” convict, but where the judges emphasize the word “must” as they say the word. In my experience, judges seem especially prone to emphasize “must” in firearm prosecutions, perhaps out of fear that jurors might flirt with considering the Second Amendment as a basis for jury nullification.
The Dougherty ruling—built upon a carefully-analyzed split decision—has been something of the law of the land for forty years. The decision has been referenced more than 300 times by subsequent judicial opinions. As federal case law has developed, the Dougherty rule that judges need never inform jurors of their power to veto laws (or the application of laws to specific situations) has become the rule in all thirteen federal circuits. The Supreme Court has declined to directly address the issue in many years.
But as already discussed, common trial practices now stray markedly from the practices upon which the Dougherty rule was based. Again, these practices are without sanction in constitutional history, Framers’ intent, or Supreme Court precedent.
Dr. Roger Roots, J.D., Ph.D. [send him mail], is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Jarvis Christian College and a member of the advisory board of the Fully Informed Jury Association.
Copyright © 2013 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.
This article comes from the Washington Post.
By Peter Wallsten, Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites
Wedged into a secure, windowless basement room deep below the Capitol Visitors Center, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates appeared before dozens of senators earlier this month for a highly unusual, top-secret briefing.
The lawmakers pressed Bates, according to people familiar with the session, to discuss the inner workings of the United States’ clandestine terrorism surveillance tribunal, which Bates oversaw from 2006 until earlier this year.
Bates had rarely spoken of his sensitive work. He reluctantly agreed to appear at the behest of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who arranged the session after new disclosures that the court had granted the government broad access to millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications.
The two-hour meeting on June 13 featuring Bates and two top spy agency officials — prompted by reports days earlier by The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper about the vast reach of the programs — reflects a new and uncomfortable reality for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its previously obscure members. Within the past month, lawmakers have begun to ask who the court’s judges are, what they do, why they have almost never declined a government surveillance request and why their work is so secretive.
The public is getting a peek into the little-known workings of a powerful and mostly invisible government entity. And it is seeing a court whose secret rulings have in effect created a body of law separate from the one on the books — one that gives U.S. spy agencies the authority to collect bulk information about Americans’ medical care, firearms purchases, credit card usage and other interactions with business and commerce, according to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“The government can get virtually anything,” said Wyden, who as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is allowed to read many of the court’s classified rulings. “Health, guns, credit cards — my reading is not what has been done, it’s what can be done.”