Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, November 2009

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Monday, November 30, 2009

The U.S. Government Is Taking Us Down
by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Obama has decided to up the ante in Afghanistan by acceding to his generals’ request to send an additional 34,000 troops to that beleaguered nation. What better proof that those of us who opposed the initial invasion of Afghanistan were right? The decision to treat the 9/11 attacks as a military problem, rather than a criminal-justice one, has turned out to be one unmitigated disaster, a disaster that seemingly has no end.

After all, the occupation has now been going on for 8 years. Eight years of bombs, shootings, killing, maiming, secret prisons, arbitrary arrests, torture, indefinite incarcerations, and unrestrained power to search and seize.

And eight years of unrestrained spending on armaments, soldiers, and weaponry.

Where has it gotten the American people? Nothing but more anger and rage against them among Muslims all over the world, not to mention an ever-increasing mountain of debt that is sure to send America’s currency into a free-fall.

What will those additional troops do? They will kill and maim and incarcerate and torture people. That’s their job. Sure, they’ll call it pacifying the country, establishing law and order, spreading democracy, and waging the war on terrorism.

Yet, as they kill, maim, torture, and incarcerate more Afghanis, at the same time they will be producing more anger and rage against the United States among friends, relatives, and countrymen of the victims.

Moreover, since the victims in Afghanistan are predominantly Muslim, it is inevitable that Muslims all over the world will continue to perceive the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan (and Iraq) as a U.S. crusade against Islam. Denials by U.S. officials will continue to fall upon deaf ears within the Muslim community. With each new death at the hands of U.S. military personnel, the ranks of the terrorists will continue to swell, not just in Afghanistan but all over the world.

What began as an attempt to capture or kill Osama bin Laden has morphed into an involvement in a civil war. Those 34,000 troops aren’t being sent to Afghanistan to find bin Laden. They’re being sent there to kill people whose regime was ousted from power eight years ago and to maintain a crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, drug-pushing U.S. puppet regime in power.

We should also bear in mind that among the Afghanis who U.S. officials term “bad guys” are those Afghanis who simply are resisting the illegal occupation of their country by a foreign invader and occupier. There is a moral and just alternative to killing such people: Simply exit the country.

In fact, it would be interesting to know what percentage of Afghanis killed by the U.S. military during the past 8 years, including those wedding parties that are bombed from time to time, had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. My hunch: 99.99 percent of the total number of Afghanis killed had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Of course, we don’t know how many Afghanis have been killed because U.S. policy is to keep track only of Western casualties.

On top of all this is a simple financial fact: the longer the U.S. government occupies Afghanistan (and Iraq), the closer to national bankruptcy America comes. The additional troops are estimated to cost more than $30 billion dollars. That inevitably means double or triple that.

Yet, where is all that money coming from? We all know that ever since 9/11, U.S. officials have been spending much more than what the IRS is seizing from the taxpayers. To avoid taxpayer ire, they’ve been borrowing the difference, especially from the communist regime in China, which has become the U.S. government’s chief foreign lender.

The pro-empire, pro-intervention crowd is taking our country down. Today, they tell us that they’re trapped — that they have no choice — that in order to achieve “success,” they have to continue doing the same thing they’ve done for the past 8 years. If that’s not insane, what is?

America need not fear the terrorists or even a foreign invasion. The U.S. government is doing a fine job taking down our country all on its own.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cuba’s Defense against U.S. Terrorism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

An American couple charged several months ago with spying for Cuba have pled guilty. Walton Myers, 72, a former State Department official, agreed to a mandatory sentence of life in prison. His wife Gwendolyn, 71, agreed to a 6-7 ½ years sentence. Apparently driven by devotion to Cuba’s socialist system, the couple had been turning over U.S. classified information to Cuba since 1978.

Unfortunately, the plea bargain most likely will mean that the American people will never get to see the information that the Myerses turned over to the Cubans. My hunch is that U.S. officials will keep the information secret, notwithstanding the fact that Cuban officials already know what it is.

In other words, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, why keep the information secret from Americans given that the Cubans have already seen it?

And while U.S. officials would no doubt claim that the information was classified in the first place on grounds of national security, it also belabors the obvious to point out that the United States is still standing notwithstanding the fact that this super-secret, national-security information was handed over to the Cuban government.

The reason for preventing the American people from seeing the information would be because it would prove highly embarrassing to the U.S. government.

After all, it’s not as if the information deals with measures to protect the United States from a Cuban invasion or Cuban terrorism. Cuba has never threatened to invade the United States or attempted any terrorist acts against the United States.

Actually, it’s the other way around. Ever since the Cuban revolution, when Fidel Castro ousted the U.S. government’s puppet, Fulgencio Batista, from power, U.S. officials have been obsessed with effecting regime change in Cuba. To the chagrin of U.S. officials, Castro had refused to become a lackey for the U.S. government, declaring Cuba’s independence from U.S. government control.

Thus, ever since the revolution U.S. officials have embarked on programs of aggression against Castro, Cuba, and the Cuban people. These have included assassination attempts, coup attempts, a brutal 50-year-old embargo, a military invasion, terrorist bombings, and most likely other nefarious things that Americans have no idea about.

It is information about those acts of U.S. intervention and aggression that the Myerses most likely turned over to the Cubans. That’s the type of information that U.S. officials would like to keep secret from the American people. Better to not have innocent Americans seeing the dirty, little underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy.

After all, don’t forget that Cuba hasn’t been the only country that the U.S. government has targeted for regime change. Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile, and Iraq come to mind.

Ironically, the Myers’s ideological devotion to Cuba isn’t really any different from the devotion to socialism that any self-respecting American conservative or liberal is devoted to. Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. Free public schooling. Income taxation. Occupational licensure. Economic regulations. Government-run businesses. Drug laws. They all form the core essence of Castro’s socialist system. That’s what the Myerses were devoted to. It’s also what American conservatives, liberals, and U.S. officials are devoted to.

A somewhat related matter is going on in Florida — the case of the Cuban Five. In the 1990s Cuba sent five agents to Florida. Their mission? No, not to prepare for a Cuban invasion of the United States or to commit acts of terrorism against Americans. Instead, the men were to spy on potential anti-Cuban terrorist activities and report the information back to the Cuban authorities. In other words, their mission was defensive in nature — to protect Cubans from acts of interventionism and terrorism originating on U.S. soil.

U.S. officials discovered the operation and arrested the men. They were charged with espionage and convicted and are now serving lengthy sentences.

The message, of course, is clear: While the U.S. government is free to send its agents around the world to protect people from the terrorists, other nations are not free to send their agents to the United States to do the same thing.

Hasn’t the 50-year-old U.S. obsession with Cuba gone on long enough? Hasn’t it caused enough damage and destruction?

The time has come to put an end to the U.S. government’s decades-long, perverse obsession with Cuba. Give up on regime change. Give up on control of the Cuban people. Lift the embargo, give Guantanamo back to the Cubans, and leave them alone. And open those no-longer-secret files on U.S. aggression against Cuba so that Americans can see what their government has done to the Cuban people for decades.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are Conservatives Coming Around on Civil Liberties?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday’s New York Times carried an interesting article about how more conservatives are joining libertarians and liberals in the defense of civil liberties. This is a remarkable development, one that threatens to split the conservative movement.

For decades, conservatives have denigrated the importance of civil liberties, largely as part of the war on drugs, which both conservatives and liberals have waged for the past 30 years or so, without success and with much damage and destruction.

While conservatives have always paid the obligatory lip service to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights at their conferences and seminars, the sad truth is that they have deeply resented the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments.

The principles enumerated in those amendments, conservatives have long maintained, are nothing more than legal technicalities intended to let guilty people get acquitted and be set free on the streets, able to commit more crime.

Indeed, if conservatives had their druthers, deep down they would like to see those particular amendments simply repealed or at least ignored.

In fact, that’s precisely why conservatives have supported the Pentagon’s prison camp and post-9/11 judicial system in Cuba for trying suspected terrorists. No right to counsel, no right to due process of law, no right to jury trial, no right to be free of torture, no right to be protected from forced self-incrimination, no exclusionary rule, no right to bail, no right to be protected from unreasonable searches, no right to confront witnesses, no right of habeas corpus, and no right to speedy trial.

Gitmo has been a conservative’s dream, one that many conservatives no doubt wished could be extended to drug offenses and other criminal cases.

On the other hand, libertarians and many (but far from all) liberals have aligned themselves on the side of civil liberties. Ever since our inception, here at FFF we have steadfastly emphasized the importance of civil liberties to a free society. In fact, the July 1990 issue of our journal Freedom Daily was entirely devoted to civil liberties.

The protections outlined in the Bill of Rights stretch all the way back to Magna Carta. While such protections sometimes result in the acquittal or release of people who have committed crimes, their primary purpose was to protect the innocent. As the old adage goes, better that ten guilty people go free than one innocent person be found guilty. America’s long history of protection of civil liberties has always been one of the hallmarks of American jurisprudence. It is something Americans should take great pride in.

Given the massive federal assault on civil liberties after 9/11, including the USA Patriot Act and the enemy-combatant doctrine, FFF has been at the forefront of defending civil liberties, especially through our two major conferences in 2007 and 2008: “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties,” which featured a combination of libertarian, liberal, and conservative speakers.

Now, according to the New York Times article, more conservatives are coming around and joining libertarians and liberals in the defense of civil liberties. As Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers states, “It’s a remarkable phenomenon. The left and right have bent to the point where they are now in agreement on many issues. In the area of criminal justice, the whole idea of less government, less intrusion, less regulation has taken hold.”

Will these new conservatives go all the way and embrace the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments as fervently as they embrace, say, the Second Amendment? Will they call for a repeal of the war on drugs, which is the greatest domestic excuse for trampling civil liberties? Will they call for an end to foreign wars and occupations, which engender the anger and rage that produces terrorist retaliation, which is then used as the excuse for suspending civil liberties? Will they support the Constitution’s use of federal courts for criminal offenses, including terrorism, rather than the extra-constitutional system with pre-ordained verdicts that the Pentagon has established?

It’s all possible but I would think it’s not very likely. Conservatives have gone too far down the road to omnipotent government when it comes to civil liberties. A sudden full-scale conversion to civil liberties might be too much to ask.

But the fact that more conservatives are now coming down somewhat in the defense of civil liberties and at least paying lip service to civil liberties is a very positive sign. At the very least, it might cause other conservatives to reevaluate their position and join up with us libertarians in the defense of not only economic liberty and gun rights (where conservatives tend to be good and liberals are horrible) but on civil liberties as well.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Mounting Debt
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A front-page article in today’s New York Times entitled “Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government” details what conservatives and liberals have done to our country with their out-of-control federal spending for their welfare-warfare state. The article reports that the national debt is now topping $12 trillion.

That debt, of course, represents the difference between what the feds are spending and how much the IRS is collecting from the American people in the form of income taxes. Rather than order the IRS to go out and increase the amount of people’s income it was seizing, an act that might antagonize voters, the Big Spenders, conservatives and liberals alike, simply went out and borrowed the money.

The national debt now amounts to about $40,000 per citizen. What would you do if the IRS showed up at your doorstep demanding payment of your family’s share of that debt? If you’re married and have two children, you’d be facing a lien on your home or retirement account totaling $160,000. That’s what these people have done to us with their beloved welfare-warfare programs and the out-of-control costs of such programs.

The Times reports: “Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.”

Meanwhile, the Big Spenders continue with their grandiose spending programs, not only here at home but abroad as well. The expensive socialist health care plan working its way through Congress is a good example, as is the continued occupation and rebuilding of Afghanistan and Iraq. Everybody is just proceeding forward with his Big Spending as if everything was hunky dory, like life on the Titanic before the fateful crash.

Today, Republicans are playing their standard political game of railing against the Big Spending Democrats. It’s one of their strategies for regaining political power. But the truth is that Republicans are no different when it comes to Big Spending. President George W. Bush’s regime was a good example. It was one of the Biggest Spending regimes in U.S. history. Not surprisingly, with the exception of Ron Paul and maybe a couple of others, you didn’t see Republicans railing against Big Spending when their man was in power. And if they do regain power, you can count on them to seal their lips when their man embarks on his Big Spending spree.

Of course, this mounting debt isn’t just a recent problem. It’s been going on for decades, since at least the time of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. It’s a direct consequence of an ever-expanding welfare state here at home and an ever-expanding military empire abroad. Once Americans discovered that they could use the federal government to feather their personal nests, the floodgates to Big Spending were opened. And the same holds true with respect to the fateful decision of charging the U.S. military with the task of establishing a vast overseas empire with foreign aid, coups, invasions, assassinations, installation of puppet regimes, embargoes, sanctions, wars of aggression, interventions, occupations, spreading democracy, and providing welfare to foreigners.

Obviously, the welfare-warfare state has turned out to be very expensive. If the immorality of this way of life isn’t enough to cause Americans to abandon this horrible experiment in Big Government, maybe the ever-growing financial burden of it all will induce them to join up with us libertarians to dismantle the welfare-warfare programs before it’s too late.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Legal Travesty in the Kahre Case
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Federal Judge David Ezra has sentenced Las Vegas businessman Robert Kahre to serve 15 years in the federal penitentiary. What a travesty of justice. The man no more belongs in jail than, say, Plaxico Burress, the NFL player who was sentenced to serve two years in a New York jail for possessing a handgun for self-defense. It’s just part of the trend in America to send good people to jail for violating ridiculous regulations.

What was Kahre’s crime? He took advantage of a loophole in U.S. tax law and then openly and publicly exposed it.

U.S. officials play this game in which they claim to the world that U.S. gold coins constitute legal tender at face value when in fact they don’t really mean it. Kahre exposed the fraudulent nature of their game by paying his workers with U.S. gold coins rather than paper money. Since the total value of the compensation was significantly lower using the face value of the coins, the employees did not reach the legal threshold for paying income taxes on their income, and Kahre wasn’t doing any withholding on their wages.

Kahre did all this openly and publicly. He had found a tax loophole, and he tested it. The most the feds should have done was file a civil proceeding against him. He didn’t deserve a criminal prosecution and certainly doesn’t deserve any higher sentence than probation, the sentence the judge gave Kahre’s wife Danille, who also participated in the scheme.

In fact, since probation is the appropriate sentence for the wife, why not for the husband? The judge says that it’s because Kahre exerted a strong influence on the 38-year-old woman. What nonsense. She’s 38 years old, Judge Ezra, not a 14-year-old. Why not match his sentence to hers?

The feds had to make an example out of Bob Kahre. He had committed a super no-no. He had exposed the government’s gold-coin, legal-tender claim for the fraud it is.

That was Kahre’s real crime, or at least one of them. The other one was exposing what the Federal Reserve has done to people’s money. That’s the other super no-no that’s taking place here.

Back before the Federal Reserve was established, a $20 bill could be exchanged for a $20 one-ounce gold coin. How much paper money do you need to buy that gold coin today? You need more than $1,100 to buy it. The reason is that the Federal Reserve, decade after decade, has been flooding the market with paper money, enabling federal officials to engage in their grandiose welfare and warfare programs without having to raise income taxes even more than they have.

That’s the scam that Kahre was exposing with his gold-coin, legal-tender scheme. He was showing Americans in a very real way what the Federal Reserve has done and is doing to our money.

Within this legal travesty, there were a couple of amusing moments at the sentencing hearings, as reported in the Las Vegas Review Journal. One was when Judge Ezra counseled Kahre’s wife on how to raise her children: “If, as a result of that trauma, that turns (the children) against their own country and leads along a path of hate and retribution, they will have lost their promise to grow into healthy, productive adults.”

According to the judge, the federal government is the same as the country, and children should grow up into good, little citizens, who love their government. Never mind that the Bill of Rights expressly protects the country from the government and that the reason the Founding Fathers stood up against their own government was because they loved their country. Note to Judge Ezra: It’s possible for people to love their country and hate and oppose the wrongdoing of their government. It’s what genuine patriotism is all about.

The other amusing occurrence was at Kahre’s sentencing hearing. Ezra revealed that Las Vegas psychiatrist Karen Cruey had diagnosed Kahre in 2008 with “a persecutory and grandiose delusional disorder … that perceives harassment where there is none.”

Yeah, for the next 15 years Kahre can sit in his jail cell and think to himself that the two federal trials he underwent, his sentencing, his conviction, and his incarceration are all imaginary and perceived.

As her husband Robert received his 15-year sentence, his wife Danille “moaned and sobbed audibly in court.” It’s what America should be doing as well. The sooner we get the IRS and Federal Reserve abolished, as our American ancestors did, the better off the country will be.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Did Hitler Inspire the U.S. Post-9/11 Tribunal System?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I don’t know how President Bush and the Pentagon came up with the idea of establishing a new judicial system for trying terrorists, but there is the distinct possibility that they got the idea from German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

Yes, I know, there are going to be those who resent such a suggestion, exclaiming, “Just because the idea might have come from Hitler doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.” They might point, for example, to the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which was inspired by Hitler’s autobahn system. Or they might point to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, whose programs were remarkably similar to the socialist and fascist programs of Hitler as well as those of Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin. (See Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.)

Indeed, such people might even point out the fact that Social Security under Hitler and Roosevelt had a common root — Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, who himself had gotten the idea from German socialists.

In any event, in 1933 soon after Hitler had become chancellor, the terrorists fire-bombed the German parliament building, the Reichstag, destroying most of the building. As you can imagine, the attack threw the nation into a major crisis, just as 9/11 did for the United States.

The crisis in Germany became graver when it was discovered that the suspected terrorists were communists, for that meant that Germany was now facing two major threats to national security at the same time: terrorism and communism. (To get a sense of the magnitude of the crisis, combine the U.S. cold war against the communists with the subsequent war on terrorism.)

Hitler immediately sought a suspension of civil liberties from the Reichstag to deal with the national emergency. National security is at stake, he exclaimed. In this time of national crisis, when the security of our nation is in jeopardy, we cannot afford the niceties of civil liberties, he said. I need temporary emergency powers to deal with this crisis.

The Reichstag granted Hitler’s request, suspended civil liberties, and gave him the temporary emergency powers he sought to deal with the crisis. Civil liberties could and should be temporarily sacrificed to preserve the nation, the reasoning went.

In the meantime, the people who had been charged with the terrorist strike on the Reichstag were brought to trial in Germany’s regular, constitutional judicial system. Only one of the defendants, however, was convicted. All the rest were acquitted.

Needless to say, Hitler was not happy with the court’s verdict. These were terrorists and communists, after all! Hitler and the Gestapo had said so. What more proof did the courts need than that? How dare German judges threaten national security by releasing terrorists and communists back on the street?

Hitler’s solution? To ensure that this didn’t happen again, he established a new-fangled judicial system for handling terrorism cases. It was called the People’s Court. This new judicial system had the trappings of Germany’s regular judicial system but with one big difference: There would be no more “not guilty” verdicts for people that German officials said were terrorists. No more threats to national security by releasing terrorists back on the streets. Moreover, under the guise of protecting national security, the proceedings could be held in secret to preserve government secrets.

Are the circumstances and reasons for establishing a new tribunal system in Germany similar to those for establishing a new post-9/11 tribunal system in the United States?

Prior to 9/11, it was a well-established principle that terrorism cases could be tried only in federal district court. That’s not surprising given that that terrorism has long been listed in the U.S. Code as a criminal offense — and still is. That’s precisely why terrorists are still being indicted and tried in federal district court even today.

Thus, when the terrorists struck the World Trade Center in 1993, Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorist perpetrators, was tried, convicted, and sentenced in federal district court. Again, that’s because terrorism is a criminal offense in the U.S. Code, a fact that no one disputes.

Like the Reichstag fire bombing, the 9/11 terrorist strike gave Bush and the Pentagon the excuse to establish a new-fangled judicial system for trying suspected terrorists. Like the People’s Court in Germany, it would exist independently of both the civilian courts and the military justice system. It was a brand new judicial system, one for trying terrorists, just like Hitler’s.

Unlike Hitler, however, Bush and the Pentagon established their new system in a foreign country, Cuba. The reason? To ensure that their system would not be bound by the rights and guarantees in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and to ensure that there would be no interference by the federal courts.

The primary reason for establishing a new judicial system for trying terrorists was precisely the same as Hitler’s: to ensure that terrorists were not acquitted and released back on the streets, where they could commit more terrorist acts against Americans.

In the federal courts, there are numerous obstacles to securing convictions — due process of law, criminal-defense attorneys, cross-examination of adverse witnesses, juries, the presumption of innocence, independent judges, and so forth. There is always a chance of an acquittal, even for defendants that the government is convinced 100 percent are terrorists.

It was the same problem Hitler faced after the acquittal of the Reichstag terrorists.

The solution that U.S. officials came up with was the same one that Hitler came up with: establish a brand new judicial system where convictions would be guaranteed. No more legal technicalities that would enable judges to let terrorists back on the streets. No more pesky defense attorneys ardently fighting for the acquittal of their clients. Just convictions and punishment for the terrorists.

That’s what the new-fangled judicial system in Cuba was all about. It was also what Hitler’s People’s Court was all about.

Now, it’s true that in Germany Hitler had civilian bureaucrats presiding over his tribunals while Bush and President Obama have military officials presiding over theirs. But isn’t that a distinction without a difference? The point is that in both systems tribunal officers are ultimately answerable to their superiors and have every incentive to please their superiors with a correct verdict.

While both systems have the trappings of regular court proceeding, the verdicts are never in doubt, as they are in the federal courts. In fact, both the People’s Court and the U.S. tribunals are nothing more than kangaroo proceedings, ones in which they play like justice is being administered while everyone knows what is actually going on.

Hitler’s tribunal system and the U.S. tribunal system have another characteristic in common — the ability to tightly control the proceedings, even making them secret. This has the benefit of preventing the terrorists from making a “circus” out of the trial by providing them a forum from which they can describe their motives to the world.

Nothing scares U.S. interventionists more than any proceeding that might focus on the bad things that the U.S. government has been doing to people overseas, which has engendered the anger and rage that has led to terrorist retaliation. The charade that the terrorists hate us for our “freedom and values” must be maintained at all costs.

A federal proceeding, one in which the public and the media have a right to attend, might end up enabling the defendants to publicly explain their motives for attacking the United States, which is precisely what happened at Ramzi Yousef’s sentencing hearing after his conviction for the 1993 terrorist attack. That danger evaporates with the U.S. tribunal system, as there is no possibility a tribunal officer would ever permit an examination into U.S. foreign policy as part of such proceedings.

One of the most fascinating trials before the People’s Court was that involving Hans and Sophie Scholl and the members of the White Rose organization. To gain a sense of how Hitler’s tribunal system operated, go rent the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, which is based on actual transcripts of the proceedings. As you watch the trial, you will get a good sense of how things operate in the U.S. tribunal system in Cuba — disrespect for criminal-defense lawyers, presumption of guilt for the accused, the false trappings of a regular judicial system, and a preordained verdict.

To ensure that Germans couldn’t hear Hans and Sophie, who were in their early 20s, explain why they had published pamphlets critical of the Hitler regime and exhorting Germans not to support the troops, their tribunal trial was held in secret. When their parents tried to enter the courtroom, they were refused entry, and were told that they should have raised their children better.

Sure, there are differences in the two systems. For example, the U.S. system permits defendants a limited right to summon some witnesses on their behalf while the German system did not. (By the same token, U.S. tribunal prosecutors are entitled to use hearsay evidence and evidence acquired by torture.) Such differences, however, don’t change the essential nature and purpose of the two systems: to ensure convictions and keep defendants from publicly exposing the wrongdoing of the government.

One interesting difference between the two systems is that in Germany, all people accused of terrorism were brought before the People’s Court. That included German citizens. In the American system, the federal system and the new-fangled tribunal system have concurrent jurisdiction to try terrorism cases. That means that U.S. officials have the ad hoc, discretionary authority to treat accused terrorists in two completely different ways — either by sending them down the federal court route or the new-fangled tribunal route. It would be difficult to find a clearer violation of the principles of equal protection and the rule of law than that.

Of course, this dual system of arbitrary and capricious justice is itself a sham, given that U.S. officials wield the post-9/11 power to take any person acquitted by a federal court back into custody as a terrorist.

Was Hitler the inspiration for the post-9/11 U.S. tribunal system, as he was for America’s Interstate Highway System? I don’t know, but given the similarities in the goals, nature, and circumstances of Hitler’s People’s Court and the U.S. post-9/11 tribunal system, it’s certainly a question worth asking.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obedience to God or Obedience to Orders?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Speaking about the Ft. Hood killings, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated, “The investigation is ongoing to figure out what would motivate an individual to carry out the type of act that this major carried out.”

As the investigation into motive progresses, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the U.S. military’s policy on conscientious-objector status played in the Ft. Hood horror.

Of course, it goes without saying that in examining into motive, Gibbs is not justifying what the alleged killer, Major Nidal Hasan, did. (See my article “Motivation vs. Justification.”)

Under U.S. military policy, the only way that a soldier can claim conscientious-objector status is with a good-faith opposition to all war, not just a particular war.

What happens if the president orders soldiers to engage in an illegal invasion of another country, a country that has not attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? What if the U.S. government is the aggressor, not the defender, in a particular war? What if the president orders soldiers to kill people who have done nothing against the United States? What if the U.S. government itself starts a war against a much weaker nation?

All that might give pause to a soldier. A soldier might think, “I can’t kill someone under those circumstances because my religious faith prevents me from wrongfully killing another person.” Or he might think, “Wars of aggression were punished as war crimes at Nuremberg and, therefore, I must refuse to carry out these orders.”

Under U.S. policy, what happens when a soldier’s crisis of conscience collides with military orders?

There is no doubt about it. The government requires the person’s conscience to be subordinated to the orders of the military. The soldier suffering such a crisis is effectively told, “We don’t care about your little crisis. Get over it. You’re going to Iraq, buster, and you’re going to kill or be killed. You can settle your account with God after you get back, if you get back.”

Now, it’s true that soldiers are taught to disobey unlawful orders. But everyone knows that the unwritten exception to that rule is with respect to illegal wars of aggression. If a soldier refuses orders to participate in an illegal war of aggression, he will be punished, severely.

The best example of this phenomenon was the case of Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that the war there was immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional.

In fact, it would be difficult to find a better example of a war of aggression than the U.S. government’s war on Iraq. Neither the Iraqi people nor their government participated in the 9/11 attacks or ever attacked the United States. The U.S. government was the starter of this war. It was the invader. It was the aggressor. And it initiated the war without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, making the war illegal under our form of government.

In a crisis of conscience, Watada declared that he simply could not kill other people under such circumstances. Thus, he refused to obey orders to do so.

What was the military’s response? They considered Watada to be a bad, unpatriotic soldier for placing his conscience above obedience to orders. They went after him with a criminal prosecution, hoping to have him severely punished for his “misconduct.”

At this early stage of the Ft. Hood investigation, there seems to be at least some circumstantial evidence that Hasan was struck by a crisis of conscience with respect to both the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, a crisis that seems to have grown in intensity after Hasan received orders to deploy to Afghanistan. He was apparently very religious, had expressed deep antipathy to both wars, and had even offered to reimburse the military for education expenses in return for being discharged from the military, an offer that the military refused.

If Hasan was faced with the choice of obeying God laws or military orders, obviously the correct and honorable course of action would have been to follow the route that Watada took. The problem, however, is that when the government pushes people who are suffering deep crises of conscience into a corner, there is no way to predict with certainty how the unstable ones are going to react. Time will tell whether that’s what motivated Major Hasan to commit his dirty deed.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Advancing Liberty on ABC and Fox
by Jacob G. Hornberger

This week has started out with a bang. Early yesterday morning, I appeared on radio station KTRH in Houston to discuss President Obama’s attempts to move America in the direction of socialism. I pointed out that national health care, which Obama would love to foist on America, is the pride and joy of Fidel Castro, one of the world’s premier socialists. But I also pointed out that the Republicans are no different, especially given their socialistic programs that redistribute wealth from the poor and middle class to their rich buddies on Wall Street.

Then, I went to the ABC television studios in Washington, where I participated in a very lively 1/2-hour debate on ABC’s Nightline on the Internet with Paul Helmke, head of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence. The subject was Ft. Hood and gun control.

Helmke pointed to the killings at Ft. Hood as confirmation that we need more stringent controls on guns.

I responded that that argument was ridiculous. It would be difficult to find a better controlled experiment for gun control than what happened at Ft. Hood. Army posts are federally mandated gun-free zones which are enforced by the military. But as libertarians have long pointed out, since murderers don’t give a hoot about murder laws, they’re not going to give a hoot for gun-control laws. The Ft. Hood killings confirm this phenomenon once again. The Ft. Hood killer disobeyed gun-control laws by illegally taking his guns onto the base.

So, the only thing the gun control accomplished was to ensure that the victims at Ft. Hood were denied the right to defend themselves. As I pointed out on the show, this is a principle that escapes liberals — they honestly believe that if they enact a gun-control law, murderers are going to obey it. What nonsense.

There was lots more during the heated debate — the sparks flew, big time. ABC is going to post the video of the debate soon, and we’ll link to it in our FFF Email Update.

From ABC, I rushed over to the Fox News studios to appear on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch to discuss the decision by the Justice Department to try accused 9/11 co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal district court in New York. The judge and I agreed that this was the right thing to do and that it should have been done a long time ago. As I pointed out, terrorism is a federal criminal offense, an undisputable fact that has now once again been confirmed by U.S. officials with their decision to have Mohammed indicted and tried in federal district court.

The judge and I also agreed that it is an abomination that U.S. officials are persisting in their decision to try some accused terrorists in the Pentagon’s alternative “judicial” system in Cuba. As I stated on the show, it is a fundamental violation of the principles of equal treatment under law and the rule of law to permit government officials the arbitrary and ad hoc power to treat accused criminals in two different, alternative ways, one in which the defendants are accorded the rights and guarantees of the Bill of Rights and one in which the defendants are denied such rights and given kangaroo justice.

Here is the link to yesterday’s Freedom Watch.

Today, the email newsletter of Freedom’s Phoenix is reporting the following: “Judge Andrew Napolitano is in negotiations right now with Fox to take Freedom watch (his .com show) on the air. So, email Fox and tell them you want the judge on the air. Send email to viewerservices@foxnews.com with FREEDOM WATCH WITH THE JUDGE in the subject line.”

If Judge Napolitano’s show were to be placed on television, it would quite possibly be the most exciting and encouraging thing to ever happen to the libertarian movement. Imagine: libertarians exposing and critiquing the statism of both liberals and conservatives on national television on a regular basis. What could be more exciting and encouraging than that?

If you would like to send your input to Fox — and I hope you will — send your email to viewerservices@foxnews.com with “Freedom Watch with the Judge” in the subject line.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In Hock to the Communists
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The opening lines of a New York Times story last Saturday about President Obama’s trip to China pretty much says it all: “When President Obama visits China for the first time on Sunday, he will, in many ways, be assuming the role of profligate spender coming to pay his respects to his banker.”

The article proceeded to point out that China is now the largest foreign lender to the United States and that Obama will be “spending less time exhorting Beijing and more time reassuring it.” The Chinese have expressed concerns to U.S. officials about Obama’s plans for national health care, specifically what effect this will have on federal spending and the value of China’s debt holdings.

As that old Virginia Slims commercial put it, you’ve come a long way, baby! Such a long way, in fact, that neither conservatives nor liberals are issuing one tiny little peep against China, which just happens to be one of the most brutal communist regimes in history.

Think back to the Cold War. That was the period of time when conservatives had more fear of the communists than they do today of the terrorists. The communists are bent on worldwide conquest, they exclaimed, and so it’s necessary to have an enormous military and military-industrial complex to prevent the conquest. American soldiers have to kill and die in Vietnam, they said, because, otherwise, the dominoes would begin falling to the communists and ultimately reach the United States.

Recall the liberals and their human-rights campaigns, which were directed to brutal regimes that were knowingly committing horrific human-rights abuses.

Yet, today both conservatives and liberals are keeping their lips sealed with respect to the communist regime in China.

Why, apparently communism isn’t so bad anymore. And apparently, human-rights abuses in China aren’t so bad either.

Nonsense. Everyone knows that the China communist regime is brutal and is still severely punishing people for exercising fundamental human rights.

What’s really going on is that neither the conservatives nor the liberals want to antagonize the regime that has loaned them the money to engage in their grandiose socialist programs at home and imperialist programs abroad.

That’s what the budget deficit is all about. To pay for their domestic and foreign programs, they’vee been spending more than they’re taking in in taxes. To cover the difference, they could have raised taxes, but they knew that that would have antagonized American taxpayers. So, they decided to simply borrow the difference.

Since the American people lacked the financial ability or desire to lend the necessary money, U.S. officials turned to the Chinese communists for the loans. And so now the U.S. government is in hock to one of the most brutal regimes in the world. And U.S. officials, supported by both conservatives and liberals, must play nice with that regime because it’s not wise to be nasty to the entity who can call in your loans.

Except for the widespread death and destruction that conservatives and liberals have wrought with their socialism at home and imperialism abroad, what better evidence of their moral bankruptcy than the fiscal and monetary debauchery to which they have subjected our nation, including placing America in hock to the Chinese communists?

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Motive vs. Justification
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Yesterday, I was involved in a lively debate on Afghanistan on Alan Colmes’ Internet show. Among the questions Alan asked me whether I was “justifying” what the Ft. Hood killer did and what the terrorists did on 9/11.

What he was referring to was my contention that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been — and continues to be — the root cause of the anger and rage that motivates people to retaliate against the United States.

I responded to Colmes by stating that motivation is different from justification.

Let’s assume that you learn that a man is trying to kill you. You think to yourself, “I haven’t done anything to justify being killed by this man.”

I say to you, “Maybe you ought to learn what the man’s motive is. Motive is different from justification.”

You telephone the guy and ask, “Why are you trying to kill me?”

The man says, “Because I happen to own the ranch adjacent to yours. Every week, you trespass onto my land and kill snakes on my property.”

You respond, “But I’m doing it for your benefit. Why are you trying to kill me for that?”

He responds, “I’m a naturalist. I don’t want any animals killed on my ranch. And you’re killing snakes on my land without my permission or consent.”

Now, clearly your actions don’t justify that man’s attempts to kill you. Human life trumps environmental concerns. He has alternative remedies, such as going to court and seeking injunctive relief.

Nonetheless, while the man isn’t justified in trying to kill you, understanding his motive might cause you to change your behavior. You think to yourself, “I’m in the wrong here. Even though I meant well, I was breaking the law and violating his property rights by trespassing onto his land and killing the snakes. It’s not worth my life. I’m going to stop doing it.”

At that point, it’s likely that the man will stop trying to kill you. Sure, it’s possible that he might still try to kill you for previous trespasses and snake killings, but since you’ve stopped doing it, the man’s anger and rage is likely to dissipate because the source of continued anger and rage has been removed.

Thus, once we understand the motive of people who are intent on doing harm to the United States, the solution becomes obvious: Stop the sanctions and embargoes. Stop the invasions and occupations. Stop the killings, maiming, torture, and abuse. Stop the bombings. Stop the drone attacks. Stop the destruction. Immediately withdraw all troops and bring them home. Terminate all foreign aid, not only to Israel, Egypt, Saud Arabia, and Jordan but also to every other regime in the world. Stop the U.S. government from meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

Sure, it’s theoretically possible that people might still want to retaliate for what the U.S. government has done in the past, but the likelihood is that once the U.S. government leaves people over there alone, people over there will return to their normal lives of making a living, raising a family, and so forth.

Why don’t U.S. officials favor examination into motive and instead do their best to confuse it with justification? Because they’re afraid that once Americans understand why foreigners are trying to kill them, Americans might demand an end to the U.S. government’s imperial overseas empire and its omnipotent power to sanction, embargo, invade, occupy, kill, maim, torture, and imprison people all over the world.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overseas Insanity
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the fascinating aspects of the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is how so many Americans, prodded by their rulers, have convinced themselves that U.S. troops are killing and dying to “protect our freedoms.” All across America — in churches, sports events, airports, and the like — people steadfastly maintain their sweet, innocent mindsets as they “support the troops” in their effort to heroically spread freedom, democracy, and the American way of life and protect Americans from the terrorists.

The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck pointed out that mental health involves a fierce commitment to reality at all costs. Those who live a life of self-deception will ultimately pay a severe price in terms of psychosis and mental instability.

It would be difficult to find a better example of self-deception than what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. People seem to operate under the assumption that if they just continue to believe a false reality about what’s going on, the false reality will become reality.

Here’s the reality on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan: These are no-good, dirty, rotten, crooked, corrupt, murderous, and destructive operations that are making the American people less safe and less secure as each day passes.

Bribery of government officials, crooked elections, the killing and maiming of countless people who had nothing to do with 9/11, torture and sex abuse, forced exile of millions of people, widespread bombings, major destruction of towns and cities, intentional lies and deceptions, arbitrary arrests , indefinite incarcerations, denial of freedom of speech, due process of law, and other fundamental rights, assassinations, and major narcotics dealing, not to mention the production of new terrorists with each passing day as well as impending monetary catastrophe arising from out-of-control federal spending, debt, taxation, and inflation to pay for this madness.

That’s the reality. That’s what U.S. troops are dying for. Not for freedom. Not for democracy. Not for the American way of life. They’re dying for a façade that covers up no-good, rotten, crooked, corrupt, murderous, and destructive enterprises that are taking our country down.

And it’s also what they’re killing, maiming, kidnapping, renditioning, and torturing people for. It’s what they’re destroying Iraq and Afghanistan for.

No wonder so many U.S. troops are returning home all screwed up in the head. Scott Peck was right — those who deny reality will suffer psychosis and other mental problems. One can only wonder how this psychological phenomenon will play out among the people here at home who continue to delude themselves about what the troops are engaged in over there.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The U.S. Invasion of the Vatican
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Suppose President Obama expressed disapproval with the Vatican’s method of electing the Pope. It’s not democratic enough, the president says. Why should a small group of Catholic cardinals be the only voters? Why shouldn’t all Catholics get to vote for the Pope? Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

Obama demands that the Vatican open the vote to all Catholics. The Vatican responds that its method of electing the Pope is none of the U.S. government’s business. Butt out, the Pope tells Obama.

Obama orders a U.S. invasion of Vatican City, with the express aim of spreading democracy to that part of the world. The troops are ordered to mobilize and prepare for the invasion.

The Vatican condemns the coming war of aggression, pointing out that it violates the UN Charter and the principles set forth at Nuremberg. He also points out that such an invasion would violate the U.S. Constitution since the president has failed to secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war against the Vatican. Most important of all, the Pope points out that the killing of citizens by U.S. soldiers will constitute grave, mortal sins under God’s laws.

The president is not dissuaded. He orders the troops to undertake the invasion, reminding them that people everywhere, especially Catholics, will be grateful for their efforts to spread democracy.

For his part, the Pope orders all citizens of Vatican City, including bishops, priests, and nuns to take up arms to defend against the U.S. invasion.

How would Catholic soldiers react? Would they suffer a crisis of conscience or at least a bit of discomfort over the prospect of having to kill other Catholics, including bishops, priests, nuns, and possibly even the Pope?

Well, it really wouldn’t matter how they would react. Under U.S. military dictates, Catholic soldiers would be expected to follow orders and do their duty. Conscientious-objector status would be out of the question, since the military does not recognize such a status on a war-by-war basis. Soldiers would be counseled by military chaplains, including Catholic priests, that they could in good conscience trust the judgment of their commander in chief. God would understand and approve, the chaplains would tell their men. America is an exceptional nation.

The invasion begins. Interventionists announce that the time for debate is over and that all patriots must now come together and rally to the flag. “Support the troops” stickers immediately appear on people’s cars. Church ministers all across the land exhort their parishioners to pray for the troops, especially those in harm’s way and defending our freedoms. American flags are prominently posted in church altars.

After thousands of deaths and injuries, the U.S. government prevails in the conflict, and Americans celebrate the victory. Democracy is brought to the Vatican. Catholics everywhere now get to vote for the Pope. To ensure that democracy remains, U.S. troops continue to occupy the country, periodically killing insurgent bishops, priests, and nuns who continue to resist the occupation. Obama is hailed as an historic democracy-spreader and is nominated to receive another Nobel Peace Prize.

Meanwhile, American soldiers, especially the Catholic ones, are returning home all screwed up in the head, beating their wives and children, committing murder and suicide, and engaging in other forms of aberrant behavior. Most everyone attributes it to the stress of combat. Hardly anyone considers the possibility that the soldiers might be struggling with having chosen to surrender their consciences by following military orders that violated the laws of God.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CIA Illegality in Italy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

While U.S. officials celebrate the 20th anniversary of the demise of the Soviet Union, they simultaneously celebrate their post-9/11 power to arrest people anywhere in the world without a warrant, kidnap them, transport them to overseas prisons for indefinite incarceration, deny them due process of law, torture them, and execute them, perhaps after a kangaroo show trial.

How’s that for irony?

Unfortunately for the U.S. government, however, not all foreign regimes are countenancing this Soviet-like conduct.

Recently an Italian judge tried and convicted 23 CIA agents who entered the country, arrested without a warrant and kidnapped an Egyptian cleric, who they then whisked away to Egypt for torture. While the CIA agents were following orders as part of the U.S. government’s omnipotent power to wage its war on terrorism all over the world, at the same time they were committing criminal offenses under Italian law.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, the CIA agents refused to return to Italy for trial. Thus they were tried and convicted in absentia.

Will the Obama administration extradite these convicted criminals to Italy to serve their sentence? Nope. After all, this is the CIA we’re talking about. The chances of the president or the Congress jacking with the CIA are virtually nil.

Indeed, have you seen any congressional inquiries into the CIA’s kidnapping, rendition, and torture in Italy? Have you seen any CIA officials subpoenaed to testify as to why these people chose to break Italian law? Have you seen any congressmen even inquiring why those 23 CIA agents had to stay in expensive, luxury hotels in Italy during their illegal operation, given the government’s budgetary problems?

Nope. Again, this is the CIA. Neither the president nor the Congress is going to jack with the CIA.

Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA’s station chief in Milan, received a 12-year jail sentence. He is alleged to have stated in a press interview, “Of course it was an illegal operation. But that’s our job. I am not guilty. I am only responsible for following an order I received from my superiors.”

Pardon me, but wasn’t that what the Nazi defendants claimed when they were put on trial for their crimes?

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Great Evening with Andy Worthington
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last night we held a special evening event featuring British writer Andy Worthington, one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on the Pentagon’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp and its post-9/11 alternative “judicial” system for trying people accused of terrorism. Andy is the author of the book The Guantanamo Files, and writes a weekly column and serves as a policy advisor for FFF.

It was a fascinating evening in that not only did Andy deliver a great talk on Guantanamo Bay and the war on terrorism, he also featured a new documentary film that he has co-produced, entitled “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo.”

As I indicated in my introductory remarks last night, some critics of such things as torture, rendition, denial of due process, and so forth write strictly from an intellectual, analytical perspective. Andy does that, but he does more. What comes through so clearly in his writing and speaking is his sense of moral indignity and moral outrage over the fact that the U.S. government is engaged in these sorts of things. The fact that he so passionately believes in such things as civil liberties, due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and habeas corpus is what makes his work doubly attractive.

The film was absolutely great. It revolved around three Gitmo prisoners, two of whom have been released and whose first-hand perspectives about Guantanamo play a prominent role in the film. Providing analysis and commentary are Andy and two top attorneys, Clive Stafford Smith and Tom Wilner, both of whom have played important roles in the defense of Guantanamo inmates.

We’ll be posting a video of Andy’s speech online, most likely by the end of the week. So far, the film is being shown only to a few selected groups in different parts of the country. Presumably it will ultimately be available on the Internet and when it is, we’ll let you know.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Gun-Free Zone at Ft. Hood
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With the massacre at Ft. Hood, we once again see the consequences of gun control.

Remember what the gun controllers say: that once gun control is imposed, would-be murderers will obey the gun-control law by resorting to some other form of murder. At least the killers won’t use a gun, the gun-controllers exclaim, because gun possession is now against the law.

Yet, once again that reasoning hasn’t panned out at Ft. Hood, any more than it panned out at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, or, for that matter, on the streets of Washington, D.C., the gun-control, murder capital of America.

As libertarians have pointed out, time and time again, would-be murderers don’t give a hoot for gun-control laws. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if would-be murderers are willing to violate laws against murder, it is certain that they will have no reservations about violating gun-control laws.

Therefore, what gun control accomplishes is a disarming of people who would otherwise have the ability to defend themselves from would-be murderers. The peaceful, law-abiding citizenry is forced into simply dodging bullets from the murderer’s illegally possessed guns until the cops arrive.

Consider, for example, the massacre that took place at that Killeen cafeteria in 1991. The patrons of the restaurant were killed because they lacked the means to defend themselves from the murderer, who was violating a gun-control law by carrying his gun into the restaurant. The murderer just kept firing to his heart’s content, knowing that this was a governmentally imposed gun-free zone, until the cops arrived and cornered him, causing him to commit suicide. By that time, he had killed 23 people and wounded another 20.

Need better proof than that? Well, consider this: Suzanna Gratia Hupp, who entered that Killeen cafeteria with her parents, decided to leave her handgun in her truck because she didn’t want to risk a felony conviction by illegally carrying it into the restaurant. Thus, when the shooting commenced, she lacked the means to defend herself, her parents, and everyone else. Her parents were shot and killed. Hupp managed to escape but her parents did not. Watch Hupp’s moving testimony before Congress here, including her statement at the end about the real purpose behind the Second Amendment.

Now, you would think that of all places where people would be armed, it would be a military base. Not so, however. There are strict gun-control laws on military bases, including a prohibition against concealed-carry, even if the state in which the base is located permits concealed-carry.

Thus, at Ft. Hood, the shooter knew that the likelihood of anyone being able to defend himself from the coming onslaught was virtually nil. He knew that since this was a federal gun-free zone, he would be able to shoot his gun and kill his victims until he ran out of ammunition or until the local police arrived and gunned him down.

Why do shooters select gun-free zones to commit their massacres rather than, say, gun shows? No doubt that question continues to befuddle the gun-control crowd.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

CIA Thuggery Prevails in Arar Case
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A major federal appeals court ruling pretty much sums up what the U.S. government’s pro-empire and pro-interventionist foreign policy has done to our nation.

The decision involves the case of Maher Arar, a man who holds dual citizenship with Canada and Syria. He was returning from vacation to Canada and made the fateful decision to simply change planes at JFK Airport in New York. CIA officials intercepted him and prevented him from boarding his next flight and proceeding on his way. In a word, they kidnapped him.

CIA officials had convinced themselves that Arar was a terrorist. But there was one big problem: they didn’t have any evidence to sustain their conviction. They badly needed a confession.

So, the CIA simply cut a deal with Syrian officials by which the Syrian government agreed to torture Arar and then turn over the resulting confession to U.S. officials.

Why did the CIA officials use Syrian officials to do the torturing rather than do it themselves? Since it would be the Syrians, rather than the CIA, who would be doing the torturing, U.S. officials, especially President George W. Bush, could continue exclaiming to the world, “We don’t torture because torture is wrong.”

One interesting sidelight to the Arar case is that during the year that he was held captive in Syria and being brutally tortured, President George Bush was steadfastly maintaining that the U.S. government was refusing to talk to Syria because Syria was a supporter of terrorism.

Yet, not one single time did any member of the press later say to the president, “Mr. President, you had to have been lying about not talking to Syria because in order for the torture deal over Arar to have been effected, someone from inside your administration, specifically the CIA, had to have been talking to Syria.”

To this day, we do not know how the torture deal with Syria got negotiated, who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the CIA, whether the deal was put into writing, whether Bush or Vice President Cheney expressly approved it, or any other details as to how the deal was made. All the court’s decision says is that Arar was “then removed to Syria via Jordan pursuant to an inter-governmental understanding that he would be detained and interrogated under torture by Syrian officials.”

Of course, this lack of interest in how the torture deal got made shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, this is the CIA we’re talking about, and we all know that Congress, the courts, and the mainstream press aren’t going to probe too deeply into anything the CIA does, especially when it comes to torture and murder.

Guess what happens. After a year of incarceration and torture, the Syrian torturers fail to establish that Arar really is a terrorist. No confession. No evidence whatsoever. In other words, he’s innocent. All that’s left is the CIA’s conviction that he’s a terrorist.

Arar is ultimately released and sent back to Canada, this time without being intercepted, kidnapped, and renditioned by the CIA. The Canadian government, which had cooperated in the scheme, apologized and paid Arar some $10 million in compensation.

Arar sued the U.S. officials who did this to him. But in a 7-4 decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Arar could not recover damages for what they did to him. The reason? Because the courts are not going to interfere with the government’s rendition program that has been implemented as part of the war on terrorism.

So, there you have it: The U.S. Empire goes abroad and does terribly bad things to people in the Middle East, which brings about the 9/11 retaliation. That act of terrorism then sets in motion the war on terrorism. As part of the war on terrorism, the CIA assumes the power to kidnap, incarcerate, and send people to brutal regimes so that they can torture confessions out of them. And when the victims sue for what was done to them, the answer is: National security demands that your suit be dismissed.

Translation: Thanks to the blowback that the U.S. Empire’s foreign policy produced on 9/11, we can do whatever we want to people, including Americans, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. This is the new order of things in this country. Get used to it. Deal with it. Accept it. This is your new freedom.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Great Talk on the Great Depression
by Jacob G. Hornberger

If there was ever an area in which public-school indoctrination has been effective, it’s with respect to the Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. It is impossible for any student to escape public school without having his mind molded to accept the officially approved version of events: The Great Depression was the result of the failure of America’s free-enterprise system; after the Depression hit, President Herbert Hoover did nothing, placing his total faith in free enterprise; and Franklin Roosevelt saved America’s free-enterprise system with his New Deal programs.

As libertarians have discovered, the indoctrination is entirely false. The truth is that the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve, a federal agency. The Hoover administration enacted several government interventions that made the Depression worse than it would have been. Roosevelt’s New Deal socialist and fascist programs not only ensured that the Depression would get worse but also guaranteed that it would last much longer than ordinary.

The details behind these truths were provided last Monday night in a great talk by Larry Reed, president of The Foundation for Economic Foundation, as part of our Economic Liberty Lecture Series that we run in conjunction with the George Mason University Econ society, a student-run group of libertarians who have a passion for Austrian economics. The title of Larry’s talk was “Lessons from the Great Depression.”

Larry explained the role of the Federal Reserve in causing the Depression. He first pointed out that it would be difficult to find a better example of where a government agency has failed so dismally to achieve its goals. The purported reason the Fed was established in 1913 was to stabilize the economy and maintain the strength of the dollar. Since then, there have been one Great Depression and several recessions. And the value of the dollar is worth 5 cents compared to what it was worth when the Fed was created, thanks to the Fed’s printing presses. As Larry pointed out, even current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has acknowledged that the Fed, not free enterprise, caused the Great Depression with its erratic expansion and contraction of the money supply.

Larry then pointed out that contrary to popular opinion, the Hoover administration didn’t just sit back and do nothing. Among the most notorious and destructive interventions that Hoover enacted was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which contributed to the crunching of the economy.

In fact, the irony, as Larry pointed out, is during his presidential campaign, FDR came out in favor of lower taxes, reduced federal spending, free enterprise, and limited government. It all turned out to be false. Instead, FDR embarked on a massive socialist-fascist array of programs, such as the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), Social Security, undistributed profits taxes, and much, much more. Those interventions succeeded in paralyzing business activity for more than a decade.

After the Supreme Court declared the NIRA and the AAA unconstitutional, Roosevelt was outraged. Larry pointed out that after his reelection in 1936, he proposed his infamous court-packing scheme designed to pack the Supreme Court with his lawyer cronies who he could count on to uphold his alien schemes. The plan went down to defeat, but in the long run FDR succeeded, especially as justices began retiring.

Larry’s talk was eloquent and easy to follow and understand. It’s a perfect presentation for anyone who is still operating under the misconceptions that are commonly held about the Great Depression and the New Deal. The talk is also a fantastic refresher for those who already know the truth about this part of our nation’s economic history.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

With the Dole Comes Control
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Those who are complaining that government officials shouldn’t be controlling what companies pay their executives need to be reminded of an important point: He who pays the piper calls the tune. Or to put it another way, those who go on the dole are inevitably going to be controlled by the government. With the dole comes control.

Sure, it’s theoretically possible for government to just dole out money to people or companies, with no strings attached. But how likely is that? With few exceptions (Ron Paul being one of them), government attracts people who have a thirst for power, a thirst for controlling the lives of other people. And offering people a dole, especially when they’re desperate, is a perfect way to impose control on the recipients. Take our money and accept our conditions.

What does such control over the citizenry mean? It means a loss of liberty. The more a person is controlled by government, the less liberty he has. That’s why socialism — which ultimately involves total control over economic activity — entails a loss of liberty. More control equals less freedom.

Moreover, the principle applies not only to the recipient but also to everyone else. The reason is because in order to get the money to provide the dole, the government must tax people. With the income tax, the government wields the power to take whatever percentage of people’s income it wants to fund whatever amount of dole it wishes to provide.

This lesson of dole-control, unfortunately, is one that Americans are forgetting in the health-care debate. The government is promising to provide people with free or subsidized health care. But with that “benefit” comes massively greater control over the lives of the people. Government-provided health care equals significantly less individual freedom.

The irony is that oftentimes it’s the government that produces the conditions that cause people to surrender their freedom in return for the welfare dole. This is especially true in the health-care arena, where such socialist and interventionist programs as Medicare, Medicaid, licensure, and regulation have produced the health-care crisis.

Yet, rather than pull those things out by their root through repeal, government officials use the adverse consequences of those things to induce people to surrender more freedom in return for more government “benefits.” As things get worse, which they will because that’s what socialism and interventionism do, the “benefits” will grow, along with the control. At the end of this road lies total control, that is, a total loss of freedom.

I can’t help but think of the slaves in the Old South. Consider the benefits they were provided. They received free housing, food, clothing, health care, and education (i.e., on the job vocational training.) Moreover, they were provided with guaranteed employment.

What could be better than all that? Ironically, when a master wished to reward his slave for some extraordinary act, he would grant him his freedom, which meant that the former slave was now entirely on his own — i.e., no more free benefits and no more guaranteed job. How cruel!

In principle, people living under a welfare state are no different from those slaves on the plantations. As the federal government continues to expand its benefits, its control over the people expands as well. That dole and control increasingly produce a dependent, frightened, weak citizenry that looks to the government to take care of them and provide for them, especially as conditions continue to get worse. The road begins with socialistic and interventionist programs. It ends with complete socialism, complete control, and complete loss of freedom.

What is so badly needed in America is a moral revolution, a spiritual revolution, and an economic revolution, one in which people reject socialism and interventionism in all their forms and manifestations and restore their faith in God, freedom, free markets, and themselves.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Washington Times and Ali al-Marri
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In an editorial today, the Washington Times takes federal Judge Michael M. Mihm to task for showing “mercy” to convicted terrorist Ali al-Marri by sentencing him to 8 years of prison instead of the 15 years that the judge could have sentenced him to.

What the Times describes as “mercy” is the judge’s decision to give al-Marri credit for the 6 years he already had served in military incarceration during the time that the feds were labeling him an “enemy combatant.”

In other words, when you add up the total amount of time that al-Marri has been incarcerated by U.S. officials, including the time he served in a civilian jail prior to the time they converted him to an “enemy combatant,” you get the 15 years that the judge could have sentenced him to.

The Times must know that it is not unusual for criminal defendants to be given credit for time served prior to a criminal conviction. To consider a judge’s decision to give a criminal defendant credit for time served prior to sentencing as “mercy” is ridiculous. The fact is that military incarceration is incarceration and, in fact, it’s much worse than civilian incarceration. It encompasses torture, isolation, denial of counsel, denial of trial, and denial of due process of law, all of which al-Marri was subjected to.

The Times also failed to point out something important here. What the feds did to al-Marri they now have the post-9/11 power to do to every American. All they have to do is issue the label — enemy combatant — on any particular American, including critics and dissidents, and they can sock him away in a military dungeon for the rest of his life. If the American files a habeas corpus petition, all the feds have to do is provide a modicum of evidence to support their enemy-combatant claim.

And no, they don’t have to convert him to a civilian defendant, as they did with al-Marri. That was entirely a discretionary decision on the part of the feds. If they had wanted to, they could have kept al-Marri in that military dungeon for the rest of his life. For that matter, their post-9/11 power enables them to re-take al-Marri into custody as soon as he serves his 8-year sentence and keep him in that military dungeon forever.

What the Times editorial also fails to address is the clear violation of the principle of the rule of law here, a principle that conservatives often pay lip service to. After 9/11, the feds assumed the power to treat suspected terrorists in two alternative, optional, discretionary ways, each of which has dramatically different consequences.

On the one hand, they can now treat suspected terrorists as “enemy combatants,” which can entail permanent military incarceration, torture, kangaroo tribunals, denial of due process, and denial of trial by jury.

On the other hand, they can treat suspected terrorists as criminal defendants, which will entail federal courts, trial by jury, due process of law, and the Bill of Rights.

The choice lies entirely with the feds. In fact, that’s why al-Marri got both treatments — first as a criminal defendant, then as an “enemy combatant,” and then again as a criminal defendant. It’s all discretionary.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a violation of the rule of law than that, but conservatives obviously see no problem with that, notwithstanding their oft-repeated mantras about the importance of the rule of law.

The Times editorial finishes up with a scary warning about how closing down Guantanamo Bay and bringing its prisoners to the United States will mean that more federal judges “have the opportunity to make mistakes that put us all at risk.”

The only reason that the Pentagon set up its prison camp and new “judicial” system in Cuba was to provide the feds an optional, discretionary way to avoid the due-process provisions of the Bill of Rights when it comes to criminal cases involving terrorism. For all too long, conservatives have denigrated those parts of the Bill of Rights as “technicalities” that let guilty people go free. Only time will tell whether the feds extend their self-assumed discretionary power to drug-war cases, insider-trading cases, and other federal crimes to the military. No doubt conservatives will be cheering them on.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.