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John W. Whitehead

John W. Whitehead

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization whose international headquarters are located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson, in addition to writing a weekly commentary that is posted on The Rutherford Institute’s website (www.rutherford.org), as well being distributed to several hundred newspapers, and hosting a national public service radio campaign. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties issues has earned him numerous accolades, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom.

Articles by John W. Whitehead

John Lennon vs. the Deep State: One Man Against the ‘Monster’

7 days ago

“You gotta remember, establishment, it’s just a name for evil. The monster doesn’t care whether it kills all the students or whether there’s a revolution. It’s not thinking logically, it’s out of control.”—John Lennon (1969)
John Lennon, born 79 years ago on October 9, 1940, was a musical genius and pop cultural icon.
He was also a vocal peace protester and anti-war activist and a high-profile example of the lengths to which the Deep State will go to persecute those who dare to challenge its authority.
Long before Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were being castigated for blowing the whistle on the government’s war crimes and the National Security Agency’s abuse of its surveillance powers, it was Lennon who was

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Guns for Hire?

14 days ago

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” — James Madison
Eventually, all military empires fall and fail by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.
It happened in Rome.
It’s happening again.
At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As

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Welfare Checks Turn Deadly:

21 days ago

“Anyone who cares for someone with a developmental disability, as well as for disabled people themselves [lives] every day in fear that their behavior will be misconstrued as suspicious, intoxicated or hostile by law enforcement.”—Steve Silberman, The New York Times
Think twice before you call the cops to carry out a welfare check on a loved one.
Especially if that person is autistic, hearing impaired, mentally ill, elderly, suffering from dementia, disabled or might have a condition that hinders their ability to understand, communicate or immediately comply with an order.
Particularly if you value that person’s life.
At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or

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Martial Law Masquerading as Law and Order

28 days ago

“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”—Justice William O. Douglas, dissenting, Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972)
Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about free speech in America.
It’s all a lie.
There can be no free speech for the citizenry when the government speaks in a language of force.
What is this language of force?
Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black

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The Bill of Rights Turns 230, and What Do We Have To Show for It?

September 11, 2019

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
It’s been 230 years since James Madison drafted the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—as a means of protecting the people against government tyranny, and what do we have to show for it?
Nothing good.
In America today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.
We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document, but the

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Is the US Government the Enemy of the People?

September 4, 2019

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” ― Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
Take heed, America.
Our losses are mounting with every passing day.
What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act  has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.
The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation is being locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.
Set against a backdrop of government surveillance,

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The American Gulag

August 29, 2019

“The exile of prisoners to a distant place, where they can ‘pay their debt to society,’ make themselves useful, and not contaminate others with their ideas or their criminal acts, is a practice as old as civilization itself. The rulers of ancient Rome and Greece sent their dissidents off to distant colonies. Socrates chose death over the torment of exile from Athens. The poet Ovid was exiled to a fetid port on the Black Sea.”— Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History
This is how freedom dies.
This is how you condition a populace to life as prisoners in a police state: by brainwashing them into believing they are free so that they will march in lockstep with the state and be incapable of recognizing the prison walls that surround them.

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American Apocalypse

August 22, 2019

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out … without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.” — H. L. Mencken
The U.S. government is working hard to destabilize the nation.
No, this is not another conspiracy theory.
Although it is certainly not far-fetched to suggest that the government might be engaged in nefarious activities that run counter to the best interests of the American people, doing so will likely brand me a domestic terrorist under the FBI’s new classification system.
Observe for yourself what is happening right before our eyes.
Domestic terrorism

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Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America?

August 13, 2019

“It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”—Journalist Celisa Calacal
Yes, gun violence is a problem in America, although violent crime generally remains at an all-time low.
Yes, mass shootings are a problem in America, although while they are getting deadlier, they are not getting more frequent.
Yes, mentally ill individuals embarking on mass shooting sprees are a problem in America.
However, tighter gun control

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We’re All Enemies of the State

August 8, 2019

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”—H.L. Mencken
We’ve been down this road many times before.
If the government is consistent about any one thing, it is this: it has an unnerving tendency to exploit crises and use them as opportunities for power grabs under the guise of national security.
As David C. Unger, a foreign affairs editorial writer for the New York Times, explains, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have given way to permanent crisis management: to policing the planet and fighting preventative wars of ideological containment, usually on terrain chosen by, and favorable to, our

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The Rise of the American Gestapo

July 31, 2019

“Adolf Hitler is alive and well in the United States, and he is fast rising to power.”—Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, on the danger posed by the FBI to our civil liberties
Despite the finger-pointing and outcries of dismay from those who are watching the government discard the rule of law at every turn, the question is not whether Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler but whether the American Police State is the new Third Reich.
For those who can view the present and past political landscape without partisan blinders, the warning signs are unmistakable: the Deep State’s love affair with totalitarianism began long ago.
Indeed, the U.S. government so admired the Nazi regime that following the second

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Monsters With Human Faces

July 25, 2019

“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.” ― Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Enough already.
Enough with the distractions. Enough with the partisan jousting.
Enough with the sniping and name-calling and mud-slinging that do nothing to make this country safer or freer or more just.
We have let the government’s evil-doing, its abuses, power grabs, brutality, meanness, inhumanity, immorality, greed, corruption, debauchery and tyranny go on for too long.
We are

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It’s Un-American To Be Anti-Free Speech

July 18, 2019

“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”— Justice William O. Douglas
Unjust. Brutal. Criminal. Corrupt. Inept. Greedy. Power-hungry. Racist. Immoral. Murderous. Evil. Dishonest. Crooked. Excessive. Deceitful. Untrustworthy. Unreliable. Tyrannical.
These are all words that have at some time or other been used to describe the U.S. government.
These are all words that I have used at some time or

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It’s Time To Declare Your Independence From Tyranny, America

July 3, 2019

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine, December 1776
It’s time to declare your independence from tyranny, America.
For too long now, we have suffered the injustices of a government that has no regard for our rights or our humanity.
Too easily pacified and placated by the pomp and pageantry of manufactured spectacles (fireworks on the Fourth of July, military parades, ritualized elections,

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How Evil Wins

June 28, 2019

“She was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80 percent could be moved in either direction.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Please spare me the media hysterics and the outrage and the hypocritical double standards of those whose moral conscience appears to be largely dictated by their political loyalties.
Anyone who believes that the injustices, cruelties and vicious callousness of the U.S. government are unique to the Trump Administration has not been paying attention.
No matter what the team colors might be at any given moment, the playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its

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The Jackboots Are Coming

June 20, 2019

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?
You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing

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The Omnipresent Surveillance State

June 11, 2019

“You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984
Tread cautiously: the fiction of George Orwell has become an operation manual for the omnipresent, modern-day surveillance state.
It’s been 70 years since Orwell—dying, beset by fever and bloody coughing fits, and driven to warn against the rise of a society in which rampant abuse of power and mass manipulation are the norm—depicted the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism in 1984.
Who could have predicted that 70 years after Orwell typed the final words to his dystopian novel, “He loved Big Brother,” we would

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You’re Under Arrest

June 6, 2019

“History shows that governments sometimes seek to regulate our lives finely, acutely, thoroughly, and exhaustively. In our own time and place, criminal laws have grown so exuberantly and come to cover so much previously innocent conduct that almost anyone can be arrested for something. If the state could use these laws not for their intended purposes but to silence those who voice unpopular ideas, little would be left of our First Amendment liberties, and little would separate us from the tyrannies of the past or the malignant fiefdoms of our own age. The freedom to speak without risking arrest is ‘one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation.’”—Justice Neil Gorsuch, dissenting, Nieves v.

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Technotyranny

May 30, 2019

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” ― Philip K. Dick
Red pill or blue pill? You decide.
Twenty years after the Wachowskis’ iconic 1999 film, The Matrix, introduced us to a futuristic world in which humans exist in a computer-simulated non-reality powered by authoritarian machines—a world where the choice between existing in a denial-ridden virtual dream-state or facing up to the harsh, difficult realities of life comes down to a red pill or a blue pill—we stand at the precipice of a technologically-dominated matrix of our own making.
We are living the prequel to The Matrix with each passing day, falling further under the spell

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How To Survive the Journey Ahead:

May 21, 2019

“No matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, sooner or later, you’ll face circumstances beyond your control.” — Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones
Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people.
They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.
As such, they will find themselves forced to march in

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Drivers Beware: The Deadly Perils of Traffic Stops

May 14, 2019

The Nation. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official“ The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity.
We’ve all been there before.
You’re driving along and you see a pair of flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror. Whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, you get a sinking feeling in your stomach.
You’ve read enough news stories, seen enough headlines, and lived in the American police state long enough to be anxious about any encounter with a cop that takes place on the side of the road.
For

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Dictatorship Disguised as Democracy

May 8, 2019

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” — Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business
What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of

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Predator Cops, Guilty of Sex Crimes

May 4, 2019

“Sexual predation by police officers happens far more often than people in the business are willing to admit.”—Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper
How could this be happening right under our noses?
That’s what readers wanted to know after my column went viral about the extent to which young children are being bought and sold for sex in America.
Where are the police when these children—some as young as 9 years old—are being raped repeatedly?
For that matter, what is the Trump Administration doing about the fact that adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in suburbs, cities and towns across this nation?
I’ll tell you what the government is doing: little to nothing.
While America’s children are being

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From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange

April 17, 2019

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell
When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are being ruled by criminals.
In the current governmental climate, where laws that run counter to the dictates of the Constitution are made in secret, passed without debate, and upheld by secret courts that operate behind closed doors, obeying one’s conscience and speaking truth to the power of the police state can render you an “enemy of the state.”
That list of so-called “enemies of the state” is growing.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is merely the latest victim of the police state’s assault on dissidents and whistleblowers.
On April 11, 2019, police arrested Assange for

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Financial Tyranny

April 10, 2019

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
Don’t ask me what I want it forIf you don’t want to pay some more‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman…And you’re working for no one but me.— George Harrison, “Taxman”
We’re not living the American Dream. We’re in the grip of a financial nightmare.
“We the people” have become the new, permanent underclass in America.
We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die, and yet we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer

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The Making of a Monster

March 30, 2019

“But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around—they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep, so banal you don’t recognize them for what they are until it’s too late.” — Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
The U.S. government, in its pursuit of so-called monsters, has itself become a monster.
This is not a new development, nor is it a revelation.
This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all

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Don’t Shoot the Dogs

March 20, 2019

“In too much of policing today, officer safety has become the highest priority. It trumps the rights and safety of suspects. It trumps the rights and safety of bystanders. It’s so important, in fact, that an officer’s subjective fear of a minor wound from a dog bite is enough to justify using potentially lethal force, in this case at the expense of a 4-year-old girl. And this isn’t the first time. In January, an Iowa cop shot and killed a woman by mistake while trying to kill her dog. Other cops have shot other kids, other bystanders, their partners, their supervisors and even themselves while firing their guns at a dog. That mind-set is then, of course, all the more problematic when it comes to using force against

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The Age of Tyrannical Surveillance

February 27, 2019

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about… Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.”—Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt
Uncle Sam wants you.
Correction: Big Brother wants you.
To be technically accurate, Big Brother—aided and abetted by his corporate partners in crime—wants your data.
That’s what we have been reduced to in the eyes of the government and Corporate America: data bits and economic units to be bought, bartered and sold to the highest bidder.
Those highest bidders include America’s political class and the politicians aspiring to get elected or re-elected. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “If you have been to a political rally,

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Rule by Fiat

February 19, 2019

“When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”—Richard Nixon
Who pays the price for the dissolution of the constitutional covenant that holds the government and its agents accountable to the will of the people?
We all do.
This ill-advised decision by President Trump to circumvent the Constitution’s system of checks and balances by declaring a national emergency in order to build a border wall constitutes yet another expansion of presidential power that exposes the nation to further constitutional peril.
It doesn’t matter that the legal merits of this particular national emergency will be challenged in court.
The damage has already been done.
As reporter Danny Cevallos points out, “President Donald Trump only had

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These Are Dangerous Times

February 9, 2019

“As I look at America today, I am not afraid to say that I am afraid.”—Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America
These are dangerous times.
Mind you, when I say that these are dangerous times, it is not because of violent crime, which remains at an all-time low, or because of terrorism, which is statistically rare, or because our borders are being invaded by armies, which data reports from the Department of Homeland Security refute.
No, the real danger that we face comes from none other than the U.S. government and the powers it has granted to its standing army to steal, cheat, harass, detain, brutalize, terrorize, torture and kill.
The danger “we the people” face comes from masked invaders on the

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