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On Contact: The second war on terror

On the show, Chris Hedges discusses the second war on terror with journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The liberal and Democratic Party elites have seized on the January 6 mob assault on the US Capitol as the domestic equivalent of the 9/11 attacks. Joe Biden called the storming of the Capitol “the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” Representative Liz Cheney, a right-wing Republican whose animus towards Donald Trump has seen her join forces with the Democratic Party leadership, said the forces behind January 6 represent “a threat America has never seen before.” The enabling resolution that created the select committee that is investigating the events of January 6 called the mob assault “one of the darkest days of our democracy.”

The hyperventilating about the incursion into the Capitol, often described by its critics as an attempted insurrection and coup, has effectively shut down questions about the response to the incident. There is a collective chant by the Democratic Party leadership and many in the media, calling for the censoring and criminalization of those who embrace right-wing ideology and its conspiracy theories. The Biden administration is pushing a bill authored by Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the Select Committee on January 6, to declare a second war on terror against domestic enemies. The rhetoric, and the rush to push through legislation that will severely circumscribe our ability to dissent, echoes what we heard in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Those, such as Glenn Greenwald, who warn that such overreach is excessive, unconstitutional, and dangerously weakens our already anemic civil liberties are excoriated as closet right-wing sympathizers. Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, who is also an attorney, was one of the first and most important voices to decry the draconian provisions instituted under the Patriot Act and the anti-terrorism laws passed in the wake of 9/11. He sees a similar lack of proportionality or legality in the government actions being carried out after the January incursion with, perhaps, even more dire consequences.

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CH: Welcome to On Contact.  Today we discuss the second war on terror with the Journalist Glenn Greenwald.

GG: What they're doing here is essentially running a parallel investigation to the Justice Department because they're angry that the Justice Department hasn't indicted anybody on these grandiose claims of conspiracy to incite an insurrection, or sedition, or treason, or attempting to, like, kill, or murder, or kidnap AOC.  And what they're really trying to do is just to feed this hungry liberal mob with a spectacle of dragging mostly poor, and impoverished, and lawyer-less people before them to just, kind of, publicly vilify them as a supplement to the prosecution that the DOJ is already pursuing, in--the case saw that has limited and prescribed the ability of Congress to investigate more on how dangerous it is when they exceed that, unsurprisingly comes from the McCarthy era, when Congress did the same thing.

CH: The Liberal and Democratic Party elites have seized on the January 6th mob assault on the US Capitol as the domestic equivalent of the attacks of 9/11.  Joe Biden calls the storming of the Capitol, "The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War."  Representative Liz Cheney, a right-wing Republican, whose animus towards Donald Trump has seen her join forces with the Democratic Party leadership said that the forces behind January 6th represent "A threat America has never seen before."  The enabling resolution that created the select committee that is investigating the events of January 6th, calls the mob assault one of the darkest days of our democracy.  The hyperventilating about the incursion into the Capitol, often described by its critics, as an attempted insurrection or coup has effectively shut down questions about whether proposed responses for dealing with the January 6th mob incursion into the Capitol is legitimate or not.  There is a collective chant by the Democratic Party leadership and many in the media for the censoring, and criminalizing of those that embrace the right-wing ideology and its conspiracy theories that led to the assault.  The Biden administration is pushing a bill authored by Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the Select Committee on January 6th to open a second war on terror against domestic enemies, the rhetoric and the rush to push through legislation that will severely circumscribe our ability to dissent echoes what we heard in the immediate aftermath of the attacks of 9/11.  Those such as Glenn Greenwald, who warned that such overreach is excessive, unconstitution--unconstitutional and dangerously weakens our already anemic civil liberties are excoriated as closet sympathizers with the right-wing.  Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, as well as an attorney was one of the first and most important voices to decry the draconian provisions instituted under the Patriot Act and the anti-terrorism laws passed in the wake of 9/11.  He sees a similar lack of proportionality or legality in the government actions being carried out after the January incursion, with perhaps even more dire consequences.  He joins me to discuss how the January 6th assault is being manipulated by the ruling elites to effectively snuff out all forms of dissent.  So you wrote this really brilliant piece, civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection, fears Congress' 1/6 committee may be the worst abuse yet.  And as I said before we went on the air, it's completely consistent with what you are writing in the wake of 9/11.  But because you're holding the liberal elites and the Democratic Party to the same accountability under the law, you've now in their eyes, in many ways, become the enemy.  But let's lay out, I mean, as you do in the piece, the legal anomalies that are being pushed through before we talk about their consequences.

GG: Sure.  So, you know, I think one of the most interesting aspects of all of this and one of the most overlooked parts of this recent history is that even prior to January 6th, the intelligence services the CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and the like were warning that the greatest risk to American national security and American homeland was not Al Qaeda, or China, or ISIS, or Russia, but was right-wing domestic extremism, and we obviously ought to be very alert anytime our security services are claiming that the greatest threat to American national security comes not from foreign villains which have created enough damage that claim on its own, but from among our fellow citizens.  And even in the pre-inauguration period, prior to January 6th, in November and December, there are statements from Biden's top transition leaders that one of their priorities now that they've won is going to be new war in terror, new war on terror legislation essentially to import all of the authorities from the first war on terror onto domestic soil with the bill that you mentioned, sponsored by Congressman Schiff, one of the most hawkish members of Congress.  So, this was all going on before January 6th, it reminds me a lot of how neocons were itching to overthrow Saddam Hussein prior to 9/11.  And 9/11 became the pretext that really gave the fuel for them to do what they had wanted to do before that.  Same here, they were talking about a new war on terror against right-wing extremists, even before 1/6, and 1/6 then obviously provided the ideal justification, the necessarily high fear levels to keep the population in check.  And as far as the legal issues that you've alluded to, I mean, I guess the summary version of it is we all know that Congress has a certain kind of investigative authority.  But it's not unlimited for a very simple reason, which is when crimes are committed in the United States it is the Justice Department and the FBI responsible for investigating those crimes, and then the Judiciary for adjudicating guilt.  Congress doesn't have any role to play on purpose in investigating crimes and adjudicating guilt, because they don't have any of the safeguards of the Executive branch and the Judiciary do.  Their ability to legislate or to investigate, to subpoena and the like, is limited to two narrow circumstances, one where it's necessary to help them legislate.  So if they're going to re-write pollution laws, they can subpoena the heads of oil companies to find out where oil spills are taking place and how.  Or secondly, in order to exert oversight responsibilities over the Executive branch, so like, the Watergate Scandal, or Iran-Contra where they're trying to find out what the Executive branch did.  What they're doing here is essentially running a parallel investigation to the Justice Department because they're angry that the Justice Department hasn't indicted anybody on these grandiose claims of conspiracy to incite an insurrection, or sedition, or treason, or attempting to, like, kill, or murder, or kidnap AOC.  And what they're really trying to do is just to feed this hungry liberal mob with a spectacle of dragging mostly poor, and impoverished, and lawyer-less people before them to just, kind of, publicly vilify them as a supplement to the prosecution that the DOJ is already pursuing, in--the case saw that has limited and prescribed the ability of Congress to investigate more on how dangerous it is when they exceed that, unsurprisingly comes from the McCarthy era, when Congress did the same thing.  They set up commissions the House on American Activities Committee and the like.  And they hauled private citizens before them and interrogated them about their political activities, about their associations based on the claim, just like now that there's an ideology loose in the United States that is so extremist and so subversive, that it poses a threat to American national security.

CH: You write that all sorts of safeguards that, you know, even the FBI would have to get a warrant.  This has been violated by this committee including, of course, there were calls to put the people involved in the riot of the 6th, a no fly list.  But talk a little bit about the extreme civil liberty assaults that the committee is inflicting on those people, and how they're targeting those people which you write about in this piece.

GG: Right.  So it's not just the mere existence of the committee that's so disturbing, but their conduct, their investigative conduct as well.  One of the things that they've done is they sent out dozens, I think, actually hundreds of what are called third party subpoenas.  So you don't send necessarily a subpoena to the person you're trying to investigate.  You send a subpoena to their email service, or to their telephone company, or their cell carrier, like Verizon, or social media companies to demand information about where those people have been, where they went, what they've said, what their activities are.  And what was so disturbing, obviously, that isn't a very invasive thing to do when the FBI wants to subpoena your phone records, it has to go to a court and get permission in order to do that.  That was one of the scandals of the Snowden story, right?  Was that the Executive branch was obtaining our phone records, not meddling with the Judicial warrant, just this vague FISA court warrant but at least there they actually had Judicial approval as dubious as it was.  In this case, Congress has no--they don't--they're not going to a court and convincing our court these subpoenas are justified.  They're just sending, kind of, request out to these companies.  And what's even more pernicious is included within the subpoenas are "requests" that these companies not notify the people on whom they're seeking records.  So, if you're one of the people Congress has decided should be investigated, and they're trying to get your phone records, they're telling your phone company, your email company, "Don't tell Chris Hedges, we want to get his records."  The reason they don't want you to know is because that would prevent you from then going into court and raising constitutional and legal objections to what they're doing.  And they've told these companies, "Look, if you feel like you can't honor this request, give us a call."  Because essentially, what they'll do is if, you know, Twitter calls and said, "We're not going to give you information that you're requesting without notifying them."  They'll simply withdraw the subpoena because they know that what they're doing is legally excessive, has no legal basis.  And they want to ensure that nobody has the ability to challenge what they're doing in court, either by getting the information without the person knowing, or withdrawing the subpoena before the person can challenge it.  So it's almost like deliberately and knowingly illegal what Congress is doing, and yet they're doing it in the most stealth and invasive manner possible.

CH: I want to talk about the rhetoric.  It's called an insurrection, it's called a coup, a conspiracy to commit murder, and kidnapping of public officials.  And yet, legally, and I think you quoted in here that the FBI, the internal investigation of the FBI, I think the New York Times, or Reuters, or someone reported it, didn't find any evidence for any of this.  So we have that kind of high blown rhetoric that, especially the liberal media, amplifies and yet legally, these are largely misdemeanors.

GG: Precisely.  I mean, you know, the people who have been charged with felonies, there's a--there's over 600 people currently charged in connection with January 6th, the vast majority of them are charged with nonviolent offenses.  So no one even claims they hit anyone, attacked police officers, engage in violence of any kind.  These are purely nonviolent protesters.  For the people who actually use violence to hit a police officer, or attack police officers, obviously, those are felonies, if you use violence against a police officer you're going to be charged with felony.  Now, those are essentially in controversial cases.  So you have like 400 or 450 people who are just charged with nonviolent and trespassing, which ordinarily would be nothing more than a misdemeanor.  But how can you reconcile the media narrative to which we've been subjected for nine months, if these people are insurrectionists, who are attempting an overthrow of the United States government, with charging them with a misdemeanor, which almost ensures they're not going to go to prison.  So what--I mean, it's a big challenge for federal law enforcement authorities.  So what they've done is they've concocted this wild theory that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which is some of you might remember, probably most people have forgotten, it's a very obscure bill at this point.  It was intended to regulate Wall Street in the wake of the Enron scandal.  There's a provision in there that says, that it's a felony to obstruct justice, which includes any attempt to interfere in a judicial proceeding.  And what they're essentially trying to do to turn these people into felons is to argue that the January 6th certification by Congress of the Electoral College count as certified by the States is not just a ministerial act, but is actually an evidentiary proceeding that they have wide discretion to decide whether this--these tallies were valid or not.  And therefore, anyone who tried to interfere in that has obstructed justice under this statute.  And what's so ironic about that, Chris, is that the argument that what happens on January 6th is not a mere ministerial act, but an actual trial, essentially, where the presiding officer, the Vice President has to decide whether these counts are valid or not is exactly the argument Trump and his most extremist lawyers were making to try and convince Mike Pence that he had the power to reject the Electoral College authorities, exactly the thing that has everyone so up in arms.  So you have the Justice Department replicating that argument to try and turn these people into felons.  That's how willing--they're willing--they have already stretched the law, but even with all of what they're doing, these months of pre-trial imprisonment with no convictions of any kind, people just wasting away in prison for months, very harsh prison conditions, unusual, specially crafted conditions to isolate them, even with all of that aggression, that prosecutorial aggression, not one person, not one has been charged with any of those grander crimes like inciting interaction, or sedition, or treason, or conspiring to kill or kidnap Mike Pence, or AOC, or other elected members.  And obviously, that creates a huge political problem, which is, how is it that people were told for nine months if this was an insurrection from seditionists, trying to overthrow the government, and killing, kidnap elected officials, and yet the Justice Department who's now under the control of Joe Biden, the Democrats, is not charging anybody, not even one symbolic person with that offense.  And so within this huge disparity between what they encourage Liberals to expect, and what the law and the facts actually permit, is this enormous breach that I think they're trying to fill with this show trial in Congress.

CH: Great.  When we come back, we will continue our conversation about the new second war on terror and its consequences with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Glenn Greenwald.  Welcome back to On Contact.  We continue our conversation about the new second war on terror and its consequences with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Glenn Greenwald.  So I want to talk about the sentences which are with the--they're just beginning to come out, which are the guy, the, kind of, QAnon guy with a headdress just got charged.  You mentioned they're--they've been denied bail, they're held in very harsh conditions, which have--even been criticized by a federal judge, including solitary confinement.  So the--talk a little bit about the way they've been treated, and as you point out, the ACLU has not taken up their cases, most of these people are poor, it means, they don't have legal representation.  Talk about what's happened to these figures.  And also, which I found interesting, your piece, the way the committee identifies them is the people who signed to carry out--signed up to carry out legal part--to join that rally that was before, but you can explain all that.

GG: Probably what I should have mentioned earlier when I was talking about these invasive and legally dubious third party subpoenas, the way they gathered and compiled the list of targets of people they wanted to investigate was they got the list of the people who had legally applied for protest permits.  On January 6, the people who wanted to hold the rally, claiming the election was fraudulent, obviously, whatever you think of those claims, they have the absolute legal right as citizens to apply for a permit, to protest, and those permits were approved.  So this committee is targeting the very people who exercise their First Amendment rights to assemble, to wage grievance against the government.  They're being punished and investigated for exercising their rights, that's the way that Congress began their list of bad people.  I think that one of the things that is happening here that also is important, you alluded to, is the fact that these people have become so radioactive, anyone accused of any involvement with January 6th, that they are having a hard time getting counsel.  People probably have forgotten that after 9/11, when the Bush Administration started rounding up Muslims, when Guantanamo was opened, and people were put into black sites in Guantanamo with absolutely no due process, or really grave violation of due process and core constitutional rights, the ACLU was afraid to touch any of these cases for months, if not even more than a year, it was left to the more, kind of, radical or courageous groups, like, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild, who were the only ones willing to provide representation.  It was only once it got safe to the ACLU and then bigger law firms who have pro bono programs start to represent Guantanamo detainees.  But it took a while, months, if not years, for that to happen.  This is exactly the same thing that's happening now, which is for people who can't afford lawyers, which is the vast majority of them, and of course, they're against the full weight and power of the United States government at the Justice Department with their unlimited resources, they can't pay for lawyers and most pro bono lawyers are petrified of touching these cases.  And so, you have these very legally dubious attacks on their rights, as I described earlier, and it's very difficult to find competent lawyers willing to challenge them in court.  And, you know, I think that it is this climate that has drawn my attention more than any other, the obvious similarity with 9/11, it is to the point where, just like in the months after 9/11, anyone who questioned any, kind of, measures undertaken in the name of combating terrorism were accused not of insufficient concern of terrorism, but--over terrorism and have actually been sympathizers to al-Qaeda, people who were themselves supporters of terrorists, apologies for it, that's exactly the same rhetorical tactic now being used if you raise constitutional concerns about the 1/6 committee, or the war on terror being waged in its name, you're instantly accused of sympathy for White Nationalism, for all kinds of fascist ideology, is that they claim are behind this movement.  And it's a very chilling atmosphere for a lot of people to stand up and raise concerns.

CH: Before I go into the role of the FBI, I just wanted to clear that prosecutors are demanding--you write this in a column that came out later, prosecutors are demanding more than four years in prison for Jacob Chansley, the so-called Q Shaman, despite the fact that he did not use violence against anyone on that date.  I mean, these sentences are remarkable.  Let's talk about the FBI involvement.

GG: Can I just--can I just insert one thing?

CH: Yeah.

GG: Because, I mean, it's such an amazing point that, for years, liberals have believed and described themselves as advocates for criminal justice reform, arguing, and I think absolutely correctly, that there's something very wrong with the United States in prisons more of its citizens than any other country in the world, by far, including countries of much larger populations where they're said to be much more repressive.  And the big argument is that it's because we put people into prison for too long for nonviolent offenses that don't merit prison.  And here you have the kind of person who became the symbolic face of the January 6th Riot, because of how colorful his costume was, he entered the Senate.  But nobody claims he engaged in any violence at all.  He's a completely nonviolent protester, Jacob Chansley, who is known as the Q Shaman.  They're seeking over four years in prison, four years beyond the eight months.  He's been in prison since January 6th without a trial, so basically, they're trying to imprison him for five years.  You have an Obama appointed judge who is doling out prison sentences in excess of what the prosecutors are requesting, the kinds of things that if you were actually a real criminal justice reform advocate would cause you to be ranting and raving in anger.  And yet you try and find a Democrat or a Liberal, or even a Progressive, who's willing to stand up and say, "These are the kinds of criminal justice excesses that have created the prison state to which we've been so opposed."

CH: Let's talk about the FBI involvement in 1/6.  That has really, if--unless you're watching right-wing media, that is a complete blank in all of the other media outlets.

GG: You know, what's so unbelievable about this, to me, Chris is a good chunk of left media.  And I spent a lot of years myself doing this, in the first war on terror, it covered the fact that most of the domestic terror pots that we heard about, that the FBI would praise itself for disrupting, you know, this group of Muslims was ready to blow up this bridge or plant the bomb here.  In most of those cases, those plots, "were conceived up by the FBI," they would send an informant or an infiltrator into a mosque, to target young, vulnerable Muslims who they judged to be emotionally unstable or financially deprived.  And they would manipulate them to join a plot that the FBI actually themselves created.  And they would have their informants direct these people and lure them into the plot, and then at the last minute, they would go and they would break up the plot.  And there were a lot of critics in left media, including myself, who were writing constantly about what the FBI was doing, that it was basically entrapment, and asking the question, if Muslim terrorism really is such a threat, why do they have to keep inventing their plots?  Why can't they find actual ones that aren't being fueled by them?  And now, what we have is exactly the same thing.  Last year, there was a huge media story about this right wing militia in Michigan, where they arrested 20 people or about a dozen people on charges of trying to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who became a lightning rod, because of heavy COVID lockdowns.  And as it turned out, at least half of the people, including the leaders of that plot, were actual FBI agents or FBI informants.  They had their hooks in these groups, luring them into these terror plots.  So then, when something, like, 1/6 happens, when the FBI is already saying that right wing extremism is the greatest threat to national security, and then you look at the three groups that the FBI claims were most responsible for coordinating the January 6th attack, which is The Proud Boys, The Oathkeepers, and the Three Percenters, we know for certain that the FBI has its tentacles in all three of those groups.  So the question naturally arises, why is it that some of the people who seem to have been ringleaders on that day, encouraging people to go into the Capitol, encouraging them to attack the police, haven't yet been charged, while people whose role was much more ancillary have been and there's been reporting, as you said, largely confined to the right wing media that strongly suggests that at least some of the people who were there that day, were actually acting at the behest of the FBI.  And finally, the New York Times last month, because it became insuppressible, reported that at least one or more of the people in communication with the FBI who are on the ground at the Capitol that day, were FBI informants.  And so, no one's saying this is a false flag that the FBI planned at all.  But what people want to know is to what extent did the FBI have advanced knowledge?  To what extent were some of the leaders acting at the behest of the FBI, like, they were with the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapped plot and so many other plots that we saw during the first war in terror.  And this, too, has been declared a taboo topic, just something that you cannot ask, or else you get accused of, you know, promoting some crazy conspiracy theory about false flags.

CH: And as you point out, all of this feeds what you call the overwhelming support for state and corporate censorship of the internet, increasing reverence for security state agencies, such as the CIA and FBI love for and trust in corporate media, and a belief that no punishment or level of suffering is excessive when it comes to retaliation against their political enemies, including but not only those who participated in any way, in the 1/6 protests,

GG: Right. I mean, I think, you know, we have to acknowledge that even though Congressman Schiff saw still pending has not been passed.  There is a war on terror underway.  People may remember that three or four months ago, Nancy Pelosi demanded $2,000,000,000 more for the police.  Just nine months after Progressives marched all over the country chanting, "Defund the police."  She wanted to give $2,000,000,000 more.  Every Republican said, "It was unnecessary.  We're going to vote no."  The squad agreed to vote no on the grounds of you don't want to be giving the police more money.  And at the very last second, when it--when the squad realized that their "no votes" were going to sink the bill, three of them, including AOC, decided to vote present and ensured that bill passed by one vote, two hundred and thirteen to two hundred and twelve.  They gave $2,000,000,000 more to the Capitol Police to enhance their surveillance techniques all over the United States, not just at the Capitol.  And for me, the most alarming thing is that the censorship campaign that you alluded to, through Facebook, through Google, the Democratic Party constantly pressuring, social media companies to censor, so much of it is being done in the name of this right wing extremist threat, that even without Adam Schiff's bill, there is a war on terror underway with the FBI, with infiltration, with this kind of added money to these law enforcement, security state services, and with the heightened censorship that is growing by the day.

CH: Great. That was Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald on the new second war on terror.

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