Deep state or police state?

Many Americans were understandably shocked to hear that federal agents executed search warrants on former mayor Rudy Giuliani. In reporting on the event, CNN waffled, offering puzzling justifications while admitting it was unusual for these types of warrants to be executed on lawyers. CNN columnists Erica Orden and Paula Reid defend the raid as the inevitable result of a two-year investigation into Giuliani’s alleged involvement with Ukrainian officials. At another point, the authors suggested that the warrants may be retribution for the 2020 election. The bottom line is that when CNN can’t even provide a cohesive defense of the federal overreach, it portends an autocracy that will become more restrictive.

Over the last year, several conservative media outlets have voiced concerns about western nations devolving into police states. In December, Victoria Friedman of Breitbart News rightfully decried the lockdown restrictions enforced on Britons. Just this week, National Review published an editorial to rebut President Biden’s calls for police reform. The article is not claimed by any particular author. Instead, the byline reads only “the editors.” The implication is telling; given the political witch hunt underway against conservatives, publishing platforms have noticed.

Last summer, Elias Yousif penned a scathing Op-Ed in The Hill. He juxtaposed the personal peril undertaken by protestors opposing what they saw as police brutality and qualified immunity that shields officers of the law. Regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Yousif’s claim—or The Hill, for that matter—it speaks volumes when center or left-leaning media outlets run articles titled, “[i]s America becoming a police state?”

Conservatives have long complained of Deep State operatives. Proving their existence seems a constant struggle. Reframing the conversation to broaden the definition to “Police State” is, at least, attracting attention from the center. Still, it’s challenging to find reliable news outlets willing to call out municipal, state, and federal officials for their depraved behavior of misusing—or outright abusing—their authority over law enforcement. Sure, plenty of articles document the misdeeds of smug apparatchiks. Few go so far as to say America is on the verge of autocracy.

The obvious question is, what are the characteristics of a police state?

Glenn McDonald of warns to “look for these 10 clues when deciding if your government is repressive.” His historically researched list, written in 2013, includes:

  • Abusing human rights;
  • Arresting and imprisoning political dissidents;
  • Censoring access to online content or platforms;
  • Forbidding citizens from revealing the plight of their state-sanctioned detention;
  • Leaders who have been in power for decades;
  • Outlawing or curtailing political representation (read: voting);
  • Restricting freedom of the press;
  • Spying and reporting on neighbors to curry favor with the government;
  • Using electronic surveillance on private citizens or businesses; and,
  • Using internet companies to gather intelligence about individuals.

When Mr. McDonald wrote his article, it was in response to leaks about the NSA spying on Americans. Still, it’s hard to imagine that a mere eight years ago, only two of his examples were explicitly about the United States. In looking at the list today, nine readily describe the aggressive behaviors of turncoats at all levels of the American government. Perhaps, all ten are accurate descriptors, and the evidence simply hasn’t yet come to light.

It certainly appears that the United States fits the characteristics of a police state. Merriam-Webster defines the term as:

“A political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police.”

Do law enforcement agencies in the United States arbitrarily exercise their powers? Are there secret police that undermine the rights of private citizens?

“In 2015, the Washington Post began to log every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer in the United States.” Since that time, roughly 1,000 Americans are killed each year by police officers. No doubt, many of the deceased placed themselves in situations where the officers involved had little choice but to administer deadly force. What that precise number amounts to is not known. What is known is that the American legal system is founded on the premise that all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Only in cases of grave bodily injury or certain death to an officer or bystander should law enforcement be compelled to deny that fundamental right to a suspect. If peace officers are granted the authority to administer deadly force, it should be a last resort when all other reasonable uses of force for the incident in question have been exhausted.

To be clear, law enforcement officers are, by and large, good and decent people who only hope to serve their community. They want to go home to their families at the end of the day—just like everyone else. The fault for the loss of life must rest with those who make policy and provide the scant resources for training or equipment to allow officers to carry out their duty safely.

It is not counterintuitive to support the men and women patrolling American streets and investigating alleged crimes while also questioning the very policymakers and administrators who place an unreasonable burden on the officers in their charge. It is akin to supporting the individual troops sent into harm’s way to fight some foreign war while questioning the government that sent them.

It is even more of a concern when a government employs secret police. In this case, the officers involved do bear responsibility—along with their superiors—for violating the inalienable rights of private citizens. Think back to the Portland riots last summer. Federal agents were reported to have jumped “out of unmarked vehicles throughout the city…grabbing protestors seemingly without cause.” Here again, the possible involvement in criminal activity implies that anyone suspected of being involved may be detained. After all, America was founded on law and order. However, there are strict boundaries to ensure that enshrined individual rights are forever protected—even in times of great emergency.

Compare this with the raid on Rudy Giuliani. Despite getting warrants, the federal agents did not alert the White House of their planned invasion. While the Justice Department is not required to do so, it strains credulity to think that raiding the private home and business of the personal attorney (Mr. Giuliani) of a former President does not meet a standard where the White House should at least be notified in advance. It screams of another instance where federal agents acted under dubious orders to silence a political adversary.

This isn’t the America conservatives want to celebrate. It’s gone beyond any semblance of seedy Deep State functionaries secretly pulling at the levers of government. It’s in the streets now. Working Americans are the victims. Perceived crimes or transgressions are as real in their consequences as actual crimes. Conservatives must demand laws be followed by those entrusted to enforce them—else, the boundaries of freedom will shrink into oblivion. Should that happen, America will be knee-deep in a police state.

Photo credit: Steve Rhodes (cropped) CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

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