Traces of Reality
July 2, 2013
The continued militarization of the United States will come under the guise of battling “drug war” villains and achieving so-called “meaningful immigration reform.”
Last week, the Senate cheered as it passed the “long-awaited immigration reform bill” by a vote of 68 to 32. Media outlets, pundits and “analysts” sympathetic to the plight of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States echoed the words of John McCain on the Senate floor by assuring the public that with the passage of this bill millions will be provided with a “pathway to citizenship” and an opportunity at the American Dream.
It took a truly “bipartisan” effort to pass the bill through the Senate, with 14 Republicans joining the Senate Democrats. But as George Carlin warned, the word “bipartisan” in politics typically means “a larger than usual deception is being carried out.”
Through various acts of political theater, the bill that was eventually amended and passed includes a $46 billion budget that will turn the lower southwest region of the United States, and eventually the entire border of the country, into a militarized warzone.
Coincidentally, supporters of this measure have dubbed the budgetary increases in security, surveillance and manpower along the border a “surge,” a throwback to the 2007 troop “surge” in Iraq.
Much of the controversy centered around the “border surge” has focused on the issue of heightened military-style surveillance along the border, including proposals to deploy drones in the area 24 hours a day. The blanket, round-the-clock surveillance of the people of the borderlands should be a deep concern to anyone who takes their right to privacy seriously—but it doesn’t end there.
The virtual surveillance proposals of the bill, including a new “fool-proof” social security card, an expansion of E-Verify, further government access to biometric and photographic databases, and a new “visa exit system” to be enforced at all major airports, stand to encroach on the privacy of all individuals living in the United States, citizen and non-citizen alike.
While these are all serious concerns and reason enough for the people of this country to reject this proposal, an even greater threat to the everyday lives of the millions who live along one of our nation’s borders has gone largely unnoticed within this debate.
Beyond virtual surveillance and drones, it has long been the goal of the federal government to line the nation’s borders with a physical and permanent military presence. While it may seem like a kooky “conspiracy theory” to the uninformed reader, it is in reality the stated mission goal of the Joint Task Force North (JTF North), a division of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the U.S. Army.
“JTF North is the DOD organization tasked to support our nation’s federal law enforcement agencies in the identification and interdiction of suspected transnational threats within and along the approaches to the continental United States. Transnational threats are those activities that involve international terrorism, narcotrafficking, alien smuggling, weapons of mass destruction, and includes the delivery systems for such weapons that threaten the national security of the United States.” – Joint Task Force North Mission Statement
That mission was on a full display one year ago, as the city of Laredo, Texas, which rests along the Rio Grande bordering Mexico, bore witness to a full-on military occupation at the hands of JTF-North. Lasting for almost 2 months, the event was largely dismissed by local media and city officials as a “drill,” merely a training exercise for the 250 Army soldiers who would soon be redeployed to Afghanistan.
This misinformation persisted within the media, despite the fact that as part of USNORTHCOM the JTF-North soldiers would have absolutely no reason to be deployed to Afghanistan, and despite the official press release by JTF-North explicitly stating their role in the area was to directly “assist in border security efforts along the border in South Texas.”
When pressed, local city officials, including city councilman Alex Perez, admitted they did not authorize or otherwise “OK” the Army’s visit to their community, nor did they receive even an advanced warning of their arrival.
The “drill” consisted of armed soldiers wielding M16′s on patrol, Abrams tanks, and low-flying Black Hawk and Apache helicopters running circle patterns throughout the city, including residential neighborhoods. There were a number of reports of the potentially armed Apache helicopters hovering over people’s homes for several hours at a time, often as late as 3:00 or 4:00 am, terrorizing residents, and yet national media coverage of this event was completely nonexistent.
Other similar “urban warfare drills” were conducted following the “exercise” in South Texas in places like Houston, Galveston, Miami, and Chicago—all of which received a great deal of attention, partly because they are large metropolitan areas, unlike Laredo, and also partly because they are not commonly considered to be “on the border.”
It may still shock most Americans to learn that when the Department of Homeland Defense, Customs and Border Protection, and by extension their pals at USNORTHCOM and U.S. Special Operations Command refer to the border and their jurisdiction to conduct operations, they mean any border—northern, southern, eastern and western coasts.
In fact, within 100 air miles of the border, a land mass that is home to roughly 200 million people (approximately two-thirds of the entire population, including every city mentioned above) and an area that the ACLU has come to refer to as a “Constitution-Free Zone,” these agencies claim vast authority.
The area is already home to a high volume of federal agents, especially in the southwest region of the country where suspicionless “Soviet-style” checkpoints demanding an affirmation of citizenship or identification are replete, and searches on personal property, including vehicles, laptops and other electronics are an everyday occurrence.
This “immigration reform bill,” if signed into law, would add $46 billion to these agencies’ budgets—enough money to double the number of Border Patrol agents from 20,000 to 40,000, supply them with the latest military-grade gadgets and further strengthen the police state.
When combined with the continued efforts by CBP’s associates in USNORTHCOM and USSOCOM to “drill” and acclimate the public into accepting the sights and sounds of a standing army in their community, the result is a completely militarized totalitarian state of a country.
This is not inevitable, of course, but it will require a large number of people demanding an immediate change in policy. A little more than five years ago, the thought of a federal agency like the NSA logging and collecting our phone calls and communications was shrugged off by most people as a paranoid fantasy. Still now, there are many who cannot truly fathom the genuine scale of the surveillance state. In five years from now, I shudder to think what other Orwellian nightmares will become realities. This is a warning call that simply cannot wait.