George Orwell’s Playbook
Jack Cranston
Sovereign X

George Orwell’s Playbook

Key Points

  • The U.S. continues to escalate the federal government’s never-ending infringement of U.S. citizen’s rights—justified in the name of national security.
  • Beginning in earnest under George W. Bush, draconian control by surveillance, disinformation, and manipulation of the past continues in 2021.
  • Sovereign X believes the dystopia in George Orwell’s almost 75-year-old novel “1984” suddenly feels all too familiar. Hey, Alexa, it’s time for a change.

Jack Cranston, Writing From: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Editor’s Note: This is a post from Jack Cranston’s 2013 archives showing escalation of the U.S. federal government’s never-ending infringement on U.S. citizens’ rights— justified by national security—which began in earnest under the George W. Bush administration. This draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, disinformation, denial of truth, and the manipulation of the past has continued to grow to a point that, in 2021, it seems oh, too common—particularly the United States.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, in 2012 the U.S. Government used “national security” as an excuse to censor or withhold more documents requested by the public than at any time in the history of the Obama administration. 

Ironically, the man elected as the “anti-Bush,” in many ways, outdid his predecessor.  According to the ACLU, “We’ve seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government’s interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority. In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration.”

This is an administration that, ironically, boasts about its commitment to transparency.  A memorandum entitled Transparency and Open Government is posted on the White House website.  In the memo, President Obama writes that “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.”

What’s actually occurring is that the administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of secrecy and opaqueness.  The Obama administration’s motto should be “Just trust us.”

As with many of the administration’s initiatives, their hollow commitment to openness generates blowback and distain. 

The administration is catching flack for appearing to be committed to ever increasing amounts of secrecy.  It keeps secret its legal justifications, policies and actions that result in gross violations of American’s liberties.  Examples include assassinations via drone strike and the power to detain American citizens indefinitely and secretly in clear violation of their Constitutional rights, and the interception and gathering of all citizens’ electronic communications. 

These new-found actions are unjust, unconstitutional, and, quiet frankly, un-American. As much as the administration’s spin-doctors within the White House, military, and homeland security do their best to justify these actions, history, commonsense, and our collective moral compass say it’s not okay.

These secret activities, and the administration’s recalcitrant attitude toward the public’s demand for more information and Constitutional accountability, undermine the public trust.  As opposed to Obama’s claims, the administration’s secrecy and attitude are weakening America’s democracy and making for a less effective government.

The administration’s actions fly in the face of Obama’s high sounding but ultimately false and misleading promise that he made in his first week in office.  He promised that public requests for information would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”  In reality, the policy is “when in doubt, classify it as secret.”

“Catch-22” seems to be the administration’s new favorite game.  Embedding national security in all logical loops allows it to circumvent legal challenges.  You can’t successfully sue the NSA for intercepting your electronic communications because you’d need evidence that your specific communications were intercepted, and that information can’t be obtained because it is a national security secret.  U.S. judges can’t rule on the legality of certain actions when pertinent information, information critical to a ruling, is classified as “secret” and can be withheld on the grounds of “national security.”

U.S. federal judge Colleen McMahon of New York recently ruled against The New York Times and the ACLU in their effort to access documents regarding drone attacks. 

She referred to an “Alice in Wonderland” predicament: “I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules—a veritable Catch-22,” the judge wrote. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”

This is the new modus operandi of the federal government: grab even more power, justify it due to emergency national security conditions (owing to a never-ending war on terrorism), ignore the Constitution, and keep it all secret. 

It’s all right out of George Orwell’s playbook.

Don’t wait until the U.S. government puts more sections of the Constitution into the shredder.  Internationalizing your life is your best form of self-insurance. Unfortunately you can’t just flip a switch and have it all done instantaneously. It takes time to establish foreign bank accounts, domicile businesses in favorable jurisdictions, and acquire new legal residences and citizenships. Self-reliance, including a risk management plan based on internationalization, is your best course of action. Sovereign X can help.

Jack Cranston is a partner of Sovereign X and resides in San Miguel de Allende.

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