Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
New DOJ Indictments Criminalize Dissent—Weaponizing the Very Censorship Tactics They Condemned in Russia
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April 24, 2023
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Note: The following is the transcript of a recent episode of System Update. Watch the full episode at the link below:

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A new indictment from the Biden Justice Department is one of the most disturbing and extremist yet in the ongoing attempt by the U.S. government – under the guise of a domestic War on Terror – to criminalize any real dissidence and any real dissent. In one sense, these charges are just yet another manifestation of the dreariest and most cliched Russiagate paranoia, seeing Russians under every bed. But if you look under the hood of these charges just a bit, as we'll do along with you tonight, you'll see that the framework being constructed is dangerous and extreme, nothing less than a tactic for empowering the federal government to transform its harshest critics into felons. At its core, the indictment targets numerous American citizens, five of whom are part of radical black leftist groups. As such, they have very harsh words for Joe Biden and his administration, harbor contempt for U.S. foreign policy in the U.S. Security State, including the FBI, and are very vocal opponents of U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, even going so far as to argue that the provocations of the U.S. and NATO in Ukraine render the Russian invasion justifiable as a legal and ethical means for combating Western control over their border and violent anti-Russian extremism in the provinces in Eastern Ukraine. You may not agree with those views, but it's certainly not a crime in any way to express them. 

Yet those charged today, in addition to those views, often denounce many of the same police brutality cases on which more mainstream liberal and Black Lives Matter activists, such as Michael Brown and George Floyd, but from a radical black lens. So how does an American citizen, or five of them, end up criminally charged by the Justice Department for expressing these views? Because prosecutors, in this case, can't claim that they were acting on behalf of the Russian government by disseminating messaging designed to, “sow discord” among Americans, all because they received trivial amounts of funding that the DOJ claims emanated from the Russian government. None of that is a crime either. You're allowed to receive funding from other governments the way dissidents in those countries often receive funding from the United States government. So, the indictment really amounts to a claim that these Americans failed to file the proper paperwork notifying the government that they were agents of a foreign power, which means they now face ten years in prison for that offense and another five years in prison for allegedly inducing others to do the same without their knowledge. 

So why is this indictment so threatening? Because, as we will show you, the charges are so plainly motivated by the political dissent of these American citizens and not by concern that they failed to file the right forms, and much less so by the belief that these are somehow real Kremlin agents who are doing anything other than expressing the views they have long held. Quite tellingly, the U.S. government and the media and think tank elite to serve it have frequently denounced every enemy state, starting with Russia, China and Iran, for doing exactly what the Biden administration’s Justice Department is doing in this case, namely using the laws that require, “foreign agents” to register to turn dissidents into criminals. 

We'll go through the indictments and the implications of this case and then speak with Nick Cruse of the Revolutionary Blackout Network, who has been a frequent guest on System Update, about these groups that have been indicted or the individuals who have been indicted and why this indictment is so menacing to the right to dissent. 

As a reminder, System Update is available in podcast version. We post the shows 12 hours after they first appear, live, here on Rumble, they are on Spotify, Apple and every other major podcasting platform. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update starting right now. 

 


One of the issues on which I focused journalistically most in the first year of the Biden administration is the fact that a top priority for Joe Biden and his leading foreign policy and domestic advisers was to create a new War on Terror in the United States. Only this one, unlike the first one, would have as its primary focus, not foreign enemies, and al-Qaida or ISIS but, instead, domestic enemies right here at home. And in fact, this priority of the Biden administration was announced well before January 6. He emphasized it during the campaign and then, when he was declared the winner of the election, in the transition, before January 6 ever happened, The riot on January 6 obviously gave the Biden administration the pretext it needed to implement what has been a real new War on Terror. Only this time, the enemies are American citizens. And they've done that in multiple ways. 

I spent the first year of my reporting in the Biden administration probably focused on that issue more than any other. The official position of the U.S. Security State and of the Biden administration is that the greatest threat to American national security comes not from foreign terrorist groups like al-Qaida or ISIS, or from foreign adversaries like China or Iran, or Russia, but from violent domestic extremists here at home. The definition of what an extremist is is incredibly broad – it basically includes anybody who in any way is a real critic of establishment pieties. If you're somebody who supports the establishment wings of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, if you're somebody who stays within what President Obama once called “playing within the 40-yard lines,” meaning the establishment wings of all parties, about which President Obama rightly observed have far more in common with one another than differences with one another, then you have nothing to worry about. You're not considered a dissident. If you want to support Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or Nikki Haley or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or people of that nature, you're well within the guidelines set by the government and by their supporters of where people can safely reside without being regarded as an enemy. They don't mind at all the power switches back and forth between those two wings because they know that the fundamental precepts will remain the same. What they really fear, especially now, is actual dissidents. And, as I said, this idea was in place long before January 6. January 6 became the pretext, just like neocons used the attack on September 11 to justify a war in Iraq, a regime-change war in Iraq, that if you go back and look before 9/11, they were long advocating war and craving. They used the 9/11 attacks as a tool for ushering in what they long had planned. That is the same with this new domestic War on Terror that the Biden administration has been craving for a long time and has successfully implemented. This indictment today is an extension of it. It cannot be understood simply by looking at it in isolation. The context is critical. 

Just to take a look at that history, we have an article from The Wall Street Journal, the headline is “Biden Administration Urged to Take Fresh Look at Domestic Terrorism.” This is an article from The Wall Street Journal on November 13, 2020. So just a few days after the 2020 election, obviously two months or so before the riot on January 6. The Wall Street Journal reported about the Biden administration, what they were thinking two months before January 6:

 

The first-ever White House post and more funding to combat violent extremists floated by a working group that advised [president-elect team]. President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he plans to make a priority of passing a law against domestic terrorism, has also been urged to create a White House post overseeing the fight against ideologically inspired violent extremists, increasing funding to combat them, according to people who have advised his team. 

 

A proposal for the Biden presidency's first 100 days, now with Mr. Biden's transition team for consideration, also calls for passing more red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily take guns from people deemed dangerous, some of the people said. 

While domestic terrorism spans extremist ideologies across the spectrum […]

 

I think that's an important point. When they talk about domestic terrorism or domestic extremism, it usually ends up targeting the right, under the Biden administration. But it also sometimes, as this indictment today targets the left. The idea is to create a precedent or a framework to criminalize either upon any win. The Wall Street Journal says: 

 

[…] it has been predominantly a far-right phenomenon in recent decades, according to researchers, according to researchers, who also say attacks by anti-fascist and other leftist groups rose this year. 

 

Mr. Biden has said he decided to run for president after the 2017 Charlottesville, Va., rally, during which an avowed neo-Nazi killed a woman and injured scores of other people. According to a campaign website, Mr. Biden intends to work “for a domestic terrorism law that respects free speech and civil liberties, while making the same commitment to root out domestic terrorism as we have to stop international terrorism.”

 

 That is the key part. What they explicitly wanted to do, as they said right here, is take the same tactics that were used against al-Qaida and ISIS and other international foreign terrorist groups – not just mass spying, but theories of detention and punishment without due process – and invoke them, weaponize them when aimed at American citizens they deem dangerous. That is the official posture of the United States government. 

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We may have one last chance on the FISA bill. Rep. Ana Paulina Luna is forcing a procedural vote on the bill on Monday. From her X post: "You cannot have a free and open society with the warrantless spying of Americans. Today, the bipartisan vote to force intelligence communities to get a warrant was lost by one vote. In an effort to stop this, I requested a rare procedural maneuver that will force a second vote on Monday. Hopefully we can change minds. I will be writing all 435 members over the weekend. Please help me. Talk to your reps. We have one last shot at this."
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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10 - EPISODE 254

Elon Musk Goes to War with Brazil’s Censorship Regime. PLUS: 19 Republicans Defy Speaker Johnson to Kill Renewal of Domestic Spying Bill

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Internet Censorship in Brazil (15:52)

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Endless War and US Security State: W/ Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Davidson

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Endless War and US Security State: W/ Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Davidson
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Good evening. It's Thursday, April 11. Tonight, we speak to two members of Congress about a variety of issues involving the war in Ukraine, the war in Israel, the U.S. Security State, warrantless domestic spying and much more. 

The first is the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, who started back in 2022 supporting the idea of U.S. aid to Ukraine for its war with Russia but has since become one of the most vocal and stalwart opponents of sending more aid there. We'll talk about what motivated that change and his views of current U.S. foreign policy. 

Then we speak to Congressman Warren Davidson, the former Army Ranger who now represents Ohio's eighth congressional district, a job he has held ever since. His predecessor, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, retired in 2016, where we spoke extensively not only about the evils of U.S. foreign policy but also his view on the vote that took place in the House yesterday that we reported on last night, show that blocked renewal of the FISA spying law without any meaningful protections, warrant requirements or reforms. 

As I've been arguing for some time, one of the most significant and one of the most overlooked developments in U.S. politics, especially when it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties, is the radical realignment among left and right, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans when it comes to who supports the military-industrial complex in the United States and who does not, who supports the U.S. posture of endless war and who does not, who support vesting vast and unaccountable powers in the hands of the U.S. security state, and who does not. Both of our guests tonight are in many ways highly illustrative of this realignment. Senator Johnson, for instance, is not just an opponent now of the U.S. role in the war in Ukraine, but also a thoughtful critic of imperialistic American foreign policy over the last several decades, which he insists Washington needs to study much more to understand its foundational mistakes. Meanwhile, Congressman Davidson has become one of the most scathing opponents of what he calls the neocon consensus in Washington. In some ways, his foreign policy critique of American wars and militarism could almost be called “Chomskyesk” and, notably, it's almost impossible to hear similarly fundamental principled critiques of U.S. foreign policy, the military-industrial complex and the U.S. security state from any Democratic member of Congress, it is almost impossible to note that this critique is, I should say, is not always applied with complete consistency. 

I asked each of these lawmakers why their arguments against funding the war in Ukraine, that we cannot afford to fund more foreign wars, that it brings no benefits to American citizens, that it jeopardizes our standing in the world and does not apply equally to our current policy of financing and arming Israel's war in Gaza, which most Republicans and most Democrats support. In other words, even if one sides more and empathizes more with Israel over the Palestinians, why shouldn't Israel pay for its own wars instead of having Americans pay for them? Both gave thoughtful answers, even if not fully convincing, and I appreciate how willing they were to reconsider and think about in the interview, their stances on those questions and how they might align or not align with their broader principles. 

Both of these interviews, I believe, are highly illustrative of the realignment I described and why these clear changes in the DC consensus are starting to become ever more promising. We recorded both interviews last night after our live program, and we are delighted to share them with you. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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Elon Musk Goes to War with Brazil’s Censorship Regime. PLUS: 19 Republicans Defy Speaker Johnson to Kill Renewal of Domestic Spying Bill
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Good evening. It's Wednesday, April 10. 

Tonight: a virtual war has erupted between Elon Musk and X on one side, and virtually the entire Brazilian establishment and the Brazilian left with which they're united on the other. As we have been reporting for two years now, the censorship regime that has been imposed in Brazil—the world's fifth most populous country—all centralized in the hands of a single Supreme Court judge, is more extreme, more repressive, and more lawless than anywhere in the democratic world. And that's saying a lot given how much censorship has spread. That's just one indicator of how extreme the Brazilian censorship scheme is. 

This platform Rumble decided last year that they would rather block Brazilians from viewing its content, despite having built a large and growing Brazilian audience, rather than face massive fines and even criminal threats of prosecution for failure to comply with the avalanche of censorship orders they were receiving virtually daily. 

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That message is what people in Brazil now see when they try to access Rumble, a message saying Rumble is not available in the country because of censorship orders. Rumble announced that it would no longer serve as a weapon in the censorship regime and would block access for all Brazilians, at least for those who don't use VPNs, pending its judicial challenge of the censorship laws that it has now brought.

Last week, the independent journalist Michael Shellenberger, working with two separate Brazilian journalists, released the Brazilian part of the Twitter Files. It documented how internal Twitter lawyers in Brazil were growing increasingly alarmed at the politically motivated censorship orders from the court that they were being drowned with routinely, and they were worried about the consequences they might face from failure to comply. We interviewed Shellenberger last week about his reporting. He was in Brazil at the time, and he was interviewed by multiple media outlets in Brazil, usually in a very hostile manner, far more interested in attacking his character and methods than addressing the substance of his revelations. 

Elon Musk saw all of this—obviously, he pays attention to the Twitter Files—and responded to all of that over the weekend by launching a series of very vitriolic attacks on this one Supreme Court judge overseeing the censorship regime, calling him a tyrant and urging his impeachment. Musk also vowed that X would prefer to disobey unjust censorship orders and even leave Brazil than continue to be used as a weapon in service of this regime. The same decision that Rumble made concerning Brazil last year. That, in turn, provoked very aggressive threats from this judge. He declared Musk to be a target of a pending criminal investigation involving fake news and disinformation. He just inserted Musk into this pending criminal investigation as one of the targets of the criminal probe. He also ordered X employees in Brazil to be questioned by the federal police and explicitly threatened them in writing, with arrest and prosecution if X permitted any banned voices to return to the platform. All of this demonstrates the severity of the growing censorship regime, not only in Brazil but throughout the democratic world. Precisely because Brazil has been so extreme is why it's so relevant to Americans, because it's being used as a laboratory to see how far control over the Internet and online speech can go. Europe and the United States have embarked on their own online censorship regime. We have been reporting on that extensively to the point that it's now at the Supreme Court. What is being done in Brazil is a harbinger of what is coming to the West. We will report on everything that happened here and explore its quite significant implications. 

Then: Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has long been a vocal and steadfast opponent of the U.S. Security State, generally in its attempts to censor the Internet and spy on Americans in particular. Shortly before becoming a speaker, we interviewed him on this show, and he was very clear about his views on these questions. Yet since being elected Speaker, Mike Johnson has seemingly changed his views in quite radical ways on many key issues. He was a longtime opponent of providing more U.S. aid to the war in Ukraine, yet now is working to ensure that Joe Biden's $60 billion request for Ukraine is approved in the House, even if that means relying on Democrats and Democratic protection to do so. Earlier today, Speaker Johnson tried to bring to the floor a vote to renew the domestic spying powers of the NSA and the FBI and to do so without allowing even a single reform, safeguard, or warrant requirement. In other words, Speaker Johnson worked hard to give the Biden White House and the U.S. Security State what they were demanding for renewal of their domestic spying powers and spying on Americans, which was originally enacted during the Bush administration in the name of the War on Terror, and to renew it without any reforms or protections at all. But Mike Johnson had a serious surprise today: his own caucus delivered a major and quite unusual defeat to the House Speaker, with 19 members defecting and preventing the speaker from bringing the bill to the floor. It is likely that some domestic spying bill will eventually pass, though it's not guaranteed and we'll explain what happened today in Congress that dealt a serious blow to the efforts suddenly led by Speaker Johnson, to hand the FBI all these spying powers they want without a single reform. We also will have various members of Congress on over the next week or so to talk about the war in Ukraine, to talk about the FISA law and related issues as well. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now. 

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