Larry Flynt

Archive for September, 2013

The Real Surveillance Problem

Monday, September 30th, 2013

larry-flyntIt’s a damn shame we have to rely on dubious characters like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange to ignite a real debate about our Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The ones who should be raising the alarm are our elected representatives in Congress, not some ham-handed whistleblowers.

The problem is not that we have a high-tech spying apparatus. A wealthy powerful country needs an effective intelligence machine to keep its strategic edge and protect its citizens. The problem is that Congress has rammed through bad legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that leaves the door wide open for intelligence agencies and corporate interests to do whatever they want without accountability. Such laws, compounded with a total lack of Congressional oversight, have removed the checks and balances we need to keep security measures in line with our Constitutional rights. If you allow that much room for abuse, don’t be surprised if somebody exploits it.

I would also argue that the problem goes back much further: to America’s misguided foreign policy. We spend most of our time and money propping up puppet regimes that will sooner or later topple or turn against us rather than building viable states with true democratic rights and practices.

The vicious cycle is obvious: As long as we have a foreign policy problem, we will have a security problem. And as long as that’s the case, government control freaks will go on building their total surveillance state. A few so-called whistleblowers won’t change that. Either we make Congress do its job or we get used to Big Brother watching and listening to us every second of our lives.

Larry Flynt

Making Enemies

Monday, September 23rd, 2013


Interview by Mark Johnson

In the wake of the Boston bombings, a disturbing fact is being obscured: The FBI actually creates more terror plots than it cracks.

You may not see it much on the news, but the FBI doesn’t only get involved in major terrorist events after they happen—in many cases it’s there at the very beginning. Government agents have been running sting operations, providing supposedly dangerous dupes with everything from motive to means. Investigative reporter Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, reveals that while the agency is busy collaborating with criminals and ensnaring innocent citizens to justify its budgets, real threats are being ignored.

HUSTLER: Your book came out just before the Boston Marathon bombings. Did that event damage your argument or vindicate it?

TREVOR AARONSON: The Boston case really gets at the question I answer in the book: What has the FBI been missing while it’s been so focused on sting operations? The Boston case suggests that real threats like the Tsarnaevs are going unnoticed.

Is there any likelihood that an FBI informant was involved in that case?

Anything I would say on that would be speculative, but the family has said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s contact with the FBI lasted for long periods of time. It’s not unusual for the FBI to approach a Muslim, realize that he is not a threat and then try to recruit him as an informant. Whether or not Tamerlan was ever an informant, the FBI claims publicly that they investigated him in January 2011, and he wasn’t a threat. That’s where they say officially that their tracking of him stopped.

In that same month they had Rezwan Ferdaus on their radar. This was a guy who came to their attention through a heroin-addicted informant paid by the FBI.

Ferdaus allegedly told him this story of how he had a plan to load a remotecontrolled airplane with explosives and fly it into the U.S. Capitol. Obviously the idea was pat ently ridiculous, but what was even worse was the fact that Ferdaus didn’t have any means of doing this plot on his own. He had no money. He had no access to weapons. He was just a loud-mouthed miscreant.

Instead of pursuing Tamerlan Tsarnaev in January 2011, the FBI decided to launch this sting operation against Ferdaus. They had the informant introduce two undercover agents to Ferdaus who were posing as al-Qaeda operatives. They said, “We can help you make your plan possible,” and gave him $4,000, which he used to purchase a remote-controlled airplane. They then paid for a trip to Washington, where he scouted out locations. Then in the final stage they gave him explosives and C4 for the bomb.

At that point they arrest Rezwan Ferdaus and charge him with conspiracy to destroy a federal building and material support for terrorism. He had no capacity for committing an act of terrorism on his own. It was the FBI informant and under cover agents that gave him everything he needed. This guy, in FBI parlance, was far “more aspirational than operational” and yet they spent all of these FBI resources investigating him.That same month they reportedly said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, “No, he’s not a threat; let’s not worry about him.”

The FBI also missed Faisal Shahzad, who delivered a bomb to Times Square in 2010. It didn’t go off, but what was amazing is the FBI didn’t know a thing about him until he delivered that bomb.

Why does the FBI operate this way when it’s not working?

One of the things they say is: If you’re an FBI agent, and you get a tip that this guy says he wants to commit an act of terrorism, you don’t want to be the FBI agent who says let’s let him mature out of it, then in six months discover that he actually found out a way to get a bomb, delivered it to a shopping mall and killed innocent people.

But this is really a bureaucratic problem. The FBI now gets $3 billion for its counterterrorism program. It’s the largest part of its budget. So the FBI has to find a way to say, “Hey, look at us. We’re spending your money and keeping you safe.” The evidence shows that the threat really isn’t there. The sting operations are really only netting these guys who never have the capacity, never have the weapons, never have the plan; in some cases they never even have the idea.

There’s a case, for example, in Newburgh, New York, right outside of New York City. They ran this sting operation on a man with a history of mental illness named James Cromitie and gave him the idea for the attack. He was going to plant bombs at a synagogue in the Bronx and use a Stinger missile that would take down airplanes taking off from the local airport. The FBI would provide everything he needed: the Stinger missiles, the transportation, the bombs, everything.

About halfway through the sting operation they became concerned that Cromitie would wise up and back out. If he backed out, they wouldn’t have any charges they could bring. They realized Cromitie was a felon. He’d gone to jail earlier in life for selling crack cocaine, and if they could get him with a gun, they’d have a backup felony gun charge if the sting fell apart.

The informant gives Cromitie $500 and says, “Go to New York City and buy a gun.” Cromitie spends the whole evening searching around for someone that he could buy a gun from and isn’t able to find anyone—isn’t able to buy a gun in New York City! He comes back to the informant and says, “Sorry. I couldn’t get a gun. Here’s your money back.”

FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before Congress, describing what a great danger James Cromitie would have been had he been able to move forward in his terrorist plot. But the same man that the FBI director describes to Congress as being dangerous is the man who with $500 in his pocket couldn’t even buy a gun. How dangerous can a terrorist be when left to his own devices he can’t buy a Saturday Night Special in New York City?

Who are these informants?

Average people who live standup lives don’t make good informants, so the FBI ends up having to use people who have criminal records. Take Shahed Hussain. This was a man who fled Pakistan because he had been accused of murder and comes to the United States. He was running a number of scams, one of which was working with DMV employees to help illegal immigrants get driver’s licenses so they could become cabbies in New York City. When he got caught, they converted him into an informant. Most of the informants who act as agents provocateur for the FBI have some really colorful pasts, including drug-dealing, robbing tollbooths and very violent crimes.

There was a recent case in Seattle that targeted a man who had schizoaffective disorder, which meant he had trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy, which obviously made him very easy to be manipulated. The informant who targeted him was a five-time sex offender with a history of child molestation! The most odious man you could possibly imagine had then been hired by the FBI to move forward in the sting operation.

How many FBI terror plots do we know about?

Since 9/11 there have been approximately 175 defendants who have been caught in sting operations where the FBI provided the means and opportunity—and in some cases the idea—for the crime. When you compare that to people who actually pose a significant danger, it’s jawdroppingly low. There are about seven, if you count the Tsarnaev brothers, who posed a significant threat. Since 9/11 there are still far more people killed by lone gunmen like we saw in Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, than there have been people killed by Islamic terrorists.

If the FBI were to go into areas where there are groups of white supremacists and offered people the opportunity to commit violence in the same way it offers the people in the fringes of Muslim communities to commit violence, you would find those same people who would say yes. The problem is the FBI doesn’t do that.

Don’t the serious guys know what the game is by now so they can avoid it?

I’ve heard the joke a number of times from Muslims that when they pray on Friday, they just assume the guy next to them is an informant. The Tsarnaevs did appear to be bumblers, but they were sophisticated enough to put together a bomb. That means that they were smart enough not to go to the mosque and start talking about how they wanted to get involved in an act of terrorism and engage an informant who leads them along. The really dangerous guys aren’t likely to fall for a simple trap.

How much money does an informant make?

You can make six-figure paydays plus expenses and have your phone paid for. Shahed Hussain, the accused murderer from Pakistan, was paid $100,000 for his work in the Newburgh case. That’s in addition to a performance incentive, which is a set amount of money that an informant will make upon the successful prosecution of a defendant. Agents have told me those can be tens of thousands of dollars as well. So a good informant on an individual case that may last four to six months is making $100,000 plus maybe another $30,000 to $40,000 in performance incentives. You do that a couple of times a year, and you’re making serious money.

These are men that because of their backgrounds aren’t likely to make a lot of money in the free market. So the FBI gig is really about as good as it gets. What’s concerning from a justice perspective is that they have a direct financial incentive in prosecutions. They’re not looking for the person who is going to pose a danger; they’re looking for the next sucker that they can get in a terrorism sting operation because they know that means money for them.

How do these cases stand up in court? Isn’t it entrapment?

Any entrapment defense is hard to win because it requires you to go to the jury and say, “You know, I committed that crime, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it were it not for the government agent overpowering my will.” In terrorism cases 11 people have formally argued entrapment as a result of a sting, and none has been successful. The government has been very successful in putting on the stand government experts with dubious credentials who will testify about how “this defendant watched a militant jihadi video produced by al-Qaeda and known to help with the self-radicalization process, so this man was radicalized before the government agent was introduced.”

One government expert named Evan Kohlmann gets paid to testify about how people self-radicalize just by watching jihadi videos. What’s ridiculous is I’ve watched jihadi videos, you have, your readers probably have—they’re on the news. There isn’t this huge rash of terrorists who come out after watching jihadi videos.

The other issue is that because the government controls the whole sting, they could choose to make it a minor crime. They could give the guy a gun and say, “Shoot this man in the kneecap in the name of jihad,” but they don’t. They give him a huge sophisticated bomb that even an organized criminal organization would have trouble obtaining and get him to unleash it in a downtown area where if it were real, it would kill hundreds, if not thousands of people. The jury hears that, and it overwhelms whatever empathy they could have for the defendant.

The FBI measures its success through cases and prosecutions. If they can prosecute somebody and find him guilty, in the FBI’s view this is a successful policy. There was a case in Portland Oregon, that involved an impressionable 19-year-old man who got involved in a plot to bomb a Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony. At his trial it came out that there was an email from inside the FBI where they talked about how because this guy was a loser and smoked marijuana, he was very susceptible to their advances, to getting involved in a plot. An email like that suggests that the FBI’s number-one focus isn’t so much on figuring out who’s dangerous and then going after those guys. The FBI is interested in making a case that can make careers and get you promoted.

What red flags should honest people look out for so they don’t get caught up in these stings?

Informants usually fit a pattern. They tend to be overly obsessed with talking about inflammatory subjects or U.S. foreign policy, and they’re always the first one to take the conversation beyond “this is messed up” to “what are you going to do about it?”

Everyone’s allowed to have extremist views in the United States. Nothing has stopped the First Amendment. But the FBI is using the First Amendment almost as a tip sheet. They will find people who post extremist things on Facebook and use an informant to target that person. There are actually very few people in this country going around advocating violence. So if someone comes up to you and is trying to incite you to try to get into some sort of violent act for a political cause, there’s a good chance that’s an FBI informant.

Justin Bieber

Monday, September 16th, 2013

The time has come to celebrate. The international nightmare known as Justin Bieber has entered self-destruction mode. By the time you read this, there’s at least a 50-50 chance this talentless pile of wuss will be dead, maimed, jailed, held in a basement by crazed adolescent lesbians or crucified by hordes of Beliebers for changing his fucking hairstyle. Even atheists should start praying he circles the drain swifter than Lindsay Lohan on her way to BevMo.

But wait a second. Why do we give a shit? Because in this apparently meaningless phenomenon, there’s a dire warning: Our country is now populated by infantile drones. Quality is dying. What matters is how well you can hit the lowest-common- denominator, two-dimensional image and make the idiocracy piss away a million dollars a minute.

This Auto-Tuned asswipe is currently the entertainment industry’s premier profit whore, despite the fact that—according to a Public Policy Polling survey—a solid majority of Americans actively hate him. “Haters are just confused admirers,” Bieber retorts. We must be very, very confused.

But majority opinion doesn’t matter because Bieber heads a greed-driven promo machine of musical pedophiles. They tap into the pliant minds and emotions of young girls, exploiting their natural insecurities along with the nascent fantasies that the poor kids don’t yet know have zero to do with reality.

Wait, you say, don’t smut peddlers do the same thing? No, we prey on pathetic grown men. That’s why it’s called adult entertainment. Adults have legal decision-making power. Why should underaged girls get to decide what gets shoved down our collective cultural throats?!

If you think something like Ass-to-Mouth Whores From Planet Cumguzzle is disgusting, try listening to Bieber crap like “Baby” or “Rich Girl” all the way through. The vomit will project from your belly like a ballistic missile headed for North Korea—a place, incidentally, Bieber knows all about: “Whatever they have in Korea, that’s bad,” he’s said. When drugs and stupidity finally deep-six his career, he can always host a show on Fox News.

Which brings us to the best reason to hate Justin Bieber: He’s a Ted Nugent in training wheels. As his testicles drop, so does his IQ. Already a Jesus freak, to the point of tattooing the phony savior on his leg (always classy), he’s also thrown in with the gaybashers, pro-lifers and rape apologists. “Everything happens for a reason,” squawks the Christian parrot. The subject gave birth to a classic Bieberism: “I don’t really believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby.” That one no doubt prompted a sweaty booty call from Pat Robertson.

Speaking of failed abortions, there is a reason to let the kid off the hook: his fame pimping mom, Pattie Mallette. She likes to brag that she refused to abort Bieber. But like most white-trash pro-lifers, her parenting skills were dead on arrival. Did the kid have a chance to not be trash?

“Baby,” coincidentally, was Bieber’s first monster hit. Let’s speculate on the psychological buttons that song pushed. Even more than they do his music, his Beliebers love him. They’d chop off their limbs for him and bleed out blissfully as he rifled through their pockets. Why? Do his hordes of teen fans fantasize about being knocked up with a Bieber baby that would tie them to him forever? Or is he the baby millions of Beliebers have already aborted and feel guilty about as they huddle in the corners of their pain and reread their Twilight books?

Whatever the sad fantasy, one thing is certain: He’s an empty thing to project their pathetic needs onto—like a pet rock but with less talent. As any con man can tell you, preying on shriveled dreams is a frickin’ gold mine.

But like most buttholes that get used up and blown out too fast, Biebs the person is starting to rebel against Biebs the commodity. Nearly every tab loid move he makes these days is a blatant effort to pull the escape hatch.

No. 1, he adopted a monkey— a more evolved creature than most of his fans—apparently to prove he’s on the Michael Jackson fast track to Whackoville.

Exhibit 2: Bieber has been leadfooting his cars down L.A.’s already deadly freeways in an apparent attempt to show that if James Dean could merge his body with metal at the height of his fame, so can he. He even roars around his gated community, nearly mowing down the local brats. When his neighbors confront him, he allegedly spits at them like a meth freak on bath salts. Hulking ex-NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson even chased the Biebs down—raising hopes that the Canadian curse would be shipped back home in a body bag. Sadly, Biebs ran into his house like a little bitch and locked all the doors.

Thirdly, Biebs the moneybot has been malfunctioning. He shows up late for shows or cancels, ends up passing out or puking when he does show up, has sudden freakouts at photographers, and pals around with a black kid so he can blame everything on him. (That last bit he learned from Lohan.)

At press time the Biebs was trying to blast himself into space by jumping onboard the Virgin Galactic. How obvious could it be? The kid wants out. Bieber is aware that Bieber has become a colossal asshole, and to escape Bieber, Bieber may have to kill him.

Alas, we suspect the nice youngster from Ontario is already dead, consumed by the overgroomed, swaggerized narcissist that carries his name.

It’s just a matter of time before what’s left pulls a Britney Spears, shaves his head and descends into total incoherence. Not even that would be original, but it would be better than Bieber releasing any more so-called albums. All hail the downward spiral. Short of going back in time and convincing Pattie to have that abortion after all, it’s our only hope.

They Can Follow You Everywhere

Monday, September 9th, 2013


by Nat Hentoff

I’ve previously mentioned my gratitude to Google for its swift and verifiable answers to my research questions. But the Silicon Valley leviathan is increasingly a menace to what’s left of our privacy.

Now being developed is Google Glass, a controversial glasses-like device that “allows users to access the Internet, take photos and film short snippets,” reported David Streitfeld in a New York Times story. “Glass is promoted by Google as ‘seamless and empowering.’ It will have the ability to capture any chance encounter…and broadcast it to millions in seconds.”

Feel a little clammy?

So does HUSTLER contributor Robert Scheer. In a post titled “Google’s Spy masters Are Now Worried About Your Secrets” he wrote: “Every time there is a so-called terrorist attack on American soil, pressure to ramp up the reach of our increasingly omnipresent surveillance state spikes, sweeping ever-larger numbers of people and more intimate information concerning their lives into national databases.”

Where’s the indignation among the citizenry? Fear of terrorists has conditioned us to ditch the Fourth Amendment.

Scheer continued: “These technological invasions of our privacy serve to undermine the bold assertion of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that the protection of personal, private space is essential to the freedom of the individual.”

Did you wave goodbye?

Quoted by Scheer are lofty Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who coauthored the Wall Street Journal article “The Dark Side of the Digital Revolution.” Ever heard of biometric information? In their words, it “can be used to identify individuals through their unique physical and biological attributes…. With cloud computing, it takes just seconds to compare millions of faces…. By indexing our biometric signatures, some governments will try to track our every move and word, both physically and digitally.”

Meanwhile, corporations like Google can collect data on what we buy and increase profits by selling it to third parties.

Schmidt defended Google’s data-sharing in 2009 when, as its CEO, he told CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

I don’t expect Google Glass to be mentioned much, if at all, in upcoming national, state and local elections. Maybe Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat who remains loyal to the bedraggled Constitution, or Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will remind us that the American Revolution began simmering in part because the colonists were enraged by British customs agents raiding their offices and homes without warrants, just as the FBI does now habitually.

Along with privacy, this ceaselessly voracious technology is taking from us our most effective weapon against an ever more enveloping police state: free speech. Tucked into David Streitfeld’s peek at Google Glass was a keen observation by Bradley Shear, an expert on social media at George Washington University: “Google Glass will test the right to privacy versus the First Amendment.”

Google Glass and potentially more effective destroyers of individual privacy continue to surpass our wildest imaginations. How many of us could have even conceived of a high-speed, übercomprehensive search engine, much less Google Glass, 20 years ago? And how many protesting journalists, Constitution-defending politicians and outraged citizens will be able to withstand the scrutiny of their private lives by the likes of Google and Barack Obama and the tech-savvy villains following in their footsteps?

I insist that this country’s best chance to again become a self-governing Constitutional republic is if more and more teachers are willing to stand up to tyranny and the invasion of privacy. They will enable new generations of voters to fully understand what it is to be a free American in charge of their government.

The true America has survived the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and later the Civil War, including Lincoln’s violation of his northern opponents’ civil liberties; the first Red Scare and J. Edgar Hoover; the mass imprisonment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War; anti-Communist zealot Joe McCarthy’s 1950s witch-hunt; and it is surviving terrorism.

But will America survive what Google Glass portends it will become?

Dangerous Powers

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013


by Robert Scheer

Finally, even that old hawk John McCain woke up to the fact that Congress had betrayed its Constitutional obligation after 9/11 by granting President George W. Bush and those who’d come after him unlimited executive power to take the nation to war. In panic over the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, what had seemed like a good idea in 2001 has been interpreted by Presidents Bush and Obama as authorization for a never-ending war against terrorism, free of any Congressional oversight.

In May of this year the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing where highranking Defense Department officials asserted that the United States could wage war anywhere and anytime the president desired.

In response, Senator McCain (R-Arizona) warned: “This authority…is no longer applicable to the conditions that prevailed, that motivated the United States Congress to pass the authorization for the use of military force that we did in 2001. For you to come here and say we don’t need to change it or revise or update it, I think is, well, disturbing.”

What McCain was referring to was the fact that he and almost everyone else in Congress caught in the grip of post-9/11 hysteria had hastily voted to betray the essential wisdom of the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Without any serious debate over the historic consequences, the House of Representatives and Senate approved the “Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Basically a blank check, the 60-word paragraph stated: “That the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

With that mandate, Congress destroyed the wall between the executive and legislative branches that the authors of the Constitution had so prudently enshrined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, which reserves to Congress the power “to declare War.” The president’s duty as commander-in-chief is to conduct that war and not to decide whether it should be undertaken.

But this past May, McCain and his colleagues were rudely reminded of the awesome power they had surrendered to the president as the aforementioned Defense Department officials calmly affirmed the obvious reality that President Barack Obama was no more obligated than George W. Bush to seek Congressional permission before taking the nation to war. The senators seemed genuinely shocked to be told of the consequences of Congress’s irresponsible action 12 years earlier.

The abrupt moment of truth for McCain and others at that Senate committee hearing came when Pentagon officials told the senators that the “Authorization for Use of Military Force” allowed the United States to now invade Syria or any other spot on the globe where the president could claim that terrorists were active.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) had a question for Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of Defense who oversees special operations: “Would you agree with me, the battle field is anywhere the enemy chooses to make it?”

Not mincing his words, Sheehan replied, “Yes, sir, from Boston to FATA [Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas].” He went on to testify that this power to intervene anywhere without Congressional approval would be needed for “at least ten to 20 years.”

“This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here,” bristled Maine’s independent Senator Angus King. “You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution today. … Under your reading, we’ve granted unbelievable powers to the president, and it’s a very dangerous precedent.”

Dangerous indeed, as an almost-unanimous Congress should have realized when, blindly surrendering to fear, our nation’s law makers—including John McCain—thoughtlessly subverted the core meaning of the Constitution that they had solemnly pledged to uphold. It is time for Congress to make amends by annulling that dangerous carte-blanche authorization before a president takes us into the next dumb war.

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