“The Dude Just Wanted His Rug Back”
On November 25, 2009, Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman was detained at the Canadian border by Canadian border guards and grilled for ninety minutes. She came to the conclusion that they were concerned about her reporting on the Olympics, but initial reports seemed to indicate that she was originally puzzled by their behavior and decided later that the Olympics must have been the focus. However, a mere six weeks earlier she interviewed deposed president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya. After technical difficulties were resolved and the interview resumed, he complained of being attacked with microwave weapons aimed inside the embassy from without .
Just around the time of Goodman’s border incident, I was over at a friend’s place. He and some other friends were playing Rock Band. That was the first time I heard “Float On” by Modest Mouse. I enjoyed it so much that I made a note of it to buy and download it later off of iTunes for my iPhone.
We also discussed science fiction and other book recommendations. I don’t recall if it was before this or the following week, but Peter Watts had stated on his blog that he’d met a PR lady at a bar and she had said that he didn’t spend enough time and effort promoting himself. Therefore, I relayed to everyone how to find his books and wound up doing another pimp job on Facebook.
(As odd as it might seem, virtually everything I’ve written in this chapter so far will be mentioned again under different circumstances).
Watts let it be known that he was coming to the US. At the time, I don’t think we knew why. He was supposed to return on December 6th. Due to car trouble in the form of a broken down rental car, the return got postponed to December 7th. Due to car trouble in the form of a second broken down rental car, the return got postponed to December 8th . This was the same day that the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive got released.
On the way out of the US, Watts was stopped by Department of Homeland Security border guards for what was later called a random exit search. According to Peter, (and a later article including a quote from a manager at DHS would seem to confirm ), he wasn’t really informed as to what was going on.
He got out of the car. In Canada this is standard when pulled over. It had been this way in the United States but changed at some point in I think the early 1980s when it was decided that police could better avoid being overpowered with a potential perp still in the car. There were a few stories in Memphis in the late 70s about that happening. I don’t know if it had been as big an issue in other states.
Watts was given two almost simultaneous conflicting commands by the guards present. Almost as if out of Raising Arizona (“Freeze!” and “Drop to the ground!”), he was told to get back into the car and to put his hands on the car as if to be searched himself. As Watts put it, they sort of swarmed the car and gave little or no instruction.
However, at one point one of the guards grabbed his wrist (as if to cuff him) and he slipped his hand away. This was a reflexive action, he said. That moment would not be the focus of the court case against him, however.
From eighty or so yards away, another guard, not involved in the search, charged over, and punched and pepper-sprayed Peter. That guard would initially claim that Watts was choking him but later admit that it might have been his bulletproof vest riding up to his neck during the scuffle.
The federal government wound up not pressing charges. However, the state of Michigan did through the St. Clair County prosecutor’s office. The basic charge was resisting an officer. He faced up to two, three or four years in prison plus fines.
I didn’t hear about any of that until Friday, December 11. I read it on a tech news site that I read, Boing Boing, run by Cory Doctorow who is a science fiction writer in his own right, and a privacy advocate, supporter of groups like the EFF and similar.
My initial reaction was to launch into a letter writing campaign. I stopped and thought for a moment. I wanted to be sure I had as many of the facts as possible and to have the worst case scenario in mind before acting.
It took less than a minute. Even if he had been belligerent, the pepper-spray was beyond the pale. (In fact, there was a later investigation into it’s use, which the news said was standard any time it gets used by DHS).
I wrote the White House asking for any potential charges to be dropped. I wrote my senators as well. I typically talked about how this kind of thing can hurt tourism and commerce and that in a bad economy did we really want to make Canadians feel unwelcome?
I did, after seeing no movement on getting it all dropped, also write the DCCC. I said that I had, prior to this, watched the Tea Party and reacted with horror to their charges of the government being however it is that they describe it. I said I wondered if, after this incident, if they didn’t have a point.
I was being entirely facetious. I had wondered (recall again, I really don’t know what was my idea and what wasn’t, merely why I thought I was doing what I was doing) how to break through the wall, get maximum signal to noise ratio. Get the attention of a very large machine in order to get Peter Watts out of the predicament he was in. The idea of a little-d democrat rebellion over something like that seemed a good idea at the time.
I later, when I bumped into him at our local deli, told Scahill about that and a couple of other oddities.
I told him that a mysterious entity in Aberdeen, Maryland had visited a website on December 14 . He initially thought I was referring to Top Secret America subcontractor SAIC. It would turn out, as I looked at the issue again, that it was INSCOM, also commonly known as “Army Intelligence.” Rather than use INSCOM (the acronym) as the name registered to the IP address, they used their initials: USAISC:
What was especially odd about this was that that website, freedomfed.com, had not yet been rolled out. Only my partner and best friend had visited it otherwise. We were still working on it at the time this happened.
It was this event that actually made me decide to go see Ron Kuby. I went to Kuby under the (kind of) fake intention of hiring him to get me out of any trouble I might wind up in during the trial in Port Huron. Every time I thought of this, I burst into laughter and I have to think, if I did have a surveillance team, they must have noticed that. I really thought that the idea of having Kuby involved in any way might stop the harassment I was witnessing and experiencing from what had to be at least in part, INSCOM .
Kuby eventually turned me down. I was mostly relieved because I really didn’t want to spend money on a retainer that I had no real intention of using (though I tried to keep an open mind). The thought of, should Watts be found guilty, perhaps making some 70s style political statement did cross my mind, but first I wanted to see it thrown out followed by a not guilty verdict before getting myself arrested in protest.
On top of that, I explained to Jeremy that I had seen a man, really so very military looking in appearance, during Thanksgiving week milling about in front of his home. When I walked up and asked this man (whose face was a mask of stone) about the dog he was walking, he looked down in what only his eyes revealed was a panicked state. He stumbled for a moment before answering. As I made my way to the corner store and chatted outside with the Syrian store owners, he glared as he passed.
Jeremy also relayed the Amy Goodman story I mentioned at top. I hadn’t heard about her detainment.
It should also be noted that, among the potential charges against Blackwater, Scahill later reported that they had sold some kind of classified materials to Canadian military intelligence. When this occurred and what the materials were does not appear in the article . I wondered if it weren’t related to voice-to-skull and/or the Russian version, acoustic psycho-correction. But that would be a little too neat and tidy an explanation, I suspect.
However, again, you have repeating patterns. Paranoia among Canadian border guards followed by rage and disorganization in US border guards. All of that can be explained by voice-to-skull or other methods of altering behavior.
As Peter would say much later, this story doesn’t “need that.” That’s a simple way of stating Occham’s razor. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one and from his point of view, that would certainly seem to be the case.
The problem with that is that is the very heart of covert operations. Plausible deniability. You want people to believe first your accounting of events, the one you created through covert theater. After that, you’ll accept anything that doesn’t resemble the truth. That 1955 MK/Ultra memo makes it clear. Harassment techniques to make people believe, for example, that they have a disease when they only have phony symptoms, or to make people other than the target believe that the target is insane, delusional, whatever.
As former German minister Andreas von Bulow would say after 9/11:
I have the impression that this kind of intelligence agency spends 90 percent of its time this way: creating false leads. So that if anyone suspects the collaboration of the agencies, he is accused of paranoia. The truth often comes out only years later.
Much easier to believe it was just a bunch of crazy Arabs, isn’t it? And more pleasant, better for sleeping at night. Especially if you’ve lost someone in the resulting wars or a terrorist attack.
Same principle. Same pattern.
From my vantage point, Brooklyn and Manhattan turned into psychological warfare zones. I was not the only one who noticed, but some of it was directed at me personally and therefore not everyone who witnessed a little piece witnessed all that I did. From their point of view, I must be paranoid, letting my imagination run away with me, or simply have gone insane.
True insanity, while it may have a cure, does not work like it typically does in movies. An article a friend of mine and I were looking at just before this happened referred to the Hollywood depiction as, “Here, let me put this key into your crazy hole” and, voila!, no more crazy, cured, happy ending, yay.
And yet, that is, to an extent, what happened to me. Except for the happy ending. But while I’m not altogether normal (who would be after all this?), I’m not like I was either.
For more on the kinds of things that happened, see the blog. “The Case of the Fidgety Korean” is a good one (generally, those things are under the Black Boot Diaries tag though sometimes that’s a passing issue combined with complaints about something national or international). In a room full of other people, some of whom I’d known for years, I was harassed by the person sitting next to me and not a single one of them seemed to notice. Given what lead up to that happening at the theater (a possible bomb threat and the strange Brit who engaged me in conversation) I know what I think. You may just think me delusional and having somehow imagined it all.
After all, these things don’t happen in the United States, do they? Better to believe that they don’t even if they do, something inside your head says.
A few more seminal events occurred Christmas week. On the 22nd or so I sent a letter to the judge (Monoghan) who was handling the preliminary examination. In those, essentially when a judge decides whether or not a trial should go forward instead of a grand jury, he can hear evidence that would not normally be allowed at trial. I sent it via Internet fax. Because I sent it wholly electronically, I did not sign it. There was no paper to sign. By the time that occurred to me it was already after the exam was over. And the trial was going ahead.
It should be noted that the preliminary examination was supposed to happen sooner, but Monaghan had what seemed to be heart trouble. This was similar to what happened with Rush Limbaugh weeks later.
The day after I sent the fax, I was again standing in front of the deli having a chat when I saw what appeared to be smoke coming somewhere near Scahill’s place. I ran towards it only to find that it was actually coming from a white pickup truck. Inside the pickup truck were three men. One older than the other two in the driver’s seat, one shorter and stockier in the middle, and one taller and thinner on the passenger side. As I approached, they drove off. I could see that the thin one was laughing via the side mirror.
When I returned, one of the store owners asked what happened. I told him. He said, “Yeah…I saw something, but I could not tell what it was.”
He seemed a little like he was in a daze when he said that.
I later got a text from a friend on Christmas who told me that a mutual friend, Kate Conway (who had lived a block away from me but moved a bit further after that) had been in a fire and was in the hospital. The condo building in which she, her father and step mother lived had burned down. The step mother had been in Chicago dealing with the death of her own mother and wasn’t there. Kate and her father Michael were pulled out by the FDNY:
Rescuers pull 2 from B’klyn blaze
By KATHERINE ROMERO
Last Updated: 9:46 AM, December 24, 2009
Firefighters rescued a Brooklyn woman and her father yesterday morning after the two were knocked unconscious as a blaze ripped through their Park Slope apartment.
An overloaded power strip sparked the fire in the top floor of the four-story building on Third Street near Fifth Avenue about 2:30 a.m., officials said.
Firefighters Rob Mitchell and John Fisher, along with Capt. Dennis Murphy of Ladder Co. 105, rushed into the building. They found Michael Conway, 58, passed out in a hallway. His daughter, Kate, 29, was found unconscious nearby. Both were carried to safety.
Michael was in stable condition at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. Kate was taken to New York Hospital-Cornell Burn Center, where she was listed in serious but stable condition with burns to her legs.
“It’s the best reward you can get,” said Capt. Murphy, a 26-year FDNY veteran. “It’s a good feeling, especially during this time of the year.”
Two rescued from condo fire in Brooklyn
December 23, 2009 3:29:14 PM PST
A father and his daughter were rescued from an apartment fire in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. The fire broke out in the top floor of the condominum [sic] at 392 Third Street just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Fire was shooting out the windows when firefighters arrived. They pulled a man out of the fire with injuries, including serious burns. He was in critical condition at the burn unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
His daughter, who was visiting, sustained less serious injuries and was taken to Methodist Hospital.
Firefighters had to battle the fire and the weather to put out the blaze. The fire appears to be caused by an overloaded power strip.
Six families were left homeless.
Later, in Minneapolis, a man tried to sell me a homemade laser. It is not only capable of reaching great distances:
But also of melting and burning things:
Overheating a power strip? Child’s play.
This had been another attempt to turn me violent. They had set fire to the home of a woman recovering from an aneurism with her in it. They had tried to frame (I would find out in April at the sentencing hearing) the father and the two brothers of the border guard who had punched and pepper-sprayed Peter. The men in the truck generally matched the descriptions of those men at the hearing.
But by then I’d understand better the way things really work. I’d understand that we live in spook country. I’d understand, the real reason I named The Wisp the way I had, was that democracy, even such as we had, is fragile and that the Rule of Law is an illusion, “smoke and mirrors.” It only applies when someone “important” wants it to, and it doesn’t when they don’t.
This was a black op, conducted on American soil, by the US government and its private contractors, under the command of Barrack Obama  though as noted there are indications that it may have been planned during the Bush administration. It was to create domestic strife, perhaps even domestic terrorism. I was drugged and harassed to the point of every emotion you can imagine that might invoke. I lost my family, my career, my friends, my savings, my home, and even my mind.
What remains of “me” becomes a little less and less “me” every day. I wonder sometimes who the person that will eventually be buried under my headstone will be.
You can believe what you like but consider this: What they did to me they may one day do to you. I and other people like me may not be around to tell them to stop when that happens.
I wrote the FBI and Secret Service (thinking that the latter might have a more direct line to the White House) and things just got so much worse.
1 CBC News, “U.S. journalist grilled at Canada border crossing”, 22 December 2009:
Democracy Now!, “Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Speaks from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa,” Amy Goodman, 5 October 2009:
Can you describe what it’s been like inside the embassy? Can you describe the scene?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA:
[translated] Yes. What has occurred here is truly rude treatment for a democratically elected president. This is not how you treat a president who is fighting to reinstall democracy in his country.
We have been repressed and limited to the embassy. Tear gas has been fired. Our electronic lines, our telephone lines have been cut. We’ve also been under attack from microwaves and the sound cannon, a long-range acoustic device.
What do you mean, acoustic device, a sound cannon?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA:
[translated] There are two kinds of unconventional weapons that have been used against us by the regime. There’s a high-frequency pitch that has been used against protesters. And another weapon that has been used against us is an electronic device that issues microwaves, which is very harmful for your health. It causes headaches.
As president, do you know about this in the Honduran arsenal?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA:
[translated] Yes, of course. We all suffered this. We all witnessed it. There’s photographs and videos of this occurring.
And who is using this outside — the tear gas, the sound cannon, whatever you call it, the high-frequency machine? Is it Honduran soldiers?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA:
[translated] There are military forces that have surrounded the embassy. The embassy, in fact, has been turned into a concentration camp.
2 Testimony from the trial in March 2010.
3 Spokesperson from DHS, “Of course we want to be talking to people before searching their vehicles.”
4 Google Docs / Drive, FreedomFed.com Google analytics report, to 16 December 2009:
5 Shorrock, Tim, “Who profits from our new war? Inside NSA and private contractors’ secret plans: A massive war operation is being waged to track and kill ISIS — and it’s a lot more than cruise missiles,” Salon, 24 September 2014:
INSCOM’s “global intelligence support” contract will place the contractors at the center of this fight. It was unveiled on Sept. 12 by the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), one of the largest military units that collects signals intelligence for the NSA.
Under its terms, 21 companies, led by Booz Allen Hamilton, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, will compete over the next five years to provide “fully integrated intelligence, security and information operations” in Afghanistan and “future contingency operations” around the world.
You’ll be seeing defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, founded in 1917, again in later chapters.
6 Again. The Nation, “Blackwater’s Black Ops: Internal documents reveal the firm’s clandestine work for multinationals and governments”, Jeremy Scahill, 15 September 2010:
In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military.
7 History Commons, “January 13, 2002: Former German Minister Believes CIA Is Responsible for 9/11”:
Full quote includes:
Whoever wants to understand the CIA’s methods, has to deal with its main task of covert operations: Below the level of war, and outside international law, foreign states are to be influenced by inciting insurrections or terrorist attacks, usually combined with drugs and weapons trade, and money laundering.…
8 Romero, Katherine, “Rescuers pull 2 from B’klyn blaze,” New York Post, 24 December 2009:
9 Eyewitness News, “Two rescued from condo fire in Brooklyn,” WABC New York TV 7, 23 December 2009:
There were three articles about this when it happened. Around February 2010 or so, all three disappeared. I found a mirror copy of one on a foreign fire house website. Here are the links to the three that went missing:
The second is what the mirror copied, now shown in note 8. I could not find them in 2013 when I originally wrote this chapter. A new web search helped me find two out of the three.
10 MSNBC/YouTube, Rachel Maddow, “Cheney ‘Stay Behinds’ Disrupt Obama intelligence Team”, 6 January 2010:
Referring to the story covered here:
ThinkProgress, “Hersh: ‘Cheney Left a Stay Behind in Obama’s Government,’ ‘Can Still Control Policy Up to a Point'”, 31 March 2009:
Best excuse Obama had. Unfortunately, after over four years and things only getting worse, he’s going to eventually have to use the “brainwashed” defense if he has a hope of distancing himself from things like the NDAA allowance for indefinite detainment without trial and access to attorneys (even Gitmo detainees can eventually get attorneys) on the say-so of the Department of Defense.
Of course that’s actually what I think is happening. Signing the NDAA but still talking about releasing Gitmo prisoners doesn’t exactly make sense. Nor does an inability for the SECDEF to state that he will not use drones on Americans.
Something is very, very wrong and the usual excuses and rationalizations aren’t cutting it any more. Not for me.