TOC Ready Room 7 Jan 2023: Border disorder, Project Censorship, Church redux

What’s wrong and right with the world.

Back from a Christmas “break,” and I’m still tired of politics.  What a silly method of dealing with human affairs.

A few random updates for the TOC squadron.

Readers probably won’t be surprised to learn that in December, the House Democrats adopted a rule that the J6 Committee materials they were going to send to the National Archives must be sequestered from release for 30 years.

It’s now being reported, almost as if it’s some nefarious move, that Republicans intend to undo that rule and get their hands on the J6 documents (and videos) in the new Congress.

Some very weird measures seem to be necessary to “protect democracy.”  Denying Republicans and the American people access to the original materials compiled by the J6 Committee doesn’t make any obvious sense as one of them.

It will be interesting to see if the National Archives drags its heels or refuse to cooperate.

Of course, the J6 Committee did release some of its materials in December 2022.  Among them was a spreadsheet revealing the Social Security numbers of Trump officials and Republican governors, as well as nearly 2,000 other people who visited the Trump White House in December 2020.

Meanwhile, at the border

President Biden will visit El Paso, Texas on Sunday as part of a North American Leaders summit with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (colloquially known as AMLO) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

This gathering seems somewhat overdue to me, but let that pass.  The right-wing media buzz is naturally that Biden will finally be visiting the border, or at least getting closer to it than he’s ever known to have been.

Reporting from El Paso indicates that he’s going to see (as will the media) a cleaned-up, Potemkin version of the border city.  El Paso has been working diligently to remove the homeless migrant camps all over its streets before Biden and the foreign dignitaries arrive. 

Interestingly, Senator Cornyn of Texas tweeted Friday evening that eight U.S. senators will tour the border the following day (Monday).

We can hope their visit will yield an accurate picture of conditions at the border.

In other border news, a Border Patrol officer was shot on 5 January by a suspected human trafficker, reportedly at the Lordsburg CBP station in New Mexico (in other words, inside the U.S.).  It appears the shot aimed at his chest was prevented from doing major damage by the patrolman’s protective vest, but he did suffer injury. 

As briefly commented in the tweet, it was shooting at Americans, inside U.S. territory, that triggered the Army’s Mexican border operations under Woodrow Wilson.  Shootings originating from our side of the border have been rare, and obviously intentional point-blank targeting of Border Patrol officers even rarer.  The cartels are being emboldened in crime by Biden’s apparently intentional open-border policy.

That probably explains former President Trump’s announcement this week of a plan to combat the cartels if he is elected in 2024.  For now, I don’t need to elaborate further on my comment in this tweet:

Trump’s emergence with this particular agenda point may seem a bit odd, but I think it’s indicative of what he sees as the security priority for America.  I don’t think it’s a mere political play, either, to what he thinks are the concerns of his voters.  I think it’s what he views as being of greatest importance.  (Notably, he disappointed quite a few supporters this week with an apparent flip-flop on the Freedom Caucus 20 campaign in the speakership vote.  Trump rarely if ever comes off as pandering, and his political instincts are unconventional, to say the least.  All you have to do to understand his priorities and intentions, however, is listen to what he says.)

Just a couple more items on the border.  One, the Democratic governor of Colorado has been shipping illegal migrants to New York City, to the chagrin of Mayor Eric Adams.  But this isn’t cruel, unconscionable kidnap-busing of illegals, as with Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis.  This, per Governor Jared Polis, is “carrying out our values of treating every human being with dignity and respect.”

And, sure, it must be:  the media aren’t caterwauling about it.  Aren’t even mentioning it.

The last border item comes from my return trip to southern California this week.  A Border Patrol checkpoint that has never once been closed in the years I’ve driven the local byways was closed on 3 January.  It’s a small, remote one, southeast of the town I live in, but it was placed for surveillance and traffic control precisely because that’s where cartel coyotes like to try to sneak through.  The problem of CBP manning versus the flood at the border is real.

Government-social media collusion to censor speech

This gigantic topic will be with us for some time, and I won’t try to fit in too much in this update.

Some essential resources and thinking aids were produced this past week on the matter, by journalist Lee Smith and one of his sources, Mike Benz. 

To whet your appetite on Smith’s article in Tablet.

Smith has outdone even his usual excellence in this piece; the plaudits circulating on Twitter have been off the charts.

Mike Benz, quoted in the article, came in a bit later with a most useful thread on what he and Smith call the “whole-of-society” censorship effort (specifically with relation, mostly, to the Hunter Biden laptop and the on-the-fly voting arrangements for the 2020 election). 

Of particular note was Benz’s reference to measures adopted by multiple segments of society at essentially the same time:  the fall of 2019.

As observed in my subsequent quote-tweet thread, the substance of the measures, which targeted “misinformation” about the upcoming 2020 election, was assembled in documents dated after the FBI had been officially alerted to the Biden laptop (September 2019), and square in the middle of the House Democrats’ first impeachment effort against Trump.

But it’s even more informative to review what the whole-of-society censorship plan was laid out before.  Again, the core topic was a potential “election crisis” and potential “misinformation” about the 2020 election.  As seen in Mike Benz’s thread, a joint statement in November 2019 by four cabinet-level agencies and their subordinate agencies alluded in an exceptionally vague manner to “protecting the democratic process” and sharing “timely and actionable information … to defend against any threats to our democracy.”

The agencies urged Americans to “go to trusted sources for election information, such as their state and local election officials.”  They added this:  “We encourage every American to report any suspicious activity to their local officials, the FBI, or DHS.”  The “suspicious activity,” seemingly, was to be defined later.

As noted in my follow-on tweet thread, the year 2020 – which started two months after the joint notice from the federal agencies – saw a protracted attempt by Democrats on Capitol Hill to inject a narrative about election interference and “misinformation” or “disinformation” into U.S. intelligence community products.  I’ve written at some length about former DNI John Ratcliffe’s rejection of this effort (see links in this comprehensive timeline), an effort that originated outside the intel community but tried to write analytical conclusions for it.

That, as regards the whole-of-society preparations, would be an effort to generate the actionable semblance of a “threat” to the 2020 election.

In January 2019, at the beginning of the 117th Congress, the Hill Democrats brought to the floor H.R. 1, the sweeping voting “reform” bill that included such measures as universal vote-by-mail and relaxed standards for timeliness of mailed ballots and signature-matching for vote integrity.  (In my tweet, I incorrectly put this vote in January 2020.  It was 2019, and the same bill was brought up for vote again in January 2021.  The key point about the bill is that it was part of an overall effort to fundamentally alter voting procedures well prior to the pandemic.  That effort failed.  But the whole-of-society censorship effort relating to critics of the bill’s later-enacted provisions — critics who were accused of “misinformation” — was being assembled in the fall of 2019, when the bill’s measures were envisioned but as yet unenacted, and before the COVID-19 pandemic.)

H.R. 1 wasn’t going to be signed by President Trump, or achieve veto-override passage in either house of Congress, so it didn’t go anywhere.  But later still, starting with the lockdowns in March 2020, blue and “purple” state officials began proclaiming that they would adopt the same measures enumerated in H.R. 1, with or without the consent of their legislatures, because of the “election crisis” created by COVID-19.

WaPo video, YouTube

In retrospect, the policy statements from the fall of 2019 about “protecting democracy” laid the groundwork with remarkably convenient timing for the whole-of-society censorship campaign that ensued in 2020.

The same censorship apparatus was used in October 2020 to suppress information about the Biden laptop.

I note also, as chronicled here (based on the Molly Ball piece in TIME about the election-“fortifying” cabal – TIME’s word, not mine – that sought to basically rig the operation of the 2020 election), that the timing of the whole-of-society consultations between cabal activists and social media executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, dovetailed exactly with the timing cited by Mike Benz.

The overall timeline of events indicates that “permanent state” contingents in the federal agencies were conferring with self-anointed “civil society” activists (in the same league as the National Task Force on Election Crises, if not that specific organization) at the same time the activists were conferring with social media.  They were preparing to combat “misinformation” and “suspicious activities” related to the 2020 election, at a time when congressional Democrats had had the measures they wanted to shield against the so-called “misinformation” on an agenda list for months, but before COVID-19 was used to justify implementing those measures at the state level.

When the censorship apparatus is in place before the emergence of the problem (“COVID-19” versus the election), the “solution” (implementing the measures of H.R. 1), and its critics or dissidents, you have to give serious thought to which is the chicken and which the egg.

Looking for the right droids

But one final point.  If I had any quibble with Lee Smith’s article, it would be the same slight over-focus I see among most commentators on the “intelligence community” as the government contingent pulling the strings on this.

Perhaps the intel community has to be no mystery to the observer, for the observer to be confident that the IC is not the deus ex machina in this sprawling scenario.  It’s not.  I say that without hesitation.  The IC is the custodian of the tools, and when the visible manifestations come from the use of the tools, it can look like the custodian is the one with the plan and the fell intent.

One slice on this is the point – one that may seem arcane to non-intel practitioners – that DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, is not an intelligence agency.  Only part of the FBI has an intelligence mission, for that matter.  The FBI is originally and mainly chartered as a law enforcement agency.  In the 2020 election cycle, the Twitter files show that CISA became a hub for the project to monitor and censor Americans’ social media speech, and the FBI was a key participant.  In neither case was this about “intelligence.”  It was putatively about homeland security and public infrastructure, because that’s how it could be justified as a government effort.

CISA and the FBI both became unnaturally empowered based on this justification, but intelligence, per se, wasn’t wielding the policymaking or decision power.  Its tools were being drawn on to assemble the arena of operations.  It’s really important to understand this.  Systematic, whole-of-society abuse of intel’s tools cannot be ordered or master-minded by “intelligence.”  Intelligence controls only its own tools; it doesn’t have the power to dragoon the other elements of society.

But extra-legal things only presidents and their top staff could once order up from intelligence are now available for exploitation at lower bureaucratic levels – and known to be so by people who aren’t in government office, and may well be getting things done through contractors and the revolving-door ministrations of Washington’s endless consulting firms (including law firms).  Assuming Trump himself had no involvement in arranging for CISA to broker FBI-Twitter collusion in 2020, even though CISA and the FBI both worked for him, it would have been the string-puller side of the whole-of-society apparatus that was making it happen.  Thinking we see single fall-guys pulling strings is misleading.

Smith nails it better here, in recognizing that the whole-of-society effort has become, in effect, a rogue spy service in its own right, one much larger and farther reaching than the intel agencies formally chartered by the U.S. government can be:

In fact, the FBI’s penetration of Twitter constituted just one part of a much larger intelligence operation—one in which the bureau offshored the machinery it used to interfere in the 2016 election and embedded it within the private sector. The resulting behemoth, still being built today, is a public-private consortium made up of U.S. intelligence agencies, Big Tech companies, civil society institutions, and major media organizations that has become the world’s most powerful spy service—one that was powerful enough to disappear the former president of the United States from public life, and that is now powerful enough to do the same or worse to anyone else it chooses. 

As Smith so aptly says, this whole-of-society strategy isn’t merely about one election, or replacing Trump.  It’s about replacing the Republic.  I’ve written about that at length before as well, back when people thought the Obama administration’s motive for spying on and thwarting Trump was to preserve particular aspects of Obama’s policy “legacy,” or protect Hillary from exposure or prosecution.  Those motives wouldn’t merit even an uncomfortable phone call, much less a whole-of-society enterprise, in the actual scope of what’s going on.  (See the analysis and conclusions in these articles, for example:  here, here, here. Warning: very long articles; to cut to the chase, do a word-find on “legacy.”)

How the FBI Hacked Twitter, Lee Smith, Tablet, Jan 2023

The actual motive – replacing the Republic – is and always was too big to originate in the intel community.  Though the evidence indicates they’ve been involved, it’s not men like James Clapper, Christopher Wray, or John Brennan who lay awake at night in 2016 or 2020 envisioning an America that isn’t America anymore.  Nor is it their bureaucratic subordinates, at least not in the sense of wielding the power to order lawless activities.

Those men and women, custodians of the tools, have been tools themselves, if often willing ones, for people who operate at a different level, one at which the actors are mostly out of public office or have never been in it.  When I’m asked who these people are, I usually suggest starting with the donors and projects of the Democracy Alliance and proceeding from there.  Some of the individuals in question are social media and other Big Tech moguls, but most are not.

Politically connected consulting firms and Washington’s boutique investment companies are a fruitful place to look.  It’s not too much to suggest Obama’s inner circle for this set, either, considering that Susan Rice continues to babysit Biden in the White House, and many Obama functionaries have cycled through or remain in the Biden administration.  It is, however, too much to identify Obama as a singular string-puller in chief.

White House image (Pete Souza)

Another method is to look around for the public activists who speak thematically in the exact terms Lee Smith encapsulates:  what it will look like, and what must be done, to eliminate the American Republic (or any other inconveniently sovereign state) and replace it with something else.  America’s sovereignty stands in the way of the hold on power a lot of transnational actors want to have.  Inside America, the nature and strength of that sovereignty depend on our continuation as a constitutional republic, responsive to voters free to speak their minds and achieve un-orchestrated outcomes.

In the past two decades, discussions have constantly revolved around the “replacing the republic” proposition at the World Economic Forum, to name just one.  Other gathering spots have been the Aspen Institute and the European Council on Foreign Relations.  The participants are in media, risk management, finance, targeted investment, information technology, politics – as well as academia and activist NGOs.  Running with them, but by no means pulling their strings, are ex-intel types like the heavily-clubbed MI6 band of Russiagate and Spygate.  Many of those visible through this lens are not Americans.

The thematic underpinnings of the “replacing the republic” proposition have been out there in plain sight for years.  Many of them are cultivated in the UN-sponsored global climate initiatives and Agenda 21.  There’s no conspiracy theory in pointing this out.  There is a consensus silence on it in the U.S. legacy media, especially as it affects the United States.  But the participants are all real and have left a distinctive paper trail.

This leads to the last topic:

Hail, Speaker McCarthy

On the fifteenth vote, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was elected Speaker of the House in the last moments of 6 January 2023.

Leave aside, for now, all the philosophical comments on this.  A wrap-up, more comprehensive than most of the copy circulating on social media, can be found here, listing the concessions McCarthy attached to his speakership under demands from the Freedom Caucus 20.

One of the prior agreements is to establish a “Church Committee”-like body to investigate the use of intelligence tools and government agencies to spy on and censor Americans.  This is where parts of the “whole-of-society” effort Smith and Benz describe will be probed.

I say this next with some urgency.  It will be fatally misdirected to imagine, as Senator Frank Church’s committee did in the 1970s, that the intelligence agencies are as far as a committee needs to look, to scope out the danger of the enterprise.  The Church Committee was wrong about that in the 1970s (partly, of course, because looking beyond intel to the decision-makers led to people like Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and their senior advisors), and a new committee would be wrong to adopt that perspective today.

Intel, even at the highest level, mans keyboards, wears headphones, and delivers messages through shadowy paths available to the fewest possible participants. 

The Church Committee meets in 1975. C-SPAN via YouTube

Intel is involved, to be sure, and there can be utility in curtailing its tools (if that can actually be accomplished in the age of ephemeral digital footprints).  The House is likely to take the easier route and confine itself to probing the custodians rather than taking on the decision-makers.

But if we care who’s trying to replace the American Republic, the custodians aren’t the droids we’re looking for.

Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

2 thoughts on “TOC Ready Room 7 Jan 2023: Border disorder, Project Censorship, Church redux”

  1. Yes it is time for another punitive expeditionary mission to our southern border.

    The WEF, et al., for some reason, wants to replace western civilization and the Enlightenment with neo-feudalism. Trump was in the way, so all means to get rid of him, without making him a martyr, were justified.

    There has been criticism of Putin because he only got rosy information about the state of the Russian army. But the same can be said about Biden with a sanitized tour

  2. Thanks for highlighting the importance of Lee Smith’s Jan 5 2023 dot-connecting. My Sunday was annoyed by conclusion it was a sort of unified field theory instead of my uses Facts, Evidence, Truths, to support his Conclusions
    At least they posted, to recommend reading Smith. I can not fathom why he is so ignored by the allegedly conservative pundits.

    Hope Rep Thomas Massie, supposedly going to chair the 2023 “Church Commission”, gets your message: The House is likely to take the easier route and confine itself to probing the custodians rather than taking on the decision-makers.
    He is really smart – made his $$$ a few years from his business from inventing ‘AI something’ while still a student at MIT. This is much more interesting than his wiki:
    (35 minutes)
    Found it in one of the comments at

    As for T45’s influence? Russ Vought, fmr OMB, made a huge contribution:

    11:07 AM · Jan 7, 2023 Citizens for Renewing America @amrenewcitizen
    🚨🚨🚨 Our statement on the Speaker fight.
    Because of the 20 brave conservatives, the DC cartel in the House was brought to its knees before the American ppl. This is the new paradigm-coalition government.
    Conservatives now control the House regardless of who is elected Speaker


    Must eat dinner before midnight.

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