How successful has FBI/CIA recruiting been within the Libertarian movement?

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By Thomas R. Eddlem

When Alex Jones was de-platformed by half a dozen BigTech companies within the same week back in 2018, it was obvious to me — and anyone else with a pulse — that this was coordinated by government (see my Facebook wall from August 2018 below).

So I couldn’t understand why several people at the Cato Institute and so many other prominent libertarians could be so stupid to go on regurgitating Democratic talking points, like Cato Institute Vice President John Samples in a Cato blog post the same week

“The tech companies have the right to govern speech on their platforms; Facebook has practiced such “content moderation” for at least a decade….As a legal matter, social media companies have broad discretion to police their platforms. That is how it should be.” 

But the #TwitterFiles proved I was very wrong

The above comment by Samples wasn’t a Democratic Party talking point; it was a government talking point. 

And in the case of Samples at least, it wasn’t stupidity; it was mendacity. 

Samples was added to the Facebook’s “Oversight Board” — its censorship board — in May 2020. So he was (at least eventually) in a position to know full-well what reporter Matt Taibbi reported in the #TwitterFiles, that “the state isn’t a bit actor in a mostly-private ‘content moderation’ movement. It’s the central player, clearly the boss of the whole operation, and clearly also the driving force in its expansion, a truth we can show in pictures.” 

Yet even as late as August 9, 2022 — more than two years after being added to Facebook’s on-staff subsidiary of the FBI, and just a few short months before Elon Musk revealed the #TwitterFiles — Samples was still sucking up to Facebook’s FBI-toadies and how they were doing a good overall job with “content moderation” (and making no mention of the overwhelming government role in censorship):

“I feel pretty good about them. They may not know they are libertarians on these issues, but I think many of them are.”

Note that Samples — who ironically directs the Cato’s Center for Representative Government, which focuses on the First Amendment — never mentioned the government role, and his libertarian activist interviewer Gary Nolan never even asked him about it. The interview is worth listening to in its entirely, especially if you need to vomit up some poison you’ve accidentally swallowed. 

So the Cato Institute has their First Amendment specialist actively facilitating federal press censorship.

What’s the Cato Institute’s next trick? 

Is it to have their Second Amendment specialist to join a Brady Coalition task force with the ATF to draw up new gun regulations? A Fourth Amendment specialist working with a Booz Allen Hamilton committee on how to help the NSA tap into more Americans’ computers? Their anti-war specialist working with Raytheon?

There’s literally no way to charitably characterize or excuse Samples’ role here. The best he could (and probably will do) is to plead something along the order of this: “Well, I always said the government shouldn’t censor speech, at least in a perfunctory manner, while I was working with (and providing cover for) government officials censoring anyone outside of the official narrative.”

It’s a scandal he’s still working at Cato. That he is still working there speaks at maximum volume about the quality of the higher-ups in the organization.

But Samples is definitely not alone among libertarians co-opted by a much more active and much better funded “intelligence community” (IC). And it makes me wonder how many other assets FedGov’s IC has among libertarians in America and around the world.

Federal government marketing to libertarians

A friend of the Libertarian Party recently satirically tweeted this hilarious response to one of the Mass. LP’s tweets on the #TwitterFiles: “It’s fair to assume that any organization that threatens the regime has been infiltrated…. Libertarian organizations should be fine.”

That was probably true a few years back. But even official propaganda agencies of the US government have taken notice of libertarians over the past two years, and are actively marketing to them. Voice of America — fresh off ongoing official denials that their relay station in Thailand wasn’t the site of a CIA black-site torture prison — came out in mid-2021 and announced that libertarians support vaccine mandates

Cato contributor and medical ethicist Jessica Flanigan got a call from NPR and told them — as a “libertarian” — that maybe government should impose mask mandates.

MSNBC is also lobbying toward Libertarians.

Georgetown University’s Jason Brennan, also an occasional Cato contributor, has been in favor of vaccine mandates since 2018. (Note that Brennan’s degree is in philosophy and the article was published in a medical ethics journal and republished online by the NIH.)

The NIH also got in on the action again in early 2022 trying to co-opt libertarianism with a “scholarly” piece titled “Libertarian approaches to the COVID‐19 pandemic”: 

“…our study shows that it is unreasonable to oppose lockdowns and similar measures in the early stage of a pandemic, when infection spreads dramatically and risks are still largely unknown.” 

Did you get that? Even if they don’t have any science on the pandemic, the government stipulates science says it’s unreasonable to oppose lockdowns.

The CIA effort to co-opt the global libertarian movement

As libertarians, we’re on their radar. And not only in the United States. Just as the FBI fills the role of the Fifth Directorate of the old KGB domestically, the CIA fills the same role of the First Directorate of the KGB globally. The CIA is recruiting agents of influence in political parties across the world, and across the political spectrum. This includes libertarian parties.

If you want to know what the CIA is willing to do to recruit even libertarians, you really need to know about the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Nadia Diuk.

Created in 1983, the NED is a Cold War leftover that has long been the overt face of the CIA’s covert global regime change mobilization. And the key person for two decades on Ukrainian and Russian policy at the NED was Nadia Diuk, a CIA officer in the 1980s mentioned in several declassified CIA memoranda (see snippet as example below) who became a careerist at NED with Eurasia as her case-load (and later also for Latin America) and a long personal and ethnic interest in Ukraine. She was the child of Ukrainian immigrants who had participated in the CIA insurgency of the 1940s.

According to an official NED obit for Diuk, who died of cancer in 2019, “Nadia came to NED as a program officer in 1987, three years after the Endowment’s founding, and went on to lead the NED’s grant making in Europe and Eurasia, providing crucial support to countless civil-society groups throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.” Naturally, the obituary left out Diuk’s history at the CIA. But Diuk’s driving interest was always Ukraine, a country where millions of dollars in “aid” to local NGOs has flowed in recent decades. Ukraine has not been alone; the CIA has also focused its “generosity” on Russia, Venezuela and even some friendly countries. 

One of the US government’s own foreign propaganda agencies, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, even termed the NED’s strategy funding of local NGOs “regime change on the cheap.” And while the NED worked with just a $40 million per year budget back in 2002, the NED is now a budgetary behemoth spending more than $300 million per year, doling out money to “independent” journalists and a wide spectrum of political parties across the world — including to libertarian activists.

In Venezuela, NED funded an NGO headed by Maria Corina Machado, who later went on to head “Vente Venezuela,” the most prominent libertarian party in Venezuela. Machado, a Yale University graduate, was later charged with treason by the Chavez government for accepting the grant (amounting to less than $100,000) from the NED.

It’s not clear if Machado is or ever was a CIA asset; I’d like to think she wasn’t and isn’t, even though she had a White House photo-op with fellow Yale graduate George W. Bush. It’s pretty clear the CIA tried to recruit her.  In Machado’s favor, however, is the reality that the CIA went with Harvard-educated Juan Guido as “President” figurehead instead of Machado in its 2019 coup attempt to overthrow the Maduro dictatorship.

People from tyrannical governments often have this understandable but also naive and fundamentally dangerous idea that everything from the West — even the CIA — represents freedom. In their desperation, they think they can’t afford to be choosy about their allies.  But the same principles that make the KGB/FSB a tool of tyranny in Russia make the CIA a tool of tyranny here in America and around the world. 

Thus, it’s understandable why dissidents in Venezuela, Ukraine or Russia might look for “allies” in Western intelligence agencies, even if they don’t understand that those Western intelligence agencies would never bring actual freedom to their countries. All spy agencies aim to enslave the nation where they exist as well as the foreign nations where they operate. There’s no sense in engaging in the pretense that the CIA is “American” and means well. The #TwitterFiles have proven beyond a reasonable doubt the enslavement of America by its “intelligence community” has already commenced.

Libertarians of all people should already realize that espionage establishments with long histories of sabotage, subversion and assassination will not usher in anything remotely resembling the libertarian idea of freedom. The NED’s leader for decades was Carl Gershman, a Socialist Party USA activist until he was brought into the NED as a CIA asset. Nor are there examples of the CIA bringing freedom directly to countries with their coups and revolutions. The opposite is history.

And this history has also been the case in Ukraine. Since the 2014 CIA coup, Ukraine has drifted away from liberty by almost every metric, from curtailed religious freedom to nationalization of the press to bans on political opposition. Ukrainians might want to ask themselves before they accept CIA aid whether the CIA will allow them to have freedom even if they win their war with Russia. 

CIA recruiting in Russia

It was not long after the 2009 founding of the Russian Libertarian Party that the CIA and its NED subsidiary began to take a strong interest in recruiting members of the Russian Libertarian Party. One of the people the CIA — and Diuk — took an interest in was a young Russian journalism student named Vera Kichanova who was serving as an intern at Voice of America, an official US government propaganda agency. The 20-year-old Kichanova ran for the Moscow city municipal council (which includes 1,502 elected members) in 2012, and became the first elected member of the Russian Libertarian Party. According to the NED, “She left her job as a reporter for Voice of America because Moscow’s elected municipal council members are not allowed to work with foreign media.” 

The next year, 2013, the NED flew Kichanova out to Washington, DC to give her their “Democracy Award.” Kichanova subsequently moved her journalistic base to Kyiv after the Maidan revolution, in Diuk’s beloved Ukraine, and later went to Oxford (where Diuk had matriculated) to earn her doctorate. She then began filling up a resume with work at a wide array of libertarian organizations, including the Atlas Society and the Adam Smith Institute. Today, she serves on the board of one of the two Russian Libertarian Party factions (the RLP split in a 2020 factional battle).

It also happens to be the faction of the Russian Libertarian Party that has repeatedly criticized the US Libertarian Party on Twitter and elsewhere as “Kremlintarians” for its strong non-interventionist position on the Russo-Ukrainian war.

I mention Kichanova not to tar her as a CIA asset; like Maria Corina Machado, I hope she declined to be recruited by the CIA. 

But there’s not really much doubt in my mind that a recruitment attempt was in fact made. It would be naive to the extreme to pretend an explicit and overt attempt wasn’t made.

Nor is there any doubt that she ended up on the board faction that is spewing CIA propaganda to attack the Libertarian Party here in the US. She may remain detached in her London office from the fake RLP’s (the real one is here) CIA propaganda stream, so I can’t blame her directly for the attacks. 

The point of this column is not to cast doubt on the sincerity of Kichanova or Machado; it’s to raise awareness about how the CIA and other US government agencies have been recruiting libertarians globally and perhaps turning them into assets for warmongering and other statist goals. It’s perhaps related to the NED/CIA program that the Spanish Libertarian Party adopted a resolution separating themselves from the US Libertarian Party on December 9, 2022. I expect there will be other libertarian parties across the globe to make similar statements.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the IC wants to turn the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement generally into the conservative movement of the 1950s under the tutelage of CIA veteran William F. Buckley and his little pack of spooks at National Review. And I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest that the intelligence community’s infiltration of libertarian parties abroad is likely no more limited than its infiltration of media sources is limited to sources outside the United States. 

Of course, the conspiracy theorist in me doesn’t put it past the US “intelligence community” to outsource domestic recruiting to friendly governments without any legislative limitations on recruiting in the United States (like British MI6, the other Five Eyes governments or the Mossad). There’s precedent for that. This happened when the CIA wanted to use a razor repeatedly against an innocent man’s penis (we outsourced that torture to MI6 in Morrocco) or torture so severe it left another innocent man permanently incontinent (our friend Mubarak in Egypt). The benefit of outsourcing political recruiting to MI6, Canadian intelligence, Australian intelligence, etc., would be legal protection from restrictions passed by Congress in the 1970s.

But the CIA and FBI may both be influencing political parties domestically directly as well, as America is just another government ripe for CIA regime change after so much practice on governments abroad. This may explain in part the over-the-top reaction by some of the rage-quit crowd after the Mises victory in Reno this past May to the new LNC leadership’s strong anti-interventionist message on social media and elsewhere. 

One might argue that if you walk with the feds, and you talk like the feds — even if you’re not a fed — it doesn’t matter. But some of them can be saved by proper feeding of relevant information. 

I write this not to induce paranoia; there are many millions of people who are marinated in establishment media propaganda, and thereby internalize it, but who are emphatically not CIA agents. Much of the domestic criticism of the US Libertarian Party’s policy of non-intervention is probably based in media laziness and lack of critical thinking, even among libertarians. 

The bad news

The bad news is that we’re worse off than stopping the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. It’s our government that’s trying to co-opt us, not some pathetic foreign government that could never have hoped to enslave us. And unlike the 1950s Red Scare, when they had defectors like Whittaker Chambers, Helen Bentley and dozens of others, the agents of influence who have turned against our surveillance state are very rare thus far. 

The record is certainly vacant of libertarians who said “they tried to recruit me, but I said ‘no.'” Sure, there have been former spooks who regretted their role in the “intelligence community” and much later have become libertarians. 

And the bad guys don’t lack funds. The declassified summary of the US intelligence budget for 2023 is $93.7 billion, which is probably an underestimate.

It’s generally not possible to identify sell-outs like John Samples. Only the #TwitterFiles and his public self-admission of his role on the Facebook censorship board makes identifying him possible. Most agents of the state — whether those who are ideological agents of influence or paid (mercenary) agents of influence — are more clever, and better hidden.

In some sense, the CIA of the 2020s is worse than the KGB of the 1940s. Alger Hiss betrayed Eastern Europe at Yalta, but Samples betrayed the freedom of his own country. Some might object to the characterization because not much damage to our freedoms by the FBI is apparent — yet. But few in the world would have guessed Hiss’ damage at Yalta back in 1944. The rigged elections took place a few years later, in 1946-48, the political assassinations and gulags a few years after that, and the Berlin Wall wasn’t constructed to prevent escape until 1961 — 17 years later. 

Today, there will be nowhere to run from a CIA/FBI set on global domination if we lose like Poland and East Germany were lost in 1944. 

The good news

The question is: How do libertarians, both capital-L and lower case-L, stop this?

I’m actually optimistic. Whenever tyranny tightens its grip, the opportunity for freedom abounds all the more. The weakness of tyranny is always in its top-down rigid structure, and in the people used to maintain that hierarchical structure. Ed Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner and Elon Musk have proven this already. 

We need to look for more defectors from the surveillance portion of the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex. And by defectors, I don’t mean defecting from one intelligence establishment to another, as Whittaker Chambers did in changing from his KGB masters to new masters in the FBI back in the 1940s and 1950s. These intelligence assets need to be encouraged to defect to the American public just like Julian Assange and Ed Snowden. Many of them will be able to do so without the threat of imprisonment (that Assange and Snowden now face), as there’s no law against going public about an attempt at being recruited by the FBI or CIA. 

We can also identify the existing assets (or at least find people more statistically likely to be intelligence assets) by looking at the broad patterns of behavior from official insults, warmongering and misinformation campaigns. The good news is that we do have the #TwitterFiles, which gives us some kind of an advantage. The Twitter files show a variety of official narratives, and official labels for the heterodox, which can be cataloged and sorted according to people’s conformity with the official narrative. The #TwitterFiles reveal government narratives/labels for heterodox beliefs on:

  • Oppose COVID lockdowns/mask & vaccine mandates → Anti-science
  • Against Ukraine aid → Russian asset
  • Anti-censorship → Hate speech
  • US Nordstream II sabotage → Conspiracy theorist
  • Government role in Twitter files → Conspiracy theorist

We have the ability to go back with a long public record for most people who use social media and see if they repeat government talking-points, narrative and labels on a variety of issues, or if they demonstrate independence from the official narrative.

I should stress that just because someone has repeated one or more narratives or government labels doesn’t mean they’re a CIA asset. But it does mean they probably shouldn’t be trusted to oppose future government narratives. Trust should be earned.

This is a global battle for liberty, in part because the US government has waged a global battle against liberty. And our role as members of the Libertarian Party is to support liberty and oppose intelligence agency tyranny with full-spectrum peaceful resistance.

Note: Much of this post is taken from the previous post on this blog, some of it word-for-word, which focused more on the Ukraine war. And the Ukraine war narrative took over discussion of the post on social media, which was not the intent of the original post. This one focuses (I hope) more narrowly on the impact of the surveillance state on the libertarian movement, and will spark more discussions of the same.

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