Charm Offensive Ep 4: Cop Whistleblower Justin Hanners on Ferguson, police state

The situation in Ferguson ignited a fierce debate about the advancing police state. I sat down with former Auburn Police Department officer turned whistleblower, Justin Hanners. Hanners was an honorable officer of the law essentially fired for refusing to follow wrongful orders from his superiors over ticket quotas. Essentially, Hanners, an Air Force veteran in military security, raised an issue over quota limits requiring officers to harass and extort citizens or face disciplinary action. This practice occurs in departments nationwide, everyday.

He breaks down why he fought the law, how the law won and what all citizens should do when confronted with an officer bent on abusing his power. If you're not familiar with Hanners's case, definitely look him up.

Many viewers are unaware of your story. Can you share a little of your background as a law enforcement officer and explain how you became a whistleblower?

1:03 Justin speaks, explaining the state of his case. In short, the courts ruled that since he was a municipal employee, he is not covered under whistleblower protections.

3:20 Will you appeal your case?

3:22 Justin speaks.

3:56 Many officers that supported you came forward to applaud your vocal disapproval of immoral and poor policing policies. You have said that many feel the same as you do. Why are there not more whistleblowers?

4:28 Justin answers. Officers fear losing their career, retirement, public scrutiny, media attacks, the public coffers available to municipal bureaucrats willing to expend any resource to fight whistleblowers. Given the high stakes and endless resources of the state, he predicts we'll not see another whistleblower unless its something extreme.

5:23 What do you think the ratio between those officers that want to protect and serve versus those that seek a law enforcement career to have power over others?

6:01 Justin answers.

6:56 Let’s talk about Ferguson, Missouri. At this time, the civil disorder and protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown has calmed. But from this, the reality of police militarization has become public discussion. Some elected officials are moving to suspend the transfer of war equipment to local police departments, ending a very Orwellian practice of heavily arming small town cops. Do you think this effort is likely to succeed or will police apologists and unions volley for these arms?

7:32 Justin explains why he doubts reforms will be successful.

8:20 You wrote one of’s most popular guides: How to deal with police. You begin with three points advising citizens how to interact with police. You encourage them to record the encounter. You advise to always be respectful and calm, even if they aren’t.

You also say that when questioned not to give them anything to use against you, that officers will lie and manipulate to entrap. What are the most common tactics officers use to invalidate constitutional rights during even a routine traffic stop, in your experience? And how can citizens protect themselves?

9:04 Justin explains how officers manipulate citizens and what you can do about it.

10:17 One of the major rebuttals I receive as a privacy advocate is that equipping all officers with body cameras can jeopardize the privacy of citizens during interactions with cops. Officers are always interacting with the public in ways that some citizens would prefer not to have on record, such as after a violent crime or assault. What do you say to those that argue body cameras put the privacy of citizens at risk? 

10:50 Justin answers.

11:16 Do you think the privatization of police forces, which would break the monopoly on force that officers have, would eliminate much of the corruption endemic within many departments? Do you foresee that option ever coming to fruition? 

11:36 Justin explains why competition between police departments should be privatized.

For those interested in Justin’s guide, you can download it here. Justin also has a Facebook page, Citizens Behind Officer Justin Hanners. If you enjoyed this interview, please share the word. Like, share and subscribe.

VIDEO: Army Vet Prof. Andrew Fyfe on Iraq War Failures and Legacy

Dear media, no one cares what John Bolton thinks about Iraq. We want to hear from experienced veterans with knowledge and insight, not arrogant bureaucrats or summer interns at the Council on Foreign Relations. So on the third edition of The Charm Offensive, I speak with Professor Andrew Fyfe, an Iraq War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and doctoral candidate. We discuss foreign policy, Iraq intervention, and the philosophical and moral questions surrounding the Iraq War from a veteran's perspective. Will the Iraqi three-state solution unfold? Will the Kurds hold the north? How do Fallujah veterans feel about the city falling to insurgents after so much bloodshed? Will ISIS succeed in taking over Iraq? What should the current Iraqi government do? What role does the U.S. have given our actions to topple Saddam Hussein, thus ushering in the last decade of instability? Is Obama any better than Bush? Does the Iraq war pass the Just War Theory litmus test? If not, how should anti-war activists treat veterans of the Iraq war when they believe their sacrifices are unworthy of respect? Prof. Fyfe responds.

00:21 MADISON: What exactly is going on in Iraq and why should Americans be concerned?

3:25 MADISON: ISIS has taken Fallujah. For those unfamiliar with the legacy of the Iraq War, the battles of Fallujah I and II were some of the bloodiest American battles fought since Vietnam. How do you think fellow veterans of the Fallujah conflicts feel about the these hard-won cities (like Fallujah and Ramadi) falling into extremist hands?

5:00 MADISON: If the Kurds hold the north and defend Kirkuk, an oil rich city, and Baghdad remains strong, assuming ISIS is then occupying the remainder of Iraq, do we have a three-state solution by proxy or an untenable time bomb?

7:28 MADISON: Many veterans feel that the Iraq war has become our generation’s Vietnam. The secrecy and futility, nation-building legacy don’t make that comparison entirely inaccurate. Do you agree that the war in Iraq is akin to the war in Vietnam and if so what does that say about Obama's decision to send Special Forces to protect our embassy as the country disintegrates into factional violence?

12:42 MADISON: There's a long-standing tradition in western culture of differentiating between just an unjust wars. Can you summarize Just War Theory for the audience and share your view on whether or not the Iraq War was just based on those guidelines?

17:39 MADISON: I often debate the legacy of the Iraq war with antiwar activists. Many have had very limited interactions with Iraq war veterans and combat veterans and often, they say me, those who sacrificed their lives souls and bodies for what is considered to be an unjust war should not be honored or respected. What would you say to those incapable from separating the soldier from the war?

You can read more of Professor Fyfe’s work at his website.

VIDEO: 3 Iraq vets discuss ISIS, intervention, war failures

Welcome to's The Charm Offensive. We tried something different with this series edition: a round table discussion with a panel of American combat veterans that once served during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom. During this chat (and future discussions), we will cover topics involving national security, the War on Terror, foreign intervention and domestic security issues from a veteran's perspective. Americans are tired of listening to talking heads sponsored by mainstream media elites and so we bring real people to discuss real issues that impact us all.

For round one, we cover the current situation in Iraq, the rapidly developing crisis in the region as ISIS, an Islamic extremist group, continues to sweep through cities and challenge the security of Iraq's fragile infrastructure. Americans fought hard in the same areas now overrun by the very extremists they were told they were sent to fight. As many are aware, after Iraqis in Anbar province joined with U.S. forces to oust extremist factions of Al Qaeda, many hoped the region would stabilize. But as many experts warned, Washington, once again, was wrong. And so here we are, watching as the region careens toward civil war.

How do Iraq War veterans feel about this? Let's find out.

Question Guide: 

[4:25] In your opinion, what did the American people accomplish by toppling Saddam and occupying Iraq? (Right to left: 1-2 minutes each to respond)

[9:35] What is it exactly, if you can be specific, that you feel we provided as far as infrastructure that still stands or maybe has a legacy in the future.

[13:24] What were the most successful strategy of the war and who or what made that strategy or policy initiative succeed? (1-2 minutes to respond)

[19:14] Question C: What was the most detrimental or counterproductive policy iniative, who was responsible for that initiative becoming policy and what should have been done differently? (3-4 minutes to respond)

[28:26] (Question asked by My-kel)  In your opinion, has the idea of implication of counter-insurgency, in regards to how the United States DoD implements it, has that failed or have we just not figured that out yet?

[30:11] Question D: During your time in Iraq interacting with the Iraqi people, what impression did you gather about their ability to cooperate under democratic rule?

Please join us next time for round table discussions on these matters that are important to the American people and veterans. Please like, share and subscribe.

EXCLUSIVE: Syrian-American Councilwoman pleads intervention case

My first video interview posted via my Washington Times column. I rather enjoyed breaking out into new mediums. In an effort to be fair on the Syria matter, I spoke with pro-interventionist diplomat, Ranya Sabbagh, who just returned from Turkey. During her mission, she worked directly with Free Syrian Army rebels, survived Assad’s bombings and conversed with refugees fleeing the destruction. In this interview, she answers some questions politicians advocating American involvement won't dare touch.

I ask: tell us why we should trust the Free Syrian Army commanders? Who is capable of leading? How do we prevent arms from falling into the hands of terrorists? Are Syrians concerned America is fighting a proxy war with other world powers? What guarantee do Americans have that the interests of free people will be represented should Assad be removed?

The interview is conversational so a guide in the Youtube "about" section can aid in skipping to what interests you.

To read the full article at Washington Times online, click here.


DALLAS, September 4, 2013 – The debate over whether America should intervene in Syria’s civil conflict rages. Recent polls and social media chatter indicate the American people are decidedly against military action in Syria. The Obama administration is confident Congress will authorize action regardless of popular opinion. The U.S. could strike soon.

Obama’s “red line” for chemical weapons usage has been allegedly crossed without consequences through the two and a half year conflict, leaving many skeptical of Washington’s new outcry. The emotional speeches and moral appeals for urgent action mirror the arguments supporting force against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Americans worry Syrian involvement could result in another disaster for America and the Middle East.

SEE RELATED: On Syria, don’t trust Obama’s ‘no boots on the ground’ promise

While some suspect Washington’s pro-interventionists harbor ulterior motives, there are humanitarian advocates with the purest of intentions lobbying the United States to action. I spoke with one such activist, Ranya Sabbagh, a board member for the Syrian American Council.

Sabbagh is an American of Syrian heritage who recently returned from the region. As a diplomat, she met with local Syrian councilmembers and representatives from the UK, Canada, Italy and the U.S. to bridge the communication gap and design solutions for ending the war. During her mission, she spoke directly with Free Syrian Army rebels, survived Assad’s bombings and conversed with refugees fleeing the destruction.

Her passionate testimony and appeals for action are not rooted in the desire for boots on the ground or complete regime change by American force, but military and humanitarian assistance so the opposition can succeed.

Sabbagh and the Syrian American Council support the president’s proposal for military action because they hope this will save lives, restore order to the Middle East and demonstrate to Assad that using chemical weapons against innocents will not be tolerated. Striking strategic military strongholds could halt the killing machine creating the humanitarian crisis the west is treating, in their view.

SEE RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Syrians warn U.S. that Al Qaeda has hijacked revolution

During our interview, Sabbagh addressed common questions regarding the nature of the insurgency, explaining that reports that terrorist organizations Al Qaeda and al Nusra are embraced by the revolutionaries are exaggerated.

“Syrians are known as moderates that reject religious extremism. The Syrian people do not want these foreign radicals any more than the west. Syrians want to be free and unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, they are pleading for help from America, which is the leader of the free world.”

Without means to continue fighting the well-equipped regime, the rebels are forced to cooperate with the well-armed, experienced foreign fighters. With western intervention, she hopes this could change.

“Why would they want to exchange one dictator for other oppressors? Why would people like me advocate this if I thought this were the likely outcome? The Free Syrian Army has legitimate leadership, but when these trusted leaders send fighters into battle with limited bullets and cannot feed their soldiers, they lose credibility. Because they don’t have help, they must cooperate with radicals they dislike to survive.”

SEE RELATED: Why Obama’s ‘red line’ is a poor excuse for war in Syria

Sabbagh explains that these extremists come from Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and bring with them their brutality. Unlike the native rebels, they do not fight for reform or liberty, but for their own ideological madness. She believes western apathy toward the rebels created a vacuum for terrorists, and to continue ignoring the conflict bolsters their influence.

Sabbagh, and other Syrians, assert Assad released Al Qaeda operatives imprisoned in Syria to foster terrorism for his own agenda. An influx of foreign operatives allows Assad to claim he’s defending Syria from radical Islamist invaders. At the start of the revolution, he was quick to marginalize any dissenters as terrorists to legitimize his brutality.

Among other concerns, Sabbagh addresses common questions in the interview from the pro-interventionist standpoint.

Can we avoid military involvement and aggressively intervene diplomatically? Can we trust Free Syrian Army commanders? Who is capable of leading? How do we prevent arms from falling into the hands of terrorists? Are Syrians concerned America is fighting a proxy war with other world powers? What guarantee do Americans have that the interests of free people will be represented should Assad be removed?

Our robust conversation is above. The video of our interview contains time-marks for easy navigation through the questions and answers. Whether one agrees or disagrees with American intervention, Ranya Sabbagh’s explanations are thought-provoking as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed a resolution authorizing limited strikes.

Today, President Obama issued his most passionate plea for American involvement. Like members of the Syrian-American Council and other humanitarians, he believes the international community and the west, as leader of the free world, have a responsibility to act. Failure to do so will embolden the regime of Bashar Assad and “war criminals, dictators and despots for years to come.”

What do you think? Share your comments and questions.

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