The Ferguson No-Fly Zone was a Censorship Ploy

For nearly two weeks in August, the US Federal Aviation Administration imposed a “no-fly zone” over the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, where protests raged over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The stated reason for the “no-fly zone” was that shots had been fired at a police helicopter.

Now, thanks to an Associated Press investigation, we learn that the real purpose of the airspace exclusion was to hamper media coverage of the protests. Commercial and law enforcement traffic flew unhindered over Ferguson, which lies across major flight paths into and out of Lambert-St.Louis International airport, a major hub. The helicopter shooting incident likely never happened: Per the AP account, “police officials confirmed there was no damage to their helicopter and were unable to provide an incident report on the shooting” and an FAA official described the incident as an unconfirmed rumor.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. At every level of 21st century political government, secrecy is the watchword and disclosure comes slowly, partially and begrudgingly if at all. For US president Barack Obama’s “most transparent administration in history” in particular, every day is a Spongebob Squarepants re-run — the episode about “Opposite Day.”

A brief recap:

* Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains imprisoned in Ecuador’s London embassy more than two years after taking refuge there to avoid extradition to Sweden, which he convincingly claims wants to extradite him to the US for punishment after he revealed embarrassing US state secrets (Assange has offered to acceded to extradition on spurious claims of sexual assault if Sweden promises not to hand him over to the US; the Swedish government refuses to so bind itself).

* Former US Army private Chelsea Manning languishes in a military prison at Fort Leavenworth under a 35-year sentence for leaking those secrets to Assange.

* Journalist and blogger Barrett Brown spent nearly two years in pre-trial detention on various trumped-up charges for his alleged role in promoting the hacktivist group Anonymous — the last year-plus under a gag order on both himself and his attorneys to keep you from hearing things the state doesn’t want you to hear.  In March of this year most of the charges were dropped. Brown faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/2 years under a plea bargain on the other charges. For talking. To you. About the government.

* Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is well into his second year of political asylum in Russia after exposing the NSA’s illegal domestic spying operations and fleeing to avoid becoming a political prisoner like Assange and Manning.

– Jeffrey Alexander Sterling stands charged with “espionage” for allegedly revealing details of a black-bag US intelligence scheme, “Operation Merlin,” to a reporter. That reporter, James Risen, stands threatened with jail unless he gives up Sterling (or someone else) as his source.

Yes, I could go on … but this is a newspaper column, not a book. Anyway, you get the point: “Your” governments want very badly for you to know very little about what they do.

Why? Because every detail available to you militates toward the conclusion that not only do you not need “your” governments nearly as badly as the politicians want you to believe, but that continuing to submit to those governments’ rule is a really bad idea. Time to abolish the state.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.