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Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) warned that “tyranny is going to come into everyone’s living room very shortly” after he had his phone temporarily seized by FBI agents.

In an interview on Fox News, Perry said that the search of his phone and a new bill to fund the IRS are signs of “tyranny” in the United States.

“Tyranny is going to come right into everyone’s living room very, very shortly,” he explained.

Perry suggested that he would have already destroyed his phone if it had evidence of crimes related to the 2020 election or the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“This is an abuse of power,” he said. “Look, they are using these tactics to intimidate people, coerce people, and it’s not something that anyone aspires to.”

“But, Maria, people that BleachBit [to erase] their phones and hit them with hammers, smash them with hammers and those types of things have something to hide,” Perry added. “People that keep the same phone a year and a half after the election aren’t worried about what’s on their phone, and so that’s me.”

The congressman accused the FBI of wanting to “destroy” him politically.

“Anybody that doesn’t bend the knee, that isn’t intimidated, that isn’t parroting the narrative is now subject to these kinds of third-world banana republic tactics,” Perry complained.

According to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Perry is one of several Republicans who sought pardons after trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election on behalf of then-President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below from Fox News.

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During a very contentious interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” host Brianna Keilar was finally able to get a word in and put a Republican lawmaker who serves on the House Intelligence Committee on the spot as he defended Donald Trump’s hoarding of stolen government documents at Mar-a-Lago while also trying to smear Attorney General Merrick Garland.

During his appearance on the CNN Sunday show, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) repeatedly claimed Garland has to be forced to answer questions about the Mar-a-Lago search while dismissing concerns about the sensitive documents that were kept stored in an unsecured room at the Florida resort.

With Turner constantly speaking over the CNN host as she tried to pin him down, she finally broke through when asking him about his experiences handling top secret documents.

Defending the former president he complained, “We don’t know if they rise to the level of being a national security threat, but the fact you have here the attorney general, who is going after President Biden’s political rival, whose own personal career was derailed on the way to the Supreme Court by Donald Trump himself.”

Continuing in that vein he added, “And unequal application of the law between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the fact you have the FBI previously submitting in warrants materials that were bogus, that were politically motivated that targeted Donald Trump.”

“Attorney General Garland needs to provide these materials,” he continued. “You have bipartisan calls to do that. Put the materials in a room, let us see them and we can tell you what our answer is what our discernment is of whether or not this is a true national security threat or whether or not this is an abuse of discretion by Attorney General Garland.”

“Do you take home documents marked special access?” CNN’s Keilar cut in.

After a pause, Turner offered up a curt, “No.”

Watch below:




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A legal analyst for ABC News pointed out that former President Donald Trump is potentially facing 20 years in prison for “serious felonies” after the search of his Mar-a-Lago home.

Dan Abrams told ABC host Jonathan Karl that the Department of Justice could indict Trump for multiple crimes after finding classified documents during the search.

“They’re very serious,” Abrams said of the charges. “And the one that’s being talked about most is this espionage act because it has the word espionage in it. But the truth is that when it comes to potential criminal sentences, the obstruction of justice statute is the one with the most potential prison time.”

“There you’re talking about up to 20 years behind bars,” he added. “So these are not sort of minor crimes we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the potential for serious felonies with regard to all three of the crimes being investigated.”

But Abrams threw cold water on the idea that a Trump prosecution would be easy.

“The fundamental question is going to be intentionality,” he opined. “How much do they believe that they did this on purpose? Were they intentionally ignoring subpoenas? Were they literally destroying documents?”

Watch the video below from ABC.

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During a panel discussion on CNN’s “Inside Politics” on Sunday morning, it was noted that Democratic lawmakers are remaining, for the most part, very subdued in their attacks on Donald Trump in light of his burgeoning legal problems after the Department of Justice sent FBI agents armed with a warrant to his Mar-a-Lago resort.

With the walls closing in on the former president as he faces DOJ scrutiny, a House select committee investigation, multiple civil cases in New York City, and a special grand jury in Georgia looking into election tampering, CNN host Phil Mattingly asked the Washington Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell why Democrats aren’t piling on.

“You are very well-sourced on the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill,” the host prompted. “I have been kind of interested to watch how Democrats have responded to date on this. It’s been a little more cautious and I think they think it’s damaging and not a good thing in any way, shape or form.”

“But you haven’t seen the kind of jump-all-in, he’s going to jail, when are they going to be marching him out of Bedminster or wherever he is at this time? Why?” he asked.

RELATED: The DOJ now has ‘the strongest case against Trump yet’: legal expert

“Well, they have held back because, first of all, they were also taken by surprise with this,” Caldwell replied. “No one knows all the facts yet. We have a lot more information now than we did last Monday when this [the Mar-a-Lagon search] happened. But throughout this process, Democrats also know [Attorney General] Merrick Garland very well. They know how thorough he is and they have trust in him and the Department of Justice.”

“So they are just going to see what happens because they also think the Republicans are overreaching by far here,” she elaborated. “They jumped to conclusions so quickly after this search was announced on Monday night and they think Republicans are kind of sowing their own seeds and could regret a lot of their statements depending on what moves forward.”

“And, as far as Donald Trump is concerned, Democrats still think Donald Trump is the best Republican nominee for Democrats to run against. They think he is politically weak, not only with Democrats but with moderate and independent voters as well,” she added.

Watch below:




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In a column for Politico, former prosecutor Renato Mariotti maintained that Department of Justice now has a very prosecutable case against Donald Trump after FBI agents were forced to get a warrant to recover boxes of stolen highly-sensitive government documents from Mar-a-Lago last week after weeks of negotiations with the former president’s lawyers.

According to Mariotti, Trump has only himself to blame for helping the Department of Justice put together a case that will stick.

With the New York Times reporting that surveillance video at the luxury Florida resort owned by Trump showed the disputed boxes of government reports were moved in and out of a room that was supposed to be secured, thereby alarming DOJ officials, the former prosecutor claimed that would be a contributing factor if investigators seek an indictment.

Writing for Politico, he asserted, “while it is possible the DOJ merely wanted to retrieve and secure the material that Trump refused to give back to the government, if they decide to press forward with charges, their case looks quite strong.”

RELATED: Trump launched a late-night attack on the FBI after latest damaging Mar-a-Lago revelations

“One strategy I used as a federal prosecutor was to have agents serve targets of investigations with a notice indicating that what they were doing was breaking the law. If the target continued to violate the law after receiving the notice, we had the proof we needed,” he explained. “DOJ’s repeated requests and demands to Trump and his team served the same purpose. It will be difficult for Trump to claim that he did not realize that the records he kept were national security secrets that rightfully belonged to the government, given that the government repeatedly told him so and demanded their return.”

The attorney added, “Although Trump may believe that highly classified defense secrets are his own personal property, or that he could keep Top Secret documents because he informally ‘declassified’ them without following established procedures, it will be difficult to convince jurors that he had a legitimate reason to keep such sensitive national security information at his Florida resort.”

Mariotti also pointed out that Trump has been treated with “kid gloves” by the DOJ until now, but that seems to have come to an end.

He also added that Trump’s “best defense” in this case would likely blow up in his face.

“Trump’s best defense would likely be that he didn’t really know that classified material remained at Mar-a-Lago, because he relied on his aides and lawyers, who told him that they gave all the classified material back to the government. The problem for Trump is that doing so would likely waive attorney-client privilege between himself and the lawyers he is pointing the finger at, and it’s unclear whether any of them would be willing to take the fall for him,” he wrote

“I would not be surprised if DOJ refuses to pursue charges, regardless of their strength, in the absence of a ‘plus factor’ like obstruction. But that factor might be present here, given recent reports that one of Trump’s lawyers signed a written statement falsely asserting that “all material marked as classified” had been returned to the government. That falsehood might be why an obstruction statute was included in the search warrant executed at Trump’s residence,” he predicted. “That false representation creates potential liability for the lawyer, because lying to the federal government is a crime if it is done knowingly and willfully. DOJ could investigate that lawyer, who could claim that she relied on Trump’s false statements or — if she lied on her own — potentially flip on him.”

“If DOJ can establish that Trump was personally behind efforts to obstruct their investigation, they very well might charge him,” he concluded.

You can read more here.

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Hours after the New York Times released a report that Department of Justice rushed the search at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort after seeing a surveillance video showing the boxes of stolen government documents were being moved, the former president lashed out at the FBI in a post-midnight attack

The Times report stated, “The Justice Department also subpoenaed surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago recorded over a 60-day period, including views from outside the storage room. According to a person briefed on the matter, the footage showed that, after one instance in which Justice Department officials were in contact with Mr. Trump’s team, boxes were moved in and out of the room.”

Taking to his Truth Social account, Trump aimed multiple accusations at the FBI including “was there a ‘plant?'”

He first stated, “The FBI gas (sic) a long and unrelenting history of being corrupt. Just look back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover. In the modern era, nothing has changed except that it has gotten far worse. Look at Comey, McCabe, Strzok and lover Lisa Page. Check out the brilliantly written but damning I.G. Reports. See what they were willing to do in order to get Crooked Hillary Clinton elected (they failed), and got caught!,” before adding, “They spied on my campaign, pushed the FAKE Dossier, and illegally used the FISA Court.”

RELATED: Feds obtained surveillance footage showing boxes being moved after discussions with DOJ: report

“The Inspector General said the FBI acted with ‘gross incompetence and negligence.’ I was fully vindicated in the Russia, Russia, Russia SCAM, the ‘No Collusion’ Mueller Investigation, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and all else,” he continued. “NOW THEY RAID MY HOME, ban my lawyers and, without any witnesses allowed, break the lock that they asked us to install on the storage area that we showed them early on, which held papers that they could have had months ago for the asking, and without the ridiculous political grandstanding of a “break in” to a very storied, important, and high visibility place, just before the Midterm Elections.”

He concluded, “The whole World was watching as the FBI rummaged through the house, including the former First Lady’s closets (and clothing!), alone and unchecked. They even demanded that the security cameras be turned off (we refused), but there was no way of knowing if what they took was legitimate, or was there a “plant?” This was, after all, the FBI!”

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When Joe Biden met last week with a “select group of scholars” for a “Socratic dialogue” about America’s future, the esteemed historians compared the current crisis facing our democracy with two other historical periods: The years immediately preceding the Civil War, which broke out shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the 1860 presidential election, and the years before World War II, when proto-fascist or explicitly fascist movements like those led by aviator Charles Lindbergh popped up all over the land.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Yet there is a third, and closely related, chapter of American political history worth examining at this moment: The one that occurred not immediately before the Civil War, but during that conflict. Even during the worst carnage of the worst war in American history, elections were still held — a remarkable accomplishment all on its own. One of the two major parties of that period, the Democrats, who dominated the South and were largely pro-slavery (or at best not opposed to it) were severely depleted because so many of them had joined the Confederate rebellion. The Republicans, a party that had only existed for a few years, held commanding majorities, but in a climate of intense partisan division.

It would be ludicrous to suggest that Joe Biden can ever match Lincoln’s legacy. Except, perhaps, when it comes to the question of how to handle Donald Trump.

This is uncomfortably similar to the United States today. While a handful of Republicans have denounced Donald Trump’s coup attempt, most are either sticking with the disgraced former president or trying to find some (nonexistent) middle ground. So Biden faces with the question of how to deal with an opposition party that seems ready to tolerate or even encourage actual violent rebellion when it loses an election.

So how did Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans of his era handle this situation? First, it’s important to note that congressional elections were quite different 160 years ago at this time. For one thing, they were scheduled in a manner that might seem bizarre to modern Americans. That was especially true during the 1860 elections, which were spread out over an extended period of time that included the secession of 11 Southern states, giving the Republicans (almost exclusively a Northern party at that time) overwhelming majorities in both depleted houses of Congress. In the Senate, Republicans held a 30-11 advantage, while in the House they held 105 of the 149 seats.

For a party that had only been formed in 1854, this was an astonishing opportunity to transform America, and the Republicans seized it. Going into the following midterms, in 1862-63, Lincoln’s party faced intense public backlash for the Union’s inability to end the war, the intense controversy around the Emancipation Proclamation, government policies that restricted free speech and civil liberties, and a range of economic issues, including inflation and taxes. Republicans lost 22 seats in the House but managed to hold onto effective control of that body — and actually gained three seats in the Senate.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

In other words, because the Democrats both literally and figuratively relinquished power during Lincoln’s presidency, the Republicans reaped political capital even during extremely adverse conditions. They spent some of that capital on the history-changing project of ending chattel slavery — the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually do that, but it certainly started the process — and also pursued a wide range of economic programs that appear remarkably progressive, even by modern standards: Creating the Department of Agriculture, funding the transcontinental railroad, reforming monetary policy, and creating the first national parks and land-grant colleges. One policy, the Homestead Act, made millions of acres of government-held land available at very low cost. (For good measure, Lincoln made Thanksgiving into a national holiday for the first time.)

“His vision of the Union meant opportunity for all — hence homestead acreage for the many,” Lincoln historian Harold Holzer told Salon about the 1862 Homestead Act during an interview last year. “It meant encouraging farming over hunting — independent farming to replace plantation aristocracies — hence [creating] the Agriculture Department.”

Because the opposition party both literally and figuratively relinquished power, Lincoln and his party were granted a historic opportunity to change America — and seized it.

Just as important, most Republicans understood it was essential to hold the Confederate traitors accountable. Despite critics from moderate Republicans and Northern Democrats, Lincoln wanted to make sure that prominent Confederates would be barred from political office in the future. He was inclined to be lenient with rank-and-file rebel soldiers, while the so-called Radical Republicans favored a more punitive policy. But no one doubted there had to be consequences for people who took up arms against the government because they were unhappy about losing an election.

This brings us back to the present, and the historic passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which might not match the grandeur of Biden’s original Build Back Better agenda, but still counts as the landmark achievement of his term and one of the biggest pieces of policy legislation in decades. Biden has had other achievements, as well as a number of obvious setbacks, but it would be ludicrous to suggest he comes anywhere near Lincoln’s legacy. Arguably, he does face a similar problem in deciding how far to go in pursuing and prosecuting Donald Trump and supporters of the Trump insurgency. Whether or not Biden truly holds Trump and his enablers accountable is likely to determine how history views his presidency.

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Russian propagandists stated that if former President Donald Trump was indeed hiding classified documents related to nuclear weapons at his Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach, Florida, the Kremlin has already seen them.

Russia 1 host Evgeny Popov issued his taunt hours after Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart of the Southern District of Florida unsealed the warrant that the United States Department of Justice obtained ahead of what Trump called the “raid.” The warrant revealed that Trump is suspected to have violated the Espionage Act.

“Turns out that the investigation against Trump has to do with the secret documents from the White House, related to the new development of new nuclear weapons by the US,” Popov said.

“The FBI isn’t saying what kinds of weapons or what they found at Trump’s estate. Obviously, if there were any important documents, they’ve been studying them in Moscow for a while,” Popov continued. “What’s the point of searching?”

Watch below:

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Less than a month after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin took the extraordinary step of pausing all operations for 24 hours to “address extremism in the ranks.” Pentagon officials had been shaken by service members’ prominent role in the events of Jan. 6.

Of the 884 criminal defendants charged to date with taking part in the insurrection, more than 80 were veterans. That’s almost 10% of those charged.

More remarkable, at least five of the rioters were serving in the military at the time of the assault: an active-duty Marine officer and four reservists.

Service members’ involvement in the insurrection has made the spread of extremism – particularly white nationalism – a significant issue for the U.S. military.

Solving the problem

A blue ribbon committee called the Countering Extremist Activity Working Group was quickly commissioned in April 2021 to evaluate the extent of the problem.

The group found about 100 substantiated cases of extremism in the U.S. armed forces in 2021.

The latest instance occurred in July 2022, when Francis Harker, a National Guard member with white supremacist connections, was sentenced to four years in prison for planning an anti-government attack on police. Harker, who carried a picture saying “there is no God but Hitler,” was planning to attack police officers in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with Molotov cocktails and semi-automatic rifles.

Worried, Austin has tightened the rules regarding political speech within the military. The new rules prohibit any statement that advocates for “violence to achieve goals that are political … or idealogical in nature.” The ban applies to members of the military both on and off duty.

Also, for the first time, the new rules prohibit statements on social media that “promote or otherwise endorse extremist activities.”

While the intent behind the new rules is laudable, political speech – even of an offensive or distasteful nature – goes to the core of U.S. democracy. Americans in uniform are still Americans, protected by the First Amendment and afforded the constitutional right of free speech.

In light of the stricter policy, it is useful to consider how courts apply the First Amendment in the military context.

Good order and discipline

While soldiers and sailors are certainly not excluded from the protection of the First Amendment, it is fair to say they operate under a diluted version of it.

As one federal judge observed, the “sweep of the protection is less comprehensive in the military context, given the different character of the military community and mission.”

The “right to speak out as a free American” must be balanced against “providing an effective fighting force for the defense of our Country,” a federal judge noted in a separate case.

These and other federal judges point to the military’s need for good order and discipline in justifying this approach.

While never precisely defined, good order and discipline is generally considered being obedient to orders, having respect for one’s chain of command and showing allegiance to the Constitution. Speech that “prevents the orderly accomplishment of the mission” or “promotes disloyalty and dissatisfaction” within the ranks harms good order and discipline, and can be restricted.

In 1974, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that the Army can punish an officer for encouraging subordinates to refuse to deploy.

The officer’s comments included: “The United States is wrong in being involved in the Vietnam War. I would refuse to go back to Vietnam if ordered to do so.”

In 1980, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Army could legally fire an ROTC cadet for making racist remarks during a newspaper interview.

Explaining his political philosophy, the cadet said: “What I am saying is that Blacks are obviously further behind the whites on the evolutionary scale.”

In 2012, a San Diego district court ruled that the Marine Corps can lawfully discharge a sergeant who mocked president Barack Obama while appearing on the “Chris Matthews Show.” At one point the sergeant told the host: “As an active duty Marine, I say screw Obama and I will not follow his orders.”

While each of these statements is protected by the First Amendment in civilian life, they crossed the line in military life because they were deemed harmful to morale and represented what one federal court described as more than “political discussion … at an enlisted or officers’ club.”

The military’s job is to fight, not debate

In deciding these First Amendment cases, courts often hark back to why the military exists in the first place.

“It is the primary business of armies and navies … to fight the nation’s wars should the occasion arise,” the Supreme Court said in 1955.

In a separate case, the Supreme Court declared: “An army is not a deliberate body. It is the executive arm. Its law is that of obedience.”

Dozens of soldiers dressed in uniforms form a square and stand at attention.

U.S. soldiers stand to attention at the United States Army military training base in Germany on July 13, 2022.

Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

Quickly following orders can mark the difference between life and death in combat.

On a national level, the degree to which an army is disciplined can win or lose wars. A mindset of obedience does not come solely from classroom training but from repeated rehearsals under realistic conditions.

As a military judge observed in a 1972 decision, while service members are free to discuss political issues when off duty, the “primary function of a military organization is to execute orders, not to debate the wisdom of decisions that the Constitution entrusts” to Congress, the judiciary and the commander in chief.

New policy bans ‘liking’ extremist messages

The U.S. military’s revised approach to political speech prohibits retweeting or even “liking” messages that promote anti-government or white nationalist and other extremist groups.

Does a restriction this broad comply with legal precedent?

As a law professor who has served more than 20 years in the U.S military, I believe the broader rules will probably be upheld if challenged on First Amendment grounds.

The most comparable case is Blameuser v. Andrews, a 1980 case from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where an ROTC cadet espoused white supremacist political views in a newspaper interview.

Amongst other extremist remarks, the cadet told the reporter: “You see, I believe that in the final analysis, the Nazi Socialist Party will take over America and possibly the whole world.”

Finding that the statements harmed good order and discipline, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Army did not violate the First Amendment when it subsequently removed him from the officer training program.

The cadet’s “views on race relations draw into question his ability to obey commands, especially in a situation in which he regards the military superior as socially inferior,” the Blameuser decision said.

The military has wide latitude in deciding who is deserving of the “special trust and confidence” that comes with military employment. Military officials are free to consider political and social beliefs that are “inimical to the vital mission of the agency” in making hiring and firing decisions, the Blameuser decision said.

Social media posts expressing support for violent political activities will likely be treated in the same way.

As the Seventh Circuit said in Blameuser, by liking or retweeting an extremist message, a service member’s actions are “demonstrably incompatible with the important public office” they hold.The Conversation

Dwight Stirling, Lecturer in Law, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Every year, an estimated 13 million people go whale-watching around the world, marveling at the sight of the largest animals ever to inhabit Earth. It’s a dramatic reversal from a century ago, when few people ever saw a living whale. The creatures are still recovering from massive industrial-scale hunting that nearly wiped out several species in the 20th century.

The history of whaling shows how humans have wreaked careless havoc on the ocean, but also how they can change course. In my new book, “Red Leviathan: The Secret History of Soviet Whaling,” I describe how the Soviet Union was central both to this deadly industry and to scientific research that helps us understand whales’ recovery.

A humpback whale breaches in Boston Harbor on Aug. 2, 2022. Whaling greatly reduced humpback whale numbers, but the species is recovering under international protection.

From wood to steel and bad to worse

At the start of the 20th century, it seemed whales might gain a reprieve after years of hunting. The era of whaling from sail boats, depicted in such memorable detail by Herman Melville in “Moby-Dick,” had nearly wiped out slow, fat species like right and bowhead whales, and also wreaked substantial harm to sperm whales.

In the 1800s, U.S. whalers sailed without restraint or hindrance into every corner of the world’s oceans, including waters around Russia’s Siberian empire. There, tsarist officials watched in helpless rage as Americans slaughtered whales upon which many of the region’s Indigenous peoples relied.

In the 1870s, petroleum began to replace whale oil as a fuel. With few catchable whales remaining, the industry appeared to be near its end. But whalers found new markets. Through hydrogenation – a chemical process that can be used to turn liquid oils into solid or semi-solid fats – manufacturers were able to transform smelly whale products into odorless margarine for human consumption.

Around the same time, Norwegians invented the explosive harpoon, which killed whales more efficiently than hand-thrown versions, and the stern slipway, which allowed whale carcasses to be processed on board ships. Along with diesel engines and steel hulls, these technologies enabled whalers to target previously untouched species in once-inaccesible locations, such as the Antarctic.

Large metal vessels on a stony beach

These cookers and boilers at Whalers Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica, were used to boil down whales’ skin and blubber, extracting their oil, from 1912 to 1931.

David Stanley/Flickr, CC BY

Late to the party, late to leave

As mechanized whaling gained force in the 1920s and ‘30s, Norwegian, British and Japanese whalers cut through populations of blue, fin and humpback whales on a scale that is hard to believe today. In what scientists once thought was the peak catch year, 1937, over 63,000 large whales were killed and processed.

World War II briefly suspended this slaughter, which many governments were starting to realize threatened the survival of some whale species. In 1946, whalers, statesmen and scientists created the International Whaling Commission in hopes of heading off a return to disastrous prewar levels of whaling.

That same year, the USSR joined the IWC and took control over a former Nazi whaleship, which it renamed the Slava, or Glory. No one suspected the central role the country would play in the most disastrous two decades of whales’ long history on Earth.

The madness of modern whaling

Despite the IWC’s best intentions, postwar catches rose quickly. By the mid-1950s, even longtime whalers had to admit that big whales were becoming too scarce for their industries to be profitable. All nations except Japan began to ponder the end of whaling.

It thus came as a shock when the Soviet Union announced in 1956 that it planned to build seven new “floating factories” – gigantic industrial processing ships, accompanied by fleets of smaller “catcher” boats that would scour the oceans for whales.

Soviet whale scientists were as stunned as observers elsewhere. These biologists and oceanographers had been watching the decline from ships and from their labs in the Fisheries Ministry and Academy of Sciences since the 1930s.

Instead of supporting the fleet expansion, they argued forcefully that whales stood on the brink of extinction, and whaling should decrease radically, not expand. This was how the Soviet planned economy was meant to work: Science, not profit, would help guide economic decisions, letting planners know how much could be extracted from the natural world and when to stop.

But Soviet officials were determined to finally catch whales on a large scale, as Western nations had done for so long. The Fisheries Ministry ignored its scientists’ recommendations and built five of the seven planned floating factories over the next decade.

A man reclines on a beach inside the upper jaw of a whale, lined with baleen plates.

A Soviet harpooner poses inside the jaw of a baleen whale in 1965 at an unspecified location.

Touring Club Italiano/Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

By the 1960s, the Soviet Union was the world’s largest whaling nation. Whalers such as the legendary captain Aleksei Solyanik were celebrated as superstars, comparable to astronauts like Yuri Gagarin.

But the scientists had been right: Many whales species were nearly gone. To produce large catches, Solyanik and other captains decided to ignore international quotas and secretly targeted the most endangered whale species, including blue, humpback and fin whales in the Antarctic and the North Pacific.

In 1961, for example, Soviet fleets killed 9,619 rare humpbacks south of New Zealand, while reporting only 302 to the IWC. This was only a portion of their global catch, which the Soviet Union continued to underreport for years. Driven by Moscow’s demands for ever-increasing production, whalers worked at reckless speed, wasting much of the fat and meat taken from the dead whales. It is doubtful the industry was ever profitable.

Thanks to Soviet scientists who preserved some records of these illegal kills and to subsequent work by other scholars, it now appears likely that the Soviet Union killed around 550,000 whales after World War II while reporting only 360,000. We now know that global whale harvesting peaked in 1964, not 1937, with a total of 91,783 whales killed – about 40% by Soviet whalers.

In this 1976 news video, Greenpeace activists confront a Soviet whaling ship on the high seas. NOTE: Contains footage that some viewers may find disturbing.

Not quite extinct

By the 1970s, populations of large whales had dwindled to insignificance. Many observers were sure extinction was inevitable. But momentum for whale conservation was growing.

The U.S. listed blue, fin, sei, sperm and humpback whales under the law that preceded the Endangered Species Act in 1970, then continued to protect them under that law, enacted in 1973. Whales also received protection in U.S. waters under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Thanks to pressure from environmentalists and its own citizens, the Soviet Union ended its whaling industry in 1987. The country accepted a global moratorium on commercial whaling, which remains in force today with only three holdouts: Norway, Iceland and Japan.

Whale numbers almost immediately began to rebound. Humpback whales were especially successful, but populations of bowhead, fin and sperm whales also expanded in the near absence of commercial whaling. However, some species, notably North Atlantic right whales, remain endangered or critically endangered.

Graphic showing number of whale calves born yearly 2007-2022.

North Atlantic right whales are critically endangered, with a population estimated at less than 368 animals.

NOAA

In one of the greatest conservation successes, Eastern Pacific gray whales are today estimated to have returned to pre-exploitation abundance, and may actually be reaching the limits of what their primary foraging grounds in the Bering Sea can support. And in 2018 and 2019, German scientists and researchers from the BBC observed and filmed fin whales feeding around the Antarctic peninsula in vast pods that recalled the way the ocean must have looked before the 20th century.

Thanks to the Russian scientists who opposed their country’s disastrous whaling expansion and kept its records, we know how many whales were lost in the 20th century. That information can also help scientists, governments and conservationists judge whales’ remarkable but far from complete recovery.The Conversation

Ryan Jones, Associate Professor of History, University of Oregon

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.