Saturday, May 27, 2006

Police State?

I don’t know about you, but I'm getting more and more signals indicating that the land of the free and home of the brave is fast becoming a police state. That dreaded word, once absurd in any discourse about the United States, has appeared in several columns lately, not least the end of Frank Rich’s column in the recent New York Times. Is this chicken-little paranoia, or is it based on reality?

Consider recent revelations. First, we find out that the National Security Agency (NSA) the biggest eavesdropping agency in the world has been tapping the domestic phone calls of Americans suspected of making calls to Al Qaeda agents or people connected to Al Qaeda. This has been done without the necessary warrants from the FISA courts, with the NSA simply going around the law of the land, and bragging about it. Both the President, and now his nominee for CIA chief, Michael Hayden, who was NSA head when the surveillance started, have insisted that warrant less wiretapping of Americans affects only communications with Al Qaeda, and hence is limited and legal. To "protect the American people," they have both asserted the President can do whatever he wants, regardless of Congressional statute.

However, USA Today revealed last week that the surveillance wasn’t so limited after all. Its report stated that major communications corporations AT&T, Bell South, Verizon and others, have been routinely turning over their phone records to the government. This means that the government has documented proof of every phone call made by virtually every American. Of course, both the phone companies and the Bush administration insist that this does not constitute phone tapping, because only the phone numbers, not the callers’ names, are revealed. Bush has also insisted that no "data mining" or "trolling" for information is taking place. But what would the government be doing with all these phone records if not trolling through them to see who is calling whom, and why? And who is to determine what use is made of all this information?

In both the above cases, the danger is that some computer program can easily identify an American who has called someone related to a terrorist, or someone whose relations themselves are related to someone related to a terrorist or suspected terrorist, and bingo, he or she lands on the list of terrorist sympathizers. And in the climate that has been created in the so-called "Long War on Terror," that nebulous connection alone could get someone arrested, held without charges, and tortured before anyone figured out whether the original call was significant or not.

Nor is this the end of it. ABC News has learned that all of its phone calls are being monitored as well. Reporter Brian Ross, in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now says:
"The F.B.I. then, Amy, last night put out a statement essentially acknowledging that they are tracking phone calls of reporters." ("They Track Journalists, Don’t They?" 5/16/06 on
The reason seems to be that the Bush administration is so apoplectic over "leaks" that it now considers all reporters suspect. The fact that this is a major attempt to intimidate the free press, not to mention its obvious violation of the First Amendment, seems not to have mattered. Rather than address the problems and even crimes exposed in such news stories, the Bush administration chooses to attack those who have the temerity to do their jobs.

Finally, a recent report ((link) has revealed that Kellogg, Brown & Root, that ubiquitous subsidiary of Vice-President Cheney’s old company Halliburton, has been given a $385 million contract to build a series of detention centers, not in Iraq, but in the United States. Now who could the government be contemplating as inmates of those domestic detention centers? Those who report the news? Those who respond with anger to the corruption they see in the government? Those who might be arrested by National Guard troops about to be dispatched as guards for our southern border, in clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act?

Whatever the answer, one thing is becoming alarmingly clear: the police-state tactics that Americans have always been assured was a mark of totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union, China, Iraq, or Korea are increasingly becoming the hallmark of this administration and this nation.


Anonymous Steve said...

Aww come on!!! Police state?? If we lived in a police state you would have already had your door kicked in and dragged away in the middle of the night never to be seen again. THAT'S a police state.

Our government was carrying out legitimate surveillance on terrorist transactions to protect us, U.S., from the extremist islamofascist thugs that desire nothing from us but subjugation and blood. If you don't believe me, read some of Pres. Ahmadinejad's speeches over in Iran. Which by the way is also a true police state. Know what they do to foreign women they capture being smuggled against their will as sex slaves? Repatriate them? No, they behead them or if they're "lucky" lock them up for life.

If we don't stand up to these idiots now, we'll be looking at their suicide belts up close and personal.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get real. Iran does not claim to be a democracy and does not have the resources to continue a Total Information Awareness Program as we do. Larry is very likely on a watch list as are millions of Americans.

If you think that people have freedom to disagree, it is only a relative freedom that is way short of our own ideals. Note that each and every person who voices disagreement with the Emperor Bush is sacked and castigated publically.

If we were so worried about freedom, we would have kicked Taliban butt and never would have allowed ourselves into Iraq as an excuse for death and destruction of people who never did a thing to support 9/11.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Dave Amos (CLAIMSMAN) said...

Did you read John Yoo's column on the Op/Ed page of the L.A. Times this morning. No question he favors a police state via data mining. He is one of those who would destroy our freedoms in order to preserve them.....


7:21 PM  

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