“Those who scare peace loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid the terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends.”
-- Former US Attorney General John Ashcroft
Or, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is fine-tuning the details of a bill that will allow the FBI to secretly procure any of your personal records without “probable cause” or a court order giving them “unchecked authority to pry into personal and business matters”? (“Republicans Seek to Widen FBI Powers,” New York Times, October 19, 2005)
Or, that on June 29, President Bush put “a broad swath of the FBI” under his direct control by creating the National Security Service (a.k.a. the “New SS”)? This is the first time we’ve had a “secret police” in our 200-year history. It will be run exclusively by the president and beyond the range of congressional oversight.
Or, that on October 27, 2005 president Bush created the National Clandestine Service, which will be headed by CIA Director Porter Goss and will “expand reporting of information and intelligence value from state, local and tribal law enforcement entities and private sector stakeholders”? This executive order gives the CIA the power to carry out covert operations, spying, propaganda, and “dirty tricks” within the United States and on the American public. (“The New National Intelligence Strategy of the US” by Larry Chin, Global Research)
Or, that Pentagon intelligence operatives are now permitted to collect information from US citizens without revealing their status as government spies? (Greg Miller, “Bill would give Cover to Pentagon Spies,” Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2005)
Or, that within two years every American license and passport will be made according to federal uniform standards including microchips (with biometric information) that will allow the government to trace every movement of its citizens?
Or, that recent rulings, the DC District Court unanimously decided in two different cases that foreign prisoners have no rights under international law to challenge their indefinite imprisonment by the United States and, (in Rumsfeld vs. Padilla) that the president can lock up an American citizen “without charges” if he believes he may be an “enemy combatant”? Both verdicts overturn the fundamental principles of “inalienable rights”, habeas corpus, and the presumption of innocence, replacing them with the arbitrary authority of the executive.
The American people have no idea of the amount of energy that has been devoted to stripping them of their constitutional protections and how stealthily that plan has been carried out. It has required the concerted efforts of the political establishment, the corporate elite, and the collaborative media. For all practical purposes, the government is no longer constrained in its conduct towards its citizens; it can do as it pleases.
The campaign to dismantle the Bill of Rights has focused primarily on the key Amendments, the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th. These are the cornerstones of American liberty and they encompass everything from due process to equal protection to free speech to a ban on the “cruel and unusual” treatment of prisoners. Freedom has little tangible meaning apart from the safety provided by these amendments.
At present, there’s no reason for the administration to assert its new powers. That would only dispel the widely held illusion of personal freedom. But, the existing climate of “well being” will not last forever. The poisonous effects of war, tax cuts, burgeoning budget deficits, and inflation indicate that darker days lie ahead. The middle class is stretched paper-thin and disaster could be as close as a hike in interest rates.
The new repressive legislation anticipates the massive political unrest that naturally follows a tenuous and volatile economic situation.
Is this why Congress has rubber-stamped so many of the administration’s autocratic laws, or does Bush simply “hate our freedoms”?
The members of America’s ruling elite carefully follow the shifting of policy in Washington. They have the power to access the mainstream media and dispute the changes in the law that they oppose. Regrettably, there’s been no sign of protest from the bastions of the corporate, financial and political oligarchy, just an ominous silence.
Does this mean that American Brahmins have abandoned their support for personal liberty and the rights of man?
America is undergoing its greatest metamorphosis. It has been severed from its constitutional moorings and is drifting towards a police state. If Samuel Alito is appointed to the Supreme Court then Bush will be able to solidify his “unchecked” power as executive and 50 years of progressive legislation will be up for review. Everything from abortion to Miranda will be reconsidered through the hard-right lens of the new majority.
Americans still seem blissfully unaware of the fundamental changes to the political system. The cloak of disinformation and diversion has successfully obscured the perils of our present course. Freedom is no longer guaranteed in Bush’s America nor is liberty everyman’s birthright. The rickety scaffolding that supports the rule of law has been replaced with the unbridled authority of the supreme presidency. The country is slipping inexorably towards the Orwellian nightmare -- the National Security State.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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