The Experts Say: It's a Police State
Written by Chris Floyd
Monday, 11 September 2006
Critics of the policies of George W. Bush are often greeted with this response: "Who are you to denounce the president? Don't you think he's privy to more information than you are? Don't you think he has all kinds of experts giving him the full picture, which you will never know?"
OK, fair enough. Let's see what the experts -- those privy to the full picture, to the secret intelligence, those long schooled in policy and analysis -- have to say. For example, what does the man who was George W. Bush's director of homeland defense on the National Security Council on September 11, 2001, think of the "war on terror" launched by George W. Bush after September 11, 2001?
He thinks Bush has exploited the attack to install a police state in America, that's what George W. Bush's director of homeland defense on September 11, 2001, thinks. But let Tom Maertens speak for himself, as he does most directly in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (via Cursor):
Five years after 9/11, it's clear that the Bush administration's costly War on Terror has failed on two counts. It has undermined our civil liberties and made the world more dangerous. The direct cost of the war in Iraq, according to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel economist, has already exceeded $1 trillion, including long-term veterans' care and similar costs. Along with the war has come enormous destruction and loss of life, and major damage to our international standing. And there are more terrorists in the world than ever before, a fact the administration plays up to curtail our freedoms. In the aftermath of 9/11, the administration succeeded in passing an extreme version of an internal security law, called the USA Patriot Act. It permits secret arrests, sneak and peek searches, and obtaining bank, credit, library and Internet records, all without a warrant. The administration also instituted wiretaps and intercepts on millions of Americans' e-mail messages and phone calls without warrants, a program recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.
In 2005, Bush quietly created the National Clandestine Service, which authorizes the CIA to operate within the United States -- despite past abuses such as Operation Chaos -- and reinstituted domestic spying by the military through the Counter Intelligence Field Activity (CIFA), in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. He also created the National Security Service, putting elements of the FBI under his direct control, the closest we have had to a secret police agency in our 200-year history. The FBI now sends out 30,000 National Security Letters per year, demanding personal information without benefit of a warrant. It has imposed gag orders on every aspect of NSLs, making it illegal to reveal that one has been received. How does this differ from secret police tactics?
… Perhaps no event demonstrates more clearly the dangerous authoritarianism of the Bush crowd than the arrest of two American citizens, Jose Padilla and Yasir Hamdi, who were held for 3½ years in solitary confinement with no charges, no court appearance and no lawyer. The Bush administration declared them "enemy combatants" -- Enemies of the State -- and threw them in prison indefinitely, just like a Third World dictatorship.
Winston Churchill once said: "The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
How far can the Bush administration go? Steven Bradbury of the Justice Department recently suggested before a congressional committee that the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States.
Government assassination squads? In America?
… James Madison once warned: "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." The Bush administration has already exploited the war in Iraq and fears about terrorism to stampede the American people into accepting an astonishing curtailment of their freedoms and growing lawlessness by the government. If the administration chooses to engage in the neocons' endless, global War for Civilization, American democracy will ultimately be one of the casualties.
The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press.
There has been a startling expansion of secrecy in the past five years. It has become very difficult to find out about, let alone challenge, important actions and policies concerning our security. Executive-branch officials have thrown up a daunting array of obstacles for citizens and lawmakers: overclassification, misclassification, reclassification and pseudo-classification. Even congressional committees and independent commissions with a lot of clout find it difficult to get over the administration’s stone walls. Meanwhile, alternative sources of information — whistleblowers and journalists — are hounded, harassed and threatened with jail. Equally important, this law would chill the speech of a host of other important speakers in public discourse: elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, scholars, lobbyists and public-interest groups. Even former government officials, never sure what is classified or reclassified, would be vulnerable to prosecution for their writing, teaching or other public activities. The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press. Though the sponsors of the act insist that the press is not targeted, the potential harm is great. The law would authorize grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants for their records and notes. It could make them witnesses to and possible co-conspirators in a criminal act.
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