Monday, February 06, 2006

The Walls Have Ears



"A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on." --William Burroughs

First they came for the terrorists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a terrorist. Then they came for the protesters, and I did not speak out, for I was not a protester. Then they came for Google, and I did not speak out because I was not a search engine.
Then they came for me...

In the last month, the following changes in the Land of the Free have come to light: the latest software update of iTunes, version 6.0.2, secretly installs spyware on your computer that tells Apple what you you're playing on your computer; the Justice Department successfully subpoenaed the search queries of millions of computer users -- quite possibly you or me -- from Microsoft, AOL and and Yahoo (which we only learned of because of Google's well-publicized refusal to cooperate); the Pentagon has been collecting extensive dossiers on any American citizen involved in anti-war groups within protesting distance of military installations, in the name of force protection; the NSA has been conducting a massive domestic data mining operation, monitoring the phone calls, emails and web use of American citizens in the dogged pursuit of evildoers.

The Preznit is currently in campaign mode to dumb the debate down to: you're either for spying on Americans or for the terrorists, which side are you on, Son? Well, since you asked, Sir, I'm for the Constitution, which, unlike the Bible, I take literally. It has this wonderful little passage called the Fourth Amendment, which explicitly affirms: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

For 217 years, American presidents have taken office by solemnly swearing "to preserve, protect and defend" -- not the American people, but something bigger, something even more precious and vulnerable -- "the Constitution of the United States." To even say as much out loud these days is to risk being shouted down by a pack of rabid right wing attack dogs barking in unison: Why don't you just have Osama's baby, already!

Which is why the folks at Against The War On Terror (www.againstwot.com) advocate rejecting the very nomenclature that the President uses to frame the current debate on national security. By even walking onto that linguistic playing field, we lose, they say. The Neocons are at the wheel and the Dems are just backseat drivers, annoyingly pointing over Dad's shoulder and getting their hands smacked away by Karl Rove. The Right wing will continue to pervert every election into another dreadful season of 9/11 Fear Factor and cling to their vaunted permanent majority until We The People shift the paradigm.

Terrorism is not an enemy, it's a tactic; this is not a war, it's criminal matter. A serious global criminal matter, perhaps, but a criminal matter nonetheless. And we will prosecute this criminal matter with all due diligence, make all necessary homeland safeguards (more emphasis on securing ports and nuclear power plants, less on castrating the First and Fourth Amendments) and establish a vast global dragnet via international cooperation. I can't help but wonder if we had taken this approach from, say, Afghanistan onwards, we'd have Osama in Supermax lockdown by now instead of getting our asses shot off in Iraq.

Lastly, we will NOT make this a non-stop pageant of fear to cynically manipulate the American people into trading real liberty for the illusion of security. Because that would be un-American. For it is then and only then, when that terrible compromise is brooked by a frightened nation -- that the terrorists will have truly won.

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