Wednesday, November 30, 2005

While Americans snooze, a creeping police state grows


Almost imperceptibly, American freedoms are shrinking with only scant objections from a few voices in the proverbial wilderness.

The modus: creating the fear of terrorism and the corresponding need for stringent new "national security" measures.

Consider a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week.

The court denied the appeal of a former FBI translator fired after complaining vital intelligence was poorly translated and that one colleague was engaged in espionage. Even the Justice Department's inspector general concluded the translator's allegations had merit. Yet, the high court's justices refused to listen to the translator's appeal for reinstatement because the FBI claimed—without a shred of proof—that "national security" was at stake and therefore the case shouldn't be heard.

The court gave the same treatment to "dirty bomb" terrorism suspect Jose Padilla, finally charged with lesser crimes after three years of detention: Government lawyers claimed prosecuting Padilla would reveal "national security" without even explaining what security.

How many of those several hundred other detainees being held as "suspects" in terrorism truly are guilty of anything?

The Patriot Act, with powers to snoop and prosecute anyone for even mentioning they're being investigated, should've been a tip-off that there may be no limit to the creep toward an American police state being engineered by hardliners.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon is expanding activities of the little known and relatively new office of Counterintelligence Field Activity to allow the military to spy on Americans for "national security" reasons.

And what domestic "national security" might interest the Pentagon?

Older Americans with memories of a president who betrayed civil liberties recall President Richard Nixon's June 1970 authorization of "The Huston Plan" allowing the CIA, FBI and Pentagon to spy on critics of the Vietnam War and to round up and detain them. Outrage forced Nixon to cancel the program.

It's time again for Americans to pay attention to intelligence webs, this time woven in the name of fighting terrorism.

The more than 50 government groups known to exist within the U.S. intelligence apparatus, a network of foreign prisons being used to grill suspects whisked away incommunicado on secretive U.S. planes, and a Congress with no stomach to investigate or restrain the Bush administration, should give pause.

We should worry at least as much about the creation of a homegrown and unchecked police state as we do about foreign terrorists.




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