IS BIG BROTHER GROWING WINGS? - History Lessons Are Short-Lived

(08/01/2002)

COMMENT Bob Weaver 2002

Is it "drastic measures for drastic times" or is it the full-blown arrival of Orwell's "Big Brother is watching you!" Many historians believe we may have arrived, declaring the Patriot Act will have little to do with terrorism.

Questioning the just passed laws and assumed powers, often leads to the questioning of patriotism. So for the record, I believe in America and its great constitution and believe myself to be a patriot, but feel compelled to express my vital concerns. Nationalism should never be confused with patriotism.

The CIA is back in business spying on Americans, sharing sensitive information with other agencies without judicial review.

The federal government in the "War on Terrorism" has assumed the summary power to allow the FBI to spy on Americans in their churches, on the Internet, in bookstores and in their libraries.

Does anyone remember the recent FBI history of J. Edgar Hoover, who kept tens of thousands of files on Americans he disliked, when someone said they were "suspicious?"

Examination of the files indicated most of the information was gossip or contained information about people's personal life that had little to do with them being enemies of the state.

Starting now, be careful what you read, investigate or complain about.

The Homeland Security measure encourages TV installers, truck drivers and meter readers, people who have access to family dwellings, to report unusual or suspicious activity to authorities. The program is called TIPS, which could end in a crusade to turn in your neighbors.

Supporters say it will only apply to the "bad guys," and if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. History does not hold this true.

The "power" allows the government to instruct personnel or install equipment in libraries to watch patrons reading habits, and if librarians inform the patrons what is going on, they can be prosecuted.

The Bush administration is giving itself the summary power to silence dissent by equating criticism with aid to terrorists, declaring public debate would "erode our national unity .... diminish resolve .... give ammunition to America's enemies."

The attorney-client privilege of communications, long a constitutional right, can be intercepted and monitored by the Justice Department and their lawyers.

The establishment of military tribunals, which ignore the constitutional rights of citizens in civilian courts, described as necessary in high-risk times, with the implication it will only be used against our enemies.

The new law allows the government to conduct secret searches, with notification being made after the fact in many cases.

There is much, much more.

It is shades of Japanese interment camps, blacklists, free speech restrictions and other powers assumed by the federal government in times of crisis. Nearly all have been viewed as an overreaction to frightening circumstances.

Many constitutionalists believe the government already has ample powers to combat the threats at hand, and the new "tools" are unnecessary at best and, at worst, dangerous.

The Homeland Security Bill also contained tax breaks, contracts and exemptions, many of which seem questionable.

Where are the gun rights folks and the NRA on these issues which crush constitutional rights and civil liberties?

These "powers" need continued deliberation and a watchful eye.


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