(November 18, 2002 // link)
I don't know exactly what the Republicans think their “mandate” is after the last election, but there have been some interesting developments of late that suggest that the agenda isn’t all about getting government off our backs as we have been told. In reading William Safire’s recent (November 14,2002) editorial in the New York Times (reprinted this past Sunday in the Sunday Citizen), and other similar editorials, it is increasingly obvious that this ain’t gonna happen.
John Poindexter, of Iran Contra fame is back in business. This time he, as the head of the “Information Awareness office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has devised a scheme to collect a massive amount of personal electronic data and create an electronic dossier on millions of Americans. This dossier will include such personal information as bank deposits, credit card purchases, every web site you visit, every e-mail you send or receive and so on. All of this information will go to the defense department, along with all of the information that the government already has about us from commercial, government and private sources. Now that does not sound like less government, it sounds like more.
A recent CNN poll (not that I find CNN polls definitive) suggests that 73% of all Americans are more worried about a loss of civil liberties than about safety. Bearing in mind that the current sitting president did not win a majority of this country’s popular vote, and the fact that the “Homeland Security Act” does not mention the “Information Awareness Office” in any way that most of us could figure out what it is or what it does, this is troubling to say the least.
Lest we forget, Poindexter is the convicted felon (in fairness Poindexter’s conviction was overturned because he had been given immunity for his cooperation in the investigation) who came up with the completely illegal and morally bankrupt idea of selling missiles to Iran so that we could pay ransom for hostages then give the rest of the money to the Contras in Nicaragua. Ollie North was involved as well. Ollie now has a T.V. show, Poindexter is poised to be more powerful than even in J. Edgar Hoover’s wildest dreams and there are some among us who think that we will now have “less government”. All the while another unrepentant convicted felon and right wing spokesperson, G. Gordon Liddy, laments the loss of personal freedoms in this country in his latest book! He may have a point, but then even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time.
How much more information does the government need anyway? With all of the information that was available in the years, months, weeks and days leading up to September 11, no one could predict or prevent those atrocious acts. The information was there, we just couldn’t analyze it. Now we are “mining” more data but we still have not go a mechanism for analyzing, interpreting or utilizing the data we have. More importantly, we are eroding the protections afforded by the 4th amendment with legislation that is bred of fear.
Because Americans are being bombarded with constant images of external threats to our national interests, there is an expectation that they will concede certain of their rights and freedoms in the interest of safety. There is no evidence to suggest the this is actually the case, and there is certainly no mandate for this type of government intrusion into the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by the 4th amendment. Candidate Bush stood in defense of the right to privacy. Poindexter has created a technology and a policy that could not be more in opposition to the protection of those rights and if the “Homeland Security Act” is enacted in its current form, 300 million Americans will loose a little more of the freedom. The continued erosion of our civil liberties leaves our government looking more like a famous “Big Brother” and less like a “distant relative”.