Take My Freedom – Please!

Since America was shocked out of its exceptionalism by 9/11, we’ve been facing a classic political dilemma:  Security versus Freedom.   In the old Soviet Union, security definitely won, and even today, Russians wax nostalgic for paranoid Stalin and his much-vaunted Order. From the 30’s to the 50’s, there was neither chaos nor crime – there was however state terrorism and the knock on the door in the middle of the night.  Here in the U.S., we’ve prided ourselves on our Freedom, even when J. Edgar in his prom formal was listening at our door and making sure that we weren’t Reds.

Post 9/11, however, we seem to have cheerily folded up the Bill of Rights and handed our privacy to the Feds and various Web-based monoliths.  The result has been a safer – albeit much more intrusive – America.

To start with the Googles, Facebooks, and Microsofts:  they can indulge in as much finger-pointing as they like, but the truth is that each of them is tracking us like a bloodhound so that we can be targeted by advertisers.  In a 2010 speech, Zuckerberg proclaimed that “the age of privacy is over.”[1]  He seems to be proving his point with Timeline, which makes it incredibly easy for me or anyone to find your posts from 2005, when you were going through your Anarchist phase.  The Timeline, to put it neatly, lasts for several centuries. . .

Google is doing its best to “be evil” by scanning every word of Gmail for the purpose of determining ad placement.[2]  Microsoft skewered this practice with a series of ‘Gmail Man’ videos, though they themselves have never been angels.  The Googster “inadvertently” created a database of worldwide WiFi networks – and the info on them — while taking pictures for its Street View program.  Even though they later apologized, those 600 gigs of data still live. [3]

If you have any doubt that mouthing concern about “privacy” is nothing more than corporate B.S., here’s the result of a 2010 Carnegie Mellon study:  “My students and I discovered that Google, Facebook and thousands of others essentially have bogus privacy policies.”[4]  Well, who wudda thunk it?

To set our sights on the Big Daddy of privacy invaders – the Fed – shows us something of larger consequence than getting a pesky online ad from Viagra (and your name’s Virginia).  Bush’s signing of the 2001 (USA) Patriot Act, and Obama’s extension of same, promises at least  three more years of authorized roving wiretaps, business records searches, and the ability to surveil “lone wolves.”[5]  What does this actually mean?

That National Security Letters “permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. . . .reports have confirmed that tens of thousands of these letters are issued every year and they are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect.[6]   When I was in junior high, I used to worry that the government could check my library records and find out I was reading Marx.  Heck, that was just teenage paranoia – now, they really can!!   And it’s nice to know that under the Patriot Act, the FBI can search e-mail and phone records without a court order.  Who needs those pesky papers anyway?

Let’s move on to the indefinite detention of immigrants and searches without a subject’s permission, shall we? [7]  They should go well with the unmanned drones flying over the U.S. doing domestic surveillance.[8]  Whoa, what is this, Afghanistan?  Not really, since we’ve spent $100 billion reconstructing that country while our citizens lose their homes, jobs, and dignity. But anyhoo. . .

In the two months after 9/11, 1,200 Muslim-Americans were arrested in sweeps, mainly on immigration charges. Most had absolutely no proven ties to terrorism.  And the FBI, while pretending to do community outreach, spied on Muslims in their mosques, etc.   In fact, “…they recorded intelligence about Americans’ religious beliefs and practices, associations, opinions, and expressive activities in violation of the Privacy Act.”[9]  But that’s OK, since 39% of Americans say U.S. Muslims should carry special identification.[10]

It was recently revealed that Quantico training of agents consists of telling them that “that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”[11]  Does that apply to the church collection plate?

We’ve all heard about “enhanced interrogation” techniques, a pleasant euphemism for simulating drowning in prisoners using Cheney’s favorite pastime, waterboarding.  You know, it’s not a “used car”, it’s a “pre-owned vehicle!”  The truth of things actually doesn’t change when you rename them.

Still, the scariest violation of all has occurred, sadly, under Obama.  Attorney General Holder has justified the killing of Americans abroad, without charges or a trial, as long as those people are suspected “terrorists.”[12]  In his own words: “Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”[13]  I imagine that might be a surprise to the Founding Fathers.  But not to Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico yet blown away by a joint CIA-military drone strike in Yemen.[14]

Now that we can freely murder our own, it seems that all things are possible.  Martial law if a city gets “out of control” – especially minorities.  The shooting of citizens here if it can be justified under the broad brush of “National Security.”  Another Manzanar if the U.S. is attacked again.  Because we have let politicians and the media scare us, we have handed over our privacy, rights, and freedoms freely – something the Soviets didn’t have too much choice about.  If we don’t stand up for the current target of populist ire – Muslim-Americans — we’ll be sitting down beside them in some cozy little cell at Gitmo.

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2 responses to “Take My Freedom – Please!

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