Sunday, December 25, 2005

...and more from Steve; the man's been on a roll

There is something George W. Bush should understand, being that he's a dry drunk;  one is too many and a thousand never enough.

That little rule of thumb is doubly true of torture and spying on fellow Americans. Justifying one water-boarding becomes justification for the next, and the next until, before you know it, torture become not just another tool in the box, but the tool of choice.

The same goes for spying on one another. Humans are born suspicious of each other. Just try handing a baby to stranger and see what happens. Distrust is programmed right into our DNA, and it knows no bounds. Employers and employees share a mutual distrust of one another. Parents don't trust their own kids unless they're right under their noses. And we trust those we don't know anything about least of all.

So, when the President of the United States gives the nation's most technologically intrusive spy agency, the NSA, the green light to snoop on US citizens it's not just another legalistic nuance, it's a sea change, a very dangerous one.

Why? Because there really is only
six degrees of separation between all of us. One monitored  individual's phone calls, for example, inevitably leads to dozens of other "suspects." Leading to the next inevitable question -- who are they? Then "are they part of "it." (what ever the "it" de jour, real, feared or just imagined, may be.)


If Uncurious George is interested where domestic spying leads a nation all he needs to do is have one of his aides read aloud to him some of the millions of files the East German Stasi compiled on their own citizens. 

"The Stasi's influence over almost every aspect of life in the German Democratic Republic cannot be overestimated. Until the mid-1980s, a civilian network of informants grew within both Germanies, East and West. By the East German collapse in 1989, it is estimated that the Stasi had 91,000 full time employees and 300,000 informants. This means approximately one in fifty East Germans collaborated with the Stasi, one of the highest penetrations of any society by an organization....The Stasi monitored politically incorrect behavior among all citizens of East Germany. During the 1989 peaceful revolution, the Stasi offices were overrun by enraged citizens... files are available for review to all people who were reported upon, often revealing that friends, colleagues, husbands, wives, and other family members were regularly filing reports with the Stasi." (More)

An extreme example? Not at all. You can be certain that if we could get unfettered access to the intel files of Israel, Egypt, Libya, Russia, China and other nations nations with neither the scruples or constitutional limits on domestic spying, we'd find Stasi-like files there too.

Because domestic spying attracts folks that suffer from a kind of obsessive compulsive disorder. Once they begin collecting information on fellow citizens, they can't stop themselves. What begins as an exception inevitably becomes a kind of nervous tick. All that's required is that you come to their attention. After that they must know all they can about you and yours -- your finances, your habits, your thoughts your friends, your family. It must all be observed, examined, categorized, kept and updated.  


President contends that we must make and except to the usual rules because the nation is at war -- a "different kind of war.". Our enemy this time are not nations but "terrorists." And who are these enemies? We can't sure. They travel. Some come here. Some are here already.

So who are the enemies within? After 9/11 it was just young Arab men. But then a young American boy,
John Walker Lindh, got caught fighting in Afghanistan. And then another America, Jose Padilla, was caught hanging with al Qaida types. The enemy within suddenly also had an American face. So, the Pentagon was givien the green light to spy on Americans. And who did they catch? A group of Quaker anti-war activists. (Quaker/al Qaida – close enough – for the collectors. )


The Quaker peace activists were detailed in a Pentagon risk assessment list as a "serious threat." How can a group that espouses non-violence be a serious threat to national security? Ideologically of course. The Pentagon has a long memory and they have not forgotten how the peace moment of the 60's and 70's spread causing the US -- in Pentagon-think -- to "lose the Vietnam War." So the Quakers had to be collected.

That meant someone had to report on the Quaker group's meetings. Who? Someone the group considered "one of them" -- betrayal, Stasi style.

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