Monday, February 18, 2008

Whipping up a froth of fear

You may count me as among those who are hopelessly naive as to believe that secrecy should be kept to a minimum in a Democracy.

Secrecy, inevitably, and proven historically, breeds corruption, lies, and a tendency toward autocracy.

So the fact that we have an FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security and god knows what other kind of super-secret organization spying on you, me and the rest of the world, is enough for me to doubt that the people at the top are abiding by agreed-upon laws, and protecting liberty.

So the fact that the Protect America Act has expired fills me with nothing less than joy. I don't believe the threat of terrorism is quite what it's made out to be. I don't believe the threat of militant Islamics is any more scary than the threat of militant Christians. I'm not nearly as scared as the President would like me to be.

Should we have any clandestine operations? Surely in a time of war, real war, we ought to practice counter-intelligence. Maybe, but only maybe, we ought to have standing investigative branches, but they should be limited, there should be strict oversight, and there needs to be an absolute time limit (five years, ten years), after which all secrets will be made public - no exception. That, in and of itself, will prevent agents of our government from doing things they might regret later.

Right now, the President, and his minions, are breathing fire about the terrorist threat, and the expiration of the Protect America Act. It's a sham. The terrorist threats that he rants about are as likely figments of his imagination as are those he's "revealed" in the past. He says that the NSA is hamstrung in its ability to wiretap. Wrong again, the original FISA law enables them still to do just that, with a court order (after-the-fact if needs be).

So what's all the bellyaching? Got to protect the telecoms. Mike McConnell reiterated that fact this weekend. And why? Well, if the telecoms get dragged into court, so does the administration. And if the administration has to reveal their wiretapping secrets, well, then the shit hits the fan.

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