THOLOS OF ATHENA

Monday, August 06, 2007

CONGRESS KNUCKLES UNDER, GIVES WHITE HOUSE MORE SURVEILLANCE POWERS

"I do not blame those determined to control, but those so eager to submit" --Thucydides
George Orwell's novel, 1984, describes a world run by an elite who dominates the hubs of information and keeps the population under total surveillance. Authority consolidates its control by weakening the citizen's sense of stability, and more, by demanding submission to a world that is not real.

Hannah Arendt, in The Origins of Totalitarianism, addresses not only public acceptance of Nazi authority in her native Germany, but more generally, the acceptance of unreality by ordinary people under totalitarian systems. The public is worn down by psychological war, a perpetual war waged against them; they become aware of those ever-present "minders", and all of that watching seems like nothing out of the ordinary.
totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations.
Members of Congress are aware now of long-standing domestic surveillance programs. The Bush/Cheney executive has been running illegal operations that bypass the FISA courts, finding ways to elude both judicial and legislative oversight. Both the president and vice president have broken laws by evading statutory restraints.

Crimes like these, spanning six years of the Bush administration, have led to an enormous collapse of public support. Nonetheless, in this summer of 2007, Congress was ready to answer Bush's urgent demands for more surveillance powers.

But again we are left with the bitter reality of Democrats caving in, the majority party, bearing the sacrifice of their avowed principles the minute Republicans start talking the scary talk about terrorists.

What happened to this opposition party?--to their passionate intention to curb a criminal White House? They have poured more fuel on a wildfire; and what they have agreed to, in reality, is unrestrained data mining for six months. Oversight is abandoned while this surveillance machinery operates in secret.

Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post calls the Democratic failure of nerve a Warrantless Surrender:
This is as reckless as it was unnecessary. Democrats had presented a compromise plan that would have permitted surveillance to proceed, but with court review and an audit by the Justice Department's inspector general, to be provided to Congress, about how many Americans had been surveilled. Democrats could have stuck to their guns and insisted on their version. Instead, nervous about being blamed for any terrorist attack and eager to get out of town, they accepted the unacceptable. Most Democrats opposed the measure, but enough (16 in the Senate, 41 in the House) went with Republicans to allow it to pass, and the leadership enabled that result.
Republicans are opening a franchise for Moloch, the Beast . They are the party of fear and coercion, a party that lives and dies on cruelty, mafia-like loyalty; and they stink of creeping fascism.

Law professor Jack M. Balkin offers a frightening glimpse of our future:
...the new bill shows that the Republican Party can get the Democrats to surrender almost any civil liberty-- indeed, to give the President just as much unchecked power as he might obtain under a Republican controlled Congress-- simply by playing the fear card repeatedly and without shame...

...we are slowly inching, through each act of fear mongering and fecklessness, pandering and political compromise, toward a world in which Americans have increasingly little say over how they are actually governed, and increasingly little control over how the government collects information on them to regulate and control them. Slowly, secretly and imperceptibly, the mechanisms of government surveillance are being freed from methods of political control and accountability...
We need to pull our camera back. We need the wide angle lens. Our country is slipping away. We have lost a war. We are living in a Surveillance State. We have used up our credit. We are governed at the highest level by criminals. We live with the open secret of torture. Our Treasury has been looted by corporations, helped along by their stooges and well-paid confidence men. Wikipedia reports that we have 2.2 million people behind bars; and since 1980, US prison population has quadrupled. "The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated population."

It's time for a dose of reality now, before we wake up in a make believe world, where we are in a never-ending war on terror, surrounded by a teeming mass of enemies.

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