Monday, April 7, 2014

Sleepless Night, Exhaustion, Anger... Fear... After Reading This Article

... by Peter Van Buren at Tom Engelhardt's site. Why should anyone who does not himself or herself fly (as I pointedly do not) be driven to fear and anger by an article about Rahinah Ibrahim's experiences with the no-fly list? Many, many reasons, many egregious flaws in the way the entire executive branch of America's government works (I almost said "our" government, but I am increasingly convinced it doesn't belong to us anymore), its virtually total abnegation of our hard-won civil liberties, a creeping (and creepy) onset of the usual manifestations of totalitarian techniques apparently in daily use by all the three-letter agencies (not least NSA, CIA and FBI), ... oh, yes, there's plenty to give one a sleepless night or a few nightmares in this story, despite the obvious mitigating factor that no one involved died as a result of it... yet. Here's Van Buren, near the end of the piece:

A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. ...

Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?
Yes, maybe mine, at least. Maybe the name of any American who has proactively pursued a living, working meaning for the rights- and liberties-bearing texts in our Constitution and its amendments, any American who regularly speaks out, attends the occasional public protest in the post‑9/11 era, contributes money and/or effort to civil liberties organizations such as ACLU, EFF, more than a hundred other American groups (listed here and here), and perhaps forty other groups worldwide, distributed among the nations that claim liberties as part of their mandate (listed here). Yes, maybe their names.

Maybe yours?

Reading Howard N. Meyer's book on the Fourteenth Amendment (see the post about it a couple days back), I have come to realize that America has treated its constitutional liberties "[m]ore honoured in the breach than in the observance." Time and again, matters of liberty and equality have been taken to court, sometimes to the Supreme Court, a ruling made which may or may not reflect the liberties in the Bill of Rights plus the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and other amendments, and those rulings utterly and completely ignored, defied, spat upon in actual practice. It is disgusting and discouraging, and I do not see evidence of things getting better, certainly not within our lifetime and possibly not before our likely national collapse some time in the next half-century or so in the face of global climate change. The actual prospect for liberties looks pretty bleak to me, and our nation's founders are probably spinning in their graves.


  1. U.S. confirms warrantless searches of Americans

    1. Enfant... "Confirms"? "brags about" is more like it! Making a mockery of the whole collection of human rights, civil rights and civil liberties listed in America's Constitution seems to be a daily activity for the three-letter agencies, and if Edward Snowden hadn't blown the whistle on them, we still wouldn't know about it! And it's all in utter defiance of at least the Fourth Amendment, and probably a few more for good measure! America, once the "world's greatest democracy," is now showing the world by example... BAD example... how to protect liberties. I am ashamed of my country and its most powerful people.



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