Entertainment Interruptus

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by Ilana Mercer

The film Spy Games reached a crescendo as retiring CIA officer Robert Redford transfers $282,000 of his life's savings to an account in the Cayman Islands. The money is supposed to help pay for the rescue of Redford's bureau protégé Brad Pitt, who has been "burned" by his employers at the CIA for going solo. Pitt turns rogue, when he has a revelation. He discovers that working for the CIA is a dirty business. For years, Pitt manages to swim in some very polluted waters until he becomes romantically entangled. The object of his affections is a bitter British bit, who herself is no stranger to blood sports. In one of her varied incarnations as a human rights activist, this gentle soul blows up a building. In the process, she kills the son of a Chinese diplomat. Unbeknownst to Pitt's love interest, the CIA offers her up to the Chinese in exchange for an American captive operative. No great loss, says I, but not according to Pitt, who attempts to rescue the girl from this infernal pit. In the process, Pitt is captured, tortured, and is about to be put to death, when Redford pulls a clever stunt.

As the Cayman Island transaction is playing out on the screen, my mind becomes tangentially – but necessarily – preoccupied. I confess, I can easily become bored during a film, and am wont to tug at the sleeve of my better quarter and, not unlike a two-year-old, ask questions: "I'm not sure," I tell the wincing man, "that Redford would be able to complete such a transaction now, not with the new anti-terrorism laws." "Can't you leave me in peace," comes the poor man's tortured reply, a line he has commandeered from Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers.

Back home, I attempt to search for the relevant information among the sea of "Legislation Related to the Attack of September 11." The contagion includes nine "Bills and Joint Resolutions Signed Into Law, nine "Other Resolutions Approved," fifteen items of "Legislation With Floor Action," and dozens of "Legislation Without Floor Action." Sure enough, the protagonist – not to mention the screenplay writer – in Spy Games would have found his style cramped somewhat by the new USA PATRIOT ACT. Banker's secrecy agreements notwithstanding, Redford's broker would probably be wise to "file a report of a suspicious financial transaction." An amendment to this act indeed mandates that a registered broker submit a suspicious activity report.

The bills that have already been signed into law have been exposed many times over for their assaults on liberties, assaults that are not commensurate with safety. The banking subterfuge is no different, and neither is it new. As Veronique de Rugy of the Cato Institute notes, "Financial transactions and bank accounts in the United States have been monitored for some time now." Unfortunately, this monitoring – a spying game that the American Bankers Association pegs at roughly $10 billion a year – didn’t detect the nine SunTrust accounts used in Florida by the terrorists involved in the attack of the World Trade Center.

The USA PATRIOT ACT is indeed supposed to provide "Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." In theory, the Act could certainly make an alien with terrorist affinities "ineligible for admission or deportable," that is if such ties were readily traceable. The Act cannot void of vipers the many U.S-based Jihad nesting grounds, set up for the purpose of funneling ideological trainees into the terrorism trade, just as "French laws monitoring bank accounts and illegal activities don’t stop Algerian terrorists living in France from regularly murdering people by placing bombs in subways."

If the existing votes-for-visas immigration policy were not bad enough, Bill S1424 proposes to grant officials "permanent authority" to confer an "S" visa on an alien if he can supply critical information with respect to criminal or terrorist organizations. The thought of bureaucrats freely using visas as bait to recruit operatives for the intelligence community is chilling. Still less confidence-inspiring is the notion of releasing into American neighborhoods individuals who are in a position to rat out an al-Qaida member.

Then there are the Resolutions condemning any "discrimination" against Muslim Americans. Aware as we are that freedom of association has long been prohibited, and forced integration mandated – does this Resolution also condemn sensible security-related profiling? If so, it is positively perilous to our safety.

Many – if not most – bills have deceiving titles. The appellation of the "Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act" masks a bailout bill for the airline industry. Other bills like the one proposed by, wouldn't you have guessed, "the Hildebeast," are worse than useless. Sen. Clinton spearheaded an increase in funding to "mental health providers serving public safety workers affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11." The de reguer therapy used to "treat" such workers would be crisis intervention and debriefing. This psychotherapeutic modality is useless as far as efficacy goes, and may even be harmful to its recipients.

A cursory perusal of the legislation related to the attack serves as an intemperate – and much needed – reminder that the "work" of the legislator is plain fatuous. What on earth are these people doing by issuing "a joint resolution expressing the sense of the Senate and House of Representatives regarding the terrorist attacks launched against the United States"? Or how about a joint resolution encouraging every United States citizen to display the flag of the United States? Or one "condemning any price gouging with respect to motor fuels during the hours and days after the terrorist acts of September 11"? To paraphrase journalist Barbara Amiel's memorable words, government is keeping out of our bedrooms, but what is it doing in every other room?

I don't mean to sound callous, but being blown up by terrorists is no reason to give victims awards for valor. The deaths are a result of horrible happenstance; they are not conscious acts of bravery. Yet there is a spasm afoot to confer the highest of honors on "civilian employees of the Department of Defense who are killed or wounded by a terrorist attack."

Fido has not yet been given the Purple Heart for his olfactory contributions to the September 11 rescue efforts. But one giddy Rep. by the name of Benjamin Gilman wants Congress to recognize the Furry Brigade "for their service in the rescue and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001." (What can I say? "Blessed Be the Cheese Makers for They Shall Inherit the Earth." See "The Life of Brian.")

Advance such consistently puerile notions in a private sector job, and you stand to be fired, or at the very least examined for the presence of a brain infarct. Here's an idea for our parochial parasites: Stop groping greedily and obscenely for the "Stimulus Package" in order to revive the economy. Instead, resign. In pirate parlance, "walk the plank"! Get a job! Do your patriotic bit for the Nation.

Ilana Mercer [send her mail] is a freelance writer. Please visit her website.

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