In the Dead of the Night

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As
the latest massive corruption and incompetence of our nation's intelligence
bureaucracy was being revealed, top administration brass huddled
in secrecy to work out the details of their next ratchet step toward
a police state. Their furtive power grab reveals an increasingly
clear pattern of behavior from the Bush White House.

Shortly
after 9/11, A.G. Ashcroft ramrodded through the USA Patriot Act,
granting federal cops unprecedented power to spy on and detain broadly
defined "terrorists" and those who "aid" them,
effectively suspending much of the Bill of Rights. Congress lacked
the chance to debate or even read the bill prior to the vote, after
being oh so conveniently forced to vacate their offices by an anthrax
scare likely perpetrated by a top government scientist still on
the loose. Only Wisconsin's Senator Feingold had enough doubts to
vote nay.

Now,
reeling from mounting evidence that the administration allowed the
9/11 attacks through gross stupidity, negligence or lust for power,
the Washington Post reports
that four top White House officials were tasked to secretly draw
up plans for the new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.
For 10 days starting on April 23, White House Chief of Staff Andrew
Card, Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge, chief counsel Alberto Gonzales
and budget director Mitchell Daniels met “in a bunker-style, secure
conference room beneath the White House.”

Like
everything else in this long-running drama, the timing is oh so
convenient because on May 3, the very day the first draft was compete,
the story that the FBI ignored warnings of pending attacks broke
in the media, subsequently snowballing into the usual finger-pointing
and culminating in last week's congressional testimony from FBI
“whistleblower” Coleen Rowley. The upshot of these revelations is
that our federal bureaucracy, under the control of the president,
is woefully unprepared to protect us from terrorists. This certainly
isn't news to those who've been paying attention.

The
new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was finally sprung on
us just last week as an administration fait accompli. And
just in case you thought your country even resembled a democracy,
think again. The White House thought the “element of surprise would
give their proposal a better chance of success. Early leaks…would
have allowed opponents, particularly committee chairmen who stand
to lose authority under the proposal, to gain the initiative.” That’s
right, telling citizens what their government is planning would
give them a chance to discuss the matter in public, and maybe even
try to stop this latest power grab. But turf
wars
in Congress will probably give way quickly as Republican
backers offer generous porky payouts, while threatening the patriotism
card against any who balk, or try change the subject back to the
failure of the Bush administration to stop the attacks.

DHS
combines
“22 federal agencies under one umbrella with a $37.5 billion budget
and 170,000 employees,” making it “the biggest US government department
after the Pentagon.” And with the Pentagon’s ongoing wars continuing
to manufacture ever more enemies of America, and the FBI/DEA/ATF/INS/BLM/SS
creating its share of disaffected indigenous victims, those numbers
are sure to grow as the creation of a terror-free homeland becomes
as illusive as a drug-free one, and for many of the same reasons.

This
massive new bureaucracy will not prevent future attacks. As they
become flooded with oodles of data from their ubiquitous eavesdropping,
sorted and mined for nuggets with expensive new computers and software,
they won't be able to separate the signal of pending attacks from
the noise. What DHS will provide is the hammer to aggressively enforce
the USA Patriot Act, and they could even brand as terrorist facilitators
those Americans who visit certain websites, blow off steam online,
or engage in healthy political speech. "If you're not with
us, you're with the terrorists," says our leader, and soon
he'll have the muscle to back it up.

Only
affected cabinet secretaries and a few senior Republican congressmen
were given one day's notice of the new plan. Once Tom Ridge is likely
made Secretary Ridge, our revamped federal government will effectively
be run by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ridge and Ashcroft, with Congress
relegated to the status of a yapping Chihuahua, and the American
people reduced to a cowering giant kept submissive with daily doses
of propaganda and antidepressants.

The
analogy to godfather II Michael Corleone secretly plotting his vengeful
ascendancy with his consigliere and head thug is truly frightening,
as the ongoing Washington soap opera of power politics plays out
like a slow motion putsch. With this history of furtive paranoia,
“chilling” doesn’t begin to describe what these people are capable
of when the “inevitable” next attack comes, as they operate like
the scariest of terrorist cells hatching their dangerous schemes
in complete secrecy while hunkering in their hardened bunkers.

These
facts are just what's been reported in the press. With freedom of
information officially rendered DOA by this administration, it may
be years before we can know the really scary details.

Civil
libertarians, terrified of appearing extreme, are expressing their
usual bland “concerns.” Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic
Privacy Information Center, thinks
we need to “ask larger questions about where this administration
is taking the U.S. government,” but from their extreme actions it’s
pretty clear where that is. As Bob Dylan told us years ago, “You
don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”

June
12, 2002

John
Bottoms [send him mail]
writes, works and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

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