Liars and Lapdogs

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its sidekick the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sustained a fatal blow last week — or one that would have been fatal if the federal government were trying to safeguard rather than subjugate us. A British jury returned its verdict in the "Liquid-Bomb Plot" on Monday, refusing to convict the eight defendants of terrorism.

And what is the "Liquid-Bomb Plot"? The Crown alleges that Al Qaeda recruited a cell in London whose members connived during the summer of 2006 to cause a “loss of life on an unprecedented scale." They planned to drain the fluid from bottles of Lucozade, a "sport and energy drink" popular in the UK, and replace it with chemicals that explode when combined. The terrorists would then board "up to 10" flights leaving Heathrow for the US and Canada, mix their components, and blow the planes sky-high. Fortunately, alert bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic foiled them just in time, while "they were in the final stages of planning for execution."

If you think this sounds awfully pat, you’re right. It’s made to order for keeping serfs fearful of a big, bad world where WMDs lurk everywhere, even in bottles of glorified soda pop. And it casts government as the knight in shining armor who rides to our rescue. While British police arrested 24 suspects on the night of August 9, 2006 (and promptly released many of them because they were so obviously innocent), the TSA imposed draconian new restrictions regarding liquids and gels. Americans arrived at airports the next morning to confront 3-hour lines as screeners swiped baby food and hand sanitizer. The TSA’s rules against such innocuous substances remain among its silliest and most hated to this day.

British cops had spied on the supposed terrorists for months, but they claim their investigation wasn’t complete when the Bush Administration pushed them to make their arrests. That didn’t keep either government from insisting that it had saved us from imminent catastrophe. But how imminent could it be if the "terrorists" had yet to purchase plane tickets? Indeed, they weren’t even holding reservations.

These chasms weren’t the story’s only holes. Despite extensive surveillance, the prosecutors failed to connect any of the defendants with Al Qaeda. And the recipes for liquid bombs are tricky. Cooking up an explosive that’ll actually detonate requires a laboratory’s precise conditions and equipment; not even the brightest star in the terrorist firmament can throw a bomb together in the sky.

No wonder jurors weren’t "convinced of the existence of a plan to attack aircraft in mid-flight." They exonerated one man, reached no decision on four others, and pronounced the last three guilty of "conspiracy to murder," not terrorism. (Displeased with this result, the Crown will re-try the unlucky seven.) Happily, with the liquid-bomb scenario as discredited as the flat-earth theory, Virgin Atlantic Airways is "call[ing] for a review of continuing security restrictions on carrying liquids in hand luggage." Need I add the insufferably stupid and stubborn TSA is not?

You might think this severe a shellacking would humble Our Masters, however slightly. But just two days after the jury’s verdict hit international headlines, on the "eve" of 9/11 (what, has this become the neo-con Christmas or something?), the US Secretary of Homeland Security touted the tattered tale as fact rather than fantasy. Michael Chertoff averred that "…the August 2006 airline plot which was directed at flights coming from the United Kingdom into North America, including the United States … would have had an impact in scale and in loss of life comparable to September 11th."

So bald a lie is infuriating enough. But it gets worse. Chertoff delivered this whopper at the National Press Club, which bills itself as "the world’s leading professional organization for journalists." Chertoff is so arrogant, and so confident no one will call him on his fibs, that he brazenly cited the debunked plot to a room full of newshounds. And he was right: absolutely no one challenged him. Not a single question about the trial or verdict and their significance for the TSA’s unconstitutional searches dimmed Chertoff’s smirk.

Perhaps the acquiescence was a sham: the Press Club vets questions, according to a friend and writer who’s endured some of its confabs, so maybe dissidents wanted to object but couldn’t. Or perhaps the speech’s conclusion softened the audience prior to the Q&A: "I want to thank the press," Chertoff purred, "because much of what you have done in shedding light on the challenge we face has helped to move public opinion." Insults don’t come much deadlier. But none of "the world’s leading professional…journalists" took umbrage at the implication that they spread propaganda. Chertoff blithely continued, "We don’t always agree and I can’t always say I — that all reporting is accurate," — read: "and those of you who didn’t run your copy past me know who you are" — "but I think when you stand back and look at the institution of the press, it has made a far greater contribution to the security of the country than anything that one might say negatively about it." Again, we might expect listeners to swarm the podium, ready to tear the profoundly offensive Chertoff from limb to limb.

But no. The press that is supposed to be liberty’s watchdog proudly wears the muzzle of Leviathan’s lapdog. You can almost see the Club’s unidentified "Moderator" rolling over, tongue lolling and all four limbs pawing the air, as he gushes, "Thank you very much, especially for those last remarks. I know I speak for everybody in the room that we don’t hear that very often. It’s greatly appreciated. So thank you." Then comes the tiniest touch of truth, the only one in the nearly 9200 words of this sickening charade: "I think you just said [that] so I wouldn’t ask you any mean questions." Ha, ha.

The speech suffered no shortage of other outrages. Preaching "preparedness" for hurricanes, Chertoff assumes we are too stupid to heed our instinct for self-preservation: "preparedness" is certainly government’s duty but "the individual['s]" as well because he "has a responsibility to be prepared, to respond to instructions from emergency managers; to make sure that when you do evacuate if you’re asked to do so, you have gasoline in the car, you have money, you have a little bit of food and water, you have your necessary medicines…" Later, Chertoff brags that no one anywhere is safe from America’s spying: "We’ve dramatically enhanced our intelligence capabilities around the globe…" Then he threatens "to use every tool in the national security and homeland security toolbox, and we also have to invent a few tools that we haven’t yet fashioned." It’s a good bet none of the "tools’" designers will draw their specs from the Constitution. Nor does Chertoff blush at "incapacitating" the innocent: "…we have arrested and successfully prosecuted a number of people… for acts that perhaps were not terrorist in nature but allowed us to incapacitate someone who we had reason to believe was a terrorist." Yet this incendiary confession of utter dictatorship enjoyed a complacent, courteous reception.

As the Amerikan Empire continues to metastasize, the lines and allegiances will become starker. On the one side, the many who serve Leviathan and their winking, nodding, greedy, groveling accomplices.

On the other, the few who still own souls.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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