Grave Domestic Threats to National Security

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As the critics
of Julian Assange noisily suggest that he and WikiLeaks are a threat
to national security, it is well to ask ourselves what really threatens
national security.

In his Farewell
Address
of January 17, 1961, President Eisenhower did not focus
on communism and the Soviet Union, which for many years had been
identified by U.S. governments as threats. He devoted but one paragraph
to that "hostile ideology." Instead, he dwelt upon three
grave domestic threats. The first was the military-industrial
complex.

"But
threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two
only…

"This
conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms
industry is new in the American experience…Yet we must not fail
to comprehend its grave implications…

"In
the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition
of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial
complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power
exists and will persist.

"We
must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties
or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only
an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing
of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with
our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may
prosper together."

The second
threat he identified was the conjunction of the federal government
with universities:

"The
prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment,
project allocations, and the power of money is ever present —
and is gravely to be regarded.

"Yet,
in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we
should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger
that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological
elite."

The third threat
was financial mismanagement:

"As
we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government
— must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for
our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.
We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without
risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.
We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not
to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."

All three of
these threats are now actualities that have grown in size and power.
They have harmed and continue to harm a great many Americans.
The nation has been taken into unnecessary wars that have drained
its human and material resources while impeding more fruitful economic
growth. The leadership has come from the nation's federally and
state-supported universities. The ideas have come from intellectuals
trained in these universities. The financing has been aided by the
nation's central bank.

The institutions
that embody the three threats noted by Eisenhower have not only
grown in size and importance, they have also become complementary
to one another as subsidiaries that operate together to support
the enterprise known as the American Empire. The empire is supported
by a central bank that enables the creation of an ever-larger debt
burden. It is manned by men and women of empire who rotate through
posts in government, academia, foundations, lobbies, and the military-industrial
complex. Government oversees its operation and creates the additional
financial, military, intelligence, and diplomatic institutions that
turn it into a world-girdling empire.

Now, it is
extremely interesting that Ike was worried mainly about domestic
threats. And he was not referring to the so-called "domestic
extremists" that the FBI and the DHS are so worried about.
He was not referring to isolated cases of homegrown bombers or terrorists.
He was not talking about such terrors as young men who seek jihad
in the embrace of FBI double agents, or even men who plant explosives
in their shoes or underwear.

Ike was not
worried about isolated persons or groups that turn to violence.
He was worried about threats that had organizations behind them
that had know-how, power, money, and influence. These important
threats worked through institutions, and these institutions reached
everywhere in America. They were pervasive. He was worried
about existing, respected, powerful, influential, well-financed,
and pervasive institutions that accumulate excessive power.
He was worried about government being absorbed by and absorbing
these institutions, so that they fuse into one. In short, he was
worried about America's developing a corporatist state.

His address
is very pointed and clear. He speaks of an "immense military"
of "vast proportions." He speaks of its "total influence"
being widely felt, and he worries about its "unwarranted influence"
that affects "the very structure of our society." He says
it may "endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

As one remedy,
Ike calls for a reduction in the size and scope of the military
establishment: "Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence,
is a continuing imperative."

Apart from
some reduction in nuclear arms, the U.S., spurning Ike's advice,
remains a very heavily armed nation with a global presence.

As a second
remedy, Ike looks toward Americans themselves to guard against the
corporatist state:

"Only
an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing
of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with
our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may
prosper together."

The words "only"
and "compel" make this a very strong statement. The force
or power of citizens themselves is necessary to keep the
government in check and preserve liberty.

But this citizenry
must be "knowledgeable." If the people do not know what's
going on in the secret lairs of the corporatist state and if, to
the contrary, they are educated and propagandized to support that
state, even though it harms them, then their legitimate power to
compel in order to preserve their life, liberty, and property (i.e.,
their rights) is accordingly reduced.

This is where
Julian Assange sees himself and WikiLeaks fitting in. He has the
aim of supplying facts that governments and other institutions hide,
facts that we need so as to be knowledgeable. That begins our assignment.
It is up to the rest of us to interpret these facts so as to understand
what they mean and what they are telling us about our governments.

If anything,
Assange and WikiLeaks are beneficial to our quest for national security
by providing key inputs to the process of monitoring government.

The largest
threats Americans face are not foreign threats. They are not the
threats of terrorists. They are not threats from hurricanes, floods,
or droughts. They are not threats from biological viruses. They
are not threats from environmental destruction or man-made climate
change. They are not even threats from the blowing up of airplanes
and buildings, with the accompanying injuries and loss of lives.
These events are not of the organized, ongoing, pervasive, overwhelming,
powerful, well-funded, and well-planned type that change the very
structure of society.

The gravest
threats to their security that Americans face are domestic. They
come from government. Government is strongly institutionalized.
It is in place. It is everywhere. Government communicates to the
public. Its speech invariably gets publicity. Government still commands
a significant degree of trust. Government monopolizes certain missions
that are crucial to Americans. Consequently its threats to national
security are much more serious than any of the threats it purports
to fight, including terrorism.

America now
has a corporatist state that is growing by the day, week, month,
and year. What Ike seemed to fear, but did not quite articulate
at that juncture, has come to pass. The government itself is now
the single largest threat to national security. A few of the latest
signs of this include the Patriot Act, loss of due process, militarization
of police, a high degree of corruption within the justice system,
the Department of Homeland Security, expansive use of executive
orders and notions of inherent powers, and threats of unconstitutional
martial law and emergency rule.

We are at a
point where, to avoid being jailed, most of us have to sacrifice
what we regard as our legitimate interests and rights. We are forced
to give in and obey. At the same time, we lack the power to stand
up against these challenges to our rights and interests.

A nation of
persons in this position lacks national security. We lack security
against the depredations of our own government and the corporatist
state.

Who does not
harbor fear that he or she will be found out for violating some
"crime" that is now on the books? Who cannot easily be
framed for being in possession of planted drugs or some other forbidden
object? Who cannot be beaten or even shot to death for a random
motion of his arm? Who can fly without being x-rayed or assaulted?
Whose possessions cannot be seized and forfeited under the thinnest
or pretexts? Who dares not to pay their taxes? How many people fear
protesting? How secure do young persons feel when students are warned
that their futures are at stake if they read cables released by
WikiLeaks?

Government
grows step by step with pretexts and rationales for its growth.
A major one is national security. The concept of national
security has expanded drastically since its inception (see here).
At the outset, it meant little more than for a nation to be free
from being dictated to by other nations. This accorded with the
concept of negative rights. By the time we get to Obama, national
security has become a term that is used to comprehend and cover
the government's broad political and economic agenda. It is now
a term invoked to justify almost anything that those in charge of
big government choose to do: manipulating the financial system,
controlling the internet, attacking other countries, subsidizing
favored energy projects, favoring certain allies, controlling education,
controlling transportation, controlling the economy, controlling
obesity, controlling health, and creating and expanding a war on
terror that knows no time, space, or resource limits.

Do Julian Assange
and WikiLeaks really threaten American national security? That is
actually a very implausible assertion. The U.S. faces very few and
limited foreign threats, and the ones it does face are either of
its own making or exacerbated by its intrusive policies around the
world. What threats there are, including terrorist threats, can
be reduced by more enlightened policies overseas and at home. This
would mean shrinking the empire and shrinking domestic government
while setting free American entrepreneurialism.

It
is too soon to tell whether the material that WikiLeaks releases
will be used for significant good or ill, whether it is a factor
making for lesser or greater public support for big government,
and whether it is a factor that makes for lesser or yet greater
exercise of government power over Americans. A great deal of history
remains to unfold.

But no matter
how this plays out, when the critics raise the charge of national
security threat against Assange and WikiLeaks, it is not only laughable
but also, unfortunately, a diversion from the truth, which is that
the largest and gravest threat to Americans is a domestic one —
their own government — and President Eisenhower identified this
incipient threat 50 years ago. In doing so, he reminded us of ideas
expressed even more boldly and explicitly at the time of the American
Revolution. These ideas are political gold, waiting to be restored
to circulation by Americans.

December
15, 2010

Michael
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire
.

The
Best of Michael S. Rozeff

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