For the Sake of Argument
President Bush has announced ambitious plans for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security.
The new American secret police will have unprecedented power to spy on (or, as they say in Washington, "monitor") the formerly and allegedly private lives of "free" American citizens.
That means you.
Why the need for an American version of the KGB? The bogeyman. Or, as the all-powerful Dubya put it, "Thousands of trained killers are plotting to attack us."
What, has the entire voting public turned into drooling morons?
Attention: to all those who voted for Dubya as the "lesser of two evils." This is where voting for evils gets you. A vote for Harry Browne would have been better spent. Could not a democratic socialist such as Al Gore have sponsored an American Stasi as well?
As the Almighty Dubya continued, "this terrible knowledge [of the thousands of trained killers, in case you dared to relax for a moment] requires us to act differently." Yes, yes it does. For starters, perhaps the American ruling class could surrender its imperial ambitions. Perhaps the Congress will scrap the imbecilic (and unconstitutional) restrictions which it has placed upon gun ownership. Not likely. Still, to "act differently" need not imply the creation of an American secret police.
To be blunt, the existence of any Department of Homeland Security is a terrible idea, for a very simple reason: human nature.
For the sake of argument, consider what is implied by El Presidente's latest expansion of federal power. More federal agents, with more arms and ammunition than you can legally buy. And these heavily-armed federal agents will have the power to spy on you and your family. Without you knowing about it.
In the event that the new federal department still sounds like a good idea to you ("Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain." Goethe, Faust), consider the following: at some point, human nature being what it is, there will be an unscrupulous person who decides to abuse this new-found power.
Perhaps you remember the federal incineration of the Branch Davidians at Waco. Perhaps you remember the "confidential" FBI files on numerous Republicans which simply "showed up" on Hillary Clinton's desk.
And perhaps you are naïve or foolish enough to believe that such flagrant abuses are the exception, rather than the rule, in Washington, DC.
Worse, given the expanding powers sought by the "conservative" Bush, those who fall victim to the inevitable abuses of the federal government's nigh-ultimate power will be less able to defend and vindicate themselves than they are under the present system.
Janet Reno took "full responsibility" for incinerating 80 Americans — including children — at Waco. And she is not in prison. Recently, she was considered a top Democratic candidate for governor of Florida.
Hillary Clinton, who "found" confidential FBI files in her office, is now a U.S. Senator from New York.
The poor Founding Fathers. If only they had had a "Department of Homeland Security" to round up the Loyalists and ship them back to England. Clearly, the very notion of spying on American citizens was near and dear to the hearts of the Founding Fathers. The Fourth Amendment has got to go. Why not throw out the Constitution and the rest of the Bill of Rights for that matter — as long as it will make us safe.
Americans would be well-served to come to their senses. To paraphrase Ben Franklin: Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.
September 11 was a terrible tragedy. It would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions, however, to magnify the tragedy by selling the remainder of the liberty bequeathed to us by the Founding Fathers in exchange for a false promise of "Homeland Security."
Homeland Security? Give me a .45. A new federal department to tax me and spy on me? No thanks.
June 13, 2002
Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
© 2002 David Dieteman