Johnny Ashcroft: Supporting Constitution Aids Terrorism
"...to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
So, the attorney general of the United States tells me: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists."
Well, screw you, buddy! What are you trying to say? Are you saying that anyone who talks about civil rights, civil liberties and the freedom that makes us Americans is a traitor in this undeclared but loudly proclaimed war?
I have messages for you, Mr. Attorney General John Ashcroft -former governor, former senator and all-round political perpetual:
(1) I am no traitor, and neither is anyone else who questions sweeping expansion of government power to search people's homes and minds;
(2) if someone or something has to be blamed and castigated for the breakdown in American security analysis that occurred so horrifically on Sept. 11, we should start with the foul-ups of the government itself in allowing terrorist networks to develop almost openly over the past 10 years.
Start by searching your own record, Mr. Ashcroft. Take a hard look at what the FBI and the CIA have been doing instead of setting them on ordinary citizens with new powers to tap, bug, search, seize, detain and arrest. The people supposed to be watching over us have responded to their own failures in watching our enemies by saying that now they need more power to watch us.
That said, Ashcroft impresses me as a small man, who does indeed seem to see the very real terrorism crisis as an opportunity to push a law enforcement agenda not unlike the one heralded as the salvation of the country in the bad old days of "The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!" His obvious determination to regulate almost everything in the country, with the notable exception of any checks on unlimited gun ownership by either citizens or aliens, seems somehow detached from the real threat of foreign-sponsored terrorism. His blaming the naivete of the citizenry about terrorism is outrageous. Americans know what is happening, and they certainly seem willing and eager to do something about it, including the use of our military wherever in the world bad guys assemble and plan.
The Libertarian Monthly Reason is one of the few publications that have the guts right now to criticize the repression impulse that has coursed through the country since Sept. 11. The publication has gathered men and women of both the right and left who understand, or are willing to say, that the terrorism was not caused in some bizarre fashion by constitutional guarantees of individual liberty and free speech.
"Federal agents still need to make the case that the expanded powers for which they are asking are necessary," the journal quoted Jerry Berman of the Center for Democracy and Technology as saying in its current issue. "It wasn't a restriction breakdown. It was an analysis breakdown."
The magazine also quoted two officials from research institutions:
"Once people have been subjected to such thoroughgoing government surveillance, all relations between the government and the public are transformed. Whether the rulers be revolutionary despots or democratically elected officials, every citizen knows that 'they' know all about him and his affairs, and hence no one dares to step out of line. In such a situation, the sociopolitical system will gravitate ineluctably toward totalitarianism," said Robert Higgs, editor of The Independent Review.
"Friends of traditional American values -- namely, freedom, privacy and justice -- should keep their eyes on two transcendent issues during wartime," said David Kopel, the Independence Institute's research director. "First, the effort to change our system of checks and balances and our system of federalism with unreviewable central executive power. Second, the tendency of people to suppress their own willingness to think freely, and to lash out at those who do not similarly self-suppress."
Watching members of Congress defer to Attorney General Ashcroft, there is obviously a lot of self-suppression going on in Washington these days. But not at the Justice Department or the White House; the executive branch seems more intent on expanding its own police power at home than in mobilizing the free will of the American people against terrorism from abroad.