New Page -- 6 September 2003
Updated -- 4 July 2005
Benjamin Franklin once observed: "They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." 
These words take on special meaning when one considers the grotesquely misnamed, manipulative and fundamentally deceptive USA Patriot Act. This is the monster which brought forth the specter of George Orwell's 1984 by creating the Department of Homeland Security. Initially led by "Security Czar Tom Ridge" , the newly formed cabinet level department employs hearsay, rumor, gossip, theories, hunches, and fears -- a predominance of fears -- in order to create pointless alarms, unfounded panic, and semi-plausible concerns. This is also the group which suggested the use of duct tape to seal all windows and doors, such that the unwary citizen who followed their advice could be suffocated in their homes. The Department of Homeland Security is really stupid!
On the one hand, Ann McFeatters of the Post-Gazette National Bureau in Washington reports that forty percent of the 160,000 employees working for the Department of Homeland Security are "watchers" at airports, while some 324 funeral directors, 128 pharmacists, 55 general anthropologists and 30 chaplains are also on the payroll. Less curious is that employees from the Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (the dreaded FEMA), the U. S. Coast Guard, and the New Transportation Security Administration (the latter being the famed "TS" Administration). Homeland Security, [at the time] less than one year old, employed one of every twelve workers in the federal government.  Feel any safer?
It is also really dangerous. Members of Homeland InSecurity don't think twice about misusing their powers and technologies. They did, for example, search for Democrats absent from the Texas legislature who are spending time in Oklahoma in order to avoid a partisan redistricting plan being rammed through the Texas House. Apparently, viewing these recalcitrant legislators as enemy combatants, HS went after the absentees with all of its abilities. But such antics pale in comparison to their plans to use:
“Iris, retina, and fingerprint scanners; hand-geometry assayers; remote video-network surveillance; face-recognition software; smart cards with custom identification chips; decompressive baggage checkers that vacuum-extract minute chemical samples from inside suitcases; tine radio implants beneath the skin that continually broadcast people’s identification codes; pulsed fast-neutron analysis of shipping containers (‘so precise’, according to one manufacturer, ‘it can determine within inches the location of the concealed target’); a vast national network of interconnected databases – the list goes on and on.”
“Such ideas have provoked the ire of civil-liberties groups, which fear that governments, corporations, and the police will misuse the new technology. [“America’s best-known ex-cryptographer” Bruce Schneier] believes that “these measures can be useful, but their large-scale applications will have little effect against terrorism. Worse, their use may make Americans less safe, because many of these tools fail badly – they’re ‘brittle’, in engineering jargon. Meanwhile, simple, effective, ductile measures are being overlooked or even rejected.” [emphasis added]
"The moral, Schneier came to believe, is that security measures are characterized less by their success than by their manner of failure. All security systems eventually miscarry in one way or another. But when this happens to the good ones, they stretch and sag before breaking, each component failure leaving the whole unaffected as possible." 
The gist of Schneier's argument is: "if you think technology can solve security problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology." Encrypting transactions on the Inter Net, for example, is as Purdue computer scientist Eugene Spafford has remarked, "the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit-card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench."
What is particularly disturbing is that the whole reason for a Homeland Security Department rests on the so-called threat of terrorism, which as succinctly discussed in This War on Terrorism is Bogus by a recently former ranking member of the British Parliament, may in and of itself be bogus. In other words, no Department of Homeland Security is needed, simply because the initial disaster could have been prevented by the security apparatus operating at the time, but which was in all likelihood deliberately allowed to happen -- in what is now referred to as LIHOP, "Let it Happen on Purpose." Meanwhile, for an American perspective, William Rivers Pitt, editor of truthout, has written his similar views in "I Believe." This is also a must read!
Meanwhile, for an American perspective, William Rivers Pitt, editor of truthout, has written his similar views in "I Believe." This is also a must read!
But it is the loss of civil liberties, the loss of privacy, and the loss of fundamental legal rights such as due process, remedy and recourse, and habeas corpus which makes these so-called security measures so threatening. Combined with a former U.S. Attorney General who advocated ever greater power of an out-of-control government over its citizens and a Supreme Court with apparently no interest whatsoever in guaranteeing constitutional rights, the Department of Homeland Security is as close to the Spanish Inquisition that America has yet seen. John Ashcroft as the former Attorney General, for example, was seen by one professor of constitutional law as "a constitutional menace". 
Note for example that according to Common Cause , "The USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress shortly after 9/11, grants the government new authority to investigate not just selected terrorists, but you, your neighbor, and any other United States citizen or resident. For example:
Examples of the problem range from detaining a pilot of a small plane which inadvertently veered over a motorcade of President Bush  to unwarranted restriction of the civil liberties of Muslims  to plans by the U. S. government to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if there was insufficient evidence to charge them -- the latter plan condemned by a host of individuals and organizations, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. 
If this sounds like shades of Fascism -- as exemplified by Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), and Suharto (Indonesia) in times past -- then consider Dr. Lawrence Britt's 14 Defining Characteristics common to each fascist regime :
Recognize any of these? ...like, for example, the United States under Preemptive Rule and the current State of the Union? The above 14 points could be the roadmap for the current illegal administration. On top of that is the potential horror of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should it be activated by a fear-based Presidential Executive Order. See, for example, Harry V. Martin's essay on the subject.
Admittedly, as Douglas Adams has noted, when you're dealing with an obsessed enemy willing to do anything, and you are not similarly obsessed, then you are at a serious disadvantage. The problem of such great concern is that it is very likely to be the United State government who is the obsessed enemy willing to do anything!
As the assassin in the movie, Gross Pointe Blank, noted, it helps to have a "certain moral flexibility". Killing someone is then pretty much a piece of cake. In the case of the U. S. government, imprisoning people for life without due process, sending off soldiers to die on foreign oil fields, bombing into oblivion anyone getting in the way of a "shock and awe" campaign, stealing elections without a hint of remorse, and in general doing whatever one decides they want to do -- regardless of ethics, morals, and/or laws -- has become the rule rather than the exception.
The United States government has now embraced fascism, but astoundingly it is not totally clear that they even understand that fact.
In August 2003, for example, Attorney General John Ashcroft began traveling to a dozen or so U. S. cities to "set the record straight" about "mischaracterizations" of powers granted to the Justice Department under the USA Patriot Act. He was also advocating for additional powers proposed by the so-called "Patriot Act II". The fact that many of the scheduled groups on his whirlwind tour were radical and extreme right wing groups did not lend credibility to Ashcroft's purported agenda.
Meanwhile, Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle of The Center for Public Integrity  have reported that John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration have been preparing "a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information." This sweeping expansion, entitled "Patriot II" is about as welcome as Rambo VIII.
[Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that such an Act of Congress will never be introduced -- if only because of the negative publicity -- and instead, the federal government will simply begin enacting the effects of the draft legislation without bothering with the expediency of making it legal or constitutional.]
As the former Attorney General of the United States, Ashcroft has said, "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." 
If there is anything that needs to be done in the United States today, it is to diminish the resolve of anti-patriots such as John Ashcroft! National unity is not something to be desired if it is in fact national slavery. After all, slaves are often very unified -- albeit primarily in becoming something other than slaves. But unity at the price of freedom is no bargain. Yet this is precisely the "devil's bargain" which Ashcroft offers.
It is also worthwhile to compare John Ashcroft's statement with Benjamin Franklin's, the latter being repeated here for convenience: "They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." 
The real terrorists are the legions of fear-mongering Ashcroft, Bush, and Cheney supporters. Terror in the heartland is the doings of the USA Patriot Act(s?). It is indeed unfortunate, but all the evidence points to the fact that the ABCs of the "Axis of Evil" are Ashcroft, Bush, and Cheney. Fear is the true enemy, and those who foister fear are the primary axis of evil.
Former Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, Gene E. Franchini, is reputed to have written :
Time Magazine  has reported that 47% of Americans polled in January 2002 -- a few months after 9-11-2001 -- believed that the government should violate their civil liberties to prevent terrorism. This percentage had fallen by September to 33%. Meanwhile, there had been a 20% increase in the American Civil Liberties Union membership in the same time period -- a group dedicated to protecting civil liberties.
Obviously, a significant minority of Americans have no use for Benjamin Franklin's sage advice concerning liberty and safety. And apparently, they would also probably not agree with:
On the other hand, it is extremely important to note that a majority of Americans do not believe that the government should violate their civil liberties in order to prevent terrorism. In a democracy, this should carry some weight. In a republic, it should dominate the issue. Another of Benjamin Franklin's statement should thus become the rallying cry of Americans:
"I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power." 
Just remember that:
 Walter Isaacson, "Citizen Ben's 7 Great Virtues", Time Magazine, July 7, 2003.
 Bruce MCall, "Homeland Security, Explained", Time Magazine, 2003.
 Charles C. Mann, "Homeland Insecurity", The Atlantic Monthly, September, 2002.
 "Is Ashcroft Looking Over Your Shoulder?", CauseNET for August 18, 2003. For more information: http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=12126&c=207.
 "Numbers", Time Magazine, October 2002.
 "Pilot Detained After Veering Over Bush Motorcade", http://channels.netscape.com. 25 July 2003.
 "Nearly Half in U.S. Say Restrict Muslims," http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com. 18 December 2004.
 "Lugar Condemns Plan to Jail Detainees for Life", http://www.washingtonpost.com, 2 January 2005.
 http://www.abqtrib.com/archives/opinions03/092603_opinions_patriot.shtm( (Being the voice of reason, this link may no longer be available on the Internet.)
 Formerly located at http://www.rense.com/general137/fascism.htm.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]