I was planning on writing out some thoughts related to the film The Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, but, an article in today's New York Times has diverted my muse in a very different direction. My comments on The Secretary will appear here tomorrow.
Let me preface the following rant with a few words about my political leanings: I'm a rather moderate Democrat with Libertarian leanings. To me, this means that if a politician starts screaming about getting Government out of people's lives, I say to him let us be serious about doing it for EVERYONE. Across the board. I mean it. Let's not just mean this for "white, heterosexual, southern, fundamentalist Baptist capitalists" or anyone else who thinks the "right" way. Let's include everyone living in this country.
Given this stance, I was naturally rather alarmed to learn in a New York Times article entitled "Republicans Want Terror Law Made Permanent" that Senator Orin Hatch of Utah wishes to remove the amendments to the 2001 U.S.A. Patriot Act limiting the powers granted to the Justice Department until the year 2005. This would permanently relax some of the requirements that must be met in order for the Government to know what you've been doing on the phone, in the mail, or online, and it would permamently expand the information that the Government could find out about what you've been doing online.
So what is the harm in this, you ask? Well, the amount of harm is predicated on the fairness of the Government officials using these powers, and the history of the United States Justice Department to impartially enforce the law makes me suspicious. Certainly, the fact that men like J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon were able to initiate servaillance on politicians, media figures, and political oppponents for years (in some cases with the intent of advancing a political or social agenda) without question is very worrisome. In more recent days, I am VERY dismayed to hear about cases like that of Maher Hawash -- a foreign born U.S. citizen who is being held in solitary confinement in a high security Federal prison for 19 days (and counting) without being charged with a crime or being brought before a judge, supposedly to compel "material witness" testimony.
Everything I have read to date suggests that the reason we had the 9/11 attacks was because the Government wasn't "on the ball", not because they lacked sufficient powers to watch the terrorists involved (though I'm open to other ideas if good analysis is put before me.) The argument for extending those powers made at the time was that a state of "emergency" existed and "special powers" were needed. Now some seek to remove the "special" from "special powers". That, my friends, is a political agenda, not a response to extraordinary events. In my view, it's an agenda that stinks.
on 2003-04-09 at 12:50 p.m.
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