The USA's New Way to Destroy Democracy
With the internal plans in the Department of Defense and the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security, the USA has embarked upon a program of spying on citizens and deceiving them at the same time, a program unprecedented even during times of total war (as in WWII). William M. Arkin, a military affairs analyst, has written an article entitled "Lies enshrined: Pentagon making deception a major, stated goal." And these lies are not designed to simply fool an enemy, but also to fool the citizens of the United States.
Whether or not we have a right to accurate information for decision-making as the voter-rulers of the country, we have always assumed that we do have a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to be immune from the violation of our personal integrity and privacy until charged with a crime or until a search warrant has been issued based on "probable cause." But the Pentagon Honchos have decided that they must be able to ferret out every bit of personal and private information about our lives in an operation called "Total Information Awareness." This KGB-like intrusion into our lives will monitor passports, visas, work permits, airline tickets, rental cars, gun purchases, chemical purchases, and other activities involving electronic transactions such as, presumably, credit card purchases.
Significantly perhaps, the TIA snoop program is being run by Admiral John Poindexter who was convicted of lying to Congress in 1990 in connection with the Reagan-Bush terrorist war against Nicaragua and the illegal secret dealing with Iran (the "Iran-Contra" scandal).
These snoop and lie programs must be viewed within the context of the FBI's "Carnivore" device which can examine everyone's email, the USA Patriot (sic) Act's provisions extending authority for intrusions into one's communications and private lives, the Department of Transportation's secret "no-fly lists," and the legislation which recently created the Department of Homeland Security. The latter includes a provision calling for the creation of "the Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection." This agency will be responsible for creating a database on citizens and residents, which could be used to spy on domestic critics of government as well as any "terrorists" who might be foolish enough to talk about their plans (or persons unlucky enough to have had contact, however innocent, with some "suspicious" person).
It is not clear just how the DIA-IP and the TIA will interface with each other, but it is possible that two separate databases will exist on each of us. Will our medical records and our federal and state tax returns be part of the data collected? Since such records are now digitalized and often sent via email, it is very possible that they will be caught up in these huge filing systems (and, incidentally, matched with our telephone conversations captured by satellites overhead, especially our overseas conversations). It is hard to imagine Admiral Poindexter not wanting to pour over the lists of charitable donations reported by Arab-Americans, for example, or to match their files with telephone calls to Yemen et al.
The new Homeland Security legislation (which should really be called "State Security" since it protects the government bureaucracies more than it does the land!), also broadens the ability of government spies to monitor our email messages, since it changes the criteria for searching from an "immediate danger" to simply one of a "reasonable belief' that a crime might occur. (See Marc Sandalow, "Homeland law evokes fears of 'Big Brother,'" San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 28, 2002, p. A24, for further information.) This must be viewed within the context of the FBI's "Magic Lantern" program which allows the agents to secretly plant a device on a person's computer which records every keystroke; even of writings deleted or not sent. (See Nat Hentoff, "The Terror of Pre-Crime," The Progressive, Sept. 2002, p. 16.)
It seems that the "Founding Fathers" and "Sons of Liberty" of U.S. Revolution days are being replaced by Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin. The Pentagon and the White House are creating a totalitarian system of internal spying and lying which far exceeds any so-called "War on Terrorism," and which, in fact, becomes a form of terrorism against the people of the country. This Stalinist system of internal repression would appear to be aimed precisely at the kind of people who brought the Vietnam War to a close through protests, since, most certainly, those planning a gigantic U.S. empire will want to be able to prevent effective internal disagreement. Moreover, the transfer of wealth and power internally from the people as a whole to small groups of wealthy investors in powerful corporations will have to be shielded from effective dissent.
For those dear souls who believe that the FBI et. al. will never try to trample upon the rights of patriotic citizens, just recall the Bureau's war against the civil rights movement, the FBI's harassment of the critics of U.S.-backed massacres in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and the Bureau's "Cointelpro" operation against the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party. As Senator Frank Church warned us in the Seventies, spying can reach the point where all resistance to government can be controlled because it can be known in advance. And as we know from the past, citizen groups can be penetrated by government agents who not only report on all actions, but initiate counter-productive actions themselves.
for Native Americans, who face a very likely massive attack upon tribal sovereignty from the Republican Supreme Court, White House, and Congress, the possibilities of spying, suppression, arrest, and imprisonment are legion!
© 2003 Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is a historian, social critic, and poet, covering issues of international and inter-ethnic relations for 45 years. He is the author of Red Blood, Africans and Native Americans, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard and other books. He is professor emeritus of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. He can be contacted at his web site.
This article was originally published in News From Indian Country February 10, 2003 issue.