“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the ability to endanger the public liberty”. ---John Adams
I was nine years old.
Standing at the Austro-Hungarian border of the Iron Curtain, I noted the numerous graveyards dotting alongside the electric fence, all the way from horizon to horizon. Between each and every one of the dozens of graveyards were watchtowers with guards standing ready with their machine guns.
The dead lining those graves? Spies! Spies! Every one of them.
Just because we stood at the border for ten minutes, the machine guns pointed. At me.
At nine years old, I was the condemned spy of our party, ready to be laid in my grave!
My mother quickly whisked me away, saying that we weren’t going to be a border incident.
No, I was not scared. At my young and innocent age, I didn’t even know what had happened. I found out later. But it did open my eyes up many years later, especially with the onset of post-911 legislation. I was converted FAST from staying away from politics with two ten-foot poles, to being unstoppable.
Why am I telling you this story? Because there are so many parallels to post-911 USA. The manifestations may differ but the psychodynamics are exactly the same: It was spy paranoia which informed the shootings at the Iron Curtain border, just as it is terrorism fear which has us hyper vigilant now. And those very “protections” were then, and are in the USA today, the exact things which end up clamping down on the people. And their freedom.
Not that terrorism isn’t a real thing from which we legitimately need to be protected. And not that we also don’t know that Bush played hand-and-glove with those terrorists, and still does. But it’s beside the point:
Based on fear we are going overboard with Iron Curtain-like legislation in post-911 USA. Warrantless Anything such as warrantless wiretapping (FISA broadening, Patriot Act), warrantless arrests without probable cause (Patriot Act) etc. by-passes the fundamental “check” of the Judiciary on government power, and is an invitation to abuse. And where abuses existed in foreign countries, we have an opportunity to learn from history. If we do not say the typically American “bah humbug, that would never happen here”.
While my sister sat in a café in Budapest and talked with friends, she mentioned one dangerous word: Government. “SSSSHHHH!!” Our friends immediately jumped all over her. These were ordinary citizens, no big fish in the pond. Such was the state of surveillance.
Anyone who thinks that America is not headed in that direction-----fast-----is wrong.
Concerning warrantless wiretapping, surveillance etc., Al Gore writes a stirring account in his book, “The Assault on Reason” :
“Why should we be concerned about such eavesdropping? Recall that for the last several years of his life Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was illegally wiretapped…the FBI privately called King ‘the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country’ and ‘vowed to take him off his pedestal’. The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and allegedly tried to blackmail him into committing suicide. This campaign continued until Dr. King’s murder. In fact, it was the discovery….that helped persuade Congress to enact new statutory restrictions on wiretapping in the first place”.
So much for “paranoia,” as most Americans would say to any “Frightened liberal“ opposing such eavesdropping. The belief that wiretapping and surveillance make us safe may be based on faulty assumptions: