Bush's authoritarian presidency is America's greatest threat
"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." - Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, Scene IV, Act i.
With the world's most powerful military at his command, George W. Bush approved policies three years ago that enpowered and encouraged members of the U. S. military to spy on American citizens -- people like you and me:
Under the programs, civilians and military personnel at defense installations are encouraged to file reports if they believe they have come across people or information that could be part of a terrorist plot or threat, either at home or abroad. The Talon reports are fed into a database managed by the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, a three-year-old Pentagon agency whose budget and size are classified.
The Talon reports -- the number is classified, officials said -- can consist of "raw information" that "may or may not be related to an actual threat, and its very nature may be fragmented and incomplete," according to a 2003 memo signed by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.
Now that the programs have been exposed, the Pentagon is promising to 'review' its massive and poorly managed database on U. S. citizens:
"On the surface, it looks like things in the database that were determined not to be viable threats were never deleted but should have been," [a senior defense department official] said. "You can also make the argument that these things should never have been put in the database in the first place until they were confirmed as threats."
Who will determine which supposed threats are confirmed and how reports will be handled in the future? Why, the same folks who created the illegal programs in the first place -- the same Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Pentagon that cannot account for billions of missing dollars in Iraq; the same leadership that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and "happy Iraqi" news via Pentagon propaganda purchased with funds that should have been spent on body armor for soldiers.
Isn't a Rumsfeld-led Pentagon review of its own activities rather like Duke Cunningham investigating bribery, Karl Rove investigating dirty tricks, Bill Frist investigating the SEC or Tom DeLay investigating political sleaze? Not to mention all the administration's deceitful "reviews" of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, the imaginary links between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the "slam dunk" distortion of intelligence that led us into the Iraq invasion.
Further demonstrating his administration's contempt for the U. S. Constitution, the president also admitted this week that, under the guise of protecting the country from terrorist threats, he had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to bypass or ignore -- whenever some nameless administration official or NSA spy deemed it expedient -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and to eavesdrop on U. S. citizens:
Previously, surveillance on American soil was generally limited to foreign embassies.
American law usually requires a secret court, known as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to give permission before intelligence officers can conduct surveillance on US soil.
Some people, mainly diehard Bush supporters, may be unconcerned that their own personal mail, telephone conversations, internet emails, blog comments and web surfing history -- even their computer hard drives -- may be monitored by Big Brother. They trust the Bush administration to use its assumed powers properly, although Mr. Bush himself refuses to tell us the rules to the spy game he is playing upon his own people. They trust an administration that remains cloaked in secrecy, that outs a CIA operative to advance its own agenda, that buys and distributes propaganda with our tax dollars.
So, before shrugging off the authoritarian practices that unleashed America's most powerful spy agency upon us, we should take a closer look at the National Security Agency's tremendous size and powers:
A few miles out of Washington, on Route 1 to Baltimore, lies an inconspicuous military installation called Fort Meade. You would not notice it unless you knew what to look for. In fact, on most road maps, Fort Meade does not exist. And yet it contains the largest mass of secrets in the world.
Though invisible on the map, 38,000 people work at the agency every day, more than the CIA and FBI put together - every one of them sworn to a lifetime of secrecy. They have their own police force, shopping malls and sports complexes - and their own television network, complete with newsreaders.
According to author James Bamford, who has studied the NSA for years, each one of their dozen largest listening posts around the world picks up more than two million communications an hour - cell phones, diplomatic traffic, emails, faxes. That works out at 500 million hours every day.
I don't. Not with a sociopathic president who sports a track record of creating his own reality, twisting intelligence, ignoring human rights and operating in secrecy at every opportunity. His aggressive attempts to seize uncontrolled executive powers have met with little or no judicial oversight, with absolutely nothing but self-serving lip service to the rule of law from a Republican controlled Congress, with acquiescence and political cowardice from the opposition party, and with impotent press coverage by a supine, incurious and sometimes complicit fourth estate
The president's mad grab for unlimited power is being done under the guise of fighting terrorism -- but the security measures and political machinations are defined and plotted by his inner circle of allies behind closed doors. What a tragedy for our country that we have allowed one man, backed by a Republican Party's lust for power at any cost, to use 9/11 as an opening to pursue an authoritarian agenda.
As Benjamin Franklin put it over two centuries ago, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty."
George W. Bush not only has made us less free, he has made us less safe. The level of arrogance, recklessness, and lawlessness displayed by this president and his administration should arouse not only fear and concern -- but condemnation and outrage -- from every American.