THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 177, June 10, 2002
FBI Guidelines Reveal Ulterior Motive
Special to TLE
Statements about the new FBI guidelines have been in no short supply since their announcement. What I have not heard are many questions- specifically, "What does the FBI hope to accomplish by monitoring church and political meetings and Internet usage?" The media and most commentators seem to take it for granted that the FBI's aim is to combat terrorism. The problem here is that the privileges arrogated by the FBI are not consistent with their stated goals.
The FBI wants to monitor public meetings of religious and political groups. Why? They can not possibly expect that an Imam will stand before his congregation and say, "Today's sermon will focus on our plan to poison the waters of Kansas City with cyanide." If they are simply looking for extremists (a highly subjective term), they must by necessity cast a large net. Anyone who says something in public at all hostile to the government or prevailing social order would be subject to investigation. Of course, the term for a regime that uses intelligence organizations to monitor internal dissent is "police state".
The American public is largely of the opinion that our government would never act in the same way that every government with an excess of power, including our own, has acted. We should not, they believe, have to worry that our government will use its new powers to crack down on dissidents. The government, after all, is only trying to keep us safe. This idea is simply wrong. Our own history provides countless examples of governmental abuse of power. As this article is written, thousands of Middle Easterners are being held without formal charges, access to counsel, or hope of a speedy trial. Nearly everyone is familiar with the internment of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II. A comprehensive list of abuses would fill several volumes and will not be attempted here.
Among the most common arguments in favor of expanded police power is that the new rules are temporary, to last only for the duration of the war. Wars, however, have objectives, enemies, and a point at which victory can be declared. President Bush shows every sign of engaging in a perpetual war against whomever he perceives as threatening. There is no end to the war on terror in sight, nor should we expect one in the future. The new powers should, therefore, be presumed to be permanent.
The FBI's new guidelines do not move us closer to a police state - they establish the beginnings of one. In turning away from freedom to gain illusory security, we abandon the very ideals that make this nation special and worth fighting for.
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