May 13, 2006

On Our State of Fear

Left: National Guard troops in formation

The revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in an information gathering operation affecting millions of Americans should have been shocking. This appears to be a blatant case of the federal government trampling on established rule of law in its quest to fight terrorism.

And yet most people with whom I speak seem unconcerned about the fact that the government has coerced some of the largest telephone service providers to turn over call records.

"Well, at least they are not connecting the collected data with individual citizens," is the usual sort of response to my queries.

The President insists that the domestic surveillance program is legal, necessary, and harmless.

"The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," he said today in his weekly radio address. "The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trawling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

The President may indeed be telling the truth, and this program really might be designed to develop a database of typical telephone traffic.

The datamining efforts by the NSA, however, are just a portion of the gradual erosion of privacy in this country, which began long before President Bush took office. Once the door is opened to illegal acts by the government the precedent is set for future assaults on liberty, and members of both major parties seem all too willing to allow our liberties to be usurped.

An overzealous federal government, however, is only a part of the equation. The more important consideration is an American citizenry cowed into a state of fear.

Domestic terrorism. Avian flu. Rogue nuclear states. Moral decay. Illegal immigration.

These are but a few of the dread-provoking scenarios that have caused many Americans to retreat into their homes and meekly accept the latest news of the excesses of an increasingly authoritarian government.

The mantra of fear is repeated in every pronouncement made by President Bush and members of his administration. The vertical integration of fear into the administration's messages would make an fascinating study in mass marketing were the stakes not so high. From today's radio address:

The enemies who struck our Nation on September the 11th, 2001, intend to attack us again, and to defeat them, we must have the best possible intelligence.
Fear of terrorism. Fear of avian flu. And most of all, fear of our own government. We live in a state of fear, and under a state of fear.

May God bless the United States of America, for the nation has never needed such blessing so much as it does today.


Dariush said...

Well said, Mike. Well said.

Sarah said...

Excellent post.

M A F said...

I would concur with Dariush, Mike.

As I consider the use of fear by this administration I can't help think about another time, another place where a nations fear was used as it is being used now. People then were afraid of the consequence of speaking out and chose conformity and complicity and tried to chastise those who spoke out as unpatriotic, enemies to the state.

In todays climate, tthe uttering of 9/11 and terrorism is supposed to elicit fear and complicity. "Remember 9/11?"

liberal_dem said...

Fear sells anything.

By the way, do you think that many people actually tune in on Saturday to listen to Bush?

McCaskey said...

HM: this essay has meat. Nice work. Pleasure to read. "May you live in interesting times," someone once said. We certainly do.

historymike said...

Thanks, all. I have never had a post that received a 100% approval rating - uh oh.

Brian said...

Liberal Dem,

Only the ignorant ignore important information because they don't like the messanger.

But your credentials in ignorance are pretty well established, are they not?

Brian said...

Thank you m a f for the inevitable comparison to Nazi Germany.

It only took the debate three posts to reach rock bottom.

-Sepp said...

I'll agree with maf brian. Nazis...maybe not to the same extent but, the germans never had a bill of rights to violate as we do. Want to eavesdrop? Get a friggin warrant. Simply monitoring everyone in the hopes of picking something up on any Joe Donut yapping on the phone is pure bs. Where do "we the people" draw the line in the sand? Are there so many generic terrorists out there that they feel the need to just watch everyone?
The government assures us that our personal information won't be released. The same government that is supposed to be safegarding nuclear secrets and national security secrets?

liberal_dem said...

Brian said...
Thank you m a f for the inevitable comparison to Nazi Germany.

Mike- This Brian character obviously hasn't read many of your postings in hte past several months.

I believe that he's that infamous "Brian in Vero" who spammed Progressive Toledo with his harassing posts.

What a loser.

Hooda Thunkit said...


You raised some very valid questions about the government “bending” our rights.

As -sepp said ”Want to eavesdrop? Get a friggin warrant.”

The government is inherently lazy. In time, they will begin eavesdropping while an agent is shopping for a friendly judge to issue the warrant.

Then, they’ll start eavesdropping, just for a little while, so as to be sure before seeking a warrant. You shouldn’t unduly “burden” an otherwise friendly judge.

Then it’s, well this might have possibilities, but we’re not quite sure yet, maybe we should listen for a day or so, just to be sure. We don’t to annoy “our” favorite judge…

I’m sure you see where this is going. Bureaucratic incrementalism, count on it.

I would much prefer an edge on OUR (the "We the People") side, for a change. Maybe the government types should be thoroughly ingrained in the spirit of, ”innocent until proven guilty.” And, “if in doubt, assume innocence.”

Come to think, there was once something written in stone, went something like: “Do unto others…” There's more but I (like the Feds) forgot the rest. . .

Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

AT&T gave a very bland, generic response to my complaint about this, as expected...unfortunately, Qwest doesn't offer local service here.