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Manufacturing Hysteria
Bogus Terror Threats and Bush’s Police State
by KURT NIMMO

Bomb Las Vegas, America’s gambling Mecca and glittery playground built on desert sands by mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lanksy, and Frank Costello?

Only al-Qaeda, we are assured, would contemplate such a depraved act — and it stands to reason because those varmint Muslims hate our way of life. They are envious of our freedom to play the nickel slots and idle away carefree hours perched over blackjack tables — or get no fuss, no muss marriages at Circus Circus.

As it turns out, the ubiquitous al-Qaeda harbored no such plans to bomb Las Vegas — or, for that matter, any other target in America over the most cherished and commercialized of holidays. Apparently, the whole thing was idle speculation on the part of the Washington Post.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman took umbrage, chastised the paper for "picking these rumors out of thin air and writing a major story about them… This could have a major effect on our quality of life here. We depend on people coming here and feeling safe. If I were the enemy, Vegas would be on the bottom of my list."

Mr. Goodman, however, is missing the point — that’s precisely what the Machiavellian Bushites want the American people to do: agonize over irrational and unsubstantiated claims of vicious terrorists lurking out there under cover of mistletoe, plotting radiological attacks and who knows what other evil deeds, determined to destroy our "quality of life," as well as our way of life, and imperil our sense of inviolability.

In the week following last year’s now largely forgotten holiday season terror alert — recall five Arab men who supposedly crossed into the country via Canada — the Bushites were rightfully accused of manufacturing hysteria (resulting in the shut down of New York’s harbor) for political gain. But when no al-Qaeda sleeper cells blew up the Statue of Liberty or mowed down Christmas shoppers in Times Square, the Bushites blamed the whole thing on a perfidious informant, Michael Hamdani, an accused forger of passports and traveller’s cheques.

As if to underscore the fact there’s little difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Democratic strategist Russ Barksdale said at the time fake terror alerts make prefect sense. "Of course the White House is going to exploit the terrorism threat to the fullest political advantage. They would be fools not to."

But when you scratch below the surface it becomes obvious there are far more tangible and ominous aspects to Bush’s manufactured terror alerts.

After Tom Ridge went before the nation with his nebulous claim of impending doom and destruction, six casino-hotels owned by the MGM Mirage conglomerate wasted little time cross-referencing the names and Social Security numbers of guests and job applicants against those on law enforcement wanted lists. "We also now have a hotel security directors association in Las Vegas," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman revealed. "They used to focus on passing information on pickpocket rings, things of that nature. But since 9/11, their mandate has become so much more serious."

The USA PATROIT Act rushed on a whirlwind through Congress now forces businesses to snoop on their customers. Retail businesses, the telecommunications industry, and financial institutions are required to violate customer privacy. Section 215 of the act removes probable cause and allows federal law enforcement to subpoena any "tangible thing" — including customer records, library check-out lists, medical records, and bank account information. All of it now may be shared with the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Even before 9/11 and the passage of PATROIT, the government was determined to use terrorism as a crowbar to pry into the private lives of citizens.

For instance, in June of 2000 the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorism recommended the FBI and CIA be allowed to "bend the rules to gather information on terrorist groups," CBS reported at the time. Even before this, in 1996, the Clinton administration proposed and Congress passed so-called anti-terrorism legislation that seriously endangered constitutional and statutory due process protections. PATROIT has now opened the floodgates and allows the government to further erode constitutional protections.

Earlier this month, the FBI implemented guidelines allowing the agency to "conduct many more searches and wiretaps that are subject to oversight by a secret intelligence court rather than regular criminal courts," an official told the Washington Post. In other words, the FBI no longer need worry about your civil liberties, specifically privacy and due-process. Civil libertarians worry the new guidelines will be used in cases not related to terrorism, such as civil criminal cases.

"By eliminating any distinction between criminal and intelligence classifications, it reduces the respect for the ordinary constitutional protections that people have," Joshua L. Dratel, a New York lawyer who has filed legal briefs opposing government anti-terrorism policies, told The Washington Post. "It will result in a funneling of all cases into an intelligence mode. It’s an end run around the Fourth Amendment."

But it’s not simply the Fourth Amendment under assault by the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Bushites — the First Amendment is under attack as well.

In November it was revealed that the FBI has meticulously collected extensive information on the tactics, training, and organization of antiwar demonstrators. In October the agency sent a memorandum to local law enforcement agencies sharing this information prior to demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco.

"The FBI is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times."The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we’re going back to the days of Hoover" and COINTELPRO.

"If COINTELPRO had been a short-lived aberration, the thorny problems of motivation, techniques, and control presented might be safely relegated to history," reported the Church Committee in 1975. "However, COINTELPRO existed for years on an ‘ad hoc’ basis before the formal programs were instituted, and more significantly, COINTELPRO-type activities may continue today under the rubric of ‘investigation.’"

Continue on an "ad hoc" basis they surely did — as intrusive FBI activities directed against the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Earth First! and Judi Bari, the General Union of Palestinian Students, the antiwar activist Brian Wilson and others after Hoover presumably shuttered COINTELPRO in the early 70s demonstrate. For as former FBI director Clarence M. Kelley testified before the Church Committee, when the government believes it is "faced with sufficient threat, covert disruption is justified" — and the Constitution be damned.

Bush’s fraudulent terror alerts endeavor to convince America that "sufficient threat" exists to such a perilous degree from a largely mythical al-Qaeda that not only is "covert disruption" necessary — as the FBI memorandum sent to local law enforcement alludes — but a wholesale decimation of the Bill of Rights is also in order. PATROIT II — with its specification that troublemakers shall be deported — wasn’t craft on a whim by legal clerks with nothing better to do at the Justice Department. It will be enacted and used in due time.

Sooner or later there will need be a real "terrorist event" in America, lest Bush earn the same reputation as Aesop’s wily sheep herder who cried wolf. No telling when exactly, but chances are it will go down late next summer, about the time usually obeisant Democrats get desperate about the idea of taking back the White House, not they actually stand a snowball’s chance in hell of doing so.

Gen. Tommy Franks was not talking through his helmet — these guys actually believe democracy is a "grand experiment" that has exceed its shelf life. So stay tuned for a "casualty-producing event… that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event."

Martial law is rarely kind to dissenters.

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/blogger.html . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, will soon be published by Dandelion Books.

He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com