Now that we know that President Bush, through the misuse of secret executive orders, authorized the super-secret National Security Agency to monitor domestic phone and Internet communications without any involvement of the courts, it’s time to recall Admiral Poindexter and his Total Information Awareness project.
Recall that Poindexter, a convicted Iran-Contra felon until he had his conviction overturned on a technicality, had been appointed by Bush to develop a program using Pentagon and NSA supercomputers to monitor all communications and financial transactions in the country.
TIA was officially dumped when word of it leaked out, particularly because of the unsavory history of the man put in charge of it.
But it bears mentioning that in fact, much of the hardware and software for realizing Poindexter’s dark dream already exists. Carnivore–a software program that allows the Feds to scan all Internet communications for certain key words–is already in operation. American companies, in fact, have been honing these skills in products they have developed to help China monitor its Internet and phone systems. Don’t think those fearsome capabilities have gone unnoticed in the White House.
Without calling it TIA, our government too has begun massively snooping on Americans’ private communications.
This is where Bush’s so-called “War on Terror” has been taking us.
Every inch of the way, as new steps towards totalitarian control are proposed or introduced–things like John Ashcroft’s Operation TIPS citizen spy scheme, Poindexter’s TIA, a national ID card, or a chip in everyone’s passport–a cry has gone up from the public, left and right, and the administration has publicly backed off.
But then after the furor dies down, they’ve gone ahead and done it in another, quieter way–a smaller version of TIPS, uniform state drivers licenses that will be a national ID in all but name, and a supposedly less invasive chip in new passports, etc.
The reality is that Bush and Cheney, and all too many of the yes-men and yes-women in Congress, view the Bill of Rights as–to quote our chief executive–“just a goddamned piece of paper.”
These people have no respect for the concept of civil liberties. No respect for privacy. No respect for the rule of law.
What they respect, and what they want is total control.
There is still time to stop this march to dictatorship.
Some members of Congress, sensing the public’s unease, are starting to make a fuss. They’ll do more if the American public starts to really get angry at what is being done to traditional American freedoms by the White House gang, but only if we all start making it clear that we’ve had enough.
The terrorism threat is a sham.
9-11 happened not because the U.S. was a free society, but because the people in charge were either asleep, didn’t want to be bothered, or, more sinisterly, actually wanted for some “Pearl Harbor-like event” to happen.
The real threat to America and to Americans is not some radical religious zealot with a bomb, but a gang of power-hungry politicians bent on making their control in Washington permanent.
That threat will be defeated not by giving up our freedoms, but by defending them all, fiercely and without compromise.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org