- WASHINGTON - So, the attorney
general of the United States tells me: "To those who scare
people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics
only aid terrorists."
- Well, screw you, buddy! What are you trying to say? Are
you saying that anyone who talks about civil rights, civil liberties and
the freedom that makes us Americans is a traitor in this undeclared but
loudly proclaimed war?
- I have messages for you, Mr. Attorney General John
former governor, former senator and all-round political perpetual: (1)
I am no traitor, and neither is anyone else who questions sweeping
of government power to search people's homes and minds; (2) if someone
or something has to be blamed and castigated for the breakdown in American
security analysis that occurred so horrifically on Sept. 11, we should
start with the foul-ups of the government itself in allowing terrorist
networks to develop almost openly over the past 10 years.
- Start by searching you own record, sir. Take a hard look
at what the FBI and the CIA have been doing instead of setting them on
ordinary citizens with new powers to tap, bug, search, seize, detain and
arrest. The people supposed to be watching over us have responded to their
own failures in watching our enemies by saying that now they need more
power to watch us.
- That said, Ashcroft impresses me as a small man, who
does indeed seem to see the very real terrorism crisis as an opportunity
to push a law enforcement agenda not unlike the one heralded as the
of the country in the bad old days of "The Russians are coming! The
Russians are coming!" His obvious determination to regulate almost
everything in the country, with the notable exception of any checks on
unlimited gun ownership by either citizens or aliens, seems somehow
from the real threat of foreign-sponsored terrorism. His blaming the
of the citizenry about terrorism is outrageous. Americans know what is
happening, and they certainly seem willing and eager to do something about
it, including the use of our military wherever in the world bad guys
- The libertarian monthly Reason is one of the few
that have the guts right now to criticize the repression impulse that has
coursed through the country since Sept. 11. The publication has gathered
men and women of both the right and left who understand, or are willing
to say, that the terrorism was not caused in some bizarre fashion by
guarantees of individual liberty and free speech.
- "Federal agents still need to make the case that
the expanded powers for which they are asking are necessary," the
journal quoted Jerry Berman of the Center for Democracy and Technology
as saying in its current issue. "It wasn't a restriction breakdown.
It was an analysis breakdown."
- The magazine also quoted two officials from research
- "Once people have been subjected to such
government surveillance, all relations between the government and the
are transformed. Whether the rulers be revolutionary despots or
elected officials, every citizen knows that 'they' know all about him and
his affairs, and hence no one dares to step out of line. In such a
the sociopolitical system will gravitate ineluctably toward
said Robert Higgs, editor of The Independent Review.
- "Friends of traditional American values -- namely,
freedom, privacy and justice -- should keep their eyes on two transcendent
issues during wartime," said David Kopel, the Independence Institute's
research director. "First, the effort to change our system of checks
and balances and our system of federalism with unreviewable central
power. Second, the tendency of people to suppress their own willingness
to think freely, and to lash out at those who do not similarly
- Watching members of Congress defer to Attorney General
Ashcroft, there is obviously a lot of self-supression going on in
these days. But not at the Justice Department or the White House; the
branch seems more intent on expanding its own police power at home than
in mobilizing the free will of the American people against terrorism from