A Police State You’d Better Believe In
by Jack Kenny
When our nation is waging “war on” so many things (drugs, crime, poverty, terrorism), it’s hard to know where to enlist and when to defect. Or put another way, when should a patriot oppose his government? One answer, which we may hope is obvious, is when his government is waging war on liberty. The trick, of course, is to recognize it as such, since the government will always claim to be defending liberty when waging war against it.
Thus it is that in the “war on terrorism” our government is building, brick by brick, a new police state, called “Security.” Consider, for example, this item from The Washington Post:
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.
The administration wants to add just four words — ‘electronic communication transactional records’ — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the ‘content’ of e-mail or other Internet communication.
But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.