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
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.