“I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”—Osama bin Laden (October 2001), as reported by CNN
What a strange and harrowing road we’ve walked since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties. We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.
Our losses are mounting with every passing day.
What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.
The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation has been locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.
Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.
The rights embodied in the Constitution, if not already eviscerated, are on life support.
Writing at The Daily Beast, Jeff Stein asks whether America needs a new federal spy agency focused on domestic threats in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Americans who refuse to accept that outgoing President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.
But we already have such an organization. It’s called the FBI. Stein argues that the FBI is so focused on solving and clearing crimes that it’s not able to effectively engage in domestic intelligence gathering. He asks whether a new federal agency should be created for that purpose.
In reality, the FBI is set up just fine for intelligence gathering. In fact, under Trump, the FBI’s authority to secretly snoop on American citizens was actually expanded. The intelligence failures that preceded the attack on the Capitol involved a lack of communication between law enforcement agencies about the intelligence that had been gathered. It’s not entirely clear how yet another federal surveillance agency would fix that problem.
A recent Morning Joe appearance by CIA analyst-turned House Representative Elissa Slotkin eagerly informed us that the real battle against terrorism is now inside America’s borders.
“The post 9/11 era is over,” Slotkin tweeted while sharing a clip of her appearance. “The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. The threat of domestic terrorism. The polarization that threatens our democracy. If we don’t reconnect our two Americas, the threats will not have to come from the outside.”
“Before Congress, Elissa worked for the CIA and the Pentagon and helped destabilize the Middle East during the Bush and Obama admins,” tweeted journalist Whitney Webb in response. “What she says here is essentially an open announcement that the US has moved from the ‘War on [foreign] terror’ to the ‘War on domestic terror’.”
If Vice President Joe Biden decides to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, his past positions — including on trade bills, the Iraq War, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and changes to welfare — are sure to draw the ire of the party’s liberal base.
Much has already been made about Biden’s instrumental role as a senator pushing through the 1994 crime bill — “a bill that made the problem worse” according to former President Bill Clinton, who signed it into law.
Another potential sticking point for liberals: Biden not only voted for the 2001 Patriot Act, he, on many occasions, claimed credit for writing it.
“I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing,” Biden was quoted as saying by the New Republic in 2001.
“And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” Biden continued, referring to the Patriot Act. The act broadened the surveillance capabilities of U.S. law enforcement agencies as it relates to identifying potential terrorists, and many of its provisions have been opposed by liberal Democrats and civil libertarians.