Enough is Enough

June 2, 2002

by John K. Bates

On the heels of last week’s Bush administration “hyper-fear” campaign (question: Where were all the terror attacks? And why weren’t the fear mongers back on the Sunday shows when the attacks did not in fact materialize?), we now have what could perhaps become the coup de grace to American liberty and freedom. Not surprisingly - and I am sorry for those conservatives who want to give the man the benefit of the doubt, but he is simply horrendous - it comes from the desk of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft has apparently never met a freedom he does not view with suspicion, and in the post-9/11 atmosphere that thinking people should really be getting tired of by now, he continues to insist that Americans are not safe until and unless the big, protective nanny state known as the federal government drapes a suffocating, protective cloak over them. Only George W. Bush and John Ashcroft know best; Americans are incapable of defending themselves or of making rational decisions.

Two stories in the past week illustrate this. The first was the FAA’s insane “thumbs-down” decision on the ability of pilots to arm themselves in the cockpit. More on this absurdity in a bit. The second story, which ran late on Tuesday, was the plan to supposedly “revamp” the FBI to combat domestic terrorism. In particular, the plan (as reported by FoxNews.com) calls for “fully employing authorized methods in preliminary inquiries to prevent terrorism even before information warranting a full investigation has been obtained” and, as part of this, for “undertaking investigation even where no present crime exists but facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that terrorist offenses will be committed.” The stated goal is “protection of the United States and the American people from terrorism as the highest priority and central mission of the FBI.”

The American people need to wake up, and wake up quickly, to what its supposedly conservative government wants to do to it. For what Mr. Ashcroft proposes is not just some sort of “anti-terror” program, it is a tremendous truncation of the freedoms that Americans know, love, and sadly, take for granted. For only a populace that sincerely believes that its freedom cannot be taken from it could go along with most of the precepts that Mr. Ashcroft postulates.

Let us consider, for example, a direct quote from the proposed guidelines: “The FBI shall not hesitate to use any authorized lawful technique, even where intrusive, where the intrusiveness is warranted.” Goodness. Even where intrusive? Those three words alone are more chilling than any Usama Bin Laden videotaped screed. Exactly who defines “intrusive”? The American people? Or the government? Or John Ashcroft, he of the “Americans should not expect any relief, possibly for their lifetimes, from a series of high alerts against ongoing threats of terrorism” quote? And who is to determine when “intrusiveness” is necessary? Is it during a time, like last week, when the government declares “terror alerts” that for the umpteempth time are proven false? Is it when we visit an airport, a train station, or a stadium? Is it in the privacy of our own homes, or our mailboxes, be they real or online? The new FBI guidelines do not say, but we may be sure that, in the name of “security,” our masters in Washington will leave no stone unturned or freedom undisturbed in order to protect us.

It gets worse. Another quote from the new guidelines claims that the FBI will reduce “the approval level for initiation and renewal of terrorism enterprise investigations from FBI headquarters to Special Agent in Charge.” This will, according to Fox, “(allow) agents in the field to decide when an investigation calls for surveillance and other measures that used to require approval at the top of the bureaucratic food chain.” So now an agent, with no approval from above (and no check or balance from the people he is ostensibly hired to serve) can call for an investigation against anyone he chooses. God help the poor soul who cuts off an angry agent in traffic, or the bartender who cuts him off after having a few too many off-duty beers. The possibility for abuse with these new guidelines is enormous, but because they are proposed in order to “protect us,” they are somehow acceptable and beyond scrutiny.

One more quote from the new guidelines: FBI agents will participate in undercover investigations by “visiting places and events which are open to the public, on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally, for the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities.” In other words, you could be at a concert or a ballgame, talking to a friend about perhaps how stupid and asinine the federal government has become on the issue of national security, and unbeknownst to you, you are sitting next to an FBI agent empowered to “detect or prevent terrorist activities” and hence you may find yourself investigated. It makes me wonder (as I sit on an airplane writing this) if the rather nice gentleman seated next to me is an FBI agent who is surreptitiously reading this column and deciding I need to be investigated. After all, if such decisions are to be made arbitrarily, since I am penning decidedly unfriendly sentiments about my government, should I not qualify for an “investigation” under Herr Ashcroft’s new guidelines? I guess if the FBI (or the IRS) shows up at my door in the next week or so, I will have my answer.

The stench of the new FBI guidelines fits perfectly with the ludicrous decision to disallow pilots the ability to arm themselves while they are performing their duties. But it is no surprise. The more time that passes, it is clear that the “war on terror” is about two things unrelated to actually protecting Americans from any real threat. The first is fear generation, the same tactic used for years in areas as diverse as welfare, Medicare, and Columbine. This concept, which was spectacularly on display last week, holds that we must be afraid and therefore we must embrace the federal government to take care of us. The second, equally bad idea on display is that once we are afraid, we are incapable of taking care of ourselves and them we must give the federal government complete control of our lives in order to properly protect us. This point goes to the heart of both the FBI “restructuring” and the FAA pilot gun ban; both points tell us in no uncertain terms that we are feeble, weak, and that only a wise, benevolent - and increasingly powerful - government in Washington can possibly protect us.

One has to believe that the early settlers of this land heard such a spiel by King George, who promised to protect them from the evils of the French and the Indians just so long as they gave him enough control over their lives. I wonder if this generation of Americans will ever wake up to the fact that this government of supposed “conservatives,” men and women who espouse the concepts of individual freedom and liberty that the Founders embraced, are instead taking those freedoms away one by one in the name of “national security.” Unless they do, the taking of our freedoms will continue until there are few left. The American people should oppose the new FBI powers and finally say “enough.” We can take care of ourselves.


John K. Bates is a part-time freelance writer who works in the energy engineering field and lives in the Denver, Colorado area. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits and the company of his family of three cats. His columns can also be seen on CheyenneNetwork.com.

Send the author an E mail at Bates@ConservativeTruth.org.

For more of John's articles, visit his archives.

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