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6/9/02

STRAPPADO WRACK

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Security is the chief enemy of mortals.
William Shakespeare

Security is a state of mind

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Look at the chart of the major Intelligence Community agencies. Your government provides links to each in order to share information about each organization. Missing from the FBI site is reference to the new role that President Bush is proposing for this Bureau. Internal Security sounds like a goal that citizens should eagerly support, but like any function that seems sensible, the devil is always in the details.

Now we are presented with a fundamental change in the role that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will operate under. After much speculation, the legacy that J Edgar Hoover built and the organization that entrusted Robert Hanssen to keep the country protected, will get the nod to run the nation's attempt to win the domestic war on terrorism. But what should we expect from such a radical departure for a federal law enforcement agency? Looking to the model from Britain may give us a clue.

Not to be confused with the Secret Intelligence Service home of James Bond MI 6MI 5 has the purpose to protect national security from threats such as terrorism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to safeguard the economic well-being of the UK against foreign threats, and to support the law enforcement agencies in preventing and detecting serious crime. The famed Scotland Yard of the Metropolitan Police Service has operated in the same general role that the FBI has traditionally occupied. But MI 5 is a very different agency by American stated standards.

Anyone familiar with visiting London will know that 1984 style surveillance is a regular part of the social fabric. Public cameras have become a way of life. The practice of monitoring has spread through much of that kingdom. Brits who have long enjoyed the protection of civil liberties, have come to accept these measures of observation. The trade off in privacy for perceived safety has wide spread support. The English are avid Socialists, but will Americans accept this kind of internal expansion of big brother?

By all accounts, many will. How far we have come as the land of the brave to willingly accept such drastic intrusion on our pursuit of happiness. If our internal security is really at risk, as the shapers of public opinion wish you to embrace, just who are the greater danger - the government or the terrorist?

The need to capitalize upon a crisis, real or imaginary, is a common theme that most governments have used to seize more control over their citizens. Nothing is new in the latest plan to make us safe through the expansion of policing functions. But can anyone really believe that another reshuffling of agencies, and their responsibilities, will produce the intended results?

England has another tradition that predates their acceptance of Oceania. It is called "Guy Fawkes Night", celebrated on November 5th. You remember him, that soldier (or was he a terrorist), motivated by religious conviction and a burning need to send the Houses of Parliament to their eternal reward. The "Gunpowder Plot" will always be associated with Guy Fawkes. Whether his intended mark was Parliament or King James, the idea of assassination for august bodies of rulers are replete throughout history. Even more recurrent than plots against regents or assemblies is the record of governments to make political capital out of the threat to public safety, while the true target of seditious rebels is the State itself.

Fawkes was treated to the delights of the rack for his failed attempt. Drawn and quartered was the punishment for the traitor to the Crown. But before the last gruesome agony, he was the special guest in the white tower. His torture encompassed all the suffering of the Strappado apparatus, but his death came within a day. We, on the other hand, are tenants in our own 'tower'. Our torment won't have the same level of corporal pain, but we will experience the anguish of a betrayed trust.

Folks - are Americans so brain dead that they are willing to walk to their own slaughter, that they will not miss their own head when the axman does his duty? "Tower Hill" is in full view of the dungeon that Homeland Security will bring. Face up to the reality that we have been sold a "bill of goods" with the approach that more is better. Can anyone seriously conclude that increasing the alphabet soup agencies or their roles will solve the real problem?  Their collective record is dismal. Yes, we are desperate for reorganization, but we don't need more of the same. What czar ever brought security to the public?

The underlying reasons for the Guy Fawkes' of this world is that government only cares about protecting their own interest, not ours! Let's at least be honest with ourselves. If America want to get serious about our safety, close the borders to likely suspects and expel illegals, and renounce an interventionist foreign policy. Hold government agencies accountable for failed performance and approaches, don't reward them with larger budgets and expanded roles. And compel out leaders to be honest with us . . .

Fawkes may have been "the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions." When will we get the same sincerity from government?

SARTRE - June 9, 2002

One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
Morris L. West

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