The Stalinization of Amerika

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, rather than hold accountable and roll the heads of the bunglers at the U.S. intelligence agencies who failed to follow up on multiple reports of possible terrorist activity, students learning to fly but not land, and possible hijacking plots, such as—

In a memo from the Phoenix FBI to headquarters, the agents recommended an urgent nationwide review of flight schools “for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions” of a terrorist connection. The memo reportedly cited Osama bin Laden by name.

Intelligence agencies were instead granted the expanded budgets and power that are always sought in the aftermath of a crisis. They were forced to abandon the nifty name and logo they had come up with (pictured at right, above) when its too-graphic, Big Brother-isc depiction elicited protest, but the spirit was fully retained, and a new era of unprecedented, total and widespread spying on innocent Americans began.

Unfortunately, the problem with a Total Information Awareness state is that it sweeps up prodigious amounts of data that is just so much noise that U.S. security agencies are demonstrated to be bad at filtering.

Wasting countless resources on false positives, violating the rights of innocent people, etc., the FBI bungled yet more direct information in failing to follow up on warnings concerning the Boston bombers.

As has been learned in every community in the U.S. as budget “crises” and the militarization of police forces result in less and less security for the common citizen, individuals sensitized and acting upon their powers of observation are far more effective at reducing crime than any number or force of police. Neighborhood Watch, for example, despite its sullied reputation in the Trayvon Martin case, is a proven-effective tool for empowering individuals to take charge of their security.

The only terrorists actually stopped since 9/11 have similarly resulted from sensitized individuals acting: the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, the Times Square bomber, were all foiled by “common” people acting on their powers of observation.

Thus the irony that the trend of U.S. “intelligence” agencies away from good old fashioned detecting towards trampling the rights of individuals results not only in the loss of our liberties, but also in the loss of our security.

The second problem with the U.S. government collecting and indefinitely storing every email, phone call, text, website posting, etc., and the response to those innocents who bleat “But why should I mind? I have nothing to hide,” is something that Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s notorious secret police chief, well knew:

Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.

There is no individual whose private calls, emails, postings, bank and credit card transactions, online activities, and even private conversations in the “privacy” of your home, cannot be edited to paint the portrait of an enemy of the state.

And a police state makes for very many enemies indeed.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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