Thursday, August 29, 2002
Dirty Lie Liberty Die
Feel the Fear
WARtertainment Reality Television
Keep the Change
Most of the time, the real problem does not, indeed, depend on the choice of ends but on the choice of means. In a democracy, to defend tolerance, freedom, the equality of rights for all and sundry, we sometimes need to be able to use violence if these principles are under threat. Not only is tolerance not a complete virtue - he who tolerates injustice or suffering for others is nothing but an indifferent or egotistical being - tolerance could not stand up to being pushed to the extreme, at the risk of negating itself. This is the "paradox of tolerance" which has it that if we were to tolerate everything, we would accept the totalitarian schemings of those whose purpose is precisely to eliminate all forms of tolerance.
This reporting system is being developed by the Department of Justice in coordination with several other federal agencies, including the Office of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and FEMA, as a part of Citizen Corps. The program was announced in concept in January 2002 for the stated purpose of creating a national information sharing system for specific industry groups to report suspicious, publicly observable activity that could be related to terrorism.
The Justice Department sent a letter to the Senate counsel's office August 7 requesting that members of the Senate committee and their press staff submit telephone logs, memos, visitor sign-in sheets and other material showing communications with the news media between noon June 18 and 3:15 p.m. June 19, when CNN broadcast details of the intercepts. The letter also called for calendars, appointment books and e-mails for the senators and their press staff during that period. No similar request was made of House Intelligence Committee members.
The list of organisations sounding the alarm should be enough to make the Justice Department reflect on its actions: it includes the National Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the International Press Institute. But the Justice Department has refused to comment - officials were unavailable last week - and President Bush, according to his spokesman, Ari Fleischer, "does not think it is a proper course of action for the White House to tell the Justice Department how to go about its investigations".
The Homeland Security Bill passed early Saturday by the House of Representatives appears to kill Operation TIPS, the administration's controversial effort to encourage millions of Americans to report suspected terrorists to authorities...Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has compared TIPS to a ghetto informant program run by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s. Agents hired neighbors of suspected political protestors to spy on them."It was a very, very sorry time in our history," Leahy told Attorney General John Ashcroft at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. Ashcroft defended the controversial TIPS proposal. Under questioning from Leahy, he said that the program would merely "be a referral agency that sends information that is phoned in to appropriate federal, state and local law enforcement agencies."
Sure, even since the launching of the War on Terrorism, lip service has been paid to American traditions of civil liberties and freedom. Of course, sometimes that lip service to freedom is spookily Orwellian, such as dubbing President Bush’s plan to have every American devote two years of their lives in service to the state the “Freedom Corps.” (Even more disturbingly, this scheme encourages people to create a “record of service” documenting what they’ve done for the state in a “private journal” maintained on the government’s Freedom Corps Web site.) Brian Doherty, An American Stasi, Reason Magazine, July 16, 2002
After spending approximately half an hour chanting and listening to speeches, the protesters, led by Weiss, went to the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance to the Justice Department's headquarters building to ask that the department promise to abide by the congressional prohibition on Operation TIPS. More than 20 uniformed and plainclothes officers from several federal law enforcement agencies blocked the protesters' access to the building, even closing one of two large iron barricade doors to keep them from entering. After brief negotiations between Weiss and the ranking officer, a DOJ spokesman emerged and talked briefly with the demonstrators. "The statement stands. The program is still under development," said Mark Corallo, deputy director of the Office of Public Affairs. "There have been a lot of misconceptions about the program, and we will clarify those in the coming days. That's all we have to say."
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