Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Frum & Perle: Eighteen

AETE, pps 74-7: More advocacy on behalf of Big Brother:

[I]t was not a general wariness of obsolescence that caused the PATRIOT Act [to be made with sunset provisions], but a very specific fear that he passions of the moment might stampede us into doing something "hysterical". Two years on, however, it is those fears of hysteria that themselves look hysterical. [...] The right to dissent frourishes unrestrained -- indeed, to judge by the way some of President Bush's wilder opponents carry on, it flourishes unrestrained even by common politeness or basic accuracy.

[I]n our appropriate zeal to preserve and defend the right to speak freely and think differently, there is a real danger that Americans will make th eopposite mistake. We may be so eager to protect the right to dissent that we lose sight of the difference between dissent and subversion; so determined to defend the right of privacy that we refuse to acknowledge even the most blatant warings of danger.

Now it's their turn to extoll the virtues of TIPS, and rationalize its morality and utility in the typical neocon style, which is roughly equal parts chutzpah and batshittery:

In the 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush unvelied an ambitious program that invited American workers to report suspicious activity in public places, especially docks, highways, public transit, and public utilities. These are the sorts of installations that are both the most vulnerable to a destructive act of terrorism and also the most difficult to police. Here's just one scenario: Ten al-Qaeda men lease ordinary-looking white trucks at ten different locations, load them with explosives, drive one into the middle of the Tirborough Bridge, another onto the Golden Gate Bridge, a third to the junction of the Santa Monica and San Diego Freeways, a fouth into the center of the Chicago Loop, and so on, and then, at an appointed hour -- detonate them all simultaneously. How in the world do you prevent something like that? Probably the only way would be a tip from the agent who leased one of the trucks -- or else maybe a report from a keen-eyed trucker who noticed something untoward about the vehicle in the next lane. That reasonable insight was the genesis of the Terrorist Information and Prevention System, or TIPS for short. To the astonishment of the administration, TIPS provoked an out burst of anger and mockery. Critics conjured up the possibility of deliverymen spying on their customers and meter readers peeking through windows. The administration responded by issuing new rules that specifically exempted from the program any postal and utility employees who served or even had access to private houses. The revisions failed to mollify, and the final version of the Homeland Security Act that Bush signed in November 2002 forbade the administration to proceed with the idea.

It's curious: Most of the time we praise the alert citizen who identifies and exposes wrongdoing. The actress Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for a role based on the career of Erin Brockovich, a paralegal who accused a utility company of poisoning a community's water. White House counsel John Dean became a national icon a quarter century ago for blowing the whistle on President Nixon. Federal law affirmatively requires doctors, nurses, teachers, and day care workers to file a report whenever they suspect that a child has been abused. Yet many of the same people who salute the conscientious citizen who informs the authorities that she suspects a corporation may be poisoning the water would condemn her is she informed thm that she suspects her tenant may be plotting to do the same.

This is all wrong. A free society is not an unpolicied society. A free-society is a self-policed society.[...]