Has Fighting Terrorism Turned the U.S. into a “Post-Constitutional” Country?
Preventing another 9/11-type attack on American soil has been the obsession of two presidential administrations since terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But over the course of these last 12 years of government vigilance, many new policies and programs have eroded freedoms enjoyed by Americans, while expanding the powers of federal agencies, all in the name of protecting the nation. The result: A “post-Constitutional America,” according to Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.
Van Buren, a former State Department employee and whistleblower who exposed the agency’s waste and mismanagement during Iraq reconstruction, says that what’s taken shape today, “ominously enough,” is a new way of life with militarized police forces and unprecedented domestic surveillance and spying that have altered the very “homeland” Washington wants to preserve.
“Consider, for instance, the rise of the warrior cop, of increasingly up-armored police departments across the country often filled with former military personnel encouraged to use the sort of rough tactics they once wielded in combat zones,” Van Buren wrote at TomDispatch.com.
Law enforcement now boasts arsenals “that once would have been inconceivable in police departments, including armored vehicles, typically bought with Department of Homeland Security grants,” he adds.
In addition, the government now is deploying drones over the U.S. to better monitor borders, while carrying “non-lethal” weaponry to “immobilize targets of interest.”
The National Security Agency, as has been widely reported for weeks, is collecting massive amounts of cell phone data from American telecommunications companies, with plans to expand the agency’s information storage capabilities by building a new $2 billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah.
Money is also being spent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly plant spyware and other hacker software into Americans’ computers, which will allow agents to “remotely turn on phone and laptop microphones, even webcams, to monitor citizens,” and even extract people’s personal files from their PCs.
“One by one, the tools and attitudes of the war on terror, of a world in which the “gloves” are eternally off, have come home,” Van Buren wrote. “The comic strip character Pogo’s classic warning—“We have met the enemy and he is us”—seems ever less like a metaphor. According to the government, increasingly we are now indeed their enemy.”
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