Update: The Little Red Incident may be a hoax. See a later entry. I sure hope it is.
You've all been reading about Bush turning the spooks loose on anyone and everyone.
It's frightening that the NYT delayed publication of the story (for a year!),
and frightening that they are still withholding details about it. I hope
someone submits an FOIA request.
I might be open to some arguments about needing to keep certain government
information secret in the interest of national security. I'm not sure. But I
don't see at all how this is an example of that. We are not talking about
publishing troop movements here. We are talking about publishing the basic
detail that the US government is monitoring your phone calls and emails without
a warrant. How would revealing that fact compromise security? Are they
suggesting that the terrorists are not already operating under the assumption
that their communications are being monitored? Those would be some dumb
terrorists. Keeping this information secret only hurts the innocent and the
law-abiding, and does nothing to actually protect security.
The only argument they have is that publishing the story would cause a backlash
that would then stop the monitoring from happening, which would then put
security at risk. That argument is sick and taken to its logical extreme (which
is not very far from the reality), we'd have to agree that there should be no
restriction on what the government does to stop what they see as a security
threat. Because if they make it public, people might object to it.
The government cannot so easily be given the power to both define the threat
and the scope of what needs to be done to address it. We set boundaries for
them and give them the freedom to operate within those boundaries. If they need
to exceed those limits, then we need to have a talk.
Don't just blame this on Bush, though. The story indicates that at least some congressional leaders may have been briefed as well. The "opposition" leaders in our government have been so weak since September 11th that I consider them wholly complicit and only slightly less responsible.
But don't neglect this story about trying to read Mao. A student requested via
interlibrary loan a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. He
received instead a visit from some Homeland Security thugs. They had the book
with them when they showed up at his house.
So many things wrong with this. Highlighting two. One, what the hell does
Chairman Mao have to do with Homeland Security? If you recall, bin Laden hates
communism. He hated communism so much that we considered him a good guy. (Is
that chapter still in the history books, I wonder?) Two, the rugpissers did not
leave the book. They showed up with it, they left with it. The student is so
frightened that he is not even talking to the media. You can bet that he did
not file another request for the book. Not only did they intimidate him, they
physically prevented him from reading the book!
I'm at a loss for what to do about this. Here's one idea. Anyone interested in staging a mass simultaneous filing of interlibrary loan requests for the Little Red Book?