Sunday, June 29, 2008

Anti-Democratic Republicans: The Cheney Strand

The danger to democratic norms posed by the Republican Party in general and the Bush Administration in particular is not limited to the Rovian strand. Since the September 11 attack, Dick Cheney and his allies, such as David Addington and John Yoo, have been pushing another strand, the view, in effect, that the President is an elective dictator who cannot be bound by any treaty or statute in matters of national security. It was the Cheney faction that rigged the evidence to support the invasion of Iraq, the Cheney-Addington-Yoo wing that justified GTMO, indefinite detention, torture, warrantless surveillance, etc., and this wing that argues that statutes and treaties are unconstitutional to the extent that they limit the President's power.

Although the Bush Administration is strongly influence by both the Rove and Cheney strands, they are not the same. Where the Rovian wing is frankly partisan and focused on domestic politics, the Cheney wing sees partisan politics and, indeed, domestic policy altogether, as a trivial business best left to Congress while the President focuses on the important matter of national defense. To Cheneyites, war, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretaps and torture are matters of high principal, necessary for our protection. To Rovians, they are clever political ploys to attack an opponent's patriotism. Rovians are opportunists who do not believe in anything. Cheneyites are true believers, too rigid to be swayed by anything. Rovians would make the United States Mexico and the Republican Party the PRI. Cheneyites would preserve democracy in domestic policy, but expand a non-partisan national security dictatorship to include most decisions of any importance.

But the two strands can easily intersect, and Dick Cheney, of all people, should know it. Cheney, after all, served in the Nixon White House and made it his goal to restore executive power to its pre-Watergate status. What he seems to ignore is that pre-Watergate executive power led to, well, Watergate, as well as countless other abuses by Presidents of both parties. Despite the theory of a noble and lofty President, acting only to protect the nation from its enemies, real life Presidents, when given the sort of vast an unaccountable powers that the Cheneyites envision, tend to abuse them for personal or partisan gain. And Presidents face the constant temptation to equate their own political fortunes with the nation's. Rovians slander their political opponents as traitors; Cheneyites are in danger of actually believing it.

That is what happened with Watergate. The United States was at war. McGovern was running on an anti-war platform. To some of Nixon's more hard core supporters like G. Gordon Liddy, McGovern was working for a US defeat and therefore committing treason. Support for a Nixon victory came to be seen as an urgent matter of national security. Such fears were grossly exaggerated; Nixon won the election by an unprecedented landslide. Fast forward to the present. Once again the United States is fighting an unpopular war. Once again a Democratic candidate favors withdrawal and opposes numerous policies the Cheney-Addington-Yoo wing see as essential to our national security. And, unlike McGovern, Barrack Obama stands a good chance of winning. How tempting must it be, then, for the Administration to treat a McCain win as a matter of national security and stoop to who-knows-what to bring that about.

But the dangers posed by the theory of an elective dictator will not end with the election of a new President. The power the Bush Administration has amassed for the executive will not end when Bush's successor is sworn in, and Congress is showing no disposition to reign in an out-of-control executive. The power is there. Until it is taken back, every President, regardless of political party, will be tempted by it.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anti-Democratic Republicans: The Rovian Strand

In my last post, I argued that the Bush Administration in particular and the Republican Party in general are showing a disturbing tendancy to ignore the rules of democracy. I also argued that there are two essentially separate anti-democratic tendancies, the Rovian tendancy and the national security (or Cheney) tendancy.

The Rovian tendancy clearly pre-dates 9/11. It is the Rovian wing of the Republican party that seeks to create a "permanent Republican majority" and to shut the Democrats out of power entirely. This tenancy is frankly partisan, focused on domestic policy, and essentially amoral, valuing power over principle. It shows little interest in the substantive merits of policy, regarding policy mostly as a tool of partisan advancement.

To the extent the Rovians are want to create a dictatorship, the nearest equivalent would not be any of the examples Naomi Wolf cites, but Mexico in the heyday of the Party for the Institutional Revolution (PRI). Mexico was a dictatorship, not of any individual or of the army, but of a political party. It maintained the outward trappings of democracy. Each President had near-dictatorial powers, but was limited to a six-year term. The PRI tolerated opposition parties, but did not allow them any actual power. Seemingly independent institutions, such as labor unions, served as arms of the PRI. The PRI maintained its power through patronage (when possible), rigged elections (when patronage failed to buy enough support) and repression (when all else failed).

Likewise, Rovian Republicans seek a permanent Republican majority in which the Democratic Party will maintain the appearance of competition, but be excluded from any share of actual power. The problem for Rovians is that, in fact, public opinion is about divided between Democrats and Republicans. Their response has been to seek a 51% majority by rallying the base and treat it as a sweeping mandate.

Some Rovian tactics have been what Wolf would call hardball, but still within democratic bounds. Nasty elections are one such example. All Democratic politicians, regardless of their actual viewpoints, are invariably slimed as wild-eyed left-wing extremities and, since the Iraq War, probable traitors. "Red" and "Blue" maps are used to imply that "real Americans" support Republicans and only a tiny elite favors Democrats even if, in the case of the 2000 election, that tiny elite slightly outnumbered "real Americans." Domestic policy is treated solely as a matter of pandering to favored constituencies, without a thought to substantive merit.

Congressional Republicans have been seeking to shut Democrats out of power entirely since they became the majority in 1994. They began by launching the K Street Project, requiring lobbyists to hire only Republicans or lose access to Congress. Bills were prepared at the top, or by the executive or lobbyists, sometimes even forgoing committee hearings. During floor debate, most bills were declared unamendable, forcing a straight up-or-down vote on legislation Democrats had not had the opportunity to read. When Senate and House versions of a bill differed, Democrats were excluded from conference committees altogether. Under these conditions rank-and-file members of Congress have little to do other than bring home the bacon to ensure their reelection, hence the notorious abuses of earmarks. And once the Democrats again took control of Congress in 2006, Senate Republicans responded by blocking all legislation regardless of merit.*

Though extreme hardball, all of this is legal. It is dangerous, nontheless, because it clearly violates the spirit of the democratic consensus that the minority will yield to the will of the majority and the majority will respect the rights of the minority. The goal of a permanent Republican majority is to deny any rights to the Democrats.

As Republican defeat loomed in 2006, the Bush White House went beyond legal dirty tricks. A growing body of evidence suggests that it attempted to use the federal government as a patronage machine to ensure the reelection of Republicans, in violation of the Hatch Act. Most notably, Lurita Doan was forced out of the General Services Administration for directing federal contracts to benefit vulnerable Republican candidates for Congress. Nor was the GSA alone. An estimated 15 federal agencies received briefings on the importance of helping vulnerable Republicans, including the EPA, VA, and Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Education, Agriculture and Energy Departments, as well as NASA, the Small Business Administration, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Most alarming of all has been evidence of corruption in the Justice Department. The US Attorney scandal, after all, has been about whether the Bush Administration attempted to use prosecutions as a tool for swaying elections. In particular, did it seek to time indictments for maximum electoral impact, or to treat all narrow Democratic victories as evidence of fraud? And did it use dubious prosecutions as a political tool against rivals such as Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama, or Elliot Spitzer?

Ultimately, of course, the Rove attempt to create a permanent Republican majority has failed. When public opinion is roughly equally divided between two parties, it is not feasible to for one to become a permanent majority, or to completely exclude the other from power. A 51% majority is unstable and easily disrupted by relatively few defections. Focusing entirely on the base will ultimately alienate swing voters. Seeking to rally the base by demonizing large portions of the population will counter-mobilize the groups being demonized. Focusing entirely on politics and ignoring the substantive merits of policy will make for bad policy, a fact that can only be concealed for so long. The Rovian strategy can win short-term victories, but it is self-destructive in the long run.

But the Rovian danger remains because it is not limited to the Republicans. The pathology of the permanent campaign has been with us a long time and is not limited to one party. One of the traits of the permanent campaign is the degree to which it forces office holders to subordinate policy to politics and focus on pandering rather than accomplishing. And what Republicans did over 12 years of power was merely an exaggerated and compacted version of what Democrats did over 40. The K Street Project, by pressing for only Republican lobbyists, was merely seeking to reverse Democratic domination that had developed over 40 years. By 1994, Democrats were seriously abusing earmarks and bringing 70% of all bills to the floor as unamendable. Republicans went on to make earmark abuse much worse and by 2005 allowed only 12 out of 111 bills to be amended. In short, Republicans have merely been perfecting disturbing trends that were underway well before they came to power. And Democrats, having gotten a hard lesson in how to play really dirty, will be strongly tempted to give Republicans a taste of their own medicine.

The Rovian Strand has been defeated by now, but the danger is by now means over.

*I am not clear whether or to what extent they are still doing it.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

The End of America: Where the Real Danger Lies

As I have discussed before, I believe Naomi Wolf's book, The End of America seriously exaggerates the dictatorial features of the Bush Administration and the danger it poses to our democracy. But I do believe the danger exists, even if it is more subtle than Wolf implies.

If Wolf intends to discuss how democracies fail, her focus on how dictatorships consolidate their power is, at most, only half the story. The downfall of democracy began in Germany well before Hitler was named chancellor; it began in Italy well before Mussolini's march on Rome; in Spain well before Franco's revolt; in Czechoslovakia well before the Communist takeover; in Chile well before the 1973 coup, and so forth. Democracy began to fail in all cases when a certain critical mass of participants stopped accepting democratic rules of fairplay and began working in ways that undermined democratic government. Any discussion of how democracies fail, and certainly any argument that we are in danger of becoming a failed democracy, has to begin there.

Wolf correctly points out (p. 25) that the Founders did not consider democracy to be something easy or natural, but something inherently fragile and in danger of failing. Mature democracy has proven a whole lot more stable and resilient than they anticipated; so stable and resilient that most Americans have forgotten just how odd and unnatural democratic habits can be. As I have said before:
Democracy . . . values procedure over substance. It demands obedience to leaders who are chosen by the right procedure (i.e, who win the election), regardless of how loathsome their values or policies may be to us. It expects us to treat abstract procedural details, such as federalism or separation of powers, as more important than the actual merits of what policy to adopt. It insists that we respect the rights of people we despise (sometimes deservedly). . . . These are not easy rules to swallow.
Democracy also requires a remarkable degree of good sportsmanship. It requires being a good loser when an election does not go the way one wishes; never an easy skill to master. It also requires good sportsmanship by the winners, and what fun is that. It requires, in short, a system in which the minority yields to will of the majority and the majority respects the rights of the minority. This is unlikely to be either group's first choice. It helps if all participants know that they will be in the minority sometimes (and on some issues) and in the majority other times. But it is not always easy or natural to take so long a view. And the problems of permanent minorities (usually ethnic or religious) can be extremely thorny, as our own history makes shamefully clear.

The failure of democracy begins when participants within the democratic system stop abiding by the rules. It begins when minorities stop yielding to the will of majorities or majorities respecting the rights of minorities. It begins when winning becomes everything and the end is seen to justify the means. It begins, in short, when enough people stop obeying democratic rules of fair play that those rules stop working.

So, while it is a gross exageration to accuse the Bush Administration of being a dictatorship (even a mild dictatorship in the early stages of consolidating power), I do believe it is legitimate to ask whether the Republican Party is giving up on the rules of democratic fair play. And the answer, I believe, is yes, much of the Republican Party is showing disturbing signs of an anti-democratic tendancy. Though not as much noticed, I believe there are two anti-democratic strands in the Republican Party in general and the Bush Administration in particular. One is what I would call the Rovian strand; the other I would call the Cheney or national security strand.

Coming up next: The Rovian strand.


Just a Quick Note

Just in case any reader out there is interested, McClatchy News has an excellent selection of primary documents on the US practice of torture here, including Supreme Court rulings, Bush Administration memos, and court martial evidence.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Did Democrats Yield on Telecom Immunity?

I worked to help the Democrats take control of Congress in 2006 with no illusions that they would pass any legislation to reign in George Bush. Such a things would clearly be impossible unless they had a veto-proof majority. I did hope, however, that they would at least block any further laws upholding executive abominations and expose the ones that had already taken place. My advice (and expectation) was that the Democrats should start with easy things like defense contractor abuse and corruption, then move into more controversial fields like warrantless wiretapping and manipulation of intelligence at the beginning of the Iraq War, and save the rights of detainees (i.e., torture and indefinite surveillance) for last.

I based this set of priorities on two things. First, public opinion seemed to be easier to mobilize over wiretapping (which could threaten the privacy of citizens) than over GTMO (which involved only non-citizens). Second, prior to the 2006 elections the Democrats actually had blocked a law authorizing warrantless surveillance, while acquiescing to a law effectively legalizing torture.

Well, my expectation/recommendation appears to have been wrong.

Congress has actually done quite well in exposing the use of torture and the high-level approval of such techniques. But they have failed to conduct any meaningful investigation of warrantless wiretapping, and have now caved and given the Bush Administration not only all the wiretap powers it wants, but retroactive immunity for telecoms to insure that Administration misdeeds are never revealed. The obvious question is, why.

To review, in August, 2007, Congress, led by Democrats, passed a bill granting vastly expanded powers of warrantless surveillance, but imposing a six-month sunset provision and not including telecom immunity. George Bush thanked them, but said he also wanted legislation making these powers permanent and granting retroactive immunity to telecoms. In February, 2008, with the increased powers set to expire, Bush made clear that he would veto any extension that did not include retroactive immunity. Congressional Democrats defied him and allowed the increased surveillance powers to expire. National security was not endangered, they explained, because all warrants granted under the expanded regime would remain in force for a year.

So why are the Democrats caving now, after making such a show of defiance earlier? Several explanations have been offered.

Congress is concerned about national security. While there was no emergency in February, in August expanded warrants will start expiring and place the country in danger, so legislation has to be in place before August. The trouble with this theory is that it does not explain telecom immunity. If national security truly requires expanded powers of surveillance, Congress could always pass an extension of the expanded powers into the next Administration, but without retroactive immunity. Then George Bush would be the one endangering the country if he vetoed such a law.

Democrats are afraid of being labeled as soft on terrorism. This explanation does not make a great deal of sense. All evidence is that the Democrats will have a landslide victory in Congress with the next election regardless of what they do. Nor does there appear to be a great groundswell of public opinion in favor of telecom immunity. Indeed, Democrat Bill Foster won the seat of former House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert while openly opposing such immunity, despite his Republican opponent's attempts to paint him as soft on terrorist. (Foster went on to vote against the current bill).

Conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats revolted, demanding telecom immunity, and the leadership went along to preserve party unity. This explanation would make a good deal more sense if it were not so obvious that the Democratic leadership favored telecom immunity from the start. It looks like an excuse.

Democrats expect to win Presidency in 2008 and are therefore promoting executive power. This may be so, but it does not explain why the Democratic leadership would be so eager to pass a bill saving the Republican President considerable embarrassment for past actions.

The Democratic leadership is eager to hush up what happened for fear their own complicity will be revealed. This is my own opinion. The most obvious objection is that the Democratic leadership was equally complicit in torture, yet Congressional hearings are revealing more and more about torture. The difference (I believe) is that a growing body of evidence about torture is being revealed regardless of what Congress does. The Supreme Court, human rights advocates, McClatchy News and others have revealed too many embarrassing details to be concealed. The best Congress can hope to do since torture is being exposed anyway is to jump on the bandwagon. The details of warrantless surveillance remain a mystery that the Democratic leadership in Congress would like to keep buried.

And then there is the question of why Obama went along. Obama now is in much the same position McCain has been in for most of the election, and John Kerry was in during the 2004 election. Caught between the base and independent voters, Obama, like McCain and Kerry before him, is trying to avoid doing anything that could be controversial. This means not taking a firm stand on anything and preferably not having any coherent position on any controversial issue. In short, the key to being elected our leader is to avoid exercising any leadership during the election campaign!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On the Lighter Side, or Letters, Numbers and Colors

(As a child, I played with refrigerator magnets of the letters and numbers, in various different colors. But some letters just looked right in some colors and wrong in others. Today playing Sudoku I shade each number with a different color. Many people understand that this makes it easier to see which ones are missing. But most do not seem to understand that the color selections are not arbitrary.

And, after all, if we can associate colors with moods, names with personality types, and so forth, why not colors with letters and numbers. So, here are the numbers and letters in their proper colors (although I am open to debate about the letters H, L, V, W, X and Y.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

A B C D E F G H I (actually, I is white, but it wouldn't show so I used light gray)
J K L M N O (O really is black)

Now, I can imagine how some people may object to this color scheme. "But EL," they may say, "some colors get used over and over and some only once."

To which I reply, "I can't help it. I don't choose the colors for the letters. They just ARE!"

What do you think of that?


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Steps Seven through Ten

The final steps listed in Naomi Wolf's The End of America:

Step 7, Target key individuals. The primary "key individuals" Wolf has in mind are government employees, artists and entertainers, and university professors, all of whom either the Bush Administration or its supporters have sought to pressure to toe the line. These attempts are not all equally serious or alarming. There is nothing new about private citizens boycotting artists and their commercial sponsors as a way of exerting pressure. This is not coercive action by the state and is all perfectly constitutional. There is some state coercion in the case of attempts to pressure professors at state universities, but generally tenure makes professors more or less invulnerable. Government employees, despite the apparent protection of civil service laws, are genuinely vulnerable to pressure. There have been cases (which Wolf discusses) of government employees denied promotions, pressured into changing opinions, or squeezed into retirement for holding dissenting views. This is alarming for reasons I hope to discuss further in a future post -- it turns the vast power and weight of the federal government into an instrument of personal and partisan advancement. But it falls well short of genuine dictatorships.

Step 8, Retrict the press. As with secret prisons, Wolf sees a split here, with legal nicities preserved in the case of citizens, but the gloves coming off with non-citizens. In Iraq, Arab journalists are harrassed, imprisoned and even made targets of bombings. US journalists are safe from physical violence, but there have been more subtle forms of pressure. The government has pressured publicly funded outlets such as PBS to toe the line, while private supporters organize boycotts of unfriendly networks. The Administration has planted fake stories in the news and sought to pass off its own propaganda tapes as independent journalism. They have harrassed and subpoenaed reporters writing about sensitive topics. (Wolf also wastes an inordinate amount of space comparing Bush's "Mission Accomplished" footage to Nazi propaganda films. So it was stage managed! All Presidents do that).

Since The End of American was published, further developments on the Bush Administration's attempts to manipulate the press have come to light. The most recent revelation has been the military analysts, posing as neutral experts on network news, were actually being brief on what to say by the Pentagon. Analysts who showed too much independence were frozen out. As one Pentagon employee said,
I recommend we develop a core group from within our media analyst list of those that we can count on to carry our water. They become part of a "hot list" of those that we immediately make calls to or put on an email distro list before we contact or respond to media on hot issues. We can also do more proactive engagement with this list and give them tips on what stories to focus on and give them heads up on issues as they are developing. By providing them with key and valuable information, they become the key go to guys for the networks and it begins to weed out the less reliably friendly analysts by the networks themselves.
And, indeed, pro-war, pro-administration military "experts" dominated the airwaves. MSNBC fired Phil Donahue, its only war critic. Donahue later reported that MSNBC had an express policy that war supporters could be featured alone, but that every war critic had to be matched with a war supporter. There were to be two conservatives featured for every one liberal. In short, the Administration was quite successful in procuring the submission of national broadcast news in the run-up to the Iraq war. Talk radio, of course, was little more than a Bush mouthpiece. But newspapers have proved more grittily independent. Top notch investigative reporters have printed many stories exposing the abuses of the Bush Administration. The Administration's usual response has been to dismiss such stories as artifacts of a "liberal bias." This belief has been drilled so far into the heads of its hard-core followers that they disbelieve anything no officially approved. But over time, reality becomes harder and harder to deny.

Step 9, Cast criticism as "espionage" and dissent as treason. There is no doubt that Bush supporters do throw the word "treason" around all too loosely. Despite Wolf's alarm, however, there is nothing new about this, even in the United States. Fortunately our Constitution defines treason narrowly enough to make prosecution extremely difficult. The Administration has been making a few attempts to prosecute newspapers for espionage. But for the most part, such talk is just that, talk, in no way comparable to actual prosecution of dissenters that takes place in real dictatorships, or even Woodrow Wilson's crackdown on dissent during WWI (which Wolf also discusses).

Step 10, Subvert the rule of law. Wolf writes about the US Attorneys scandal, signing statements, suspicion that Republicans are using "vote fraud" laws to suppress Democratic votes, and laws making it easier for the President to declare martial law and call the National Guard into federal service. She ultimately acknowledges that we are not vulnerable to a violent, total closing down of democracy of the kind that took place in Germany and Italy. So the fair question is, what is she worried about? And, to return to the original question, to what extent is if fair to compare the Bush Administration to real dictatorships?

Ultimately, what Wolf is describing a sort of a two-tier, or perhaps three-tier system. For non-citizens outside the United States, dictatorship has arrived. Reporters can be treated as targets in a war. The mere suspicion of terrorism can send the innocent to secret prisons indefinitely. Kidnappings, torture, hopelessly rigged courts, and lawless mercenaries are here-and-now realities.

Within the United States, people immediately involved in protecting foreign detainees are subject to wiretaps and dubious charges. Illegal immigrants are at the mercy of arbitary, high-handed immigration police who strike seemingly at random, detain and deport. Descriptions of children coming home from school to find their parents missing, or whole families including children held in prison-like facilities read like scenes from a dictatorship.

But for ordinary citizens we are still far from where ubiquitous watchers in leather trenchcoats are always standing outside the door, where fully 36% of the population have been arrested for questioning, and everyone feels surrounded by spies. Our government does not exercise the sort of hard, coercive power over its citizens that it does over non-citizens. The Army and FBI remain (generally) uncorrupted. But ordinary citizens do live in a society in which government agents infiltrate peaceful opposition groups, in which peaceful dissenters never know if they might attract unwelcome attention, in which people are harrassed or even arrested for protesting too openly, in which the press and entertainers are informally pressured by name-calling and denial of access to toe the line, in which government disguises propaganda as legitimate news, and, especially, in which there is a growing attempt to turn the civil service into a parisan instrument. This falls far short of a true dictatorship, but it is worrisome in other ways.

My next posts will deal with what I believe the real danger is to this country's future.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Steps Four through Six

A continuation of the Ten Steps Naomi Wolf lists in The End of America:

Step 4, Surveil ordinary citizens. Wolf offers some interesting comparisons here. She talks about surveillance (electronic and by informants) in East Germany, China, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Czechoslovakia and the FBI's COINTELPRO. This chapter more than any other gives some insight into what every day life feels like under a dictatorship. People assume they are being watched at all times. A German citizen recalled, "You never knew who it might be when the doorbell rang. [W]e children were not allowed to couth the curtains . . . There was always somebody with a leather trench coat standing there in the hallway. And, especially when there were two or three people at our place, there would be several people standing outside in front of our house." Understandably, people were intimidated under these conditions and feared to speak their minds. There is ultimately a practical limit to how many people even the most totalitarian government can watch and how much information it can process. Wolf reports, for instance, that in Nazi Germany only 3% to 25% of the population were actually spied on and in East Germany only "a minority." But when no one knows who is or is not being watched, the fear of surveillance can be as intimidating as the reality.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to make realistic comparisons witht the Bush Administration because we do not know what they have actually been doing. We do know that they have analyzed the patterns (though not contents) of domestic phone calls, looking for patterns. We know that they unsuccessfully attempted to recruit mailmen, meter readers, repair men and the like to serve as informants. (This would have amounted to one American out of 24, Wolf reports, a higher ratio of informants than in East Germany). We also have some evidence that the Administration has subjected a wide range of international phone calls to computer surveillance for suspicious words, leading to a great many meritless investigations.

But so far we have no direct evidence that they have been listening in on Americans for political views, as COINTELPRO did. Wolf believes this has happened, but she has no proof. She also speculates that the newspaper stories revealing the spy programs were secretly encouraged by the Administration to intimidate Americans from speaking freely. She may be right. But so far this is only speculation.

Step 5, Infiltrate citizen's groups. Really, this is a sub-category of surveillance. Unlike wiretaps, which remain speculative, there is good evidence the Bush Administration, and local police as well, are infiltrating citizen's groups that pose no danger of violence. Wolf documents instances of infiltration of peaceful anti-war groups by local police and the defense department. She also offers suspicious-sounding incidents of harrassment. (A church had its tax exampt status questioned for opposing Bush, although pro-Bush churches are allowed to operate freely; people are arrested for wearing anti-war T-shirts in the Capitol; people get calls from the FBI for offhand remarks). I think there can be little doubt that the Bush Administration has been using this technique. Unfortunately, unlike wiretaps or physical searches, infiltration and the use of informants does not require a warrant and is therefore much harder to regulate. Doubtless we need better regulation of the practice.

Step 6, Arbitrarily detain and release citizens. US citizens are not being threatened with GTMO or other secret prisons. Wolf argues, however, that these are only the tip of the iceberg, that political dissent does carry the threat of arbitrary short-term arrest and release. She further argues that this pattern holds for other dictatorships; in Nazi Germany, fully 36% of the population were arrested, questioned and released! (Alas, Wolf does not make any systematic comparisons, either of numbers of people detained and released in different dictatorships, or of numbers of people detained and released versus people "disappeared" into secret prisons).

The main example Wolf offers of such arbitrary detentions and releases is airplane no-fly lists and watch lists. The list is absurdly long beyond any reasonable needs -- 45,000 people on the no-fly list and 75,000 people on the watch list. Wolf believes that this is not mere bureaucratic ineptitude, but a systematic attempt to intimidate. As evidence, she gives many cases of people who actively opposed government policies being on this list and at least one instance of a passenger being told he was excluded for publicly speaking out against Bush. So it is possible the list is being used as a tool of intimidation. But there is alsoample evidence of bureaucratic ineptitude. Conservative columnist and Bush supporter Cal Thomas is also on the list. Wolf mentions the singer Cat Stevens being on this list, presumably because of his conversion to Islam and opposition to government policies. She does not mention that Republican Senator Ted Stevens' wife, Catherine Stevens had to explain that she was not the Cat Stevens on the list.

More serious are actual charges brought against lawyers defending GTMO detainees and the case of Brandon Mayfield, falsely suspected in the Madrid train bombing. And, as mentioned
before, the rules become a good deal less exacting where non-citizens are involved.

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