Misadventures in “Security”

Security is a myth. Before 2001, it was a self-delusion here in the US. Since then, our government has reorganized over a hundred agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, suspended habeus corpus, created secret military tribunals, ignored the secret FISA court which oversees such supra-constitutional activity, and… well the list goes on.

Two news items caught my eye today. First was a costly, paranoid overreaction on an oil rig in the North Sea. A woman stationed there had a dream about a bomb, and when she was overheard talking to a colleague about her dream, things spun wildly out of control. The rig was abandoned at great cost and for no good reason, thanks to knee-jerk reaction to an imaginary non-threat. One of the union representatives characterized the reaction as “utter madness.”

The second news item was about President Bush pressuring the House of Representatives to pass legislation to further empower the government to spy on Americans, even those who aren’t making foreign calls. A few things stand out about this story. First is the regal proclamation from our President that, “Time for debate is over. I will not accept any temporary extension. House members have had plenty of time to pass a good bill.” Second is his assertion that, “terrorists were planning fresh assaults that would make the Sept. 11 attacks ‘pale by comparison.'” This seems to this writer as being the same fear (shall we say, “terror”?) eliciting technique used by our enemies. And finally, it seems like a fait accompli that the Bill of Rights has been largely obsoleted by the current administration—where does this end?

At one time, pre-9/11, our national idea of security was to pass post facto laws that in response to unfortunate events we all wished hadn’t happened. One example is the tragic death of seven-year-old girl, Jessica Dubroff, a pilot attempting to set a record for youngest to pilot a plane across the United States. Her father and her flight instructor were with her, and both adults succumbed to the pressure to get to the next airport and meet reporters who had scheduled interviews. It was raining, and while the instructor was also at the controls, the plane went down, killing all three passengers.

The point is, as with so many other tragedies, there was a public outcry for laws to prevent this from happening again. A bill to outlaw anyone under 16 to touch the controls of a plane reached the floor of Congress very quickly. Thankfully, Congress passed a lesser law, a pointless law which would have made no difference, since the flight instructor was flying the plane that sad day.

The truth is, Bad Stuff Happens. It just does, and laws can’t change that. We live a life filled with risk. Some risks can be minimized, some are unavoidable in hindsight. Whether the imaginary Security du Jour is knee-jerk laws, or knee-jerk citizen surveillance programs under threat of violence, it’s a Bad Idea™.

Shame on our President and our participating leaders who have undermined American freedoms, and the freedoms of all people, which the Declaration of Independence says, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Evidently being incarcerated in Guantanemo, making phone calls, or sending email voids those truths.

Update 2/14/08- Looks like USA Today agrees.

The opinions expressed in Steve’s Peeves are intended to enlighten, entertain and, in some cases, uplift. They may not be appropriate for young readers or the satirically challenged. Parental supervision is advised.

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