You wanted our government to strike back at the terrorists by bombing Afghanistan, right?
You cheered when President Bush stood tall and said, “Let’s roll!” And you applauded when he said he will root out the evildoers everywhere in the world.
And when innocent Afghans were killed, you said there’s bound to be “collateral damage” in a war.
When the feds took over the airports and created enormous inconveniences for passengers, you pointed out that we all must sacrifice for the greater good.
When it was revealed that the military were keeping prisoners in secret, and that people might be tried in secret – and even executed – you pointed out that these things are necessary in wartime. After all, the Bill of Rights shouldn’t apply to terrorists, right?
The inevitable next step
Now the federal government has taken the next logical step – the one that proceeds inexorably from all that it has done up to now.
The government’s Citizen Corps program has set up Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information & Prevention System). At its website, complete with a smiling picture of Big Brother, you can read:
Operation TIPS will be a national system for reporting suspicious, and potentially terrorist-related activity. The program will involve the millions of American workers who, in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to see potentially unusual or suspicious activity in public places.
It’s about time, right? We’ve been pussy-footing around with these terrorists for too long, right?
So far, the feds have recruited over a million people to snoop for them – cable TV installers and repairmen, telephone servicemen, trash collectors and other people who might be around your home during the course of their work. While doing their normal jobs, they’ll look for anything suspicious in your home – and they’ll report to the government anything they think is strange.
So anyone coming into your home might be a federal snoop. Even that neighbor who doesn’t like you may be a government informant.
But, so what? You have nothing to hide, right?
When the cable-TV man comes to your house and sees those strange books on your shelf, or the catalog from a gun maker in the trash (a catalog you didn’t ask for, but was sent to you because your name was bought from someone you deal with), or the unusual amount of electronic equipment you have, he has the opportunity to be a hero and report you to the secret police. He might even get a Gold Star. Or make that a Red Star.
But so what? Even if secret agents come to question you, you’re innocent, right? You have nothing to hide. You can tell the secret police they’ve got the wrong man.
You can explain later to the neighbors that those policemen and strange-looking agents were at your home by mistake, right?
Incarceration for the greater good
Of course, the thought police might not accept your explanations. And they probably won’t let you call an attorney. But you don’t need an attorney if you’re innocent, right?
And even if they arrested you when you were by yourself, and your family doesn’t know where you are, your spouse and children won’t worry unnecessarily about you. After all, they know you can take care of yourself, right?
And it’s true that the anti-terrorism experts need to make a lot of arrests, in order to show they’re doing something and to justify expanding their budgets. After all, they are government bureaucrats – just like the ones who are wiping out drugs, poverty and illiteracy. But they’re doing important work – and so you shouldn’t complain if you’re inconvenienced, right?
The America that was
When we had a Bill of Rights in America, it assured you of a right to have an attorney present, a right to confront your accusers, a right to know the charge against you, a right to reasonable bail, a right to a public and speedy trial before a jury of your peers.
But that was before America was attacked in an unprovoked and vicious act. And so now we must all be willing to sacrifice – and accept whatever the government thinks best. You said that yourself, right? And the TIPS program may give you the honor to be one of the first Americans to sacrifice.
Since you may be detained in secret, because you might not be allowed to see an attorney, because you might not have a public trial, and because you’ll be dealing with human beings who are far from perfect, it’s even possible that you could be tried and executed in secret.
But so what? Your death will just be part of the collateral damage that’s a necessary element in this important War on Terrorism.