Jim Hightower: zealots taking us back to a pre-1776 world


Richard Moore

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    Inside Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon
    By Jim Hightower
    Hightower Lowdown
    Wednesday 24 May 2006

While claiming that they must "secure'" America for a post-9/11 world, the 
BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world.

In 1928, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that the real threat to American freedom 
was not from an outside assault, but from the devious manipulations of our own 
misguided leaders. "The greatest dangers to liberty," he observed, "lurk in 
insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."

Nearly 80 years after Brandeis's warning, the zealots have been brought in from 
the far-right fringe on the golden chariot of George W, and they've shown that 
they have no understanding of the essence of America, which includes our 
hard-won liberties, our rule of law and our system of checked-and-balanced 
governmental power.

But these men of zeal - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. - are hardly 
well-meaning. They are deliberately and determinedly striving to impose the 
AntiAmerica on our own land - an unrecognizable America of supreme executive 
authority, constant surveillance of the citizenry, secret government and 
suppression of dissent. Their chief weapon is fear. They feverishly wave the 
bloody flag of 9/11, shouting that the citizenry must surrender liberties or be 
attacked again by The Madmen, that we mustn't question authority for this only 
encourages The Madmen, that all government operations must be cloaked in a dark 
veil of secrecy to keep The Madmen off balance, and that executive and police 
power must drastically expand to protect us from The Madmen.

While claiming that they must "secure" America for a post-9/11 world, the 
BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world. They have been 
astonishingly successful in a remarkably short time, insidiously taking 
autocratic step after step, which a compliant Congress and the establishment 
media have mostly missed, ignored, minimalized or applauded. These two 
"institutions of vigilance" have failed us. So it is up to "We The People" to 
assert ourselves against this dangerous rise of authoritarianism in Bush's 

    The Spook Society

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you have 
to concentrate on," George W said with a laugh at Washington's Gridiron dinner 
in 2001.

If only we'd known then that behind George's snickers, the Bushites were 
serious. Employing a combination of deceit, defiance, arrogance, flag-waving and
secrecy, they have fooled a majority of Congress and the media into accepting 
the overlay of a "spook society" on our "Land of the Free." The far-reaching 
extent of their efforts are only now becoming clear.

Last month's installment covered Bush's secret and blatantly illegal directive 
for the National Security Agency to spy on citizens here at home. This 
clandestine four-year program of executive eavesdropping - scooping up billions 
of phone calls and emails sent or received by innocent Americans - has now been 
getting wide media coverage. But to focus only on this one piece is to miss the 
more startling reality: the quiet installation inside our country of a massive 
snoopervision complex, much of it initiated, funded and controlled by Donnie 
Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon.

Since the founding of America, a central tenet of our liberty has been that the 
military is not to be turned on our own people. Violations of this guiding rule 
have occurred in the past, but rarely and only temporarily, and when it's been 
violated, public outcry has forced the reinstatement of the rule.

Bush & Co., however, has not only turned loose the military to spy extensively 
on the American people, but has also asserted the right to do so in perpetuity. 
Its claim is that 9/11 turned the homeland into a foreign battlefield, so the 
nation's historic prohibition against military surveillance of Americans is null
and void. And since this war on terrorists has no end ("the long war," Rumsfeld 
calls it), the Bushites maintain that the Pentagon can engage in domestic spying
ad infinitum.

This military intrusion into our privacy has come with a heavy dose of 
linguistic perversions by top officials. For example, a secret Pentagon memo 
from Nov. 5, 2001, has now surfaced. In it, the Army's chief intelligence 
officer insists that while the Pentagon cannot "collect" information on citizens
who have no connection to foreign terrorists, it can "receive" such information.
"Remember," he wrote with Machiavellian delight, "merely receiving information 
does not constitute 'collection' Ö [Military intelligence] may receive 
information from anyone, anytime."

Meanwhile, the ever-sneaky Bushites have quietly been pushing legislation that 
would compel the FBI and other police agencies to give information that they 
collect on you and me to the Pentagon, as long as the info is somehow "related" 
to a foreign intelligence investigation. This does not mean that, to spy on you,
the snoops must have cause to think that you are in any way tied to terrorism, 
but only that they claim their investigation to be vaguely related to some 
foreign matter - a catchall that sweeps up war protestors, for example.

The legislation has yet to pass, but intelligence watchdogs say that Bush has 
already implemented it by fiat - Executive Order 13388 appears to authorize the 
Pentagon to access domestic intelligence files. Also, the military has already 
created a robust collection system of its own. A new Northern Command, 
established in Colorado in 2001 to monitor Americans, now employs more 
intelligence analysts than does the Homeland Security Department. Also, the 
Marines launched an operation under a 2004 executive order for the "collection, 
retention and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons," noting that
the corps will be "increasingly required to perform domestic missions." And, 
during the past five years, each of the service branches has created its own 
domestic snooping enterprises. As Sen. Ron Wyden complained last year, "We are 
deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a 
huge leap without even a [public] hearing."

    Total Information Awareness

A nightmare right out of 1984, complete with the ominous, all-seeing name it was
given, TIA was the ugly spawn of John Poindexter, the convicted master schemer 
behind the Iran-Contra scandal in Reagan's White House. George W and

Rummy had snuck him back into the government in 2001, ensconcing him deep inside
the Pentagon, where he ran a team to develop TIA's unprecedented and voracious 
ability to grab every speck of private data on Americans from every public and 
corporate data bank. The plan was to put it all in a Pentagon supercomputer and 
mine it to build files on anyone the authorities might deem suspicious.

Luckily, a couple of years ago, this massive invasive madness came to light. The
public howled so loudly that Congress rose up and demanded that the program be 
terminated, and Poindexter was forced to slink away.

But wait - who's that guy in the shadows, and what's he doing? He's Brian 
Sharkey, Poindexter's close pal who was a key player in the creation of TIA. He 
now heads a firm that's been getting government contracts to keep pursuing TIA's
shadowy projects. In an internal email to TIA's subcontractors, Sharkey 
gleefully announced: "Fortunately, a new sponsor has come forward that will 
enable us to continue much of our previous work." He added that the TIA effort 
would henceforth go by the cryptic code name of "Basketball."

The new "sponsor" of this hoops game is a highly classified outfit called 
Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) that is housed inside NSA 
(yes, the very agency that's been running George W's illegal domestic spying 
program). In a February public hearing, Sen. Wyden asked Bush's director of 
national security and the head of the FBI a direct question: "We want to know if
Mr. Poindexter's programs are going on somewhere else." We don't know, replied 
our nation's top two snoops. When a reporter asked an NSA spokesman whether TIA 
had been moved to ARDA, he clammed shut: "We can neither confirm nor deny actual
or alleged projects." ARDA itself is now being moved to the national 
intelligence agency and given a new name: "Disruptive Technology Office." It's 
hard to follow all of the trick passes of "Basketball," but the bottom line is 
that TIA was halted in name only, having been stealthily slipped into another 
agency that has been moved and had its own name changed.

    Salute Your Big Brother

Three years ago, the Pentagon set up a new, ultrasecret agency called CIFA, for 
Counterintelligence Field Activity. Its initial task was to detect terrorist 
plots against military installations in the United States, but two years ago, a 
directive from the Pentagon's top ranks ordered CIFA to broaden its scope by 
creating and maintaining "a domestic law enforcement database." The agency's 
motto became "Counterintelligence to the Edge."

In May 2003, Rumsfeld's top deputy, "Howling Paul" Wolfowitz, authorized a new 
snooping operation code-named TALON (Threat And Local Observation Notice). It 
directed military officers throughout the country to collect raw information 
about suspicious activities by local people and to feed reports on them into 
CIFA's humming computers. In its first year alone, TALON's far-flung network of 
military snoops fed more than 5,000 "local activity" reports into the electronic
maw of CIFA.

Nearly everything about CIFA, including its budget, is kept secret, but it is 
known that the agency has generously spread its budgetary wealth to Pentagon 
contractors. Northrop Grumman, for example, received funds to develop a CIFA 
database dubbed "PersonSearch," and Computer Sciences Corp. got a grant for an 
electronic system to detect and monitor people's "abnormal activities and 
behaviors." You might say, OK, Hightower, but surely these fine public servants 
and civic-minded corporations are merely protecting us homelanders by watching 
known terrorist types with Arab-sounding names and Muslim affiliations. Right?

Uh-uh. Forget about merely needing to defend the rights of Arab-Americans - the 
Pentagon is invading everyone's liberties. You could ask these folks:

In October 2004, the Broward County Anti-War Coalition was discovered by the 
ever-alert snoops to be planning a demonstration outside a military recruitment 
office. The group ended up in the CIFA database, even though the only crime of 
the 15-20 members who protested was to wave a giant sign proclaiming, "Bush 

In 2004, George Main, head of the Sacramento chapter of Vietnam Veterans for 
Peace, had organized a small Veterans Day protest in front of a military office.
Not only did he and his VVP buddies end up with their names in a TALON report, 
but he also got a call from his government the night before the protest, 
pointedly suggesting that he was a threat to national security. "It was very 
intimidating to have a special agent call out of the ether," George says.

About 10 peace activists who showed up outside Halliburton's Houston 
headquarters in June 2004 also were reported to CIFA by a TALON team. Why would 
Halliburton warrant coverage under a program supposedly designed to stave off 
attacks on military installations? Pentagon officials say that its "force 
protection" mission now includes its private contractors.

These intrusions into perfectly legitimate First Amendment activities are not 
isolated mess-ups by a few overzealous military officers. Even the Pentagon 
concedes that thousands of TALON reports have been filed on totally innocent, 
nonthreatening civilians and are retained in CIFA's computer banks.

    Data Mining

The Pentagon is hardly alone in rummaging through America's vast array of 
computerized records - collecting, crosschecking, storing, analyzing and 
monitoring trillions of bits of our personal data, from our credit card 
transactions and our phone calls to every single internet search we've ever 
made. The Government Accountability Office reports that 52 federal agencies now 
operate nearly 200 of these data-mining

programs, building files on anyone that the computers and bureaucrats deem the 
least bit suspicious. As one privacy expert puts it, "We have lists that are 
having baby lists at this point. They're spawning faster than rabbits."

The irony is that this mass invasion of our privacy does nothing to make 
Americans safer. Internet security expert Bruce Schneier points out that these 
data-mining systems are "so flooded with false alarms" that they're "useless," 
forcing agents to waste money and time chasing after thousands of innocent 

    Political Enemies

Dick Nixon must be grinning in his grave, for the FBI is now reprising the 
abusive role it played in tracking down Tricky Dick's infamous enemies list. The
FBI's own "terrorist" files show that the agency has again been spying on such 
nonthreats as peaceful demonstrators at the 2004 political conventions, while 
also maintaining a "Terrorist Watch" list that includes such groups as "Food Not
Bombs," a volunteer group that serves vegetarian meals to homeless people.

Also, in 2002, the FBI's Pittsburgh office spied on a group of "terrorists" 
operating in a "cell" called the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice. An 
agency memo warned that the center "holds daily leaflet distribution activities 
in downtown Pittsburgh." The memo notes that the Merton Center "is a left-wing 
organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."

Pacifism! Holy J. Edgar Hoover! Forget about terrorists attacks - there are 
pacifists passing out leaflets in Pittsburgh!

    Secret Service

Speaking of disruptive, the newly extended Patriot Act creates a new class of 
federal felon: the disruptor.

This chilling provision, tucked into the bill in January without a hearing or 
debate, authorizes the Secret Service "to charge suspects with breaching 
security or disruptive behavior at National Special Security Events." What is 
NSSE? An event where the president or other protected official "will be 
temporarily visiting," such as a public speech, a political rally, an 
inauguration ball, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or any other event designated by
the Secret Service as being of "national significance."

We've seen that simply wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt or having a pro-Democrat 
bumper sticker is enough to get you branded a disruptor, bounced from a Bush 
event and thrown in jail. But this provision broadens the reach of Bush's 
exclusion zones, sanctions the lockdown on free speech and assembly rights, and 
turns what was a trespassing misdemeanor into a felony. Also, you can be 
considered a disruptor even if the VIP has not arrived at the NSSE or has 
already left. Under this provision, not only is the public official protected 
from "disruptors," but also the NSSE itself becomes the protectee, criminalizing
free speech at public events.


There are a thousand other cuts that the Bushites are making to America's Bill 
of Rights, the rule of law and separation of powers. Theirs has become, for 
example, the most secret government in our history, spending billions of tax 
dollars a year to classify millions of even mundane documents, issuing executive
fiats to deny "We The People" access to crucial public information under 
right-to-know laws, and trying to make it a federal crime not only to leak 
internal executive information (unless, of course, the White House does the 
leaking), but also to receive any leaked info.

The Bushites have made unprecedented efforts to silence scientists and 
dissenters within government. This administration has also launched a sweeping 
array of "citizen watch" programs with names like Coastal Beacon, CAT Eyes and 
Eagle Eyes, enlisting individuals and groups to spy on neighbors and report even
the most unsubstantiated gossip to authorities. The eerie slogan of these watch 
programs is "Be our eyes and ears so we can calm your fears."

Using its never-ending war as a bugaboo, the BushCheney regime is asserting that
it is entitled to operate as a military presidency. The Madmen hate our 
freedoms, the Bushites screech, so in order to defeat The Madmen, our freedoms 
must be suspended - for as long as it takes. Not only is that grotesquely 
absurd, it is entirely un-American.


Editor's note: This is the second half of a two-part series from the Hightower 
Lowdown. Read last month's article here.

Jim Hightower is the author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush (Viking 
Press). He publishes the monthly Hightower Lowdown; for more information about 
Jim, visit http://jimhightower.com/


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