For the past four years and without our knowledge, our government has been assigning Americans who travel overseas a score rating our risk as terrorists or criminals. This rating stays in our record for 40 years. We are neither allowed to see it nor directly challenge it. The score is based on an analysis of such things as: Where we're from, how we paid for our ticket, our DMV records, our past one-way travel, our seating preference and what kind of meal we order.
Additionally, some phone companies are sharing our phone records with the government without our knowledge and it is now lawful for companies to keep track of all our emails. The irony is that the Global Internet Freedom Act, introduced in Congress in 2005, cited Burma, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Vietnam, among others as authoritarian governments who monitor individual activity on the Internet, including surveillance of e-mail messages. Last week, ABC News revealed that the FBI can listen to everything we say on our cell phones, even when the phones are turned off.
Most frightening of all, however, is the fact that our government can hold terrorism suspects for life without charge or due process. Israel holds Palestinian political prisoners in the same fashion. They call it Administrative Detention. The notion that anyone can wrongfully be detained as a terrorism suspect is very real. Look what happened to Brandon Mayfield! We are living through frightening times. The Patriot Act is slowly stripping away our civil rights. Early this year, Congress reauthorized the Act without fixing its most fundamental flaws. Soon thereafter, President Bush signed the flawed reauthorization bill into law.
Have we succeeded in our war on terrorism? Does anyone recall when was the last time Bush mentioned Bin Laden or where things stand in the search for him? I don't know the answers, but I'm reminded of what Benjamin Franklin said back in 1759: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Now 247 years later, we have given up essential liberty, but are we safer?
art courtesy of Deborah Walker