Friday, September 13, 2013

Goodbye, Big Sis – don’t let the door hit you on the way out

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute has been doing yeoman’s work for years defending our civil liberties and calling out abuses.
Though he and I may disagree on other aspects of politics, when it comes to civil liberties, we’re completely in synch. And Whitehead has just marked the departure from the Department of Homeland Security of former secretary Janet Napolitano with a new column. Napolitano is now off to wreck the university system of California (with a vote of “no confidence” by students in the works), but her incompetence and disregard for the Bill of Rights continue to haunt us.

In “Farewell to Big Sister: Janet Napolitano’s Orwellian legacy lives on,” Whitehead catalogues the dozens of ways she and the apparatus of the National Security State have turned the U.S. into a police state, with no end in sight. Some excerpts:
. . . Indeed, under Napolitano’s leadership, the DHS managed to entrench the federal government’s power in an increasingly Orwellian America at great cost to Americans’ civil liberties. Her replacement has yet to be named, although it has been suggested that New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, an even more egregious offender of civil liberties, could be tapped to replace her.
Lest we forget, the following are some of Napolitano’s “greatest hits” when it comes to civil liberties violations. They are explored in greater depth in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.  
If You See Something, Say Something: In December 2010, Napolitano created a partnership between DHS and America’s largest retailer, Walmart, in order to encourage shoppers to report “suspicious” activity to store management. Likening the initiative to “the Cold War fight against communists,” Napolitano recorded a video message to be played at hundreds of Walmart locations across the country, telling shoppers “if you see something, say something.” This blatantly Orwellian citizen spying program also spread to other outlets including “Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, [and] sports and general aviation industries.”
. . . TSA: Under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which falls under DHS authority, American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs at airports to bag searches in train stations. Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) task forces, composed of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers, and explosive detection canine teams laid the groundwork for the government’s effort to secure so-called “soft” targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges, etc. Some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will eventually be established at all soft targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. Given the virtually limitless number of potential soft targets vulnerable to terrorist attack, subjection to intrusive pat-downs and full-body imaging will become an integral component of everyday life in the United States.
. . . Defending the NSA: In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the immensity of the NSA’s spying programs, Napolitano has defended the NSA’s actions. Insisting that there are “lots of protections built into the system,” Napolitano remarked, “I think people have gotten the idea that there’s an Orwellian state out there that somehow we’re operating in. That’s far from the case . . . No one should believe that we are simply going willy-nilly and using any kind of data that we can gather.”
The reality, of course, is that we are indeed living in an Orwellian state engineered in no small part by Big Sister herself.