Daily Archives: November 23, 2010

The Drumhead: A Star Trek TNG Episode that Speaks to Us Today

Captain Picard being Interrogated

Back in 1991 when I was still in seminary I spent every Saturday evening glued to my television set to watch Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek TNG for short.  Even today I enjoy watching the human drama that Gene Roddenberry and his cohorts created on the small screen.  Of all the Star Trek series my favorites are TNG and Deep Space 9 which sometimes called simply DS9.  Those series often touched on very pertinent social, political, medical, and technological and dare I say national security issues such as….oh, there are so many to choose from, let’s try airport security and protection against terrorists since that seems to be in the news a lot.

One of the most chilling episodes is called “The Drumhead.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0708793/

The episode is about an investigation that takes place on the Enterprise following an explosion in its engineering spaces.  Suspicion centers on a Klingon exchange officer but the investigator, the retired Starfleet Judge Advocate General a woman named Nora Satie and her Betazed assistant soon casts a wide net which eventually brings charges against a crew member and eventually Captain Picard.

At first Admiral Satie’s investigation seems reasonable. After all the Federation was in danger and there was a possibility that Flagship of Starfleet was sabotaged and there was the possibility that the Klingons or others might be involved.  Thus as she began her investigation she was welcomed by the Captain as well as the Security Chief, Lieutenant Worf, the only Klingon serving as a Starfleet officer.  Satie assisted by the Enterprise officers find how the Klingon scientist was getting information off the Enterprise and Lieutenant Commander LeForge finds that the explosion thought to be “sabotage” was caused by a flaw in a recently replaced dilithium chamber.  Although convinced that the Klingon is not the saboteur Satie is convinced that another saboteur is aboard and she and her assistants trick a young hospital corpsman named Simon Tarsus into lying, not about the sabotage but because his grandfather was a Romulan, which he did mention when he enlisted, instead saying that the grandfather was a Vulcan.

As the investigation widens Picard discusses it with Lieutenant Worf of which I find this dialogue to be quite relevant to today in year ten of the War on Terror and the passage of the Patriot Act.

Lieutenant Worf: “Sir, the Federation does have enemies. We must seek them out.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: “Oh, yes. That’s how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mister Worf. I don’t like what we have become.”

Picard’s confrontation with Admiral Satie

When Picard objects to the grilling of Crewman Tarsus, Admiral Satie and her chief assistant begin an investigation of Picard.  He confronts the admiral saying:  “Admiral! What you’re doing here is unethical; it’s immoral. I’ll fight it.” And the Admiral replies “Do what you must, Captain. And so will I.”

This brings about the final confrontation where Admiral Satie calls a Senior Admiral from Starfleet to what her interrogate Picard who she has labeled a traitor. The investigation ends with her interrogating him and in the process revealing that she has become so consumed with “defending liberty” that she is willing to trample the rights of anyone that she suspects of disloyalty to the Federation.  The questioning of Picard by the Admiral is fascinating and thought provoking because there are people that think and act just like the Admiral, believing like her that they are defending the United States or in her case the Federation.

Admiral Satie: Tell me, Captain, have you completely recovered from your experience with the Borg?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Yes, I have completely recovered.

Admiral Satie: It must have been awful for you… actually becoming one of them. Being forced to use your vast knowledge of Starfleet operations to aid the Borg. Just how many of our ships were lost? Thirty-nine? And a loss of life, I believe, measured at nearly 11,000. One wonders how you can sleep at night, having caused so much destruction. I question your actions, Captain; I question your choices, I question your loyalty!

Capt. Picard: You know there are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy: “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. I fear that today…

Admiral Satie: [stands up in anger and interrupts Picard] How dare you! You who consort with Romulans, invoke my father’s name to support your traitorous arguments! It is an offense to everything I hold dear! And to hear those words used to subvert the United Federation of Planets. My father was a great man! His name stands for integrity and principle. You dirty his name when you speak it! He loved the Federation. But you, Captain, corrupt it. You undermine our very way of life. I will expose you for what you are. I’ve brought down bigger men than you, Picard!
[Admiral Henry gets up and leaves the room]

I have linked the episode here because it is so compelling to watch each segment is on You Tube and is 9 minutes long.

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0e5M8QZGyE

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hh2B5WXoQXY

Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_X4sS5zBoNc

Part Four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLJ4D6MyR1E

Part Five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJnVPyBIj5E

Of course Admiral Henry ends the investigation then and there and sends Admiral Satie home.  Of course this is fiction but the mindset and attitude of Admiral Satie seems to have been embraced by some in our government and security agencies, especially the TSA.  Rather than actually using police methods that work to identify potential terrorists from the vast amount of they make the entire nation suspects and use methods that in the past would have been declared unconstitutional because they violate Habeas Corpus rights, privacy rights and treat everyone as a potential terrorist without probable cause. Yet 80% of Americans are okay with this because it makes them feel safe without any data to show that it actual does and in over 9 years of existence has yet to catch one terrorist.  People that question or refuse their demands are treated as criminals and subject to arrest and prosecution with potential imprisonment and fines of $11,000 if they decide that when they get to the gate that they don’t want to put up with the nonsense and go home without boarding the aircraft.  The crime is not theirs because they don’t have to have anything in their possession to convict them; just deciding that they have had enough is enough for the TSA under the provisions of the Patriot Act to ruin their lives.  Our founding Fathers are probably spinning in their graves.  But the talk is out there, former Senator and Secretary of Defense William J. Cohen said: “Terrorism is escalating to the point that Americans soon may have to choose between civil liberties and more intrusive means of protection.” Well the choice has been made and I don’t think that there is any going back.  I’m sure that once the Tea Party led Republican Party comes to power in 2012 that they will use every tool available to “protect us because it is necessary” just as President Obama is doing now.

Frederick Douglass once said: “Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” He was right and I do not see any change until enough people object to force a change in how we fight terrorism.

I contend that we must fight this war but in the process not lose who we are as a people and surrender the ideals, principles and freedoms that made us the envy of people everywhere.  The balance has to be found in this effort; right now the pendulum is so far to the security side that it seems freedom is no longer even a concern at least for the vast majority of the population and our political leadership. One only has to look at what politicians on both sides of the political chasm have said about “protecting the homeland” and “safeguarding air travel” to realize that this is only the beginning.

The last lines of “The Drumhead” are interesting. Lieutenant Worf comes to Picard to let him know that Admiral Satie and Admiral Henry have left the Enterprise. Worf is apologetic about his rather overzealous role in the investigation and realizing the danger says: “after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.” To which Picard replies “Maybe. But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mister Worf – that is the price we have to continually pay.”

Eternal vigilance in the face of both terrors from abroad and self imposed tyranny designed to protect us from the terrorists. Yes James Madison, God bless him was absolutely right when he said “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” However I fear that those that warn of such dangers will themselves be labeled the enemy. It as Henry Steele Commanger said “Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.” This, my friends is the reality that we live in.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, national security, philosophy, Political Commentary, star trek

My God What Happened? I’ve become a Civil Rights Advocate and I know Why

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” James Madison

I don’t know what it is, maybe the Mad Cow or something but somehow and I don’t know how I have become a raging civil libertarian championing or supporting all sorts of causes that as a law and order conservative that I would never espoused. I have been so riled up lately about what is going on with the Transportation Security Agency because I have been accosted by them and practically strip searched while traveling in my Navy uniform on valid travel orders with proper military identification while foreigners wearing clothes that could hide a truck bomb passed through the checkpoint.  That was back in 2003 before the current Grope on Site order was in place. This happened again in 2008 when coming home from Iraq. I think that it was those two instances that were the watershed for me.

When I was forced to remove my ribbons, rank, belt buckle and made to unzip back in 2003, or remove boots and belt buckle and uniform shirt less than an hour after returning from Iraq I knew that if the TSA was out of control, and that my dear readers was back in the days of the Bush administration.  When I realized that the TSA was subjecting military personnel in uniform with proper ID and on orders to such ludicrous and humiliating searches that the police state was already here even if most people didn’t see the danger.

Evidently I am still in a minority as according to a CNN/Gallup poll 80% of Americans supported the TSA so long as “it made them safe.” Of course probably 60% of the poll respondents have not had the pleasure of being assaulted by the TSA since they don’t fly.  It’s easy to support such practices if they don’t affect you.

I guess it is the repugnant Gestapo, STASI or KGB like invasive search methods that are nothing less than physical and sexual assault and battery that have turned me into a civil libertarian. It is the indictment of innocent citizens that only desire to travel by air and are forced to prove that they are not terrorists that bothers me. To see people with medical conditions and even children humiliated and even strip searched is abhorrent.  It is even more so because despite the billions of dollars allotted to the TSA not a single terrorist has been apprehended by them and the new tactics are already being rendered obsolete by the terrorists that attacked us on 9-11-2001.  With each year the TSA’s methods have grown more invasive and humiliating to average citizens whose only crime is travelling without any corresponding increase in air safety and security.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/19/eveningnews/main6500349.shtml

Unfortunately the tactics of the TSA will not change because no politician wants to get blamed if something does go wrong and we will find that our liberties will be stripped away one by one under the benevolent and watchful eye of government bureaucrats and officials empowered by ill conceived laws; laws that the vast majority of the legislators that voted for them never even read.

George Washington said it so eloquently “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” James Monroe was even more prophetic when he addressed the Virginia Ratifying Convention in 1788:  “How prone all human institutions have been to decay; how subject the best-formed and most wisely organized governments have been to lose their check and totally dissolve; how difficult it has been for mankind, in all ages and countries, to preserve their dearest rights and best privileges, impelled as it were by an irresistible fate of despotism.”

Now I see that many people are okay with this and that I expect because I believe that the vast majority of people will always opt for security over freedom if pushed hard enough. However, when I see people that raised no alarm when the Patriot Act and other security legislation was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Bush now castigate President Obama for not going against the will of 80% of the population who think this is perfectly fine.  After all what politician goes against the will of voters when they are in great political difficulty?

When people like Rush Limbaugh state on the air “Mr. President don’t touch my teabags” when the fly on private jets I want to scream.  The differences now are that the TSA has bought technology that was not available in 2001 to do the job that Bush’s second director of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff advocated buying. Chertoff has been retained by the manufacturers of the devices and their lobbyists. Of course the company Rapiscan Systems also has Linda Daschle a former FAA official and wife of former Democrat Speaker of the House Tom Daschle on their payroll. I love bi-partisanship don’t you?

The second reason is all politics. There is a Democrat in the White House. A Democrat that Limbaugh and others will shred if he appears soft on terrorism and if terrorists somehow succeed in conducting an attack.  Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, just as Bush was after 9-11 when people were in a panic and every politician, pundit and media personality was demanding action.

Sometimes I think in our current drift toward a police state civil libertarians are not appreciated because they raise issues that make people uncomfortable. You see for many if not most people it is better to trade safety and security for liberty when politicians, pundits and the media tell us that it is necessary and that they have our best interests at heart.  It is just as Daniel Webster said: “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

You see what is happening with the TSA is the tip of the iceberg. Once we get hit again no politician of any party with the possible exception of Ron Paul will willingly divest him themselves of the powers granted under emergency provision which are deemed “necessary” in a crisis and most people will support them.  Unfortunately it is hard for me to see how the provisions of the Patriot Act and the actions of the TSA in their current methods of passenger screening do not violate the 4th Amendment which states: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Unfortunately such actions even with the approval of the citizenry trample the Constitution. It is the Constitution that is the best guarantee for us remaining a free society.  The Constitution as Justice David Davis wrote “is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence; as has been happily proved by the result of the great effort to throw off its just authority.”

We need to learn as a nation and people before it is too late the dangerous course that we have embarked upon. Other great nations have surrendered liberties in times of crisis and because it was necessary.  How many have recovered them without being totally destroyed and having to be rebuilt?

Al Qaeda and its allies have done what no previous enemy has ever succeeded in doing.  More than the human and material costs of 9-11-2001 and other terrorist acts Osama Bin Laden and his allies have succeeded in giving up essential liberties in the name of security. James Madison was correct when he wrote: The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. I pray that we will come to our collective senses before we lose everything.  When Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death” he understood that liberty and its defense were more important than life itself.  If we continue down this path we will lose even more liberty and it will be all be for our good and perfectly legal. Bin Laden and his evil consorts must be laughing as we walk down this path and are certainly going to keep making threats and attacks to cause us to curtail our freedom even more than we have. As Bin Laden said: “And he moved the tyranny and suppression of freedom to his own country, and they called it the Patriot Act under the disguise of fighting terrorism.”

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, laws and legislation, national security, Political Commentary