Tag Archives: tsa

The Dangers of the Expanding National Security State: The Drumhead

 

picard_in_interrogation_room1

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.”

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.  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 Nine. Those series often touched on very pertinent social, political, medical, and technological and dare I say national security issues. In fact I have used some Deep Space Nine episodes in my previous posts about the NSA leak situation and the War on Terrorism.

One of the most chilling episodes regarding national security and potential terrorism or sabotage is called “The Drumhead.” In light of the the ever expanding National Security State and the ability of governments, private industry and even individuals to use technology to gather information on almost anyone and to abuse that power, The Drumhead is an episode that remains as relevant today, perhaps even more so, than when it first aired in 1991.

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. However, the investigator, the retired Starfleet Judge Advocate General, 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 faced danger from the Romulans, who were always trying to use Klingons unhappy with the Federsation-Klingon peace treaty, to further their interests. The initial situation raised the possibility that the Enterprise, was sabotaged and that the Klingons or others might be involved.  Thus as Sati 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 Enterprise security officers then discovered how the Klingon scientist smuggled classified information off the Enterprise.

The Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, Lieutenant Commander LeForge determined in his investigation that the explosion thought to be “sabotage” was caused by a flaw in a recently replaced dilithium chamber.  Although she was convinced that the Klingon was not the saboteur Satie believed that another saboteur was aboard the Enterprise.  Satie and her assistant uncovered a piece of information that a crewman lied about his family background on his enlistment contract. They then used it to connect the crewman to to the Klingon spy by supplying false information about the explosion in an attempt to get the crewman to admit guilt.

As the investigation widened Picard discussed it with Lieutenant Worf. I find this dialogue to be quite relevant to today thirteen years into the war on terror and about the same amount of time since the Patriot Act was passed.

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.”

When Picard objected to the grilling of the crewman, Admiral Satie and her chief assistant began an investigation of Picard.  As she informed him that he was now a subject of the investigation, the normally calm Picard erupted, telling Sati;  “Admiral! What you’re doing here is unethical; it’s immoral. I’ll fight it.” Admiral Sati then laid down the gauntlet, and told Picard, “Do what you must, Captain. And so will I.”

Admiral Satie called on the Director of Starfleet Security, Admiral Henry, to watch her interrogate Picard who she had by now labeled a traitor.

Picard forced to testify at an open hearing where Sati began to attack him. However, the tables are turned during Picard’s testimony. The dialogue is riveting as Sati attempts to use anything that she can to prove Picard a traitor the 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]

With Sati obviously unhinged, Admiral Henry ends the investigation 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, including the TSA and the NSA. 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 despite the posturing of politicians on both sides of the political divide. The fact is that polls show that the majority of Americans are willing to sacrifice freedoms for security.
Sati had become so consumed with “defending liberty” that she was willing to trample the rights of anyone that she suspected of disloyalty to the Federation.  

Sati’s questioning of Picard by is fascinating and thought provoking, because there are people that think and act just her fictional character. People who believe, that they too are defending “freedom.”

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.”

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, and not just the Executive Branch, the Congress seems to love making new laws that further limit freedom, local governments have militarized their police forces and the courts don’t seem to mind. Unless we undertake a real debate in the issue it is very likely that it will fade away and the national security state that we have become will grow even stronger with the inevitable loss of even more civil liberties.

One only has to look at what politicians on both sides of the political chasm have said about “protecting the homeland” to realize that this is only the beginning and that if we do not have a spirited public debate that we risk our Constitutional liberties under the 4th Amendment as well as potentially the 1st Amendment. Prosecuting actual wrongdoers is one thing, but prominent legislators on important committees dealing with national security suggest prosecuting reporters for doing their job, something that would be a crushing blow to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The fact that some suggest this shows how just how close we are to surrendering even more freedom in the name of security.

The last scene of The Drumhead is enlightening. Lieutenant Worf, who had so eagerly embraced the investigation, goes 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. He tells Picard about Sati: “after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.” 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, 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.

Henry Steele Commager 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 and the danger that we face.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, ethics, laws and legislation, national security, political commentary

The NSA Leaks, Star Trek the Next Generation and the War on Terror: Revisiting the Drumhead

thedrumhead117

“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.” Captain Lean Luc Picard to LT Worf in “The Drumhead” 

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.  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 Nine. Those series often touched on very pertinent social, political, medical, and technological and dare I say national security issues. In fact I have used some Deep Space Nine episodes in my previous posts about the NSA leak situation and the War on Terrorism.

One of the most chilling episodes regarding national security and potential terrorism or sabotage is called “The Drumhead.” In light of the current charges and counter charges around the NSA leaks, Edward Snowden, the Boston Marathon bombing and the overt politicization of the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya it is an episode that remains especially pertinent.

StarTrekTNGDrumhead4

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 investigation which is assisted by Enterprise officers find out how the Klingon scientist smuggled classified information off the Enterprise.

Lieutenant Commander LeForge determines in his investigation 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 the Enterprise.  Satie and her assistant uncover a piece of information that a crewman lied about his family background on his enlistment contract. They then use it to attempt to connect the crewman to to the Klingon spy by supplying false information about the explosion in an attempt to get the crewman to admit guilt.

tumblr_lqyov5mIxW1qdkbzto1_500

As the investigation widens Picard discusses it with Lieutenant Worf. I find this dialogue to be quite relevant to today in the twelfth year 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.” 

When Picard objects to the grilling of the crewman, 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.”

Picard_in_interrogation_room

This brings about the final confrontation where Admiral Satie calls a Senior Admiral from Starfleet to watch 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]

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, including the TSA and the NSA. 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 despite the posturing of politicians on both sides of the political divide. The fact is that polls show that the majority of Americans are willing to sacrifice freedoms for security.

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.” 

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.  While Edward Snowden may have acted illegally and for all we know may now be attempting to work some kind of deal with the Communist Chinese to keep himself out of the United States justice system. Since what he revealed to Glenn Greenwald actually is a matter that needs serious debate by Congress, the administration and the body politic I think it would be better for him and the country if he came back and stood trial rather than hiding out in a country that repeatedly attacks us with cyber warfare. I think that Snowden damages his credibility by fleeing and in the process will derail the debate that is needed on how we balance legitimate security concerns without destroying our political system and hard won freedoms in the process.

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. The current situation has raised the issue but unless we undertake a real debate in the issue it is very likely that it will fade away and the national security state that we have become will grow even stronger with the inevitable loss of even more civil liberties.

One only has to look at what politicians on both sides of the political chasm have said about “protecting the homeland” to realize that this is only the beginning and that if we do not have a spirited public debate that we risk our Constitutional liberties under the 4th Amendment as well as potentially the 1st Amendment.

The latter is a real possibility not in the matter of Snowden, but Greenwald and other reporters who did their job reporting the story. Republican Representative Peter King has urged that charges be brought against the reporters. Prosecuting Snowden is one thing, should we be able to get him back because he did break the law, even if one agrees with his reasoning for doing so. However prosecuting reporters for doing their job is something that would be chilling. I cannot see that happening, but the fact that a prominent legislator on important committees dealing with national security would suggest it shows how close we are to surrendering even more freedom in the name of security.

The-Drumhead-episode-Picard-Worf-observation-lounge

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.

Henry Steele Commager 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 and the danger that we face.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under laws and legislation, national security, News and current events, star trek

Travels and Tribulations: Padre Steve’s Thoughts on Airport Security and Shared Sacrifice

Your Papers Please…

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

it is going to be a busy couple of weeks. I will be on the road a lot and doing a lot more time going through airports than I like doing.  I will be heading off for my denominational clergy and chaplain conference tomorrow morning flying from Norfolk to Houston Texas. Then I will return to Norfolk next Monday and then go to Germany for a Military meeting the following Tuesday and return on the 28th. It will be the most I have flown in a two week period since I was with Marine Security Forces back in 2006.  I hate flying or at least going through crowded airports.

Now I am an old hand at air travel especially in the post-911 everybody is a potential hijacker world. I have been accosted in full uniform by TSA agent and nearly made to strip despite having orders and ID for my travel in uniform back during the Bush administration while people that were obvious foreign nationals passed right by me and through the screening process. I have been groped, scanned and nearly stripped and personally I think that we have gone overboard and that in the end that it is bad for the country and for civil liberties.

When I returned from Iraq I had to take off my boots and nearly miss my connecting flight because of the tight connection. You would think that the bureaucracy would have the sense to figure out that guys coming back from a combat zone should be treated with a little more care. Thankfully despite the hassle I made my flight and the people were nice. However the ridiculousness of hundreds of returning combat vets just back from the combat zone being told to remove their boots and belts on their return to the United States is not just ridiculous but humiliating.

I hate going through airports now. I don’t feel safe. Yes it is part of my PTSD as with the exception of the ballpark crowded places scare me to death and the “security screening” process does nothing to help. I know that I have bitched about this before and I have been criticized by pond scum “national security” fascists that have never even served a day in uniform who have told me that I need to realize that we are “at war and that terrorist want to kill us” and that we all have to “make sacrifices.” My personal feeling is that those that spout this stuff and advocate more “pre-emptive wars” need to blow it out their ass. Otto Von Bismarck who by the way was not pacifist said “Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.” 

I tell you what, those that spout that kind of crap piss me off to no end. When we actually resume the draft and something more than 0.5% of the country’s population actually bother to serve in the military and go to war then I will agree about all of us making sacrifices. Until then I think that all the talk about shared sacrifice is so much bullshit. The only people that have made the sacrifice are the military, those employed by the military and our families.

The real truth of the matter is that very little of this country is at war. It is not enough just to put a bumper sticker that you “support the troops” on your car or be able to quote some patriot bullshit out of a war movie. It actually means being connected and part of the war effort. It means paying taxes and volunteering to help the troops… wait even better join the military.

Back in the Vietnam Era the American film icon John Wayne went on Rowan’s and Martin’s “Laugh In.” In line that I will never forget Wayne walked on stage with a red white an blue flower in his hands. He began: “A Poem: The Sky: The sky is blue, the grass is green. Get off your butts and join the Marines.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp6_–RqzdM

We are not a nation that even acts like it is at war. We ignore the fact that Americans and our allies are fighting and dying in Afghanistan because we are more interested in our political party’s agenda or our personal economic bottom line.  Really, how many people even realized that a bunch of Americans were killed in Afghanistan during the past week or that the Taliban attacked supposedly secure areas in Kabul including the US,  Russian and German embassies as well as the Afghan Parliament building? Actually to read the news unless you follow MSNBC, CNN, NPR or perhaps BBC or Al Jazira you probably didn’t see it in the Drudge Report or other “conservative”media outlets. In fact it was’t mention by Drudge. I guess that it is not important then.

So tomorrow I will begin my travels and since I don’t do well in airport crowds after my time in Iraq and fond those places terrifying I will remember that any humiliations that I endure at the hands of the TSA are all for the war effort and to make everyone else feel better. At least I can have a beer at the sports bar in the airport for breakfast before I go through security. That will make me feel a bit better.

I hope that doesn’t sound too cynical but I have seen too much of war to listen to those that think that strip searches, genital fondling and scanners that show one in all of their naked glory do little for the actual security of the country.  It does make the average person feel better but it does little in the way of national security.  I mean really…

Think about it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Leave a comment

Filed under national security, PTSD, travel

Notes on a Trip to Houston

I have been travelling this week to a Chaplain and Clergy conference of my church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church in Houston Texas. It has been a really interesting trip. Just a few notes to make as I sit in the back of a cab on the way out to Houston Intercontinental Airport and in the terminal while awaiting my flight.

I am not a big fan of flying anymore and find commercial air in the United States to be a bit more nerve wracking than flying military air in Iraq. There I was treated well and not as a criminal when trying to get aboard an aircraft. I think that the Patriot Act and the TSA has determined that we are all guilty until proven innocent because we wither choose to fly or due to business, even on military orders have to fly. After my criticisms of both the TSA and the Patriot Act last year I was shocked that I have not been put on the no-fly list or selected to have my junk fondled.

In a surprise I found that the agents for U.S. Air were much more polite and helpful than in years past both at Norfolk and Houston. At Norfolk an agent figured out that I was military by my trusty desert tan Blackhawk backpack which has accompanied me almost everywhere since I went to Iraq back in 2007 and made sure that I or you being the taxpayer were not charged for my baggage. The flight crews were also friendly and the check-in personnel at Houston were also polite and helpful and did the same as Norfolk regarding my baggage.

While still having to go through the screening procedure the TSA personnel were better than many that I have encountered and I was not forced to have my junk fondled or go through the super high intensity x-ray machine. Unlike many TSA checkpoints that I have been through I had the agent that checked my ID and boarding pass was polite and called me by my military rank.  This may not seem like a big deal except that I have been accosted in uniform at some TSA checkpoints and forced to remove insignia qualification badges and ribbons despite having my ID and orders in hand while people that were obviously foreign and wearing Middle Eastern garb were permitted through without so much as batting an eyelash.  Thus when I am treated politely by TSA I do think that it is a big deal. That takes nothing away from my beliefs that the Patriot Act and the TSA act as though people are guilty until proven innocent and are egregious violations of the Constitution and the Civil Rights of Americans.

While on flight from Charlotte to Houston I sat next to a man about my age. I noticed that he had a Bible and throughout the flight seemed very engrossed in it and when he looked up appeared as if his gaze was far away. I noticed that he was reading 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 and I mentioned that my one of my favorite sections of the Bible was there. He ask which and I pointed out verses 17-21 about those in Christ being new creations and that God was reconciling the World through Christ counting people’s since not against them and that we were Christ’s ambassadors.  He struck up a bit of a conversation with me and mentioned that he was a minister on the staff of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg Virginia and that he was on his way to Texas because his father had just died after a battle with Cancer and that he would be doing his funeral. I had been writing “A Ballgame with St. Pete” and remembering my own father’s death last summer so I gave him my condolences and shared just a bit about losing my dad and how I could not do the funeral because of the emotion involved.  It was nice to be there for someone going through this as the trip to bury a loved one can be one of the loneliest times of one’s life.

The conference was wonderful and in the time together we had many hours of productive discussion of church business, developments in the professional pastoral care world and care for each other. I found that I fit in well and felt an instant kinship with my fellow clergy which in my case for the first time in church included ordained women. My previous church had a male only clergy. I found how much I appreciate the Old Catholic ethos of being a refuge, a place of healing and a place of openness which upholds the teachings of the first seven councils of the Ancient Church and strives for thru ecumenical Catholicity.  Bishop Diana Dale our Presiding Bishop is a gem and I felt kinship with the people that I met. I miss the friends that I served with in the Charismatic Episcopal Church for over 14 years I know that I am in the right place.

After our last formal business session on Saturday we went to get to the San Jacinto Battlefield and while some went to the Memorial to the Texas Independence Memorial some of us went over to the USS Texas to see this last example of the Dreadnought era battleships. I have wanted to see the Texas for many years and have written about her on this site. It was interesting to note despite the fact that she was commissioned 98 years ago that much is still the same in current Navy ships. Yes things were a lot more primitive but at the same time much was the same.  It was really a nice expedition with Robert one of my fellow Priests from Maryland and Gale our senior Deacon who comes from Iowa.

After the trip we went out to a Mexican restaurant named Ninfa’s where the Fajita was invented. One thing about that trip was when we were told that our table was ready. The restaurant was very busy and we waited in the bar. When we were called we were led in and on our right a man, obviously military was giving thanks for the meal with his family. They were holding hands and he had a very loud and clear voice and I heard this little bit. “Father I thank you for being home with my family and that I have returned safe from Afghanistan, please bring a swift end to this war….” That was all that I heard but it was enough to get me to pause and realize that it was my prayer too.  I think that some people wrongly believe that those that serve in the professional military are warmongers when in fact I know that many have no illusions about this war and after 10 years many, especially the regular career professionals in the officer and senior NCO ranks feel the same way.  It was a poignant moment.  We know that the current war will go on and most of us are convinced that the situation around the world is going to cause us to be embroiled in even more conflicts.

I think there was one other significant thing about this trip. I was able to control my anxiety and did not have any PTSD meltdowns in any of the terminals or crowded situations. Not to say that I was entirely comfortable or without anxiety but that unlike many of the trips that I have made since returning from Iraq I did not suffer any panic attacks.

This morning we had an ordination service for a new Deacon which was really nicely done with the traditional Ordination of a Deacon Liturgy and Mass. After that was done I had to make a quick change to catch a cab back to the airport.  I look forward to being home for a bit before Judy comes with me to help me settle in to my new island hermitage on Tuesday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

2 Comments

Filed under christian life, faith, PTSD

The Coming of Orwell’s 1984 27 Years Late….So Much for Timing

Yes my friends is finally 1984, well the Orwellian kind. I remember the first 1984, back in the good old days of the Cold War and all that.  But that 1984 was more of a number and not very Orwellian. It is funny I read the novel 1984 on my way to my first assignment in Germany in January 1984 and found it rather chilling.  However back then it was still rather futuristic despite being written back in 1948.  Orwell’s vision of surveillance and the manipulation of language didn’t seem as threatening back in 1984 because the technology wasn’t there yet but now it is.

There has been a proliferation of low cost high resolution video surveillance technology which continues to evolve at an exponential rate with corresponding advances in facial, voice and even emotional sensing technology that can have positive outcomes but in the wrong hands, particularly in the hands of terrorists but even worse governments, especially those that sacrifice freedom in the name of security. Since no government or political system is immune to corruption or without actors who are only there for their personal power or advancement of their political, social or even religious ideology these technologies are fraught with danger.  They are a double edged sword with great promise for individuals and societies which can be quickly turned to the service of evil.  An example is high resolution cameras linked to artificial-intelligence software analyzed the images to recognize faces, gestures and patterns of group behavior. There is the Mind’s Eye program being developed for the military which seeks to develop in machines a capability that exists only in animals: visual intelligence. Emotional sensing software is being experimented by some movie studios to judge the emotional reaction of audiences to films and face recognition software is used by Google’s Picasa, Yahoo’s FLICKR and others for file sharing and organizing. Google has also developed Googles which lets a person snap a photograph with a smartphone which then sets off an Internet search of whatever was taken.  Google has refused to put facial recognition software on the phone despite user’s requests. Google realized that since smartphones can be used to take pictures of people’s faces and retrieve all kinds of personal information such as their name, occupation, address and workplace without their knowledge.

September 11th 2001 brought the nation to the realization that terrorism could occur in the United States.  Now people in many other countries have dealt with terrorism of various kinds for years but for Americans it was something that happened to other people far away, or Americans serving, working or living overseas.  When I was a young Army Officer we lived under the daily threat of the Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhoff terrorists groups in Germany very narrowly avoiding being in the blast zone at the Frankfurt Army Post Exchange on November 25th 1985 when a bomb was detonated injuring 34 Americans. We turned around about 15 minutes before the blast because Judy felt ill; otherwise we would have been right in the zone. I remember getting the call from my Colonel that my Ambulance Company was on alert after this.  We know what it is like to have your vehicle inspected every day going into the base and being questioned by German Police when reporting a terrorist sighting.  So for us this was old hand, but September 11th tore at the soul of the American nation and I dare say that we haven’t been the same since.

We passed the Patriot Act and created new security agencies such the TSA and we greatly expanded the surveillance capabilities at home and abroad of American Intelligence and Police agencies as well as that of the military.  Now I am not knocking all the things that the U.S. Government has done to try to prevent another 9-11 or worse. At the same time every new expansion of security and surveillance there is a corresponding loss of liberty and with each new law or Presidential Executive order or Directive regarding security and intelligence gathering a little more freedom is given up and a greater possibility that the very laws and measures being implemented to “protect” the populace will be used against it in the future.

Those that design the technologies which make the implementation of these laws possible are increasing in the capabilities of their innovations on an exponential basis often with the explicit help and support of the government in particular Federal and State Police agencies, intelligence agencies and the military.  Data mining, aerial surveillance drones both armed and unarmed, the ever present surveillance cameras which seem to populate every public place. Add to the power of individuals using the latest smartphones to do their own spying on people and the technology which has so much promise to do good can and at some point probably will be turned against the people.

This will happen for sure after the next major terrorist attack and it matters not if there is a Democratic or Republican administration in charge.  Security would be the rational and those that dissent will be dealt with in one way or another.  One only has to look back at the Nazi and Soviet regimes to see how governments with far less technology were able to subjugate their people and oppress dissenters to see how easy this can happen. In the name of security and economic stability the Germans, a sizable percentage of that had little regard for the Nazis or Hitler let Hitler enact laws that gave him absolute power.

That is my concern. I like technology and love the benefits that the advances in it provide, but I am certainly aware that the technology that I so enjoy is a two edged sword which in the wrong hand can, is and will be used against the citizens of the countries that come to rely on it and draconian security laws and police procedures.

I am very security conscious. Having lived under the threat of terrorism on a daily basis in the 1980s and having served under constant threat in the far reaches of Al Anbar Province never knowing if Al Qaeda had infiltrated the Iraqi Police or Army units that I was among I fully understand the threat. At the same time I am fully cognizant of the proclivity of men in power to promote a culture of fear in which citizens willingly surrender freedom for security and in the process descend into the abyss.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under History, Military, national security, philosophy, Political Commentary

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+

 

5 Comments

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

Freedom willingly Surrendered is Seldom Regained

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

William Pitt once said: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” Unfortunately necessity seems to have trumped freedom in the United States.

I have no fear of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist regardless of their malevolent intents, perverse ideology, and lethalness of their weapons or commitment to their cause. I don’t fear these malignant vermin because in our history we have faced down far greater threats to our country, our freedom and way of life.  Unfortunately after the attacks of September 11th 2001 something changed in our country. For the first time an enemy had executed a successful attack on the continental United States killing nearly 3000 Americans and throwing the country into a state of shock and dare I say panic and generated such fear and anxiety that people willingly allowed their legislature to pass several acts to safeguard the country. These acts were of grand scale and affected almost every aspect of life in the country from driver’s licenses to airport security as well as government surveillance of e-mail and about every other form of communication outside of cans and string. Under previous courts parts or all of some of these acts would have been declared unconstitutional because previous courts recognized the inherent dangers of such types of legislation.

However fear has a strange affect on people especially a people who have become conditioned to desiring security and material comfort over freedom which entails risk. Despite warnings of civil libertarians on both the political left and right the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004 were passed by large majorities in the then Republican dominated Congress and signed into law by President Bush.  They were passed in the shadow of the single most devastating attack on the country in what were considered emergency conditions. They were passed because we were told and many of us earnestly believed that they were necessary for the protection of the American “homeland.”  People willingly submitted to ever increasing security measures especially those in airports and few seem to know or even care that almost every type of telephonic, wireless or electronic means of communication to include e-mail and chat is monitored by Carnivore a massive surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency.  The rational for accepting them is that they were needed to keep us safe form the terrorists. However, as Justice Charles Evans wrote: “Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency.”

As I said in my previous post The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/the-road-to-totalitarianism-is-paved-with-good-intentions/ that those that hastily enacted the legislation did so with good intentions, intentions to govern, but 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.”

In reaction to further threats and methods of attack by Al Qaeda and its allies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Transportation Security Agency (TSA) have put into use more stringent and intrusive methods at their airport passenger and crew screening stations.  These include full body scanners that reveal a person’s naked body and if they do not desire that the can submit to a “pat down search” which can also be done to people chosen at random. The methods employed would be illegal if a teacher did them to a student and would get almost anyone else charged with sexual assault.  They are draconian and have been applied to the most vulnerable citizens, children strip searched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSQTz1bccL4 , cancer survivors having their prosthetics removed and examined and one man having his urostomy bag broken leaving him soaked in urine.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news There have been hundreds of complaints by other citizens who have felt that they have been assaulted in the process of being screened. To add insult to injury the TSA has announced that people who enter a security line and then decided that they do not want to be searched and want to leave the airport can be detained, interrogated and possibly charged with a felony, imprisoned and fined up to $11,000.  They don’t even have to have anything on them; they can be law abiding citizens that simply decide at the moment that air travel is just not worth the humiliation.

The sad thing is that 80% in a CNN Poll said that they were okay with this but in reality these measures are already obsolete because Al Qaeda can change its tactics in an instant. Al Qaeda announced that the operation that led to this cost just over $4,000 and that its attacks were meant to “bleed us to death with a 1000 cuts.” http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qaeda-promises-us-death-thousand-cuts/story?id=12204726 Not only this but there are reports that Al Qaeda is already developing methods for men or women to have explosives surgically implanted and thus completely undetectable unless all passengers are required to have a full body cavity search. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=229613

The TSA has dug in and is refusing to modify the searches despite pressure from their superiors at the DHS and some in Congress. The have been supported by the President but what really can he do. If he forces a change and something happens then he gets blamed by his political opponents who already have it out for him. Likewise he isn’t doing something that President Bush and John Ashcroft would not have done earlier had the technology been available in 2001.  Add to the fact that 80% of the people say they are okay with these measures as long as they are safe means that he has to back the TSA.  If he doesn’t he alienates even more of the people.  He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

In surrendering our liberty and all that we hold dear for an illusion of security we have in effect granted victory to Al Qaeda and its allies.  Our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen fight and die every day while their countrymen surrender the freedom that they honestly believe that they are fighting for. The freedoms and liberties that we give up will only grow in number and intensity. It will not end well.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

5 Comments

Filed under national security, Political Commentary