was shocking, and I had to re-read the press release just
to make sure: was the libertarian Cato Institute really saying that they
had "no problem" with the FBI's new "guidelines" that gave
the cops a green light to spy on domestic groups? For the fifth time, my widened
eyes scanned the page:
Problem With New FBI Surveillance Guidelines, Scholar Says
Justice Department is expected to announce today new guidelines giving greater
latitude to FBI agents to monitor Internet sites, libraries, and religious institutions
without first having to offer evidence of potential criminal activity."
the feds just want permission to surf the internet and go to the library? Uh,
I don't think so. Does anyone really believe they aren't already
doing these things? Aside from that, the Cato release is highly selective
in describing just what the feds intend to "monitor": it fails to mention
that they'll also be watching
ideological interest groups, including nonprofit thinktanks like the Cato
Institute and Antiwar.com, not to mention legal political parties, publishing
enterprises, and any other "public" group that suits their fancy. To
hear Cato tell it, this is just a routine matter, no biggie, so move along, there's
nothing to see here. In reality, however, this is the authorization for a police
state, in which supposedly legal activities will be "monitored" in order
to make sure that only the bravest of the brave will participate. After all, how
many people not cowards, but people who have lives apart from politics
will become active in a peace group under these circumstances?
interesting, in this context, to go back and see what Norman Podhoretz
was saying a few months ago to the assembled conservative hotshots attending
the American Enterprise Institute's annual awards dinner. This is where the right-wing
elite meet to greet and you can be sure officials with the Justice Department
were in the audience as Poddy warned that a resurgent antiwar movement would derail
the "war on terrorism" just as surely as in the tumultuous 1960s:
one thing we can be sure: as the war widens, opposition will widen along with
it. We could already see this happening after President Bush spoke of an "axis
of evil" in his State of the Union speech two weeks ago. In this single image
the President brilliantly defined our present enemies as a fusion of those we
fought in World War Two with the evil empire we battled in World War Three, which
is the name Eliot A. Cohen has rightly suggested we give to the cold war. The
President now promised an expansion of the war to regimes that may or may not
have been directly involved in 9/11
was not at all optimistic about the possibility of forestalling another "anti-American"
assault spearheaded by the "campus left" and, just like in Vietnam,
he fretted we would be deprived of a victory abroad by traitors on the
home front. While his fellow neoconservatives
were confidant that everything was changed, post-9/11, and the administration
would now have a green light to invade, and, if convenient, annex the whole of
the Middle East, Podhoretz wasn't so sure.
spent 90 minutes explaining why he thought the national mood of unconditional
support for the government was more likely to be quite ephemeral. In spite of
his pessimistic tone, however, Poddy rallied his troops. He urged them to conduct
an "intellectual battle" against antiwar forces on the Right as well
as the Left and now John Ashcroft is invoking extraordinary powers to "monitor"
the groups whose loyalty is being questioned by the War Party. It looks like the
call of the amateur Thought Police is being answered by the professionals.
other day, the President spoke about the necessity of launching "preemptive"
strikes in the "war on terrorism," and that's exactly what this new
federal power grab is all about. As this administration gets ready to launch a
major war in the Middle East a war opposed
even by the top guns in the Pentagon they are moving to chill any and all
dissent. Want your name on a list, your own personal dossier kept in a government
computer? No? Then don't get involved in any activities Norman Podhoretz or,
worse, John Ashcroft might disapprove of, and you'll be okay.
CASE OF THE TELL-TALE SEARCH PHRASE
funny, but the other day I was looking at our hit report, which gives out an amazing
array of information. One such interesting tidbit is a list of all the most popular
search phrases used by visitors to reach our site. Two days running last week,
I just happened to check this feature and discovered that, on both days, one of
the most popular phrases was "Jessica Gavora." Who dat?
Gavora is Ashcroft's chief speechwriter and policy honcho, married to one Jonah
Goldberg, son of the infamous Lucianne Goldberg, and editor of National
Review Online. Jonah has been a tireless defender of his wife's employer
and a harsh critic
of this writer,
and of libertarians in general. So what does his wife have to do with it? Well,
it seems I wrote a couple
criticizing Goldberg for not disclosing his conflict of interest and telling his
readers that a good part of the family income is derived from the subject of his
one of Gavora's minions testing the new guidelines by finding out who's been dissing
the boss or was it Goldberg, reminding himself why he was going to suggest to
his Other Half that Antiwar.com needs to be thoroughly monitored and investigated?
Or maybe it was Gavora herself, researching her Enemies List. Under these new
"guidelines," this is something every online writer heck, every writer,
period needs to be concerned about. It's absurd but then so is the post-9/11
world we are stuck in.
so let's see if I get this straight: it's okay, as far as the "libertarians"
over at Cato are concerned, for the cops to "monitor" the local peace
group, infiltrate its meetings, take down license plate numbers, and gather personal
and political information on the membership, as long as we're talking about "public"
information right? They presumably also want to pay public employees to surf
the internet, trolling for "subversion" so Ms. Gavora and/or members
of her entourage are free to google themselves to their hearts' content
at taxpayers' expense. I knew the word "libertarian" was in danger
of losing its meaning when people like Jesse Ventura, William Weld, and Bill Maher
started laying claim to it, but little did I suspect that it had degenerated down
to the level of "libertarians" defending outright authoritarianism.
yes, I know, I know, "everything's changed" but surely some
things remain the same. Or is Orwell having the last laugh as freedom morphs
PONTIFICATES: DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
Pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute and a former Justice
Department official, is cited in the Cato release as follows:
reported in the press, the new FBI surveillance guidelines present no serious
problems. Especially under post-September 11 circumstances, law enforcement monitoring
of public places is simply good, pro-active police work that violates the rights
of no one. The same is true for topical research not directly related to a specific
crime, which the new guidelines will permit.
on how the work is conducted, there is always the potential for abuse, of course.
But unless the new latitude leads to significant abuse, that potential should
not preclude officials from taking an active role not simply in prosecuting but
in preventing crime as well."
this drivel dramatizes, above all, apart from the moral and ideological bankruptcy
of the individuals involved, is the primacy of foreign policy in determining the
politics and direction of an ideological movement. In giving Bush's "war
on terrorism" a blank check of unconditional support, Cato had already capitulated
on that front and it wasn't long before their ostensibly "libertarian"
politics began to collapse all along the line. First you're endorsing
an invasion of Pakistan, then, before you know it, you're supporting Ashcroft's
presumably God-given "right" to rifle though everyone's underwear drawer.
It's a slippery slope indeed, and one that Cato has slid down to the very bottom
of in record time.
WITHOUT A COMPASS
never did like or trust the people at Cato, to be quite honest about it but,
I must say, not even I expected this kind of craven surrender. "No serious
problems"? How anyone can say that with a straight face, knowing full well
the history of the FBI's infamous Cointelpro operations
during the Vietnam war era, is beyond me. Back then, lawless "law enforcement"
agencies infiltrated legal organizations with paid informants and agents provocateurs,
disrupting their activities and waging a political war at taxpayers' expense
and at the expense of the Constitution. Pilon gives himself an out by making Cato's
endorsement of this license to recommit the crimes
of Richard Nixon conditional on "how the work is conducted" but
do we really need to instruct alleged "libertarians" on why or how government
will inevitably seek to use its increased power for the benefit of the political
class? Government surveillance of legal political activities is not liable to
abuse it is an abuse. Any "libertarian" who doesn't understand
that has lost his ideological bearings for good.
FRIEDMAN WAS RIGHT
1981, when the Cato Insitute moved to Washington, D.C., from San Francisco, Milton
Friedman predicted they would be absorbed into the Big Government miasma of
the largest concentration of federal employees in the nation and soon sell out
their principles. He later retracted his statement but he was right the first
have to ask ourselves: how did the Cato Institute, staffed by committed, intelligent
libertarians who were unquestionably dedicated at least, in the beginning
to the libertarian ideal of a peaceful foreign policy and a free society, come
to shilling for Ashcroft and the neocon Thought Police? More was involved than
mere physical proximity to the seat of the federal Leviathan. This shocking betrayal
must serve as a wake-up call for libertarians everywhere it's time to do some
serious soul-searching, and strategic re-thinking.
this requires a little history lesson, one that requires at least another entire
column to cover adequately. Before libertarians know where they are going, they
must remember where they have been. So I hope you'll bear with me until Friday.
In lieu of a full answer to the question of "what happened to Cato?",
however, I have just two words to say to my ex-comrades for shame.
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