The New McCarthyism
Fri, 21 Dec 2001 09:18:04 EST

In a message dated 12/20/2001 5:26:13 PM, writes:

>I'm SURE the FBI has seen it and has used common sense to identify it as
>artistic, free-speech site.

er, those of us who are old enough to remember FBI harrassment of Civil 
Rights workers and infiltration of anti-war movements--or, more recently, 
their behavior in Waco--would argue that there is no inherent or even implied 
connection between common sense and FBI behavior. They are, I deeply believe, 
well-intentioned. The problem is precisely that they frequently act on those 
good intentions without calling on common sense. Eventually these practices 
die out or are stopped, but there can be immense collateral damage, including 
to innocents, along the way. One thing investigating police forces never do 
is make your bed back up after they have stripped it, or put your coats, real 
or metaphorical, back in your closet. 

Bureaucratic procedures and the rule of law are vital in regulating the 
conduct of people who carry guns and act with the authority of the state. 
This is especially true now, when events have exposed terrible laxness in 
coordination among military and civilian intelligence agencies, federal 
police agencies (such as the FBI and DEA  agents), state and local police 
agencies (former NYPD commissioner Bratton told me that the NYPD is getting 
less information-sharing from the FBI now than before September 11), and 
organizations such as the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs and 
other Treasury agents (such as Secret Service and bank regulatory agencies), 
etc. It's clear that perfectly legal timely information-sharing, data-mining, 
and patterning among these various agencies would have turned up suspicious 
information about the terrorists. It is far more difficult managerially and 
far less sexy to  establish, with proper procedures and rules, ways to obtain 
that kind of cooperation and information sharing than it is to lower barriers 
to wiretapping or send swarms of agents around to knock on museum and 
dormitory doors everywhere, but would be far more effective, and would keep 
us safer both from our nation's enemies and from the tendency of all 
patriots, even ours, occasionally to let zeal override common sense.