The New McCarthyism
Fri, 21 Dec 2001 09:18:04 EST
In a message dated 12/20/2001 5:26:13 PM, email@example.com 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.