Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Monday, April 20, 2009

Scott Horton's Essay on how the USA Became 1984

Revealing the Secrets in Room 101
By Scott Horton

On Thursday the spirit of George Orwell visited America, three times.

The first visit can be found in four memoranda prepared by Bush Administration lawyers which gave the actual go-ahead for the use of specific torture techniques on specific individuals, thus demolishing forever the absurd contention that the torture lawyers were ever only engaged in some abstract exercise without any direct application to incidents of torture. Here, we discover that Room 101 of the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) has been faithfully recreated by the Bush Team...

Orwell made his second appearance in a statement issued by Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair in which he drew a stomach-turning comparison between Americans who sacrifice for their country in uniform and those who perpetrated war crimes under orders from higher ups in the Bush Administration. But perhaps the first lines of Blair’s statement were intended to send a signal of the deceit that lay within. “We will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and those guidelines,” he says, because they acted in the wake of 9/11, whereas “read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, [the memoranda] appear graphic and disturbing.” Blair’s name echoes Orwell’s actual name, Eric Blair; his words remind one of 1984: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Then Orwell visited us a third time. This time the message came straight from Miniluv, whose never-resting eye keeps watch over every enemy of the state, foreign or domestic, real or, far more often, the creation of paranoid delusion combined with political convenience. Eric Lichtblau and James Risen of the New York Times report:

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews. Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.

...Indeed, we learn that Miniluv even attempted to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant or any form of special authorization because Miniluv was convinced that the congressman was communicating with a person they distrust.

Miniluv’s voracious appetite is chronicled a bit further in a follow-up piece yesterday from Lichtblau and Risen in which we learn that it is on the verge of perfecting its ability to “collect and analyze every e-mail message, text message, and Google search” you’ve ever performed. But this is the least of it. They know your favorite pizza toppings, the medications you use, the color of your socks, the size of your t-shirt, the books you thought about buying on, and the movies your ordered from Netflix—as well as the ones you paused over, thinking to order. They will use all of this information to protect you. Unless, of course, some day you find yourself invited to Room 101.

I especially agree with Horton's conclusions:

Can anyone be surprised to learn that the new guardians of these vast and unchecked powers, while piously promising to reform and stop breaking the law, also feel that there is no really compelling reason to enforce the law–in the process breaking the oaths they just took a few weeks ago to uphold that very law? Is it not indeed amazing that these claims can be made on the public stage without being greeted with the peals of derision they deserve? Now comes the test of our democracy–will we close the door and walk away, or demand to know what’s been done in our name and hold those who guided any abuses to account for their misconduct? President Obama tells us there’s nothing to see here, just move along. But this will be a test of whether we have a citizenry worthy of that name.



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