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Inside Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon

While claiming that they must 'secure' America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world.
 
 
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Editor's note: This is the second half of a two-part series from the Hightower Lowdown. Read last month's article here.

In 1928, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote that the real threat to American freedom was not from an outside assault, but from the devious manipulations of our own misguided leaders. "The greatest dangers to liberty," he observed, "lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."

Nearly 80 years after Brandeis's warning, the zealots have been brought in from the far-right fringe on the golden chariot of George W, and they've shown that they have no understanding of the essence of America, which includes our hard-won liberties, our rule of law and our system of checked-and-balanced governmental power.

But these men of zeal -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. -- are hardly well-meaning. They are deliberately and determinedly striving to impose the AntiAmerica on our own land -- an unrecognizable America of supreme executive authority, constant surveillance of the citizenry, secret government and suppression of dissent. Their chief weapon is fear. They feverishly wave the bloody flag of 9/11, shouting that the citizenry must surrender liberties or be attacked again by The Madmen, that we mustn't question authority for this only encourages The Madmen, that all government operations must be cloaked in a dark veil of secrecy to keep The Madmen off balance, and that executive and police power must drastically expand to protect us from The Madmen.

While claiming that they must "secure" America for a post-9/11 world, the BushCheney zealots are taking us back to a pre-1776 world. They have been astonishingly successful in a remarkably short time, insidiously taking autocratic step after step, which a compliant Congress and the establishment media have mostly missed, ignored, minimalized or applauded. These two "institutions of vigilance" have failed us. So it is up to "We The People" to assert ourselves against this dangerous rise of authoritarianism in Bush's America.

The spook society

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on," George W said with a laugh at Washington's Gridiron dinner in 2001.

If only we'd known then that behind George's snickers, the Bushites were serious. Employing a combination of deceit, defiance, arrogance, flag-waving and secrecy, they have fooled a majority of Congress and the media into accepting the overlay of a "spook society" on our "Land of the Free." The far-reaching extent of their efforts are only now becoming clear.

Last month's installment covered Bush's secret and blatantly illegal directive for the National Security Agency to spy on citizens here at home. This clandestine four-year program of executive eavesdropping -- scooping up billions of phone calls and emails sent or received by innocent Americans -- has now been getting wide media coverage. But to focus only on this one piece is to miss the more startling reality: the quiet installation inside our country of a massive snoopervision complex, much of it initiated, funded and controlled by Donnie Rumsfeld's Orwellian Pentagon.

Since the founding of America, a central tenet of our liberty has been that the military is not to be turned on our own people. Violations of this guiding rule have occurred in the past, but rarely and only temporarily, and when it's been violated, public outcry has forced the reinstatement of the rule.

Bush & Co., however, has not only turned loose the military to spy extensively on the American people, but has also asserted the right to do so in perpetuity. Its claim is that 9/11 turned the homeland into a foreign battlefield, so the nation's historic prohibition against military surveillance of Americans is null and void. And since this war on terrorists has no end ("the long war," Rumsfeld calls it), the Bushites maintain that the Pentagon can engage in domestic spying ad infinitum.

This military intrusion into our privacy has come with a heavy dose of linguistic perversions by top officials. For example, a secret Pentagon memo from Nov. 5, 2001, has now surfaced. In it, the Army's chief intelligence officer insists that while the Pentagon cannot "collect" information on citizens who have no connection to foreign terrorists, it can "receive" such information. "Remember," he wrote with Machiavellian delight, "merely receiving information does not constitute 'collection' … [Military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime."

Meanwhile, the ever-sneaky Bushites have quietly been pushing legislation that would compel the FBI and other police agencies to give information that they collect on you and me to the Pentagon, as long as the info is somehow "related" to a foreign intelligence investigation. This does not mean that, to spy on you, the snoops must have cause to think that you are in any way tied to terrorism, but only that they claim their investigation to be vaguely related to some foreign matter -- a catchall that sweeps up war protestors, for example.

The legislation has yet to pass, but intelligence watchdogs say that Bush has already implemented it by fiat -- Executive Order 13388 appears to authorize the Pentagon to access domestic intelligence files. Also, the military has already created a robust collection system of its own. A new Northern Command, established in Colorado in 2001 to monitor Americans, now employs more intelligence analysts than does the Homeland Security Department. Also, the Marines launched an operation under a 2004 executive order for the "collection, retention and dissemination of information concerning U.S. persons," noting that the corps will be "increasingly required to perform domestic missions." And, during the past five years, each of the service branches has created its own domestic snooping enterprises. As Sen. Ron Wyden complained last year, "We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [public] hearing."

TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS. A nightmare right out of 1984, complete with the ominous, all-seeing name it was given, TIA was the ugly spawn of John Poindexter, the convicted master schemer behind the Iran-Contra scandal in Reagan's White House. George W and

Rummy had snuck him back into the government in 2001, ensconcing him deep inside the Pentagon, where he ran a team to develop TIA's unprecedented and voracious ability to grab every speck of private data on Americans from every public and corporate data bank. The plan was to put it all in a Pentagon supercomputer and mine it to build files on anyone the authorities might deem suspicious.