Alex Marthews Sees the Police State Being Forged and Does Not Like It

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87 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    From Dictatorship to Democracy by Dr Gene Sharp is a great start.

  2. Greg says:

    Again, I apologize for what sounds like melodrama

    Wha?!?

    I'm sorry if this sound snarky, I guess it partly is – but
    Clark apologizing for melodrama? And now?

    I can't recall a post from Clark that wasn't filled with melodrama – not that that's particularly a problem – but this certainly isn't the first time or anything.

    It just feels kind of odd, misplaced and sorta twilight-zone-ish – to hear it now.

    [And yes, I don't often agree with Clark, perhaps almost never - but that's not the point.]

    But I'm just taken back that after posts that include rants like "kill it, burn it, plow it under and salt the ground" [I paraphrase] that this post, which seems more sane and calm by far, is where he apologizes for melodrama?

    I just have a wry grin on my face about it. It's amusing.

    Perhaps I should actually say "Thanks!" – it's given me a little amusement from his posts that I don't usually get.

    -Greg

  3. John Regan says:

    I guess I was thinking along similar lines this morning:

    http://strikelawyer.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/power-differentials-and-the-paradox-of-weakness/

    I suppose the point is that if lawyers can find a way, and pick their battles carefully, and having picked them spare nothing in the effort, maybe we don't plunge into the abyss from which there is no return.

    Hope that doesn't sound too overwrought.

  4. Doc Railgun says:

    Note that I'm not discounting the idea that we must be vigilant against a police state.
    That said, every generation complains about how "easy the kids have it these days", how the music of today is going to be the downfall of Western civilization, and how we're sliding into a police state. It was always thus and always will be.
    This is especially true of young libertarian s who at a certain age ( or when they leave home) realize that Anrco-capitalist societies only exists in their fantasies. I say young because many of the old bitter ones join the very establishment they naively pledged their lives to oppose or they just get tired of no one listening. That's less of a problem today, as people can just put their opinions out there on the Internet and people can read them or not f they want.
    So, it's not 'they' are watching us more, it's just that it is easier to watch us. But now they're watching white men too. That's what rankles conservative libertarians. It's fine when the government watches evil scary brown people (or when Spartans watched their helots), but it's a police state when the ruling class gets a taste of their own medicine.

  5. Al Pastor says:

    Thanks for point to the post that pointed to the letter. Interesting read.

  6. MBI says:

    "Sound" like ridiculous melodrama? This IS ridiculous melodrama. Riot police, Rosa Parks, like… lol, are you serious?

    But… eh, I guess I can't be too hard on Clark. After all, there are things worth being ridiculously melodramatic about. Clark's tone is silly and trivializing, but his fight is the correct one.

  7. I'm happy to read Clark talking about ways to fight to save liberal democracy instead of suggesting we burn all government to the ground.

  8. Quiet Lurcker says:

    In the spirit of Jonathon Swift –

    Send half a dozen or a dozen honest law enforcement officers – town cops and county sheriffs – to the airport and arrest the TSA officer who attempts to (unlawfully) detain them for the (unlawful) search and seizure required before boarding an aircraft.

    Run down to your local congress-critter's office and arrest the critter for the manifold violations (s)he either kept silent about or passed as an (unconstitutional) law. What's that you say? Immunity granted Congress by the Constitution for elected law-makers going about their law-maker-ish (is that a word?) business? Well, we'll just agree to pay as much attention to that as the NSA, FBI, and who knows how many other government agencies pay to the Bill of Rights.

    Maybe the nation's armed services actually carry out their oath – to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

    Maybe local citizens take the law into their own hands, putting corrupt judges, prosecutors and others of similar ilk behind bars.

    Just sayin'

  9. Eric Mesa says:

    I'm not sure whether I agree with the premise of the slide into fascism. HOWEVER, the last line of this post is what drove me to comment. Although one can never possess enough intelligence to grasp all the variables that govern the world, I do feel that as I've learned more and read more I have become less naive about the world.

    However, there's one thread that's stuck with me ever since I became politically aware: in many ways the US is the modern Roman Republic. Sure, nowadays our empire is more cultural/legal hegemony (you can't trade with us unless you also have copyright last forever in your country) rather than land conquest. But I can't help but feel as though we've been following a parallel track. I recently started listening to Dan Carlin's history podcast and the Fall of the Roman Republic seems especially relevant. I'm only 2/5 of the way through that particular series, but there seem to be a lot of parallels including a greater wealth inequality and a need to wage war to gain plunder.

    I feel that, like the Roman Empire (and other countries throughout history) we've reached the breaking point. I think the way the system is set up now, it's going to take huge catastrophe to fix things in a nonviolent way. (Wasn't there a post making that point on here recent?) I think people in the political/moneyed class are too dependent on things remaining this way rather than changing to help everyone. And that's a shame because societies/countries/empires with a healthy middle class have always been the most prosperous.

    Also, I DON'T WANT violent upheaval. I like my nice, peaceful America. I like that I only need to worry about psychos killing me – whether they're psychotic civilians or cops. I don't have to worry about IEDs or people just walking around with AKs stealing everything. Revolutions suck. Things don't go well. I don't want that world for my daughter or future grandchildren.

    But I'm scared that more and more people are going to realize that's the only way left. That we've ended up with a system that divorces the politicians from the people they serve. (As happened in the Roman Empire section that Dan Carlin is talking about in that series) And when a Roman tried to help the plebs, he was killed.

    The founding fathers did the best they could, but foolishly they put the power to change with the very people we need to change. Congress decides if they get a pay raise. Congress decides whether there are more representatives (making them more responsive to the local populace).

    Sucks….but what recourse do we truly have?

  10. Alex Marthews says:

    I'm blushing. Or is that still apoplexy?

    Thank you, Clark.

  11. Clark says:

    @Jonathan Gladstone

    I'm happy to read Clark talking about ways to fight to save liberal democracy instead of suggesting we burn all government to the ground.

    I am now, and always have been, talking about ways to fight to save individual freedoms.

    I want to burn the police state to the ground.

    I want to protest the police state.

    I want to roll back the police state.

    Methods may differ, but the role is always the same.

    Democracy, by the way, is not remotely on the list of things I want to save. Democracy built Nazi Germany. Democracy built the current police state.

    Democracy is not the opposite of government power; it is – at best – orthogonal.

  12. Eric, I agree with you. Civil peace is only little valued by people who haven't witnessed what life is like without it.

    I lead a quiet and bourgeois life in the main – unarmed, peaceable, respectable. I have no wish to have it disrupted.

    We can see what is going wrong. We can see that there is an elite that is cutting itself off from the rest of the country, and trying to secure for itself unending wealth, power, privilege, and legal immunity. The Roman example is a good one – they explicitly adopted a binary legal system where the "better sort" ("honestiores") were punished less severely or not at all by the law. The surveillance scandal is merely one (if major) manifestation of this larger problem. If the elite is wise, it will allow meaningful surveillance reform within the current political structure. If it does not allow peaceful change, people will resort to less peaceful methods, and I fear for this country if they do.

  13. John Kindley says:

    Nock was right, even way back in 1935. There's not really anything that can be done, at least on a large scale. All that can be done is to preserve the Remnant. The masses are Statists through and through.

    It's interesting this whole notion that people should care about and make a priority what we care about. For example, in the comments of this very blog I've called attention to a concrete injustice perpetrated by the State that affects millions of not only Americans but women worldwide. To publicize this injustice would, it seems to me, have the real potential to diminish drastically respect for the State, and to make a lot of people very angry. It could really change things. But I get it: nobody has to care about what I care about, no matter how important and obvious it seems to me. Just don't be surprised when others don't care about the things you care about, and aren't roused to action. In fact, that might itself be the essence of any real "revolution" right there: everybody minding his own damn business.

  14. asdf says:

    @Alex Marthews

    Thank you for the rant, for inspiring this post, and for sharing the original letter.

    I take issue only with your final line in the letter:

    ..quit throwing 9/11 in our faces, and pretending like it’s ever going to come back."

    Isn't the argument that we're not willing to give up our privacy+freedom for the promise(read: chance) of stopping the next 9/11, rather than that there will never be another 9/11?

  15. I apologize for the lack of clarity, but "it" in the last sentence refers to their "juju" in the previous sentence. Will edit.

  16. stillnotking says:

    Americans are much more afraid of terrorists than of their own government. The news of the NSA spying was a big deal to Fourth Amendment geeks, but the polling I've seen shows most of us responded with indifference or approval.

    What bothers me is that there seems to be no convincing argument. Say "police state" and people surreptitiously check your head for tinfoil; indeed, even I think it's unlikely that 21st-century America will ever become an East German-style police state, but we are certainly headed into new and uncharted territory. "Privacy" will mean something very different to our children and grandchildren than it does to us. How do we articulate that threat; what shape do we see the world taking?

  17. Robert H. says:

    The Roman Republic fell because rich men could afford private armies, and almost every constitutional crisis it faced — from Cataline to the war between Antony and Octavian — happened for that reason. Factions like the populares and optimates had been fighting politically for centuries, it was the advent of the private, professional army that augured a century of civil war.

    That isn't an issue here.

  18. Why should members of the elite need a private army each, when the fusion centers are so happy to spy on dissidents for them?

    http://www.privacysos.org/node/1293

    "I think it's unlikely that 21st-century America will ever become an East German-style police state"

    As I've pointed out before, the East Germans only kept files on one-third of their population. The NSA makes them look like amateurs, and the comparison is unfair – to the East Germans.

  19. WhangoTango says:

    "The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA. "

    It's actually really funny to see this being used as an argument for more stringent privacy protection, because privacy fetishism was the whole reason the data WASN'T SHARED.

    Gorelick intentionally set up firewalls between security agencies because, she believed, that was a necessary step to protect American citizens from intrusive and pervasive surveillance. She said "it is a threat to privacy that the FBI can simply send a memo to the NSA and get a citizen's complete phone records without needing some sort of judicial review". She said "it is a threat to privacy that the NSA can do analysis of its collection and tell the FBI to target certain persons without the FBI asking". And she set up systems that prevented these things from happening.

    The kind of setup that people believe we need? That's the kind of setup we already had on the morning of September 11th 2001.

    And it's the kind of setup that directly enabled the hijackers to make the plans that they did, in the way that they did. If it weren't for privacy fetishists, the general public would never have known that Al-Qaeda was doing anything in America; the hijackers would have been quietly rounded up and deported to Egypt.

  20. asdf says:

    @Alex Marthews

    Great. I suspected I was misreading your intention and I now take no issues.

  21. Clark says:

    @Alex Marthews

    Why should members of the elite need a private army each, when the fusion centers are so happy to spy on dissidents for them?

    "I think it's unlikely that 21st-century America will ever become an East German-style police state"

    As I've pointed out before, the East Germans only kept files on one-third of their population. The NSA makes them look like amateurs, and the comparison is unfair – to the East Germans.

    I'm in complete agreement with Alex on both points:

    1) it's not the fact that the Roman armies were private that mattered; it was about how the capabilities that the authorities had.

    2) the modern American State has more capabilities against its own populace than the East Germans ever had. The hand rests easier on our shoulder – at least for now – but it's a much more powerful hand.

  22. Trevor says:

    @Alex Marthews

    Nice job with that reference to the Princess Bride.

  23. @WhangoTango,

    As far as I know, there were no privacy rules suggesting that the NSA had to keep major security threats to itself. My diagnosis is different. I think that even back then, the volume of what they were collecting was so high, that they simply weren't able to fully evaluate ahead of time the significance of what they had, such that they could understand its importance. In this era of far greater mass collection, the same problem is now much bigger. My estimates suggest that for every year of round-the-clock staff time, the NSA is now collecting roughly 23 million years' worth of data. How could they hope, with such an all-you-can-collect philosophy, to do anything more than pick through the wreckage after the fact and see what they missed? And indeed, it is proving to be so. They have not been able to show that this before-the-fact mass surveillance has thwarted any attacks at all. All it does is document their incompetence for the task at hand. They would be in a far better position if they were to collect much less, limit it to situations for which they had probable cause, and investigate what they had much more thoroughly.

  24. @Trevor,

    Hee. I wondered how many people would catch that.

  25. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says:

    @Clark

    Democracy built Nazi Germany.

    What a wildly silly/misleading thing to say. Democracy did not build Nazi Germany, but the Nazis did take advantage of the democratic process to come to power. They are most definitely not the same thing.

  26. Clark says:

    @Dr. Nobel Dynamite

    @Clark

    Democracy did not build Nazi Germany, but the Nazis did take advantage of the democratic process to come to power. They are most definitely not the same thing.

    Pfft.

    Whatever.

    If you prefer, I repudiate my argument that "The American democracy is building a police state" and replace it with "The American police state is taking advantage of the democratic process to come to power".

    Doesn't matter to me one whit. The point is that they're taking our money to run government schools and government media, and using those schools and media to convince us that we need a police state…and every they're justifying it each step of the way with "democracy" and "consent of the governed".

  27. RKN says:

    our children, or our children's children

    s/b: Your children. Your children's children.

    "It takes a village" meme denied.

  28. stillnotking says:

    the modern American State has more capabilities against its own populace than the East Germans ever had. The hand rests easier on our shoulder – at least for now – but it's a much more powerful hand.

    It has more capabilities, yes. What it doesn't have is the political latitude to use them in the same way. I think it's very unlikely that Americans would put up with overt suppression of dissent, the proverbial midnight door-knock from the Stasi, which is what I meant by "East German-style police state".

    Is it possible? Sure. It's also possible that Switzerland will fight three major wars in the next hundred years. It's just not likely. An American police state would look different than that; something like Crispin Sartwell's posts about "squishy totalitarianism".

  29. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says:

    Pfft.

    Whatever.

    I guess that's as close to an admission as I'll get that you said something pretty silly and misleading.

    I very much agree Churchill on this: democracy is the worst system, except for all the others.

  30. I don't know. People seem to be "putting up with" the "overt suppression" of Occupy pretty contentedly, actually. If you think there weren't midnight door-knocks involved with that, you haven't been paying attention.

    And yet, John Kerry can go out and lecture the government of Ukraine on how disgusting it is that they met "the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy."

    What level of cognitive dissonance must he, and others, have?

    !!!

  31. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says:

    @Clark

    I'm not sure what this response indicates.

  32. steve says:

    I think Clark is only partially correct. There are and will be scary bloody handed police. There are and will be snoops around every corner. But, crooks/ er black marketeers will almost always stay one step ahead of the government snoops who are weighed down by their own government. The government will continue to find it impossible to disarm a populace determined to keep their guns.

    At some point, the economics are likely get very scary, perhaps simultaneously world wide. That is when the government either tries to steal everything not nailed down in order to maintain its size and employees way of life, or it radically downsizes.

    I don't know what will happen. I think one road leads to all sorts of scary possibilities from Greek style rioting to civil war starting with all those AR-15s lying around. The other path leading to peace and a prosperous future, of course, seems unlikely.

  33. Erik says:

    What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow? You stop milking the cow after twelve years.

  34. David C says:

    … do you have a very good reason for posting a user's IP address and email? I very much hope there is a point I am somehow missing.

  35. Michael says:

    I lead a quiet and bourgeois life in the main – unarmed, peaceable, respectable. I have no wish to have it disrupted.

    And this is why things will never change. As long as the those affected are considered on the fringe and not to you're average law-abiding American, they won't want to have their lifestyle upset.

    Freedom is not free. Sometimes it costs, and sometimes it costs lives.

    “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
    ― Thomas Jefferson

  36. John Kindley says:

    At first I thought Clark posted Dr. Nobel Dynamite's info because there were spam links from words in his comments, but now I'm seeing them in several comments in this thread. Or is it my computer that's infected?

  37. Clark says:

    @David C

    … do you have a very good reason for posting a user's IP address and email? I very much hope there is a point I am somehow missing.

    CRAP!

    See below.

    @Dr. Nobel Dynamite

    @Clark

    I'm not sure what this response indicates.

    That was a mistake, and I sincerely apologize. It is my MO to reply to comments from the wordpress admin screen, where I click the "reply" button, then copy and-paste the comment, remove certain text, hit control-A to select the whole thing, then click the "blockquote" button, etc.

    I was in the middle of the process of doing that when I was interrupted. I thought that I went to another tab in my browser, but it seems I screwed up. I don't know what sequence of clicks did that, but I must have done something wrong.

    I leaked your IP address and I will – and this is a serious offer – pay whatever is required if you want to switch to a new ISP, etc.

    Crap, crap, crap.

    I apologize.

  38. Clark says:

    @Erik

    What's the difference between 9/11 and a cow? You stop milking the cow after twelve years.

    Snort. Nice one.

  39. Dr. Nobel Dynamite says:

    @Clark

    Apology accepted and no harm done.

  40. Mike Brahier says:

    We all like a nice, peaceful America. That's how we got here. Standing up to the government and stopping them from seizing our property and defiling our privacy will require, at the very least, the threat of violence if not the real thing.

    Seriously, violence and the threat of it is how they have usurped these powers. What less will secure them again?

  41. David C says:

    @Clark: Glad to hear it was an accident; that's better than the alternative (since he's not spamming or doing anything else which would call for that response.)

    @John Kindley: I have never seen those on this website and do not have any sort of adblock running, so it's probably you.

  42. John Kindley says:

    Seriously, is anyone else seeing these "spam" links on this page? For example, the word "avatar" in the message at the very bottom of the comments has one. Alex Marthews comment at 10:52 has one in the word "indeed." Or is this just a feature of the wordpress software Popehat is running on? I also thought maybe the free Avira software I recently installed is doing it, but I don't see these if e.g. I go to a Wikipedia page.

    EDIT: @David C
    I guess so. Have no idea what's causing it. Will have to figure it out. Sorry all for airing my personal problems.

  43. David C says:

    My next post should be "How Do We Fight?"

    The problem is, I don't know.

    I started writing a comment about this before getting distracted by that other thing just now… but it's just as well, because now that I stop to think about it, I realize that what I was about to say was incorrect.

    Anyway, the one thing that can't hurt and will almost certainly help is to get public opinion on your side. No matter what form the eventual change takes, it will almost certainly require a lot of support, or it will be crushed by either the police state itself or the majority of the population.

  44. John Regan says:

    @Alex Matthews:

    Again, I made pretty much the same point a week ago:

    http://strikelawyer.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/snowden-the-insufferable/

    I think it's possible that the reason they want to collect everything is that they'll have a lot more easily accessible stuff they can use after the fact. In other words, it's not about detecting and preventing, it's about making sure you get them afterwards. Which in fairness may be something of a deterrent.

  45. luagha says:

    "Gorelick intentionally set up firewalls between security agencies because…"

    Jamie Gorelick, Mistress of Disaster, set up firewalls between the security agencies in order to keep the CIA from reporting to the FBI on Bill Clinton's misdeeds.

  46. Golden Boy says:

    There is one easy way to fight these people. One way (excuse me as I suggest you fine people give up some of your hard earned income) is to become a member at billwhittle.com.
    Poke around the site yourselves and if you see something you like, consider becoming a member. In my realm of the internet, that seems like the best bang for your buck.
    'Tis but a mere suggestion.

  47. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    9/11 could happen again, or worse. The Police State isn't doing all that much to stop it, though. Too many sacred bovines that might be gored. Gods forbid that we investigate explicitly radical islamic loudmouths …. we might miss the terrible danger represented by the West Texas Blackpowder Gun Club or some similar Right Wing bugaboo. Heaven forfend we track down all the Liberal Intellectual pillocks who donate money to Middle East charities that front for terrorists, and tell them to knock it off. They might throw a fainting fit!

    Too much that has been done has been done in the name of window-dressing. The nest moron who tries to take over a laden passenger jet is going to get dog-piled by the passengers. TSA was created simply to answer cries that Government had to "do something!". Like most agencies created by people who didn't expect it to do anything useful, it doesn't do anything useful.

    If there is another serious attack on U.S. soil it will be something that hadn't occurred to anyone in a position to stop it. Say, building a fuel-air bomb in downtown Detroit, to take advantage of the infrastructure collapse. If such an attempt is thwarted, it will be thwarted by either the actions of free citizens, or of government agents who choose to exercise common sense and to hell with procedures.

  48. a.s. says:

    With respect, I think Clark is wrong about the diagnosis though he is right about the existence of the problem. The problem is not the police state, but that people will not resist it due to an excess of comfort and fear. To put it differently, there are too many sybarites and cowards in the population of the countries which are becoming policed. Some fear terrorism, others fear the consequences of speaking out, others fear even the less problematic consequences of leaving the country. The problem is a moral one, and I don’t see that any fight against the police state is possible without a sufficient number of people with a sufficient amount of courage. Given the current comforts of the population and given the current state of the population, I really don’t see how any fight is possible. What is possible is that a collapse in living standards will cause some people to fear loss of comfort less, that an increase in religion will cause people to fear death less, or that an increase in rationality will cause people to fear terrorism less than government intrusion. Though all three are possible, I suspect that only the first has some chance of happening. If you disagree with me, I would appreciate hearing why, if not due to a love of comfort or an excess of fear, the economy has not stopped running?

  49. WhangoTango says:

    "How could they hope, with such an all-you-can-collect philosophy, to do anything more than pick through the wreckage after the fact and see what they missed? "

    Except that according to your quoted source, they did have it and "sat on it".

    And "they don't do a good job" is not an argument that the job shouldn't be done.

  50. sinij says:

    I agree with the article Clark linked. I will volunteer to be in the building or airplane next time 9/11 happens if we could stop and revert all NSA/TSA security theater and erosion of privacy.

  51. Ryan says:

    GoldenBoy:

    [blockquote]There is one easy way to fight these people. One way (excuse me as I suggest you fine people give up some of your hard earned income) is to become a member at billwhittle.com.[/blockquote]

    *spews drink out of nose*

    One of the best ways to fight the current American system is to financially support a mouthpiece of one of the movements massively supporting it? Just which political movement do you think started all the post-9/11 hand-wringing to begin with?

  52. @WhangoTango:

    It's hard to know what they mean by the NSA "sitting on it." I prefer the interpretation that they weren't able to process it or understand it properly, to the interpretation that they understood it, knew about the attack in advance, and chose not to stop it.

  53. Shropshire Blue says:

    55 million people died in WWII fighting against an ultra-patriotic, nationalistic, militaristic, surveillance state that wanted to bring its values to us. (It wanted to do worse things to Jews and Gypsies, but the fact is nations didn't go to war to save Jews and Gypsies. Nations went to war because their citizens wanted freedom.)

    I don't think anyone at the time or since has said it would have been better to have fewer people die in WWII and that we should have accepted living an ultra-patriotic, nationalistic, militaristic, surveillance state.

    We have fallen into the trap the Soviets fell into after WWII. National PTSD causing us to become what we were fighting against. The difference the USSR succumbed because of 8.8 million dead.

    55 million divided by 2,996 divided by 365 is 50.3.

    If WWII took lives the way 9-11 took lives, WWII would have had to last for 50 years and four months.

    We are giving up so much for such little reason and for an unattainable goal, so that US president ever again be embarrassed by even a single US citizen dying in a terrorist attack.

  54. Anonsters says:

    Go read Ali Soufan's The Black Banners. It doesn't have anything to do with NSA (or at least, he doesn't talk about NSA), but he narrates that CIA certainly had all the information it needed to prevent 9/11. And when they utterly failed, they covered it up, rather than come clean about it.

  55. Sami says:

    The thing that's really bizarre to observe (as a foreigner, and a student of history) is that America already has all the mechanisms of a police state in place – they're just not in use yet. (And don't say they are, they aren't, and you can tell, because you haven't been arrested for posting this.)

    What's disappointing is that I don't think any other nation in history has surrendered to terrorism as hard or as fast as America did.

  56. David Smith says:

    The bureaucracy has the standard defense of "WHO? NOT ME!"

    The article is excellent, but we (WE) need to identify ONE entity to point to. At least three organizations are damned here, and by implication more and many individuals. However, I still don't know WHO to string up for this offense.

  57. Anonsters says:

    @David Smith:

    I've been wondering lately whether a PAC specifically targeting those members of Congress who sit on the intelligence committees might not be the way to go. None of us should be surprised that the Executive pushes for as much as it can get. Congress is supposed to be overseeing it. Until members of Congress get serious about reining in the IC, it won't happen, because the Executive will never do it by itself. The only way to get members of Congress "serious" about anything is to threaten their reelection in some way.

  58. The sadder reality, Mr. President, is that NSA itself had enough information to prevent 9/11, but chose to sit on it rather than share it with the FBI or CIA.

    Except, no. The AG under Clinton created a wall between FCI and criminal to prevent them from communicating. To prevent abuses. But that meant that the intel community was barred, by edict, from telling law enforcement ANYTHING, and vice versa. They did not choose to withhold, they were forced to. I know that there is likely to be some insistence that since they tend to break the law at will, why not break this one too, but the average agent, the vast majority of these agencies, is a basically good person who follows the laws and rules. Including this one.

  59. BannableLecturer says:

    The problem with democracy is: that its full of democrats

  60. Chris says:

    "Alex Marthews Sees the Police State Being Forged and Does Not Like It"

    I agree! A forgery is not acceptable. Accept no imitations. We demand a genuine police state!

  61. Linsider says:

    Sorry for offtopic, but…

    @John Kindley

    Seriously, is anyone else seeing these "spam" links on this page? For example, the word "avatar" in the message at the very bottom of the comments has one. Alex Marthews comment at 10:52 has one in the word "indeed." Or is this just a feature of the wordpress software Popehat is running on? I also thought maybe the free Avira software I recently installed is doing it, but I don't see these if e.g. I go to a Wikipedia page.

    I don't see any spam anywhere. It's possible that your PC is infected with something that inserts it on pages (but not on very popular ones, like Wikipedia).
    Not sure about Avira, I have paid version of it. Some years ago the free version didn't do anything similar to this, but you may try to deinstall it and see if the spam is gone.

  62. 205guy says:

    Jonathan Gladstone wrote: "I'm happy to read Clark talking about ways to fight to save liberal democracy instead of suggesting we burn all government to the ground."

    Seems like you and I got our hopes up too early.

    Clark wrote: "I am now, and always have been, talking about ways to fight to save individual freedoms.[...] Democracy, by the way, is not remotely on the list of things I want to save. [...] Democracy built the current police state."

    Baby and bathwater. Pray, tell us, what will save individual freedoms? Personally, I don't think it is democracy alone, but I believe it is a key to the whole recipe.

    Clark continues: "Whatever. If you prefer, I repudiate my argument that "The American democracy is building a police state" and replace it with "The American police state is taking advantage of the democratic process to come to power". Doesn't matter to me one whit."

    Wow, you really cannot see the fundamental, semantical differences between these 2 statements? Of course you can, you're just paving over them for bombastic effect. Let me elaborate.

    To say "The American democracy is building a police state" is to blame American democracy entirely, as if a police state were a mathematical certainty or fated conclusion. Since you often profess a liking to the US constitution, I find this hard to believe.

    Infallible as ever, you grant us a change in wording to "The American police state is taking advantage of the democratic process to come to power." Now American democracy is not to blame directly, but it is an unthinking, uncaring, inevitable tool (in both senses: useful device and dupe).

    And you conclude with: "Democracy is not the opposite of government power; it is – at best – orthogonal."

    In my best Morpheus imitation: what if I told you that government power is not necessarily the opposite of individual freedoms?

    "The point is that they're taking our money to run government schools and government media, and using those schools and media to convince us that we need a police state…and every they're justifying it each step of the way with "democracy" and "consent of the governed"."

    Why is the libertarian schtick always about "the government is taking my money?" I guess I shouldn't expect anything else since that IS what the schools teach us that the country was founded upon, but it's just so petty. Remember, it wasn't taxation per se the colonists were complaining about, it was taxation without representation (to simplify). I mean, first you're complaining about lofty freedoms, but really, it's all about the money.

    "Government schools" is a new trope. I don't think you're talking about the School of the Americas, so I guess you mean the thousands of independent city and county school districts run by locally elected officials. I guess they don't levy their constituents enough, so they take money and orders from the feds. Just think, if you gave more taxes to your local government, your local religious majority could brainwash your kids with your money.

    "Government media" is a new one to me as well. Is that like my Social Security statement or my National Park map? Of course, I'm being glib just as well. After all, I was the one opining that the release of Elysium was just too well timed. But really, America and its government is controlled by corporate interests, from farm field to Wall Street, and battlefield to (gutted) main street, and you still think the goverment is orchestrating it all. Au contraire: government (when done right :-) is the citizen's protection againt selfish, amoral corporations.

    Clark wrote: ""How Do We Fight?" The problem is, I don't know."

    The problem you have with democracy, is that you don't want to do any of the work. I don't blame you, I don't either, but at least I support those that do. So you're left with this ideal of individual freedoms. OK, so what does that look like as a real system?

    I'll give you a clue: it involves some sort of leader, and thus some sort of government. In the past, tribes had chiefs, and chiefs fought to be kings. Or rather, their warriors fought for them. How did they ever pull that off? The Hawaiians had a word that summed it up: mana. It doesn't mean magical power, or rather only figuratively. It really means power and charisma, or perhaps imbued legitimacy. The idea that people depended on each other and rallied around a leader, by circumstance, choice, family affiliation, mutual benefit, coercion, or desperation. From the necessary organization of society (fishermen, farmers, warriors, priests, leaders) came the mana that helped cohesion. And from the cohesion (and hopefully success–essentially in the distribution of resources) came the mana.

    Nowadays, we don't have chiefs but we still need managers, organizers, people to make things work (count the money, balance the budget, decide when to borrow money, run the social programs, etc.). Thus government. And we show trust through elections, thus democracy. In modern parlance: either you lead, follow, or get out of the way. None of this just making noise on the internet.

    If you don't like how the money is being collected and spent, at least democracy gives you a chance of having a say. Your freedom of speech seems intact so use it to rally people to change the policies of the democracy, not to tear the whole system down.

    PS: "ear-tags on all of his cattle." Is that you, Angus?

  63. MBI says:

    "Too many sacred bovines that might be gored. Gods forbid that we investigate explicitly radical islamic loudmouths …. we might miss the terrible danger represented by the West Texas Blackpowder Gun Club or some similar Right Wing bugaboo."

    Ha ha, right. If only we were brave enough to investigate Muslims. Seriously, I thought people who read a libertarian blog like this one would already be aware that most of the police state abuses they rail against are usually directed as Muslims.

  64. Jamie says:

    The government will continue to find it impossible to disarm a populace determined to keep their guns.

    And that is worthless. I mean, sure, enjoy your second amendment and all. And then go watch some YouTube of SWAT teams. Unless you live in a Heinlein novel or have the money to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place, your best outcome, assuming you're the sort to do that, is Ruby Ridge.

    That worked out well.

    Certainly, disagree with me if you like. Assuming the topic, if the government is coming for you, (thank you, Clash) Wanna You Gonna Do Now?

    Pulling a gun certainly makes the question easier, and the state still seems to do probate well.

    I think a lot of the gun types assume an insurrection sort of scenario, where freedom fighters emerge from Kentuky or South Dakota to fight a flank war against the invading Feds, or something.

    That will never happen. I posit that the 2cd is not a countervailing force against much of anything beyond a deer, or perhaps your girlfriend's other drunk boyfriend.

    Our government has managed to fuck up many, many years against insurgents. People who have a tight feedback loop – fuck it up, and die. I don't think many Guns & Ammo subscribers have the same experience.

    So go look again at some of those videos, and after your spreadsheets for the boss are done, let me know how the militia training is going.

  65. Jamie says:

    And yes, I was being a dick there. Yes, guns are a wedge under a slippery slope, per Volokh, although I don't agree with all of that assessment.

  66. A Critic says:

    The CIA, FBI, and Pentagon all knew who the hijackers were, where they were, and what they were doing.

    It wasn't an interagency failure that allowed 9/11 to happen.

    It was at least 4 different agencies all "coincidentally" failing to investigate the actual Bin Laden hijackers at a time when there were more than 80 investigations in a nation wide campaign to find those hijackers. The 75+ investigations that did not involve the actual hijackers were not shut down from above, those that did were.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  67. JdL says:

    Thanks for this excellent post, Clark. Sorry you have to suffer endless nonsense from government butt-kissing commenters, but c'est la vie.

    Democracy, as someone once said, is two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. It is, ultimately, mob rule, or would be, if the thugs in government gave a damn about anybody but themselves and their friends.

    How to fight? Do what you're doing. Call the thieving criminals what they are. Laugh at them, openly despise them, defy them.

  68. G. Filotto says:

    Not really. Clubs beat shame after a certain point and the USA seems to have very little shame about using clubs.

  69. Ernie Menard says:

    The references to East Germany and the 'midnight knock on the door' are way over the top. We don't do that in this country. We break the door down and go in yelling. Shock and awe, you know.

    [If there is a dog to shoot in the invaded dwelling, so much the better for the shock value.]

  70. Greg says:

    Maybe it's just me but when I see a list like this one:
    Incarceration rates by country and find that U.S.A. is #1, We're #1! We're #1!

    It makes me think that maybe, just maybe we do actually live in a certified police state. Sure people questioned Snowden's choice to seek asylum in Russia, but they imprison far less people than we do per capita.

    Wouldn't a free country be one that errs on I dunno the side of freedom? Instead we have a government that seeks ever new reasons for which to add to our prison population.

    WOD, WOT some shit different day. National security isn't really national security it is government job security.

  71. Trevor says:

    @Anonsters

    I've been wondering lately whether a PAC specifically targeting those members of Congress who sit on the intelligence committees might not be the way to go.

    Woah! Remember that both Ron Wyden and Mark Udall sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee and both (Ron, Mark) have been doing work within the confines of current stupid laws to expose NSA abuses. Martin Heinrich has also been helping expose abuses to a lesser extent. While a PAC targeting most members of the Intelligence Committees might be the way to go, let's not throw out the only folks working from inside the Intelligence Committees themselves to help with this messed-up situation.

  72. DeeplyRooted says:

    @RKN:

    our children, or our children's children

    s/b: Your children. Your children's children.

    "It takes a village" meme denied.

    Scoff all you want, but the long game requires that we teach kids and young adults what's going on. Everyone's kids. There's a lot of deprogramming to do and ignorance to fix.

    Teach them American history so they know what to fight for. Teach them world history — ancient, WWII, Cambodia, USSR, Rwanda — so they know how depraved humanity can become, and how easily. Teach them science, so they aren't led to idiocy or panic by every charlatan that comes along. Teach them literature, so that they learn compassion for people who are different from them, and that they might identify themselves as the "good guys." Teach them games, to show them that well-designed systems of rules and meta-rules can create value and enjoyment out of benign self interest. Teach them that power will always try to sustain itself, and good rule systems (and a reasonable means of enforcement) are pretty much all that stand between us and tyranny.

    And while we're at it, we should teach all this to any adults that might listen.

  73. Ken says:

    We have fallen into the trap the Soviets fell into after WWII. National PTSD causing us to become what we were fighting against. The difference the USSR succumbed because of 8.8 million dead.

    Seriously? The Soviets were fighting for their existence, granted, but they were long since what they were fighting against. Does the Holodomor ring a bell?

  74. RKN says:

    @DeeplyRooted

    Scoff all you want [...]

    I didn't scoff. I corrected a pronoun.

    I think you need to reread the last paragraph of Clark's post. Why should I care if delaying the fight to defeat the so-called national-security-police-state will only foist the responsibility on posterity? Makes sense people who have children may have that concern, but for us evolutionary dead ends?

    I mean seriously…

    If we don't fight now, though, the national-security-police-state will win, and it will be our children, or our children's children, who will have to fight.

    … do it for the children?

    How droll.

  75. Daniel says:

    It seems to me that those here who seem to think that America is not much of a police police state are only considering the feds such as the NSA and TSA. There are many other indications of a police state, other than those two agencies. There is, for example, "forfeiture [that] endangers Americans' rights" (see fear.org).

    In my area, the local police are close to as "corrupt as they come." The police state doesn't come only from the feds. For example, here it has been my experience that the police almost always lie in their police reports.

    One time I purposely drove through a DUI checkpoint. I gave the cop some candy teeth in a wrapper and told him to use those candy teeth to lie through rather than lying through his own teeth. He threw the teeth at my chest and they bounced off and hit my daughter who was in the passenger seat. (No, I wasn't detained or arrested, but I was battered by the teeth, although it didn't hurt because I had on a heavy leather jacket and it was rather soft candy.)

  76. DeeplyRooted says:

    @RKN:

    I think you need to reread the last paragraph of Clark's post. Why should I care if delaying the fight to defeat the so-called national-security-police-state will only foist the responsibility on posterity? Makes sense people who have children may have that concern, but for us evolutionary dead ends?

    So taking Clark's assumptions as a given, what you're saying is "my convenience and comfort is more important than the potential injury, imprisonment, or death of your grandchildren in a violent revolution."

    Silly me; I didn't want to assume that's what you were saying. Thank you for clearing that up!

  77. Anonsters says:

    @Trevor:

    Oh, no, I didn't mean all of them. Specifically just the ones who are massively irresponsible in the conduct of their oversight of the IC and/or beholden to the surveillance state.

    Wyden and Udall are models, not targets!

  78. charles says:

    Wowza, never thought I would see Popehat descend down the crazy path of trutherism. The article seems like the almost constant drum beat of articles by Captain Safford that was allowed in the professional journals of defense and NSA from the 50's until Safford's death in 1973 that the government knew because it had a message from the Tokyo to the staff that an attack was going to occur on Pearl Harbor Day because of some "winds message". That if we had only seen this one message the lost of life would never have happened. Safford was fired from his position shortly after Midway because of his constant haterade against the senior leadership about this so called "missing" message and as part of an over all change to the SigInt that is done during the war by the military.
    Look at this whistle blower letter, it makes me see the same sort of shades of ax grinding and tin foil hattery. Sorry, but it does.
    I mean when was the last time Daniel Ellsburg was allowed inside a government building, let alone near classified material that he was allowed to view? The rest of the VIPS are all people who have quit the government after their moral outrage reached a certain level, but were more then willing to be there when things like CONINTELPRO or FISA was being used supposedly for our protections. I find it hypocritical in my mind, but whatever. The rest of the names on this letter appear to have been part of a leak in 2005 to the NYT about the NSA spying program because their money sink was closed off and in turn it shifted over to someone's else money sink in the black budget affair of intelligence spending. It is amazing to see how true to life the spying world is vs the Hollywood shades. They seem like all whinny little kids to me, who are unhappy and shoved out the door because they became too wrapped around the fact that their program was canceled all while bitching about it.

    The problem with any sort of security apparatus and specifically one that operates in the shades ethical and moral gray like the NSA (or any of the alphabet soup that makes up the intelligence services) is going against what we consider is right or correct. Yet, at the same time if we adopt the attitude like what Henry Cabot Lodge suggested and not look for the signs or information because that is the gentlemanly thing to do, then we are attacked again. What does that say about our intelligence services? Are they bumbling idiots or have they been hamstrung by an over eager attempt to keep them operating in a moral/ethical manner in an unethical/immoral career field? If you honestly look at the rise of the intelligence agencies from the end of WW2 until the start of the Regan admin, we see it all over again and again. Situations where things that the CIA should have seen, like the fall of the Shah or the failure of the Bay of Pigs or the misguided war efforts in Vietnam and Laos; instead we see them walking around with an attitude of being the "pros from Langley" and that hubris trips them up. After the Church hearings and we neutered the intelligence agencies, we see that they miss things like Walker, Ames, Pollard, Beirut, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and even the collapse of the Warsaw PACT let alone the Beijing uprisings. Now they are given free rein and we don't like what we see and scream "FACIST! POLICE STATE! STASI!" However, the minute a number of people die or a bomb is detonated they scream, "WHERE THE FUCK WAS THE CIA! THEY HAVE DRONES THAT CAN SEE YOU CHANGING YOUR CONTACT LENSES! SATELLITES THAT CAN SMELL WHAT YOU WERE HAVING FOR DINNER! WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN AND STOPPED THIS!" This level of ignorance about what our intelligence agencies can and can't do, in the general public is outstanding and really hampers the oversight ability. Let alone how screwed up our elected officials are with regards to understanding their roles in oversight. The same can be applied to the local levels with regards to policing at the city, county level. I have seen it too many damn times where people cry because the police are all over the place in popular crime areas, but are getting results. So the police leave and they quit doing their intelligence, crime climbs and new organized crime affiliations replace the vacuums. The locals bitch and the police come back. Individually we like a happy medium, but collectively as a voting public it is all or nothing extremism when it comes to security.

    Also, sorry to say this but for those of you wanting to return to Constitutional ways of government vis-a-via warrants, search, free speech; then you had best start working on ways to throw out those laws which were past almost a 100 years ago during Wilson's run up to WW1. It was those laws which have only been challenged every so lightly about speaking out against the government and which still hamstring true activism against governmental injustices. Some of these things still give free reign of our government to commit abuses against the population in the name of "security" if we add in that we have things later on like the FISA courts which didn't arrive in 2001 like most of the teeny boopers believe but came under Carter's admin in 1978, only refined in how it did its business when the Pat Act was passed. The same is true for a few of the other laws that relate to security apparatus oversight, management and mission statements. The laws are numerous and heavy because we want to be secure from whatever the external threat is, we just don't realize what we are selling out to get that security.

    TL;DR crowd: You don't want to know how the intelligence sausage is made and the people that wrote this letter seem very tin foil hat wearing types similar to those in the intelligence world that saw their jobs end after Pearl Harbor Attack because supposedly the government missed a message.

  79. Well, in my defense, you'll find me talking down the 9/11 Truthers in the comments over where my article was posted, at http://warrantless.org/2014/01/no-more-911/.

    The point here is more subtle than you're making out. In my case, I'm not saying that it is reasonable to think that the NSA could have prevented 9/11. They probably did have data in hand that could, if selected from among the mass and interpreted with full sensitivity to context, have prevented 9/11. That they didn't, suggests to me that even back then, the volume of data they were intercepting was too great for them to be able to process.

    The notion of returning to and reinvigorating the Fourth Amendment, therefore, is not misguided antiquarianism. It's a practical response to the overwhelming volume of data the intelligence services have decided, unconstitutionally, to collect and then drown in. How much data would they have to handle if they only collected information based on probable cause? Hell of a lot less. They might even start being able to thwart terrorist attacks in advance if they did that.

    No, my anger didn't, and doesn't, come from their failure to stop 9/11. It comes from their failure to understand that mass surveillance didn't stop 9/11, that it has stopped no terrorist attacks since then, and won't stop another 9/11 in the future; but that they are still beating the jingoistic drum of "preventing 9/11" when they know it to be false, expecting us to be cowed by the same rhetoric as if we were children who don't and can't learn from events. They think they own us and our fears, because of an event they failed to prevent and have been lying about ever since, in terms of their ability to prevent further attacks like it.

    Clear?

  80. Ed says:

    The Anarchists predicted it would come to this but most didn't want to hear it. Sometimes it sucks to be correct but we are getting used to it.

  81. Castaigne says:

    @Clark:

    I want to burn the police state to the ground.
    I want to protest the police state.
    I want to roll back the police state.
    Methods may differ, but the role is always the same.

    All of the methods lead back to the same place. If you want to succeed, Clark, there is only one sure method of doing so: executing every statist.

    =====

    @John Kindley:

    There's not really anything that can be done, at least on a large scale. All that can be done is to preserve the Remnant. The masses are Statists through and through.

    And how do you propose to do that, exactly?

    =====

    @stillnotking:

    'Privacy' will mean something very different to our children and grandchildren than it does to us.

    Charles Stross dealt adequately with this issue in this essay. I shall quote the relevant part:

    Our concept of privacy relies on the fact that it's hard to discover information about other people. Today, you've all got private lives that are not open to me. Even those of you with blogs, or even lifelogs. But we're already seeing some interesting tendencies in the area of attitudes to privacy on the internet among young people, under about 25; if they've grown up with the internet they have no expectation of being able to conceal information about themselves. They seem to work on the assumption that anything that is known about them will turn up on the net sooner or later, at which point it is trivially searchable.

    and

    Meet your descendants. They don't know what it's like to be involuntarily lost, don't understand what we mean by the word "privacy", and will have access (sooner or later) to a historical representation of our species that defies understanding. They live in a world where history has a sharply-drawn start line, and everything they individually do or say will sooner or later be visible to everyone who comes after them, forever. They are incredibly alien to us.

    I have already embraced this. To cling to previous considerations of privacy is to be a victim of future shock. I embrace the future; I am technologically upgraded.

  82. James Pollock says:

    If you want to succeed, Clark, there is only one sure method of doing so: executing every statist.

    No, there's also leaving (AKA "voting with your feet".) East Germany was prepared to shoot you if you tried; I'm not familiar with any line of argument that tries to stop people from the leaving the U.S. if that's what they want to do.

  83. James Pollock says:

    They probably did have data in hand that could, if selected from among the mass and interpreted with full sensitivity to context, have prevented 9/11. That they didn't, suggests to me that even back then, the volume of data they were intercepting was too great for them to be able to process.

    Is this an argument that they shouldn't collect data, or an argument that they need better algorithms for processing data into information? Because the second option can actually be used as an argument that they need to collect more data.

    Consider the considerably more manageable problem of credit theft. The various banks that make up credit and debit card networks invest heavily in pattern-recognition data-mining to detect fraudulent transactions amongst the millions of transactions that pass through their computers. They're able to do this because they have a vast transaction database upon which they can test new approaches and algorithms for detecting fraud… specifically, using computers to probe the data automatically and flag transactions as possibly fraudulent. They certainly don't catch all fraud, and the system in fact knowingly accepts that many fraudulent transactions will go through in order to avoid false positives cutting off legitimate users from their credit or debit accounts. The NSA's task is far larger, of course, but they also have more resources; having a huge dataset to test algorithms against would serve the same purpose as it does in the credit/debit network… allowing them to develop and test algorithms for automatically detecting things that require closer inspection by the limited resources we have to investigate.

  84. goober says:

    I don't think democracy means what you think it means.

    For example: you held up the Constitution as an example or figurehead as it were, of US democracy.

    Please explain why the document establishing a constitutional republic has anything at all to do with democracy.

  85. Castaigne says:

    @James Pollock:

    No, there's also leaving (AKA "voting with your feet".) East Germany was prepared to shoot you if you tried; I'm not familiar with any line of argument that tries to stop people from the leaving the U.S. if that's what they want to do.

    And go…where? Somewhere less statist than the USA? I mean, I guess one could go to Somalia, if we want to use that old canard, but essentially the option for less government is…Antarctica. I haven't met too many ancaps who want to go live there.

    Realistically, where do you think ancaps are going to vote with their feet to that's less statist than the USA?

  86. James Pollock says:

    Realistically, where do you think ancaps are going to vote with their feet to that's less statist than the USA?

    Boy, you really got me there. If here is the least statist place to be, and they're already here, I guess we should TOTALLY take their point about the imminent onset of the police state.

    Or, put another way, I'll worry about the onset-of-police-statism when the government starts worrying about keeping its citizens in the borders. Thus, "no-fly" bothers me a bit. Otherwise, not so much.