Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Washington Post on "Monitoring America"


While it's rare for me to offer a bouquet to the Washington Post, the left-leaning daily does occasionally serve a useful purpose. For one example, I refer you to yesterday's front-page article headlined "Monitoring America." Even better was an earlier piece in the same series, "A hidden world, growing beyond control."

Only the Kingfish of the mainstream media can devote the resources needed to get an overview of a complicated story like this; the paper says its reporting is based on almost 100 interviews and a thousand documents.

The gist of the stories is how the national security state has grown since 9/11 and increasingly involves state and local police taking the federal coin, sometimes returning the favor with surveillance information — which remains in databases even if no terrorist intent is found. And the Post also cites examples of police departments using their "anti-terrorism" kit for their own purposes.
Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.

The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain.
For example:
On a recent night in Memphis, a patrol car rolled slowly through a parking lot in a run-down section of town. The military-grade infrared camera on its hood moved robotically from left to right, snapping digital images of one license plate after another and analyzing each almost instantly. Suddenly, a red light flashed on the car's screen along with the word "warrant." 

"Got a live one! Let's do it," an officer called out.
 One result of this national security web, the paper says, is that the FBI "is building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor."

The story seems reasonably fair-minded in acknowledging that this high-tech information technology can help both crime fighting and counter-terrorism. But it also suggests that finely focused tracking of anyone who comes to the attention of the law for any reason is a few steps too far. I agree.

We're still a long way from Soviet-style surveillance, but there is something creepy about so many state resources going into watching all of us with no need for tiresome old-fashioned stuff like search warrants.


Nevertheless, the Post being the Post, it interprets facts it has so responsibly and diligently uncovered with its typical slant.

For instance, it Views With Alarm what some security consultants are telling local cops.
Ramon Montijo has taught classes on terrorism and Islam to law enforcement officers all over the country. … 
What he tells them is always the same, he said: Most Muslims in the United States want to impose sharia law here."They want to make this world Islamic. The Islamic flag will fly over the White House - not on my watch!" he said. "My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders."
To the Post's reporters, this is such obvious insanity that they don't even feel any need to refute it. But is it really so far off the mark? The Daily Mail reports, "Around a third of young British Muslims favour killing in the name of Islam, according to a survey revealed by the WikiLeaks' publication of U.S. diplomatic cables.

"A survey of 600 Muslim students at 30 universities throughout Britain found that 32 per cent of Muslim respondents believed killing in the name of religion is justified."

The Post says, "With so many local agencies around the country being asked to help catch terrorists, it often falls to sheriffs or state troopers to try to understand the world of terrorism. They aren't FBI agents, who have years of on-the-job and classroom training." My God, they're not federal employees! The Post, as the paper of record for Washington bureaucrats, is upset. But at least the non-FBI agents haven't all been subjected to the "Wahabbi Lobby." 

But the biggest problem with the Post story is that, while it offers valuable insight into the over-reaching security state, its ideology can't admit that the Orwellian approach is almost inevitable as long as Muslim immigration restriction is out of bounds.

Most Muslim immigrants aren't terrorists, but the terrorist threat is Muslim through and through. We willingly let potential jihadists settle in the United States, then spend gazonga dollars and billions of man-hours trying to keep an eye on them. It's barking mad. But as long as non-discrimination remains the sacred principle of official policy, we'll keep inviting trouble, tie ourselves in knots and clamp down on everyone.

The borderline police state establishment described by the Post is inevitable as long as we lack any strategic focus. But it's impossible to have a strategy when you have to pretend that the enemy is a tactic rather than a worldwide system that combines religion and politics.

Jeffrey Imm wrote in a 2007 article in Counterterrorism Blog:
In effect, American policy and debate remains focused on tactical issues, without a clear agreement on the enemy, or the strategy to fight the enemy, in the world war.
This unwillingness to face the identity of the enemy is the source of our failures in foreign policy, our failures in national security, and our divisions at home. With an ambiguously defined "war on terror", the US media, politicians, and other citizens can define the war and the enemy with whatever political filter that they choose, and they do. This ambiguity is what empowers the Washington Post and the New York Times to give editorial coverage to Jihadist organization representatives.
By refusing to define who and what we should stop at the borders, we consign ourselves to monitoring them once they are here. And that refusal means we have to monitor America, all the time, everywhere.



DP111 said...

My view, long held, is that we need to have a separation from the islamic world. As a start one needs to take them at their own words and agree wholeheartedly, that there is indeed a dar ul islam and a dar ul harb, and for the good of humanity, infidels and muslims alike, it is better to live apart in respective nations.

It is a sad fact that muslim presence anywhere leads to discomfort of other already established communities. Soon the established community will leave or forced out by Jihad by mob violence, and yet another region becomes dar ul islam.

Separation has one advantage – Muslim nations, left to their own devices, unable to export their excess population, an ever deteriorating infrastructure, increasing poverty and diminishing military power, will have no alternative but to reform islam. And even if they do not, they will not be a menace to the safety and security of the rest of the world, for the simple reason that they will not have access to harvest infidel lives. Harsh as this is, it is the most humane way to progress.

What frightens me is that we are moving towards a new world war that is quite unlike previous world wars. This world war will be a civil war ie a global civil war – the very worst type imaginable. Else we are looking forward to a Three Conjecture scenario (Google), leading to deaths on an unprecedented scale.

Separation leaves hope for the future for everybody. Islam will collapse quite quickly in historic terms if it is unable to expand (that is after all its main reason), and thus release the 1 billion souls in its enslavement.
Politically impossible at the moment? – Yes. Yet precedents are there in recent history, where exchanges of populations were considered the only way to secure a reasonably peaceful outcome.

Just as the Jews were ethnically cleansed from the ME, so now Christians are being "ethnically" cleansed. It seems that an exchange of populations, Christians in Muslim countries for Muslims in the West, would avert the catastrophe of a war.

Recent exchanges of populations

India – Pakistan
Greece – Turkey

Rick Darby said...


Well said. We don't wish harm to Muslims, other than those using violence toward their ends, but trying to assimilate Muslims into a culture that values non-establishment of religion and freedom of speech is an exercise in futility.

Continuing Muslim immigration in the West will have one of two outcomes: Muslim domination, with sharia law and non-Muslims reduced to dhimmi status, or a worldwide civil war.

It's not as though Muslims are a stateless people. A huge chunk of the Earth lives under the crescent. Other than their hard-line ideology and the manifold failures of most Muslim countries, there is no reason why Muslims must settle in Europe, America, and Australia.

If Islam is denied any hope of taking over any countries other than their traditional homelands, and individual Muslims have to stay there, then there's at least a chance that Islam will evolve into a non-threatening system. Such change will no doubt involve lots of bloodshed and turmoil. Too bad — but not our problem if we stop making it our problem.

Just for my curiosity: Does your screen name "DP111" have any particular significance?

Martin B said...

That's a great picture you've got headlining this post, Rick. It looks like a robot holding a gun. One can almost hear the voice of the ED-209 droid from Robocop: "Drop your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply".

While I do not think we yet have a police state, what we do have is a police-state in waiting. There are enough laws, policies, directives, and executive orders on the books that, though not now fully implemented, if there were to be invoked, could be used to squeeze this whole country in a vice. Such an oppresive regime could probably be turned on within a week, after some kind of national emergency.

Rick Darby said...

Martin B,

"A police state in waiting." That's an apt description. The framework and technology are there. They're only being applied selectively, so far.

DP111 said...

Just for my curiosity: Does your screen name "DP111" have any particular significance?

None but initials of my name. The "111" came about around a year after 9/11 on LGF, as a quick way to distinguish another DP, as I had to reply to many replies. Those days the browser didnt automatically remember the name.

Martin B said...

Though this is a poor place to post it (given the topic), I'd like to wish you and your family a merry Christmas, Rick.

Rick Darby said...


I'm glad to count you among my readers.

Martin B,

Much appreciated, and the same to you and yours.

DP111 said...

I dont think I posted this. However this rendition of Oh Holy Night really stirs me.

Cantique de Noël - Jonas Kaufmann

Here is an interesting example of a singer who sings in two languages, one after the other. He sings the first part in the original French (not his native language), then switches to his native German. His voice in the first part is good, and the words are clear. But listen to what happens when he changes language. Suddenly the tone is more plangent, more resonant, the words more heartfelt, the high notes thrilling.

Is this because he is more at ease in his native tongue, or because he wanted to build up in power as he progressed? (Or did the engineer turn up the volume on the second part?)

Kaufmann is one of today's best-known German tenors who sings in different languages. The video is from the 2008 Dresden Adventskonzert.

Happy and peaceful New Year to Rick and all readers.