The America bin Laden Shaped


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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32 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I’d been reflecting on this. My kids were 7 and 8 on 9/11, and, to them, the current state of idiocy is just how things are. If they ever see a clip of Ed Murrow saying “We are not descended from fearful men”, they’re going to think “Really?”.Report

  2. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I was at a large grad student faculty-related meeting in which the woman speaking told us to remember about an upcoming event on November 22nd and she said, laughing, “Okay, everyone remember that date: November 22nd! I have no idea how you can remember it, but make sure you do!” I looked around to see if anyone there (most were my age or younger) to see if anyone was thinking what I was. Then I thought, “well, maybe one day nobody will think of anything special about September 11th either”.Report

  3. “…the America we lost on 9/11 — the America that didn’t profile citizens, torture people, or monitor their phone calls …”

    The only thing that has really changed since 9/11 is that it’s no longer a secret.

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      Oh, it’s changed since 9/11. Changing scales reaches tipping points eventually. We passed tipping point in about 2002.

      Before, the injustices were targeted at the few, many of whom were probably legitimately bad guys. So you screwed some people (and I’m not justifying that in any way), but mostly you were screwing bad guys.

      Now, the injustices are targeted at almost everybody. Most of whom are legitimately normal citizens. So no matter how fine grained your screwjob is, you’re screwing *way* many more normal citizens than bad guys.

      Taking torture out of the equation, as it’s an example that deserves its own analysis, the civil rights violations post 9/11 don’t compare to pre 9/11. They’re systemic, now.Report

      • Really? What % of Americans are having their civil rights violated these days? I’ll take a ballpark guess.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Mike, what’s your take on the PATRIOT Act? On the plus side, it made some needed reforms within the intelligence community, eliminating the little fiefdoms. FISA courts are pretty much rubber stamp operations, yet there were enough instances where the FISA court was bypassed to give anyone pause, no matter how pragmatic they might be. A judge ought to get a look at that warrant.

          We’ve overreacted to the threat of terrorism, in my opinion. In these blanket responses, we’re wasting resources and money better used in meaningful intelligence gathering. DHS is just another bureaucracy: we created the FBI to solve the problem of gangsters, the CIA emerged from the Cold War, NSA and NRO once satellites arrived, and now, DHS in the wake of 9/11. That’s how America responds: got a problem? Create a new bureaucracy. It isn’t working. Our Fourth Amendment rights are being eroded, not by some tyrannical regime, but by a host of well-meaning idiots. Sorry, that’s the only conclusion I can reach.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I might add in passing, the PATRIOT Act with its stampede to integrate intelligence operations created the situation in which Bradley Manning was able to gather his trove.

          How on earth did some Army SP4 get read rights to State Department traffik? Bradley Manning was a monster created by the Dr. Frankenstein of the PATRIOT Act, DHS and the general gibbering paranoiac fugue of the fallout from 9/11. In our rush to prevent another attack, we abandoned every sound principle of security and need-to-know and chmod +R-ed everything and everyone, hanging our flabby asses out in the breeze. Now our enemies are laughing at us.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          @ Mike

          > What % of Americans are having their civil
          > rights violated these days?

          Everyone who uses the Internet without encrypting all of their traffic.

          So, that’s most folks. The Narus Insight, which was new when then NSA *started* warrantless wiretapping, can do real-time analysis down to layer 7 on an 10 Gbit/s line. In practice, that’s a huge capacity, even back in 2002. I have no doubt the NSA has upgraded their equipment since then.

          It may be a robot, Mike, but it’s definitely reading all of your packets. And when that robot decides to flag you as interesting, it dumps you up to a human analyst. You get no challenge over that chunk of code, there ain’t no due process. I know the Framers didn’t have a gam-dum-insight into what the Internet was going to look like, but all intent points me to they would call this illegal search. They’d probably be more freaked out about it than Welfare, them being actual revolutionaries and all.Report

          • And the government was reading my great-uncle’s mail in WWII. I don’t see how anything has really changed.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              We were also incarcerating perfectly ordinary citizens in concentration camps in Nevada. Japanese citizens. It may well be that wartime attenuates our squeamishness about these things; Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and J Edgar Hoover ran roughshod over everyone’s civil rights, blackmailing half of Washington.

              Derrida once said nobody gets angry at a mathematician or a physicist: we don’t understand what he’s saying. We don’t get mad at someone who speaks a foreign language. We get angry at someone who tampers with our own language. The Department of Homeland Security fails this tamper test. We are either at war, in which case we ought to simply put the Fourth Amendment in abeyance. It’s that, or admit this isn’t really a war, but a gross overreaction to a small conspiracy. It’s been ten years now. As you say, it’s been going on forever and it will go on for the rest of our lives, and we the people have to snatch back our Fourth Amendment rights.

              Derrida was wrong on one count. While the rest of the world doesn’t get angry when someone speaks a foreign language, when an American hears someone speaking Arabic, he goes apeshit. Food for thought.Report

              • My point is really just that people have the timeframe and their U.S. history wrong when they suggest that all this started in 2001 and they are incredibly naive if they think it stopped after Obama got elected. I have no doubt in my mind that sometime in the future someone will publish a book which contends that horrible things were done to suspected bad guys on Obama’s watch and with his approval. They might even use the same techniques that were popular with the OSS in 1944.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                What’s “all this”?

                Is the body of pre-FISA civil liberties infractions bigger than the body of post-FISA, pre-9/11 infractions? How about post-9/11?

                No, Mike, I’m not naive. I know for a fact it didn’t stop after Obama got elected. Obama’s record on civil liberties is, if anything, worse than Dubya’s because he had political capital to backtrack from some of it and he did nothing to roll back any of it. George at least had the excuse that everyone lost their fishing mind on 9/11 and he had to “do something”. Barack had 8 years of data to look at and see how ineffectual most of this stuff is, and he’s doing it anyway.Report

              • I don’t know – I’d like to see those numbers. Hoover was at the FBI for a long time.Report

              • Avatar The Fool says:

                Yeah, and COINTEPLRO alone was bad enough to cover for at least a few years of post-9/11.

                A few highlights:

                Intentionally trying to split up husbands and wives by introducing fears of affairs committed by one or the other partner.

                Squarely working against the exercise of free speech by trying to disemploy those who said things COINTELPRO deemed seditious

                Trying to inspire “gang warfare” between groups it deemed radical. often radicalizing those groups in the process (Black Panthers and the US Organization, for example, which resulted in the USO murdering four Black Panther members, including its Chicago chairman). On the instigation of the violence, an FBI field office report cited in the Church Committee Report states: “Shootings, beatings and a high degree of unrest continues to prevail in the ghetto area of Southeast San Diego. Although no specific counterintelligence action can be credited with contributing to this overall situation, it is felt that a substantial amount of the unrest is directly attributable to this program.” This was seen as a success).

                Covering-up for and enabling a Ku Klux Klan informant who had direct knowledge of and may have participated in the murder of a civil rights worker and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.


                more specifically for the conclusions I’m reciting from the report: C: “Excessive use of intrusive techniques” and D: “Using Covert Action to Disrupt and Discredit Domestic Groups”Report

              • Avatar Dennis Sanders says:

                I would agree with you, Mike. There is this belief that we lived in some kind of utopia before 9/11 which is silly. Hoover was spying on Martin Luther King, the Japanese internment and a host of other civil liberties have been lost or stretched long before September 11, 2001.Report

              • The Department of Homeland Security fails this tamper test. We are either at war, in which case we ought to simply put the Fourth Amendment in abeyance. It’s that, or admit this isn’t really a war, but a gross overreaction to a small conspiracy. It’s been ten years now. As you say, it’s been going on forever and it will go on for the rest of our lives, and we the people have to snatch back our Fourth Amendment rights.

                This, ultimately, says in a few sentences what I tried and I think largely failed to say in 1000 words in my post last night: a lot of Americans have accepted this as a real war and as such have been quite willing to let go of some of their Constitutional rights.* There was an understanding, I think, that many (though not all) of those rights would come back once the war was over. Hence why the almost unopposed PATRIOT Act had a sunset date. If things don’t start going back towards where they were soon, then it will be clear that Washington doesn’t view this as a real war, and it will be high time that the populace start demanding those rights back.

                *This is different from the loss of Constitutional rights involved with the War on Drugs in that, in the WOT, many/most Americans have been quite aware of the restrictions on Constitutional liberties but been perfectly accepting of those restrictions; things that caused mass outrage in the past now draw overwhelming support. In the War on Drugs, the loss of Constitutional rights tends to be a lot less publicized and recognized.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                If things don’t start going back towards where they were soon, then it will be clear that Washington doesn’t view this as a real war, and it will be high time that the populace start demanding those rights back.

                I think it’s clear the changes were intended as a new reality for an Age of Terror, not as temporary sacrifices we had to make to win a war. This is why I have never quite understood the civil libertarian’s objection to the war paradigm – as you suggest, at least it is traditionally temporary. Civil libertarians, of course, had every right to hope that there would not be any curtailments of freedoms*, but I don’t think that was ever realistic. better they be at least nominally temporary than explicitly permanent. By the time the 109th Congress’ FISA Amendments and Military Commissions Acts came around, though, I think it had become pretty clear we were playing for keeps. I think it’s safe to say that we can give up on the hope Washington is going to spontaneously be giving those types of freedoms back any time soon; what we get back is at this point going to come down to what we demand/claw back ourselves. We might as well just get to work, it seems to me.

                *I happened never to be of that opinion; it always seemed to me that the fact of 9/11 was significant enough on its own for there to be an adjustment in the views of the polity sufficient that there would be some legitimate shift in the balance between liberty and security measures as reflected in the laws that enact the liberties guaranteed to us in the Constitution. I just hoped those changes could be limited to just what the government legitimately needed to adjust to real changes in the security environment, and enacted pursuant to a very serious, sober discussion among a public that was taking both sides of the tradeoff seriously, not by a public whose leadership maximized the terror created by the shocking event, maximized their consequent power grab, and minimized the significance of the value of the freedoms they were taking. When I realized this view put me a ways away from many self-identified civil libertarians (which I had considered myself before 9/11), was when I realized I was more or less just a liberal, not a civil libertarian with liberal sympathies, which i had previously thought myself to be.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              So wait, because the government has at times in the past violated the civil rights of the population to some degree, it’s okay that they’re doing it now to whatever degree?

              1945 was a long time before 2001, Mike. There’s a lot of history in-between. Are you contending that the government was reading everybody’s mail from 1945 to 2011?Report

              • I’m saying they were eavesdropping on phone calls, reading mail, toturing people, etc. The internet has just enabled them to cast the net wider.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Hence the “The civil rights violations post 9/11 don’t compare to pre 9/11. They’re systemic, now.” comment.

                That’s the difference. Prior, abuse of civil liberties did occur, but the target audience was limited. This doesn’t excuse it in any way, but it does mean that typically (blatant abuses aside), people were doing these things to people that were at least suspected of being bad guys.

                Now, they’re doing it to everybody. That means it’s trivially easy to wreak *far more havok* when you actually abuse the capabilities.

                Think about it this way: before, you had to come to the attention of the government, and you either had to be a bad guy or you had to be on Hoover’s shit list.

                Now, you’re already past the first hurdle. And the second hurdle now has three exception scenarios: you have to be a bad guy, or you have to be on some blatant abuser’s shit list, *or* you have to have the bad karma to fit some sort of profile that some programmer thinks might be relevant based upon developing data mining techniques that are, at best, really badly adapted to the problem domain.

                That’s changed the potential abuse consequences rather severely.Report

              • Hoover’s shit list was pretty big. Also, McCarthy did plenty. And we’re not even talking about state and local governments. Again, I would contend that with the same technology the government would have reached even farther than now.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The historians are just now coming to terms with the scope and magnitude of Hoover’s blackmail and petty tyrannies.

                Look, your point is taken. But really, in an age where your iPhone and Android phone is surreptitiously recording your location, doesn’t that militate for beefing up our Fourth Amendment rights?Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Oh, that’s entirely possible. Even probable. Hell, I’ll call it a certainty and call it a day.

                But the fact that the capability didn’t exist then and does exist now doesn’t mean we should excuse how it’s being abused now by saying it would have been abused then, too.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                As far as I can tell, re: civil liberties, Lincoln and Wilson were far more egregious violators than any of our contemporary regimes.Report

              • So if we’re all in agreement that it’s really more of a technological thing and not so much a degrading ethics thing, can we agree that this statement…

                “…the America we lost on 9/11 — the America that didn’t profile citizens, torture people, or monitor their phone calls …”

                …is crap? And I’m not doing this to bust Jamelle’s chops. I just think we should look at the degradation of civil rights as one long process that started in 1798 with the Alien and Sedition Acts and not something that happened abruptly in 2001.

                Fixing the Patriot Act as the day when personal freedoms died smacks of partisanship to me – not an accurate telling of our legal history.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Actually, Bob, there was a pretty egregious violation of civil liberties that Lincoln was instrumental in ending,.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Bob doesn’t like to talk about that. It sort of sours his whole argument.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Schilling shoots, he scores!Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                You can only have civil liberties if you are 5/5ths of a citizen.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Mike, things are never so bad but what they can’t get worse. Tell you a little story. I got stranded in LA on 9/11. I was on my own dime, couldn’t get back to Chicago. There I was, hotel bill running up day after day. Then LAX opened up and I found myself in a long line just in front of an old man wearing his VFW cap. I could read his ribbon bar well enough to see the guy had two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with V and oak leaf. Turns out he was a Marine who had survived Iwo Jima, a real hero. He was wearing his VFW cap as an act of patriotism.

                So we get up to the head of the line. A couple of pimply faced Army PFCs started giving the old guy the works. I guess he must have had a bad moment and this trembly old guy started to weep.

                I sounded off in Command Voice and told those privates they were looking at a genuine American hero and they weren’t fit to polish his boots. Which got me in a very considerable amount of trouble but I stood my ground and told those privates I would be in contact with their battalion commanders and to learn to read a ribbon bar and to treat their fellow Americans and everyone else they encountered for the rest of their service careers with respect because they were at that moment nothing but a lasting embarrassment to the US Army and the nation.

                At the end of which I got a round of applause from the rest of the people in line.Report

  4. I’ve come back to the States about twice a year on average since 2006, and I think things have generally been getting better since late 2007. Living here now I can say is easier and freer than it was just before I moved to Canada (for non-political reasons) in 2006.Report