Thursday, January 21, 2010

The dangers of police power

Law and order is a good thing, but there are those of us who rightfully worry when some alleged "patriots" say that civil rights are secondary to fighting the terrorists. The problem is that bad people can hide behind such claims and trample the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. Worse, some well-meaning people we'd ordinarily tend to trust will go too far and any of us could see our civil rights (even those of us with limited civil rights) go right out the window.

For the past several years, I've been concerned about things like the misnamed (politicians are such assholes) "USA Patriot Act." By the way, did you know that USA Patriot Act is an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism"?

How long did they work to come up with that load of crap?

More to the point, special powers granted to law enforcement are fraught with peril. Many conveniently forget this when they're scared (especially powerful white people who are unlikely to fall victim to the inevitable abuses), but perhaps if the mistakes are repeated enough times we might learn from them. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we have more evidence of what happens at times like these: F.B.I. Violated Rules in Obtaining Phone Records, Report Says

From the article: "On four occasions, the bureau made inaccurate statements to a court that authorizes national security wiretaps about how it had obtained calling records, the report said. And agents twice improperly gained access to reporters' calling records as part of leak investigations."

If that doesn't scare you, it should!

Also, the FBI "improperly obtained calling records for more than 3,500 telephone accounts from 2003 to 2006 without following any legal procedures."

I'm a very law-and-order kind of guy, but there must be a balance. Without protecting civil rights, law and order can quickly slide into a police state. This is just a reminder that it doesn't take much for things to start to go too far!

1 comment:

Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Oh and Charlie could have quite a conversation about this. He is right there with you. He worries about Absolute Power corrupting absolutely. It is something that he thinks about quite frequently; how easily our rights can be usurped because people in "authority" cross the line. Scary.