Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

the danger for the US

[via Karlin]: Ian Clarke, creator of Freenet has said that he will leave the US. His reasons? In his own words:

As an Irish citizen living in the US - I have decided that it is time to leave this country - it is starting to look, smell, and act as Germany did during the 1930s. I wish you Americans luck in regaining civilized justice in your broken country, if not, I hope that the EU will be accepting of political refugees from this brave but failed experiment.
Apparently what triggered this was the recent guilty plea accepted by an ex-Intel employee, Mike Hawash. Russ was expressing similar thoughts a few days ago, talking about his concern for his wife, who is not an American citizen and her diminished rights in the US under this new environment. What Russ didn't realize is that he, even being an American citizen, is really in the same situation as her. The US has already detained an American citizen without trial, without charges, and without access to legal representation, and people have reacted to it, to no avail so far. There are supporters of this system, for example, you can read one view in support of this here.

Hawash, the ex-Intel employee, in his plea agreement, accepted that he was "aiding the enemy" (the enemy being, in this case, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda). Ian's concerns are not unfounded, but in the case of Hawash there's more to it than meets the eye. I've read the plea agreement document (PDF) and apparently Hawahs also travelled to China with the intention of crossing the border into Afghanistan to fight against US forces. I stress: apparently. That's what it says in the document. Is that real? Was Hawash railroaded into accepting things he didn't do? We don't know. And that really, is the main problem the US is facing right now: everything is secret (leaving aside the question of whether the intention of doing something actually warrants ten years or so in prison). Hawash was detained without contact for a long time. The records of his interrogation, the proof, almost everything related to his case is sealed. One of the pillars of democratic societies is free access to information, and free public discourse, which includes free discussion on what the government is doing, and how (which theoretically allows citizens to change it later in the next election). This all-encompassing quest for pure secrecy, this distrust for the public getting a chance to see what's going on in the background, is really what could create a problem, long term, for the US. The secrecy implies that the government knows best, and people should simply take it at its word (and this, coming from a hard-line republican administration! Didn't republicans stand for small government, state independence, individual rights, privacy, gun ownership, etcetera?). Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, recently gave another good example of this broad trend in the US's administration behavior. Also, Karlin posted today another example (Commenting on this must-read entry by Danny O'Brien) of where this kind of paranoia can take things.

I don't think things are so incredibly bad as Ian says (For starters, I wouldn't compare the US government today with the Third Reich as he does), but certainly there's a worrying trend developing here. The important thing will be, IMO, whether this is relaxed in the future or not. A line was crossed, but returning is still possible, and many people are not happy with the way things are going in the US. That's the nature of things: the swing of the pendulum (Compare what's happening today with what was happening in the Nixon administration...). And if you somehow think that isn't true, you can read the transcript for a speech that Al Gore gave last week. It ain't over yet.

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on August 11 2003 at 5:40 PM

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