A Brit, a Mexican-American, and a Texan walk into a bar

Or into the ongoing controversy over keeping America both safe and free.

A quick scan through some media sources finds the press continuing its examination of civil liberties issues in the post-9/11 world.

The Oakland Tribune put it quite bluntly on Friday: Big Brother is watching

We are told that it’s better not to know what our government is doing in our name, for security purposes. Meanwhile, our government is becoming omnipresent, spying on us whenever it deems it necessary.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

George Orwell was right after all.

In 1949, Orwell penned “1984,” a dark, futuristic satire in which the totalitarian government used indoctrination, propaganda and fear to enforce order and conformity. His “Big Brother” – the face of this all-knowing regime – was never wrong, and to make sure of it, history was constantly being rewritten.

Orwell wrote his book as a cautionary tale to underscore the insidious danger of slowly eroded individual liberties. His Thought Police may not yet be on the march, but it’s not hyperbole to point out the eerie parallels with today’s America.

In America today, Big Brother is watching.

(If you read the full editorial, please keep in mind that the ACLU takes no position on war. I’ve posted this because of the brilliant commentary about- what else- civil liberties.)

The OT noted this from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: “I’m as concerned about the privacy of American citizens as anyone

(audience laughter) Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy a nice, tall glass of Lip Service.

but we cannot allow libraries and use of libraries to become safe havens for terrorists,” Gonzales said in July, defending one of the act’s most controversial provisions.

This is yet another example of the government using misinformation to distract the public and sway us toward their way of thinking. No one has said that law enforcement should be completely banned from libraries. We simply want there to be evidence to justify a library search. The Patriot Act allows the FBI and the DOJ to gain search warrants or write National Security Letters without showing any evidence of wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing.

Of course, in light of the recent revelation that the FBI thinks that PETA and Greenpeace endanger national security, they probably want to know who is checking out Earth in the Balance and Slaughterhouse.

Columnist J.R. Labbe of the Forth Worth Star Telegram took the administration to task for trampling on the Constitution:

It’s ironic that on the day when Christians herald the arrival of the Light of the World and Jews begin their eight-day Festival of Light known as Hanukkah, our nation is re-visiting a very dark chapter of history.

The same document that guarantees every American the right to mark this day as a Christian holiday, or a Jewish holiday, or a cultural holiday such as Kwanzaa or just a day off from work is the same document that the executive branch of the federal government thinks it can ignore in the name of national security.

The enumeration of citizens’ rights known as the Bill of Rights — everything from free speech to the right to be secure in one’s home — isn’t just a listing of suggestions that can be ignored when they become inconvenient.

Labbe also would not let Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) off the hook:

Cornyn had the gall to say that “none of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.” He may have a point — a very bad one. That kind of sound-bite fearmongering indicates the weakness of this administration’s argument.

In response, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Bringing it closer to home, the (Harrisburg) Patriot News wrote an editorial yesterday in which the paper called for “more protections for Americans, not fewer” and “more debate and more consideration of civil liberties, rather than less”.
Still time to protect rights

Andy in the HBG