Meet the secret police

As if the Patriot Act were not intrusive enough, the Bush administration is now quietly attempting to expand the ability of U.S. spy agencies to secretly monitor the activities of American citizens.

According to the Washington Post, a presidential commission is working to expand the powers of a little-known agency called the Counterintelligence Field Agency (CIFA) to investigate crimes within the U.S., harvesting and fusing reports from local, state and federal cops on anyone the agency believes may be a security risk. That may not bother those of us who have nothing to hide, until we find out that a security risk is defined so broadly that it includes “non-specific threats,” and “suspicious activity.” In some cases, just asking a family member about their military service or participating in a lawful protest could mark a citizen for surveillance or even detention.

Acting in concert, the Pentagon is lobbying legislators to exclude spy agencies from the Privacy Act, a move that would give the Department of Defense access to voluminous records on ordinary Americans. Why? The official line is, as always, that the government needs to watch us to protect us from terrorists.

But who will protect us from the government?

In the 1970s another paranoid and corrupt presidential administration allowed the CIA and FBI to spy on U.S. citizens, a situation that led to numerous civil rights abuses, a monumental waste of time and taxpayer money and a widespread loss of faith in the American system of government. What the Bush administration is currently doing, however, may be even worse than Nixon’s COINTELPRO.

Today, technologies such as data harvesting and GPS tracking make spying on American citizens much easier. At the same time, our real enemies have figured out that these high-tech means of surveillance don’t work as well on them. Instead of investing in human intelligence and other methods proven to work against terrorists, it appears the administration is casting the blame for its own mistakes on the people it is supposed to be protecting.

The United States doesn’t need a secret police force, and the creation of such an agency would mean nothing less than the demise of our Republic.