Fear itself

Going postal: Desperately in need of a stamp recently, Bites ducked into the U.S. Post Office’s Metro branch at 801 I Street in downtown Sacto—and ran smack into the Homeland Security apparatus. A half-dozen burly female agents with guttural German accents seized and subjected your trusted columnist to a violent full-body cavity search conducted with stubby, rubber-glove-clad fingers and insufficient quantities of KY Jelly.

Well, almost. Bites was forced to remove all metallic objects, including a cell phone, nipple rings, a Russian River Rodeo belt buckle, a chain-mail thong, all the change in both pockets, keys and a pair of steel-shank Army boots before passage to buy the aforementioned stamp was granted. Thankfully, the trusty old tinfoil hat had been left at home.

Considering the ongoing Code Red alert in airports across the country, could a terror plot be afoot right here in the River City? Nope. Turns out such security measures are nothing new at the 801 I Street Federal Building, formerly known as the Old Post Office. According to an anonymous Metro-branch source, the security precautions, in place prior to 9/11, are to protect the other federal employees in the building, including U.S. attorneys, not the lowly beings who deliver your mail through rain, hail, sleet or snow.

Fakes on a plane: The purpose of such searches, whether they involve metal detectors at public buildings or the removal of all things liquid before boarding a plane or warrantless wiretaps on innocent Americans, has nothing to do with preventing terrorism. Such inconveniences are designed to keep the citizenry scared, to remind us that we still need them, the federal government, to protect us—even as they strip away the very things that make us Americans.

That’s also the purpose of the various phony terrorist plots dreamed up by the U.S. and British governments, the latest being, in Bites’ humble opinion, the alleged scheme by 23 English Muslims to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale” by blowing up as many as nine jetliners. This one has all the earmarks of post-9/11 government-made terrorism.

The short list of earmarks includes the infiltration of a heretofore ordinary group of young people by government agent provocateurs; damning evidence and information obtained via paid informants or the torture of suspects; and alleged schemes that would have had virtually no chance at succeeding, in this case the near-impossible assembly of hydrogen-peroxide-based liquid explosives while in flight.

Hearts and minds: If the list sounds familiar, that’s because it was hammered into shape right here in the Sacramento region. There’s the government’s case against Auburn slackers Eric McDavid, Zachary Jensen and Lauren Weiner (see “Conspiracy of dunces,” SN&R Feature Story, July 27), three alleged members of the Earth Liberation Front who would have had difficulty finding their own asses without help from “Anna,” the mysterious FBI mole with a working knowledge of The Anarchist Cookbook.

Then there’s the so-called Ice Cream Jihad, the highly dubious case against Lodi Muslims Umer and Hamid Hayat, a father-and-son duo accused of terrorist activities by a paid government informant. Father Umer was acquitted of any wrongdoing, but son Hamid was convicted of providing material support to terrorists, mainly because, in the words of Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin, he had a “jihadi heart and a jihadi mind.”

So, now the government can convict you not just for what you do, but also by how you feel and what you think? Did George Orwell suspect in advance that the term “Orwellian” would become so overused that it would become virtually meaningless? Are you scared, brothers and sisters?

You should be. But make sure your fear is placed correctly. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”