Tag Archives: abolish the national security state!

Liberty is Security, and Security is Liberty

A brief article over at Reason summarizes a couple of recent political studies that show that creating restrictions to combat terrorism actually increases the risk of terrorism*. In one case, religious restrictions foment religious violence. In the other case, restrictions on the freedom of expression in the name of security provokes violence. These studies provide evidence that security is better served by maintaining liberty, rather than curtailing it. While this is useful empirical evidence, we can make a stronger case for maintaining liberty for the purpose of security.

Let’s start with a real-world example.

On November 15th, sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of John Livingston, a 33 year old father, looking for a suspect in an assault investigation. The deputies asked to enter and search the premises, and Livingston told them to get a search warrant, as is his right, and closed the door. Instead, the deputies broke down the door and began beating Livingston. The deputies tased, maced, and finally shot him four times. Livingston was unarmed, and was called a “very kind man and an incredible carpenter”.

It would seem to me that John Livingston was not very secure.

This is precisely the practical purpose of the administrative restrictions that are placed on state agents. Without courts and other limiting institutions on state action, which we might also call liberty, citizens do not have security against agents of the state. We can dismiss the people who say that state agents only go after people who have done something wrong. The way they figure out if you’ve done something wrong is by investigating you, which involves all sorts of potential violations of the citizen’s dignity. And then they’re wrong (or biased, or just plain malicious) all the time.

It is not only that liberty contributes towards security, as the Reason post suggests, but liberty is security. Thus, when people (well, fools) say that we must “give up some liberty for more security”, they are actually suggesting a logical contradiction. They would be suggesting that invasions of our homes and privacy, or threats to our lives or freedom, somehow make us safer.


*Note: “terrorism” is not a word with any useful or precise meaning.

For Martin Luther King’s Day, Let’s Close the FBI

As a result of the recent Freedom of Information Act revelations regarding Occupy Wall Street, we have learned about the degree of collusion between local police, federal law enforcement, and private banks to oversee and disrupt the Occupy movement.  Of particular interest to Richmonders should be the investigation of Occupy Richmond.  Occupy Richmond situated itself next to the Richmond Federal Reserve in Kanawha Plaza.  According to the released FBI reports, the FBI believed that Occupy Richmond, with other Occupy sites, would somehow assist Anonymous, the international hacker network.  Their evidence for this was that Occupy Richmond had 4500 likes on Facebook, and Anonymous issued a statement of support.  The FBI thinks this is evidence sufficient for investigation.

I personally took bottled water to the Kanawha Plaza occupiers.  I milled about and met some friendly people.  Because of my infrequent visits, they probably thought I was an undercover cop.  Most of the discussion at the camp seemed to involve matters of personal survival, camp organization, and what the Occupy movement should do next.  No conspiracies to commit crime were apparent.  Of course, this is just a personal impression, and does not comprise good evidence.  Unlike the FBI, I know what counts as good evidence, despite having 8 billion fewer dollars.

The FBI has a history of being driven by ideology over rationality.  At the heart of the organization was founder and noted idiot J. Edgar Hoover, portrayed in 2011 by Leonardo DiCaprio in the worst old person make-up ever.  Just for one example of his utter stupidity, Hoover famously tried to blackmail Martin Luther King into suicide by sending him recordings of King’s infidelity.

But the FBI hasn’t needed Hoover to have a history of incompetence and malice.  Beyond interference in radical political parties and its attempted suppression of the Civil Rights movement, the full extent of the FBI’s political policing came to light in the release of the COINTELPRO (COunter-INTELligence PROgram) files.  The COINTELPRO files revealed that the FBI was engaged in a program of surveillance of ordinary citizens not suspected of crimes.  (This was at one time considered shocking and terrible.)  The most egregious act that can definitely be attributed to the FBI was their cooperation with the Chicago Police in the assassination of Fred Hampton, the leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Since the supposed end of COINTELPRO, the FBI has harassed environmental activists, gun-owners, religious cults, and, especially after 9/11, Muslims.  The FBI had high-profile involvement in the death of the Waco Koresh cult and the Ruby Ridge survivalists in the 1990’s.  The FBI was actually condemned by a federal judge for bigotry in their persecution of Wen-Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist who took his work with him in violation of his lab’s security protocols.  However, the FBI wanted him charged with espionage for China, and their case rested entirely on the basis of his race and national origin – except that Lee is Taiwanese.  This was in 1999.

And they haven’t stopped being stupid.  The FBI has 15,000 informants working the mosques, trying to get Muslims to want to blow something up.  The informants might spend years convincing a disgruntled Muslim to blow something up, at which point the FBI will secretly supply everything the bomber needs.  This most recently happened with the fake attempted bombing of the New York Federal Reserve.

Perhaps FBI analysts are so terminally bigoted because of their guides and manuals (includes hilariously childish graph).  A 2009 copy of FBI training materials found that agents were being instructed in racist and bigoted material in the psychology and culture of Arabs and Muslims.  Included in the training materials were claims that even mainstream Muslims are violent and sympathize with terrorists, and that Arabs only understand force.

The closure of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is long overdue.  The FBI does not perform any law enforcement functions that cannot be performed, on the one hand, by other more focused federal agencies, and, on the other hand, by cooperating state and local law enforcement.  I’m sure there are plenty of competent and rational FBI agents who have done a great service.  But the FBI’s organizational culture as a whole is revealed by its history to be unalterably incompetent, bigoted, paranoid, and ideological, instead of being driven by evidence-based practices in law enforcement.  Close it.