Thursday, March 29, 2007

The National Security Letter - Are These Gringos Nuts?

Some US ranting for those of you still under the misconception that I only go on about silly things in the formerly white city of Merida.

I just heard, perhaps somewhat belatedly, that the FBI (USA) has admitted to sending out tens of thousands of National Security Letters to individuals who own businesses or organizations in which they request information on clients of those businesses or ogranizations. The letter, which was approved as an integral tool to be used under the slightly fascist Patriot Act, also comes with a gag order which means that the person receiving it cannot reveal to anyone (gilfriend, wife, parent, best friend) under the threat of an undisclosed punishment.

Does this sound a little scary or is it just me? How can those of you living in the US live with this kind of police state? And how in the world can you call the US the land of the free?

4 comments:

mcm said...

Although I totally agree with your assessment about the "patriot" act, and it's scary stepchild the "national security letter" -- I feel obliged to point out that the US can still call itself the "land of the free", or whatever, precisely because lots of people are up in arms over this, lots of people know about it (it's been covered in the US news for several weeks, I think), and Congress is even discussing it in hearings, and threatening to take away this "tool" (I certainly hope they do). So, despite screwups (all too many), can we give the gringos some points for airing their dirty laundry publicly? And perhaps washing it, as well? (OK, not a lot of points...)

William Lawson said...

Yes, I suppose this is true, that the US can 'still' call itself the 'land of the free' precisely because people are talking about these issues. And perhaps my thinking has been overly influenced by my twice a week dosis of the free talk live radio show, but still it doesn't seem very free when, if you want to talk about, in this case, the receipt of a National Security Letter, you must do so anonymously. Plus, if it is true that the FBI sent out more than 100,000 letters and Congress just got a whiff of it because ONE person stood up to denounce it... well it sounds more like a lot of people have given up on the notion of 'free' and are more likely to feel severely intimidated and just plain scared. Not a very 'free' place to be, I would think?

Of course, if you compare the US with more repressive regimes like China, some of the Arab and Latin American states, credit must be given in that yes, discussion is still possible. But all the indicators seem to well, indicate, that the US is moving in an increasingly oppressive direction and too many citizens of the USA seem to be unconcerned as their individual freedoms are increasingly encroached upon.

Rodney said...

The Patriot Act is not "slightly fascist", it's pretty nearly entirely fascist.

There are now two Connecticut librarians who are the only people who can talk about life under a "National Security Letter" -- they filed suit (thanks, ACLU), and, because they were on the verge of getting real information or a favorable court decision, the feds gave in, lifting the gag order and leaving these two free to talk. For the full story, do a Google News search on the two names: Peter Chase and Barbara Bailey.

Delta said...

People should read this.