Balancing national security for all with civil liberties for individuals is a tricky high wire act that all decent democratic countries try to maneuver. Democrats predictably criticize Bush and Company as crypto fascists, while gleefully wallowing in the National Security Agency's spying leaks, and try to kill the Patriot Act because of unfounded fears.
Here are some examples of spying used by other countries that Bush critics use as a role model.
Spying on e—mail and cell phone traffic without a warrant. Searching offices and residences without a court order. Locking citizens away for weeks or months without filing charges.
Sound like your worst nightmare about the supposedly lawless Bush administration? Perhaps. But I refer to restrictions on civil liberties that are taking place not in the United States but, in the order in which I cited them, Canada, France and Great Britain.
All three countries are cited as moral superiors to the rogue regime in Washington, where the fascist leaders George Bush and Dick Cheney are said to be intent on fastening a reign of terror on the United States. But a brief scan of newspaper websites in those countries — something that the American mainstream media could easily have done before unleashing its own reign of terror on unsuspecting readers —— reveals that their governments have in many cases gone far beyond where the Bush—Cheney could ever dream of going.
The Canadian government has broad authority under anti—terrorism laws to intercept communications without court oversight. And, complained a Toronto Star columnist recently, 'the [Canadian] government now has significant new authority to stage secret trials. In some instances, the very fact that the courts are even hearing a case may be kept secret.'
Meanwhile, the government of Jacques Chirac — who seldom loses an opportunity to lecture the United States about its supposedly dreadful policies — has reacted to the recent 'intifada' in France by declaring a 'state of emergency.' It allows the government to impose a curfew on communities where rioting has taken place, search for and seize evidence with no showing of probable cause, place suspects under house arrest for up to two months and otherwise ride roughshod over normal protections.
In England critics are complaining that the crown jewel of civil rights, the ancient right of habeas corpus, is at risk because of a measure allowing detention without charges for up to 28 days. The government of Tony Blair, no right wing extremist, had initially asked for 90 days. Under the Terrorism Act of 2005, moreover, demonstrations within two miles of Britain's Parliament are forbidden, severely crimping the equally ancient right of assembly.
Just thought you'd like to know——this does help restore some perspective doesn't it?
Ethel C. Fenig 12 26 05