As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Creeping National Security State

This makes no sense:

The federal government's most secure prison has determined that two books written by President Barack Obama contain material "potentially detrimental to national security" and rejected an inmate's request to read them.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is serving a 30-year sentence at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., for joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate then-President George W. Bush. Last year, Abu Ali requested two books written by Obama: "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

But prison officials, citing guidance from the FBI, determined that passages in both books contain information that could damage national security.

Then I guess we'll have to track down all of the couple million copies sold worldwide and redact them, not to mention garbling the Grammy-winning books on tape.

Couple things here. First, somebody tell Republicans and skittish Democrats that there's an Al Qaeda member in a federal prison on US soil! Let the pants-piddling begin!

Second, this has basically become shorthand for any violations of civil liberties in the modern age - cite national security. There's no justification for the theory that someone confined to a solitary cell 23 hours a day can gain valuable insight to carry out attacks on the nation from a memoir written in 1996 and a campaign-era collection of policy papers. Seduced by secrecy, government officials use the threat of national security to convince themselves of any behavior under the sun. Shielding a book from a prisoner pales in comparison to torture or warrantless spying or whatever it is the CIA held from Congress all those years. But they have the same rationale, which is often uncritically accepted by political leadership and the media establishment. And everyone walks around in this daze, without challenging this constant invocation of national security for increasingly ridiculous actions.

As long as nobody rises to stop it, the ruling class can expand the national security state block by block until we live as we do today, in a fundamentally different country.

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