Thursday, 06 October 2011

We All Have Something to Hide

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Apologists for the State often excuse its surveillance by claiming that those who’ve done nothing wrong have nothing to hide. This implies that only criminals object to Leviathan’s all-seeing eye.

We’d have to head to Congress for anything more illogical or disgustingly craven. Meanwhile, a mystical and perhaps mythical Chinese philosopher from 2600 years ago deftly skewers this nonsense: “The more laws are enacted and taxes assessed,” Lao Tzu wrote, “the greater the number of lawbreakers and tax evaders.” A government big enough to spy on us is big enough to legislate on just about every subject. Which means we all fracture many laws each day, often unwittingly, whether jaywalking, relaxing with some weed, or bending the IRS’s byzantine rules in our favor.

Criminalizing huge swaths of behavior is one of government’s favorite weapons. Not only does it bring much of life under rulers’ control, it also silences dissent. Authorities can easily muzzle critics by investigating them. Given an endless list of laws and the likelihood of having broken some, which of us wouldn’t quail at the threat of such a fishing expedition?

But even if it were possible to honor every law to the letter, we still have things to hide: namely, our private parts and our intimate physical functions. A government that permits us no secrets permits us no modesty either.

Just ask Shoshana Hebshi. You may have seen headlines about her a few weeks ago, after her flight on Frontier Airlines from Denver to Detroit ended with a strip-search.

Ms. Hebshi is an American citizen who lives in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. Her complexion is dark, and she looks exotic, thanks to her Semitic ancestry. She makes much of her appearance, blaming her arrest on it and the fact that she deliberately booked a flight for 9/11.

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“Silly me,” she blogged the day after her ordeal. “I thought flying [then] would be easy. I figured most people would choose not to fly that day…”

But those who did were “seeing ghosts,” according to the FBI. Frontier Airlines happened to assign Ms. Hebshi a seat in the same row with two men whom she describes as “Indian.” None of the three knew one another.

Reports differ as to whether it was the crew or “an unidentified fellow passenger” who snitched on these innocent strangers minding their own business. Apparently “one [‘Indian’] man felt ill and got up to use the restroom and [the other Indian] man in the same row also left his seat to go to the bathroom. The FBI said they never were inside together.”

Nonetheless, visiting the loo when your seatmate does is now terroristic. And the hysterical fool who “saw something and said something” unleashed the entire “homeland-security” apparatus on our unsuspecting trio in Row X: “A military escort kept track of the Frontier Airlines flight as it neared Detroit. On the ground, the plane moved away from the gate to a remote part of the airfield. A SWAT team then stormed the plane, cuffed Hebshi and … [the two ‘Indian’ gentlemen], and hauled them off for questioning in an airport holding facility [sic for ‘prison’].” See what happens when you answer Mother Nature?

The list of anti-Constitutional abuses the cops committed against these three is lengthy and terrifying. Thugs (Ms. Hebshi tells us that “one … grab[bed] my arm a little harder than I would have liked … slapped metal cuffs on my wrists and pushed me off the plane”) obtained no search warrant before “seizing” the trio. There was no “probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation” — just rumors of harmless behavior from a busybody. Our Masters didn’t deign to read Ms. Hebshi or the two gentlemen their rights, nor did they reveal their pathetic “reason” for arresting them until several hours later, despite Ms. Hebshi’s repeated pleas. They also refused her requests to phone her husband. And no attorney was present when various goons from the airport’s cops, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security interrogated her.

We can quibble that the Miranda Warning and not the Constitution enshrines some of these protections. But why would any decent person argue when the issue is restraining the State’s life-and-death power against an individual?

Imagine the panic and then outright terror engulfing Ms. Hebshi as cops locked her in a cell without explanation, communication with the outside world, or even a guess as to how long she would languish there. Imagine the uncertainty and bewilderment, the anxiety and despair. Imagine the physical pain when she “[kept] holding my stretched bladder as long as I could” because a male cop “stood watch outside my door saying he wanted to make sure I didn’t ‘flush anything’” down the “stainless steel toilet” in her cell. Imagine the utter humiliation when a female cop ordered her to “stand, face the wall in a position so the camera above the toilet couldn’t see, and take off my clothes,” though the men arresting her had already “patt[ed] me down [sic for ‘felt me up’] against a squad car.” Imagine her crushing shame when these sociopaths “[made] sure all my orifices were free and clear.”

Ms. Hebshi’s agony sounds like something out of Soviet Russia or Castro’s Cuba. But it happened here, in the American police-state. And all because too many folks assume the State savages only "those who have something to hide."

Nor is this an isolated outrage. As they were releasing her (no charges filed, of course), one of the FBI’s ruffians told Ms. Hebshi “there had been 50 other similar incidents across the country that day.”

Fifty? Fifty outright eviscerations of the Constitution, fifty massacres of liberty — and we haven’t overthrown “Homeland Security’s” satanic regime?

Ms. Hebshi and her sympathizers seem to believe that the greatest crime against her is the “racism” that mistook three swarthy people for terrorists. “I believe in national security,” Ms. Hebshi opines, “but I also believe in peace and justice. I believe in tolerance, acceptance and trying … not to judge a person by the color of their skin or the way they dress.”

Others insist the problem lies with cops so devoid of common sense that they jump on every baseless allegation. Still others blame the irresponsible finks: “Unless and until we can find a way to start extracting a penalty on those who make unfounded accusations that turn out to be false, … there's little chance that we can start pushing our national-security state back towards a healthier balance.” Who knew totalitarianism owned any sort of “balance,” let alone a “healthier” one? (Meanwhile, a bill to protect those finks regardless of the lives they ruin is wending its way through Congress.)

People always have and always will judge others by their appearance, despite the best efforts of Our Rulers and their propagandists. Likewise, busybodies with nothing better to do have spied on their neighbors since time began and twisted the most innocuous actions into something sinister. Nor is there any shortage of stupid or malicious cops who welcome ridiculous reports, either because they see a chance to be a hero or because they relish bullying victims.

That’s why the Founding Fathers severely limited government: It may not search or seize anyone at any time for any reason without a warrant. They also gave it only certain very specific, very restricted powers — and neither surveillance nor “securing” aviation and the “homeland” is among them.

Ms. Hebshi had nothing to hide. And in the end, that’s exactly what she hid.