The first major breach in the Police State?

The American Judicial System might be about to demonstrate that it isn’t completely broken. A Federal Judge has just had the balls to speak Truth to Power. A major plank of the USA PATRIOT Act has just been struck down and ruled unconstitutional. Which bit? The totalitarian rule they made to protect themselves from public scrutiny; the bit which gives the FBI and other security related organs of the State, the right to issue “National Security Letters” (NSLs). Yeah, that bit.

(In passing, why did I spot this first on The Register? This is historic news the mainstream media should be bleating from the rooftops. Just did a google for [“national security letters” unconstitutional] and the only “mainstream” entity on the first result page was this Fox News coverage! Who said the Americans don’t do irony?)

You tend to get one or more of these letters if you run any decent sized organisation in the United States. They are unethical, illicit and intrusive demands for information about a citizen; ostensibly on the grounds that there is good reason to believe that the citizen may be pursuing some kind of activity of which We disapprove. Oh, and if you ever get one of these letters, you’re not allowed to tell the “target” citizen, or anyone else, ever.

“We”, they would like us to believe, being “We The People”.

And if the relevant activities being enquired about were exclusively those which aided or abetted military attacks (from any source) on civilians (in any location) there is no doubt that We The People would approve of such well targeted surveillance and would expect to see evidence for this focussed diligence on our behalf in the form of steadily diminishing military attack on civilians. At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, we do not see any such evidence.

What we see are increasingly widespread brutal paranoia among governments. You can create your own league table but China and the USA are both Premier League teams, converging on the same level of pseudo-liberty. We are all gradually being pulled back towards Roman Law.

Wot that?

Roman Law is the historical precedent and basis of so-called “Civil Law” under which it is held that Laws don’t exist unless explicitly created by the Civil Authority. In contrast, UKUSA law is based on the “Common Law” tradition where we make it up as we go along. Neither is perfect, obviously. But the notion that Law doesn’t exist until a properly constituted authority creates it might look eminently sensible. But its real meaning, or at least interpretation by the relevant Civil Authorities, has always been sinisterly nuanced.

Rule One was that, as a citizen, you are obliged to act, at all times, within the law. The absence of a law did not, as you might naively expect, confer liberty. By definition, if you were acting in some way not already described by the law, you could not possibly be acting within it and were, therefore, in breach of Rule One.

This elegant totalitarian concept – that ALL action is forbidden unless I Caesar permit it – is beautifully efficient as a control mechanism. It means you can arrest and prosecute citizens on a whim. Virtually every second of the day you are bound to be doing something I Caesar have not explicitly permitted. For example, I didn’t give you permission to think what you just thought.

Roman Law hasn’t died out. It’s been kind of absorbed and blended with the less authoritarian, but often equally arbitrary, Common Law tradition that we “enjoy” in UKUSA. That’s supposed to mean that unless behaviour is explicitly forbidden by the Civil Authority, then it’s permitted.

Problem with that – if you’re a Civil Authoritarian with Totalitarian tendencies – is that too many damn citizens want to do too many things that I Caesar (elect) disapprove. They want to enjoy themselves, for example, in all sorts of ways that we can’t possibly permit. Buggers want sex all the time. Not to mention Drugs and Rock And Roll. Some of them even want to undermine our right to rule! Which is why we’ve been obliged to create this massive list of prohibited behaviours.

How they get away with it is the interesting bit. Chances are you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already familiar with much of the explanation for that so I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs. But on the off-chance that these thoughts are new to you, you could do worse that starting with the Manufacturing of Consent.
No, I’m afraid it’s not an exciting video, just informative.

We The People will, of course, endorse a certain number of Prohibitions. Who doesn’t agree with the prohibition of Murder? Rape? Violence against the Person? Theft? Fraud? and a few other obviously antisocial activities we all wish to abolish. Deliberate or negligent harm to a third-party, without their informed and freely given consent, is universally recognised as criminal.

All other prohibitions are steps towards Roman Law. The more they can get away with forbidding, the greater their chances of arresting you on a whim. The greater the chance that you will have been doing something explicitly illegal sometime in the immediate past or present.

This will become especially relevant when they start including Thought Crime – which they are increasingly nudging towards both here in the UK and, of course, over there in the USA. It is, of course, long-established tradition in China and a few other places.

After all, what human has never contemplated an illegal act? Most admit to having at least wanted to murder at least one other person at least once in their lives. Reckon I’m up to a couple of hundred myself. Including a large number of senior American and one or two senior British Politicians.

I guarantee there are people employed to look out for sentences like the two previous; and to make some kind of judgement as to whether such sentiments constitute a “Terrorist Threat”. And I guarantee some of them will conclude that it does. They’re the sort of people who send out NSL letters. (or spend four weeks looking for the author of a Facebook quip about wanting to “Egg Cameron” [added 25/3/2013])

They, at least, will see this legal judgement as marking a very sad day for their cause.

For the rest of us, it’s high fives all round…

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About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

2 Responses to The first major breach in the Police State?

  1. I was reminded of my Americacentricity just now.. reading the words “over there in the USA”.. Anyway, I was eerily reminded of America’s NDAA bill and all of the clauses and loopholes that make it possible for the government to arrest and indefinitely detain any American living in America.. Great article and interesting to know how these issues aren’t just specific to one part of the world.

  2. America is by no means the worst abuser of human rights. Neither does it have the most broken political system, nor the most corrupt legal system or the most violent police force. I nevertheless spend much more time attacking American Authoritarians than any others for one simple reason. What happens in the “Land of the Free” sets the tone and precedent for what we can expect in the Western World.

    The fact that China, North Korea and various “Stans” have been more or less totalitarian for the best part of the last century have had no real bearing on what goes on in the West. The fact that the Africans are tearing themselves apart with brutal tribal violence as they try to gain exclusive access to their mineral wealth doesn’t impact on our civil liberties.

    But if the Americans continue down their path to totalitarianism, my fear is that they’ll drag the rest of us with them. Which is why I see it as in ALL our interests to help the anti-totalitarian Americans fight their corner…

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