What Are We Defending?

by Benjie Oliveros

The phone calls of citizens are recorded and turned over to intelligence agencies. Emails and Internet searches are likewise monitored. If one makes the mistake of mentioning Allah or Islam in his or her email, the said email is flagged and the sender and receiver of the message immediately targeted for surveillance.

Citizens could be approached and interrogated anytime, anywhere, even in the privacy of one’s home, without need for a warrant. Worse, one could disappear without a trace while traveling and taken to an undisclosed place. Interrogation is accompanied by torture euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Detention is indefinite and the detainee is deprived of his or her rights under the Miranda doctrine; there is no need for charges in court to justify the indefinite detention of a person.

Suspects, whether citizens or not, anywhere in the world, could be hit by a missile, making his or her family, friends, colleagues, even neighbors, collateral damage. A citizen, especially if one is colored, could be shot dead for bringing along a toy gun or toy samurai. The killing could be faster if the accosted person tries to assert his or her right and refuses to get out of his or her vehicle or go with the police. Having Arabic roots or being African American makes one a suspect immediately.

Bank accounts and personal properties could be seized anytime. Heck, even a policeman on patrol could seize a person’s money, if the latter makes the mistake of carrying a substantial amount of cash to purchase something such as a car or equipment. One could even be forced out of one’s house on the basis of a mere claim by police officers that the house is suspected of being used for illegal activities. They call it civil forfeiture.

There are investigations of abuse by intelligence or police officers but usually, nothing comes out of it. Impunity prevails.

Is the country being described one of those being demonized as “totalitarian states” and violators of human rights such as North Korea, Cuba, or Venezuela? Perhaps it is a description of Nazi Germany during World War II, except that there was no Internet yet then?

No, it is paradoxically the land of the brave and the free. It is the self-proclaimed global police, the epitome and defender of democracy. These draconian measures are being justified as necessary for the defense of the American way of life. Democracy is being defended through the curtailment and suppression of the rights of peoples. Democracy is being defended through trampling upon the sovereignty of other countries.

At the end of the day, one could ask: what are we defending again?

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