In the last few decades, and especially since 9/11, America has gradually but steadily turned into a soft police state. With bipartisan support, liberties that have taken decades, and even centuries to secure which are the hallmark of a free society have been eroded, chipped away, or outright nullified.
Here are four examples and dangerous trends that should alarm all Americans who value the Constitution, the restraints it places on the state, and the protection of civil liberties.
1. Teenager Questioned by FBI Over YouTube Video
Justin Hallman, a 16-year old boy, recently made a YouTube video for a project in his American Government class that featured clips suggesting that the Maine Republican caucus was fixed, footage of U.S. police terrorizing Americans, military drills taking place in American cities, and warnings about a general loss of civil liberties.
Although Hallman received an A+ and praise from his teacher for the video, two FBI agents knocked on the door of Hallman's home and requested to speak with him. They asked him about his interests and hobbies, his support for Ron Paul, and even asked him if he was willing to spy on the hacker group Anonymous.
“They wanted me to be an informant, to possibly put my life in danger, to help them arrest and gain intel on Occupy protesters and hackers,” he writes.
The agents even asked him about a conversation Hallman had with one of his teachers. The fact that federal agents were dispatched to question a teenage boy about a video he made — a constitutionally protected right to free speech — is troubling.
2. Brandon Raub is Detained and Sent to Psychiatric Ward For Facebook Posts
On August 16, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Brandon Raub was kidnapped from his home by police, FBI and Secret Service and then forcibly jailed in a psychiatric ward in Virginia over posts Raub made on Facebook that were deemed "terrorist" in nature.
Raub set up a group on Facebook with his brother and sister dedicated to what Raub saw as dangerous trends in America. While the FBI and Secret Service claimed Raub's posts were a threat, most of the posts contained song lyrics and rants about he perceived to be unconstitutional and immoral actions of his government.
In a great interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute — who volunteered to defend Raub and thankfully helped get him released — Raub explains that two FBI agents came to his door and eventually began asking him about the content of his Facebook posts. With police in the foreground waiting, after about 15 minutes police surrounded Raub and grabbed him, refused to read him his rights, and didn't even let him get dressed despite his simple plea. He was then taken to a psychiatric ward three hours away without an attorney.
“It made me scared for my country, the idea that a man can be snatched out of his property without being read his rights should be extremely alarming to all Americans," Raub recalls.
This illegal kidnapping of Raub is eerily reminiscent of what totalitarian states throughout history have done to those who dissent or are perceived as threats to the regime: whisking them away to a psych ward and making people disappear. Thankfully, with the huge influx of Internet and grassroots support, Raub's case went viral. As Whitehead notes, however, twenty people in the same county as Raub have also "disappeared" at the hands of federal agents in the last month.
3. Orwellian Technology
The incredible growth and spread of technology has undoubtedly benefited mankind by making life, labor, and communication easier and more efficient than previous generations could have ever imagined. But in the hands of governments (and politically-connected corporations), this technology will prove to be a double-edged sword.
In the last few years, the U.S. government has begun experimenting and using technology that make NSA spying and surveillance look like a libertarian utopia.
Police departments throughout the U.S. have begun using a program called MORIS, an iPhone add-on that gives police the ability to scan the irises and faces of suspected criminals and match them against government databases. By 2014, the FBI plans to launch a national database of iris scans. Many corporations have already begun to implement this eye-tracking technology on phones, tablets, and other devices to track which words or phrases the user uses or favors.
The Department of Homeland Security is currently working on a new sensor array that will use factors such as race, gender, breathing, and heart rate to detect cues for potential criminals. Tens of thousands of drones (unarmed, for now) will soon be policing and spying on Americans from the sky, including miniature surveillance drones the size of insects dubbed "cybugs." Congress is now mandating that by 2015, all new cars come equipped with event data recorders that can tape and transmit data from on-board computers. The FBI recently hacked and tracked 12 million Apple devices and ordered Twitter to turn over private information of protesters.
These are just few examples of how the rush of innovation in technology is giving governments and corporations police-state powers.
4. NDAA/ PATRIOT Act/ TSA
In the last decade, Congress has passed, and the President has signed, multiple pieces of legislation and even new cabinet departments that directly violate the basic tenets of the Bill of Rights and our civil liberties.
In the face of the potential technology that exists to invade our private lives, the Bill of Rights is all we have left as a safeguard against a police state. When this is removed — no matter how "safe" their proponents claim we will be — there is really no turning back. This is why more than anything, Americans should be concerned about our civil liberties being quietly legislated away.
These types of laws are entirely predictable. The history of empires has shown that whatever governments do to perceived foreign enemies — like torture and military-style policing — inevitably comes home to inflict the domestic population. America, despite politicians' contrary claims about our supposed "exceptionalism," is no different. If Americans get frustrated enough to riot or show a bit too much protest, without our civil liberties what's to stop the U.S. government from treating Americans just like Fallujahns?
Governments always like to see what they can get away with, and since 9/11, they have bent and nearly broke the Constitution in order to see what American will put up with. And with every generation that passes, each new one grows up accustomed to being less free than the one before, perhaps not even imagining what a free society is. I cite four major concerns here, but there are many, many more that deserve attention. Military checkpoints on highways, the drug war, the U.S. prison population, the militarization of law enforcement, and the treatment of Bradley Manning and whistleblowers are just a few more.
Americans have to choose whether they want liberty or continue down the dangerous road of entrusting the state with more and more power to spy on, monitor, regulate, control, dictate, and coerce Americans.
Thankfully, there is a growing principled and radical opposition to America's growing police state, and perhaps we can take solace in the fact that teenagers and ex-soldiers being targeted means that they are truly frightened and threatened by the idea that Americans might just be waking up.