After a series of terrorist attacks, the government declares martial law and suspends civil liberties. Soon, political enemies of the administration start to disappear.
A paranoid prophecy of America's future? Nope. It's part of the plot of the new film "V for Vendetta," a movie in which an urban guerrilla who bears a disturbing resemblance to the evil clown puppet from the "Saw" films fights a totalitarian British government in 2020.
However, we may be closer to this future than most think. Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, feared the political consequences of a nuclear, chemical or biological terrorist attack.
In an interview originally published in Cigar Aficionado and widely republished on the Internet, he said that such an attack might cause "our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution."
He fears that, "... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy."
Though no WMDs have been used, that may already be beginning to happen.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the National Security Agency began wiretapping calls from the United States to foreigners that might have al-Qaeda connections. This is entirely logical - however, it was done without warrants, an act which violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, along with the 1974 Privacy Act and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which established a special court to get legal warrants for this sort of thing).
Defenders of this behavior typically say things like "we're at war" and "those who aren't terrorism suspects have nothing to fear." However, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and that law is being violated.
Furthermore, the number of people whose calls have been wiretapped has mushroomed into thousands, indicating that this has grown far beyond monitoring suspicious calls to mysterious men in the Middle East.
According to Reagan-era Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, the nature of this surveillance has grown political.
In his Feb. 6, 2006 article "My Epiphany: Who Will Save America?" Roberts makes this disturbing accusation.
"The years of illegal spying have given the
Bush administration power over the media and the opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local press with their names attached."
Though he did not provide evidence for his claims, it is hard to write off Mr. Roberts, who also served as a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a well-known investigative journalist as a weirdo wearing a tin-foil hat.
Unconstitutional surveillance is not the only problem.
Though he recently has been transferred to civilian custody and charged with various felonies, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was held for three years in a military prison as an "enemy combatant." The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial; the Constitution was certainly violated in this case, since Padilla was held without charges for years and transferred to civilian custody only in a bid to avert a Supreme Court ruling on his status.
And what has been the reaction of the general public? Not much. This greatly resembles the situation of the British people in "V for Vendetta," who remained apathetic until it was too late to stop the loss of their freedom.
- Matt Quinn is a junior from Marietta studying journalism.