Yesterday's New York Times revealed that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans inside the United States without applying for warrants. The president confirmed this in his weekly radio address this morning. This afternoon, that revelation was joined by another headline: A senior at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was interrogated by two agents from the Department of Homeland Security after he used the college's interlibrary loan program to request a copy of Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.
From the article:
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.Maybe federal agents had good reason to focus on the student. Maybe his time abroad included visits to questionable locales, and maybe he had been consorting overseas with suspicious characters. I'm willing to grant that where there's smoke, there's often fire. But in this case, I don't care. No risk justifies the existence of a library watch list. If this country cannot survive without monitoring what its citizens read, it's already dead.
A better writer than I said that America is an idea, one that has lit the world for two centuries. To think that today, that idea has been infected by a mob of Cassandras who fear thought itself, is tragic.
Nikita Khrushchev famously promised to bury the United States. He bragged that Soviet missiles could strike a fly in our airspace. But he was a brilliant man who understood politics; and in a lucid moment, he predicted that Communism would overturn capitalism not with weapons or warfare, but insidiously, from the inside out. During the Cold War, rumors persisted of remote Russian villages where everyone spoke fluent English and children were raised by the GRU, indoctrinated in Communist principles and then sent to blend into American society.
I promise you, those stories were true. And days like this, I wonder whether they didn't succeed.