The great generational threat  

Posted by Big Gav in

Glenn Greenwald has one of his regular looks at the state of civil liberties in the US - The great generational threat.

In just the past two months alone (all subsequent to the killing of Osama bin Laden), the U.S. Government has taken the following steps in the name of battling the Terrorist menace: extended the Patriot Act by four years without a single reform; begun a new CIA drone attack campaign in Yemen; launched drone attacks in Somalia; slaughtered more civilians in Pakistan; attempted to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki far from any battlefield and without a whiff of due process; invoked secrecy doctrines to conceal legal memos setting forth its views of its own domestic warrantless surveillance powers; announced a "withdrawal"plan for Afghanistan that entails double the number of troops in that country as were there when Obama was inaugurated; and invoked a very expansive view of its detention powers under the 2001 AUMF by detaining an alleged member of al-Shabab on a floating prison, without charges, Miranda warnings, or access to a lawyer. That's all independent of a whole slew of drastically expanded surveillance powers seized over the past two years in the name of the same threat.

Behold the mammoth, life-altering, nation-threatening danger justifying this endless -- and ongoing -- erosion of safeguards, checks and liberties, from The Los Angeles Times (h/t Antony Loewenstein):
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared Saturday that the United States is "within reach" of "strategically defeating" Al Qaeda as a terrorist threat, but that doing so would require killing or capturing the group's 10 to 20 remaining leaders.

Heading to Afghanistan for the first time since taking office earlier this month, Panetta said that intelligence uncovered in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May showed that 10 years of U.S. operations against Al Qaeda had left it with fewer than two dozen key operatives, most of whom are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa.

In one sense, it's commendable that Panetta is acknowledging this, though he's doing so to protect the President from political attacks in the wake of his announced withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Afghanistan. But in another, more important sense, Panetta knows that this disclosure won't even slightly impede the always-expanding National Security State and the War on Terror which justifies it -- just like the acknowledgment long ago that there were fewer than 100 Al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan had no effect on our decade-long war there. That's because -- as the above-described events of the last eight weeks demonstrate -- civil liberties assaults and expansions of executive power are not what the U.S. Government does in response to some actual problem; it's what the public-private consortium composing the U.S. Government is. Terrorist villains are the pretext for, not the cause of, those policies, and they will continue irrespective of the scope or magnitude of Terrorism.

Indeed, even as he described the puny, broken, absurd state of Al Qaeda -- one that has, at most, produced a grand total of one attack on U.S. soil in the last decade and a handful of amateurish, low-level attempts thwarted by regular police powers, and kills fewer Americans each year than intestinal ailments -- Panetta claimed "that it would take "more work'"; that "now is the moment following the death of Bin Laden to put maximum pressure"; that "it was from Yemen -- not Pakistan -- that the U.S. faces the most potent threat of future terrorist attacks, from an Al Qaeda offshoot known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, where "the group has gained strength in recent months as unrest has swept through Sana, the capital, and large swaths of its rugged hinterlands, where militants are growing in strength"; and that we have to kill all the remaining operatives. In other words, he offered multiple reasons why the War on Terror and the civil liberties abuses justified in its name must not only continue but be escalated.


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