6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday evening, the top stories on CNN.com happened to include the following:At a bit past
A-Rod Suspended, Can Keep Playing During Appeal
Sources: Al Qaeda Attack Plan Nearly Set
11 Jailbreaks Linked to Al Qaeda Plot?
50 Cent Enters Not Guilty Plea
Johnny Football's Offseason Craziness
Beauty Queen Arrested in Bomb Case
Spelling Error Costs Boy on "Jeopardy"
Neil Patrick Harris: "I Was Goosed"
You Should Swim With Sharks Here
CNN, always calm and even-handed in matters of national security and terrorism, was kind enough to pad their reports of imminent national annihilation between enough syrupy goo to send the Fluffernutter people running for their therapists...but there it is all the same: The End Of The World, Again.
It has been like this for days, on all the networks and above the fold of every newspaper: ZOMG SKY FALLING TAKE APPROPRIATE PRECAUTIONS NO FURTHER INFORMATION AVAILABLE ZOMG.
And it is all very familiar, actually. Take this short, vapid bit from the Associated Press, also delivered on Monday evening:
Two officials say a secret message that was intercepted between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and his deputy in Yemen led to the shutdown of U.S. embassies.
A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat said al-Zawahri's message was picked up several weeks ago and appeared to initially target Yemeni interests.
The intelligence official said the message was sent to Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of the terror network's organization, based in Yemen, that is known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive issue publicly.
Two officials, names not provided, and a message from al-Zawahri, details not provided. Never mind the fact that I've lost count of the number of times we were told al-Zawahri was dead; it was certain in 2006 until it wasn't, and again in 2008, and in the years before and since, I'm pretty sure he died more times than The Cat That Came Back.
So we're back to this crap again.
Forgive my crashing cynicism, but I still have a huge hangover from the days when Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or even George Dubya himself would sling impending-doom terror alerts whenever a friend of the administration got indicted, the stock market dropped more than a few points, or anything else happened that required a big, juicy CNN banner (accompanied by appropriately dramatic music) to make everyone look away...and here we are, right in the middle of a national conversation about whether we're all comfortable about the degree to which the government can track us like tagged whales.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but seriously, folks: talk about timing, right? Thank goodness we have the NSA, the CIA, and this massive surveillance state working to protect us all from threats just like this! Why, if they weren't doing whatever it is they do, there could be a terrorist under my bed right now! Or yours! Or your children's!
And for sure, getting the "mainstream" news media all geeked up over a terror alert is a dead-bang guaranteed way to make sure almost nobody hears about the Reuters report that also broke on Monday. To wit:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
Today, much of the SOD's work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked "Law Enforcement Sensitive," a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
"Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function," a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD."
A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment.
I'll bet they declined to comment. This report confirms, after all the denials and the push-back and the baloney, that the national security apparatus is, in fact, being deployed against American citizens, and for the specific purpose of putting American citizens in prison.
The cat has fled the bag, folks. The American government is spying on you comprehensively, is using the information they gather on you to jail you if they choose to, and is doing so by laundering secretly-gathered information from one alphabet-soup agency through another and another, to make that information nice and clean for the courts.
Harken to the vacillators: "But it's just terrorists and drug dealers, and it's been going on for 20 years. Why do you care about terrorists and drug dealers, and why are you surprised?"
Sure, yeah, terrorists suck and drug dealers suck, and I'm sure this massive thing that has been unleashed upon the American system of law, and the American people, is totally benign and awesome and only doing good things and stuff.
Let's pretend for a second that we even believe that.
What about tomorrow?
And next year?
And four years from now?
And ten years from now?
How much do you trust the future?
The poet Yeats told us that the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. I pray his judgment of the best is wrong, but I know for a stone fact that his understanding of the worst is ruthlessly correct...which means, sure as sunrise, another Dick Cheney will someday hold a seat of power that allows him to direct the incredible weapon of our massive national surveillance state against anyone not properly bathed in the blood of the Lamb.
If they can jail someone based on surveillance-gathered data forwarded surreptitiously to the DEA, why not you? Who knows what "crime" will come to mean in the world our American Taliban Christians would like to create? They already control a third of the federal government, and are gunning - pardon the pun - for the rest, from the counties to the states and on up the line. Imagine if they got another one of their candidates into the White House, or took over the Senate, or managed both in one fell swoop.
If you think it can't happen, you're a damned fool.
So forgive me for being leery of this latest ZOMG ANY MINUTE NOW terror alert. I've been badly used by the people tasked to "keep us safe," as have you. The Reuters report submarined any argument that claims we aren't being comprehensively watched and recorded for the express purpose of punishing us. They are building a future I want no part of, and I would not put it past them to puff up a threat to distract us.
...and, P.S., if by dark chance a bomb does go off somewhere, it begs the question: would the American surveillance state be better able to thwart bombers if it didn't spend its resources surveilling the American people?