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The consequences of surrendering liberty to government security
By Tom DeWeese
Recently it was reported that Senator Ted Kennedy was prevented from flying on commercial airlines because his name appeared on the federal government's no-fly list. Now comes a report that another well-known American, commentator Cal Thomas, has also appeared on the no-fly list and consequently is harassed every time he attempts to board planes. For Thomas, that's about a three-times-a-week occurrence.
Senator Kennedy had direct access to the private telephone number of Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, so that he could demand that his name be removed. Yet, even knowing the head man took the powerful Senator three weeks to get off the list. Cal Thomas doesn't have such access, so like the rest of us, he suffers while trying to get uncaring, mindless, faceless federal bureaucrats to act and remove his name.
His story is a warning for what the rest of us face if Congress enacts National ID card legislation that is now on a fast track to passing as the result of massive pressure to fully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission [Legislation that has since failed since this essay was written - Ed.] . Listen carefully, America. This is your future.
In his column detailing his experience being targeted for constant baggage inspections and body searches, Thomas tells of the horrors of dealing with a government behemoth like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). "U.S. Airways gives me a TSA phone number to call," writes Thomas. "I am not surprised when a machine answers. The machine promises a ‘prompt' response. I leave a message. There is no response. A few days later, I call again. Same recording, same message, same non-response." Thomas, a determined man who knows his way around government, keeps trying.
"I send an e-mail to the TSA. This time I receive an ‘automated reply,' assuring me of a prompt response. Two days later, I receive another e-mail informing me I will have to fill out a form to prove I am not a terrorist." Keep in mind, Cal Thomas, American, has had to endure all of this because the no-fly list is a front line strategy in the fight against terrorism.
It didn't end there. Trying to take actions into his own hands, Thomas volunteered to sign up for the TSA's "registered traveler" program, which is touted as a way for frequent flyers to get to the head of the security line. All travelers have to do says the propaganda is let the government record their "eye print" and fingerprints, and deposit the records into a federal database. Then, supposedly, the travelers can be quickly scanned and sent on their merry way. Cal Thomas found out the hard way that it just isn't so.
It turns out that the scan is only good at the airport where he filed the application. So, even though he went through the trouble of registering with the national TSA databank at Dulles International Airport, when he tries to pass through the gates in Atlanta, he's stopped as his name pops up again on the no-fly list. It seems he has to register for the "registered traveler" program at every airport from which he is flying. Meanwhile, he remains on the no-fly list marked as a possible terrorist threat. At last report, Cal Thomas was still waiting for a "prompt" response to his e-mails from the TSA.
This is not just a random experience. It is happening to thousands of "silent" Americans everyday. Americans who don't have a national newspaper column to report it; Americans who don‘t have Tom Ridge's personal phone number to demand satisfaction.
The truth of the situation is that government should never be entrusted with such power over our lives. It is amazing that all Americans, for example, stand in government lines such as the DMV waiting for bureaucrats to call their number, as we grumble about surly, inefficient bureaucrats. Yet every time a politician offers a new program which empowers the government with the ability to put us in even more lines to hand out tax paid goodies, we jump at the chance.
Take a look around you, America. Our nation is becoming less efficient, less productive, less secure and less educated than any time in our history. What is the common denominator in this equation? Government has gotten involved in more and more of our everyday routines.
Government cannot protect you from every danger. It cannot efficiently run airlines. It cannot create meaningful, productive jobs in the private sector. It cannot run efficient, affordable healthcare. It cannot effectively protect the environment. It cannot provide a quality food supply. It cannot adequately provide for you in your old age. It cannot create energy. It cannot provide a quality lifestyle. And it cannot stop the threat of terrorism by putting you in a government data bank and tracking your every move.
It can and will smother you with rules and regulations designed to perpetuate the growing power of government. That is what government does. Americans must learn that lesson or suffocate. Your papers, please.
Tom DeWeese is the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center, an activist think tank. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. © Tom DeWeese 2004
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