Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Living in a 'Soft Police State'

I thought this was a rather startling statement from a mainstream WaPo columnist, Richard Cohen, writing about the recent al-Awlaki assassination:

We live in a soft police state. It’s not a film-noir one, based on ideology and punctuated by the crunch of hobnailed boots, but one created in response to terrorism and crime. Cameras follow us. Our travels, our purchases, are recorded. Our computers and cellphones snitch on us. There’s no Orwellian Big Brother, just countless little ones, all of them righteously on the lookout for the bad guys. It’s necessary, I suppose. It will be abused, I don’t suppose.

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized Awlaki’s killing. But so far, the only politician of note to do so is Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate with a touching reverence for the Constitution as written. “Al-Awlaki was born here; he’s an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes,” he exclaimed. Paul, though, gets dismissed as a constitutional kvetch.

I do not share Paul’s indignation, but I do his dismay. Something big and possibly dangerous has happened . . . in secret. Government’s most awesome power — to take a life — has been exercised on one of its own citizens without benefit of trial. A guy named Barron and another named Lederman apparently said it was okay. Maybe it was. But I’d sure like to hear the attorney general or the president explain why.

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