[B5JMS] ATTN JMS: Have you seen this? Shades of Nightwatch?

b5jms-admin at cs.columbia.edu b5jms-admin at cs.columbia.edu
Sat Jul 20 04:23:46 EDT 2002

From: wherentear at netscape.net (WhereNTear)
Date: 18 Jul 2002 13:35:53 -0700
Lines: 67

My take on the first story is that it's the right idea, but coming
from the wrong people, and being misinterpreted by a person who should
probably be under psychiatric care.  There's a big difference between
empowering every citizen and establishing a Nightwatch-type
organization of people who support the leader.  You may recall that on
11 Sept. 2001, civilians stopped more terrorists than all the
president's men.  The problem with Nightwatch, the Taliban, Stasi, or
the Nazi brownshirts was that they were screened for loyalty to the
the party ideology.  Far from frightening, the concept of a corps of
average civilians taking responsibility of their own security is the
epitome of a free democracy, and the perfect ideological counter to
the despotic Islamic fundamentalists like the Taliban. ("I would think
that if the symmetry were any more perfect that one of us would be
weeping - G'Kar")

It's interesting that the idea of civilians looking out for each other
should fill some people with dread.  I attribute the fear to the
elitist perception that "I can handle responsibility, but everyone
else is irresponsible".  Certainly the best protection against
burglars is a nosey neighbor.  If the civil population as a whole is
irresponsible and untrustworthy, what's the point of trying to make a
democracy work.

Having said that, I'm amazed that the Bush administration has finally
come up with the idea that normal citizens might have some use.  All
of their previous responses to terrorism have been based on
centralized power structures.  To be fair, they have issued color of
the day warnings telling people to be either alert, very alert, or
extremely alert; but otherwise the policy of the administration has
been to try to assure everyone that the government would take care of

First off, the Citizens Corps, for anyone not aware of US politics, is
an extension of the "points of light" program set up by Papa Bush in
the 80's as a way for volunteers to replace all the welfare programs
that he was cutting.  The main purpose of the program was to deflect
criticism that the Republican party was cold hearted.  I think they
rationalized that US charities must be flush with cash based on the
enormous amounts of money people deduct on their tax forms each year
for charitable donations.  I haven't heard much about the activities
of either the Points of Light or the Citizens Corps, so either they're
pretty ineffectual, or they've already established the most successful
secret society in US history.


"The creation of a US 'shadow government', operating in secret, was
another Reagan national security initiative. "

The author drops this little grenade then ends his report.  It would
have been nice if he had explained what he meant.

Then I note that the BBC article mentions that:  "Another Bush
administration anti-terrorism plan has alarmed the American Civil
Liberties Union ".  Anyone who is not acquainted with the ACLU these
days should be ifnormed that they are a pretty excitable bunch.  (I
used to be a member, but quit either because they drifted from their
original purpose, or because I got stodgy depending on your point of
view).  It doesn't take much to alarm them nowadays.

Remember the archetypical New Yorkers who would look the other way
when someone was being mugged because they didn't want to get
involved? I wonder if New Yorkers in particular are a little more
interested in each others welfare these days.  I don't see anything
admirable about waiting for the government to take care of all your

From: jmsatb5 at aol.com (Jms at B5)
Date: 19 Jul 2002 02:43:29 GMT
Lines: 44

>It's interesting that the idea of civilians looking out for each other
>should fill some people with dread.  I attribute the fear to the
>elitist perception that "I can handle responsibility, but everyone
>else is irresponsible".  Certainly the best protection against
>burglars is a nosey neighbor.

This misses the point by a mile.

What the Citizens Corps involves is the establishment of a branch of the
government which will solicit information from various sources -- none of whom
are authorized peace officers or in any way official individuals trained in
detection -- and take that information, gather it, disseminate it internally,
and track that information about people who may not have anything whatsoever to
do with anything in the smallest regard concerning terrorism.

Who gets this information?  What will they be doing with it?  How will it be
organized and disseminated?  What stops someone from sending along unreliable
or false information in order to get someone in trouble?  Who decides what is
"suspicious behavior?"  And you the person being cataloged have NO way of
knowing what's in that file or that there even IS a file...further, this agency
will be free from FOIA discovery, so there's no way to determine what the
government has on you, if anything.  The potential for abuse is mind-boggling.

The way the country has always worked is that if someone sees something
suspicious, they report it to the local police, who investigate it.  That's how
our system has functioned for a very long time and successfully.  

The acts of 9/11 should not lead us to throw out the very aspects of our
American system that brought their attack in the first place, the ideals that
we are, in principal, defending.  

We've seen this before, in the McCarthy period.  I'd hoped we had become smart
enough as a people not to fall for the okey-doke a second time.  I was wrong.


(jmsatb5 at aol.com)
(all message content (c) 2002 by synthetic worlds, ltd., 
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine 
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