Monday, April 21, 2008

Can we call it a police state yet?

By Libby Spencer

Radley Balko flags an under-reported story that raised my civil libertarian warning system into the red zone. He tells us, "Last week, federal, state, and local police in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas conducted a massive sweep, including raids of businesses, homes, and boats; traffic roadblocks; and personal body searches."

Radley has the supporting links to the full coverage, but here's some of the gory details on Operation Sudden Impact. This massive police force, that numbered in the hundreds, swarmed the target zone, allegedly looking for terrorists. They seized computers and paperwork from businesses. The accounts vary wildly but reports state 332 people were arrested and either 202 or 1,292 people were cited for traffic violations. (Clearly there's a typo in one of those reports.) The 100 sheriff's deputies also "recovered 12.2 grams of heroin, 19 syringes and seized $1,795."

So in other words, our law enforcement authorities spent at least tens of thousands of dollars on a quasi-military sweep and busted a few low level drug users and a whole bunch of bad drivers. No terrorists were reported to be injured or arrested in the shakedown. This is how 9/11 changed everything. Our own government terrorizes us to "keep us safe" under the aegis of "fighting terrorism." But here's what should raise alarm bells with every civil libertarian:

Even though Memphis hasn't suffered a terrorist attack, the city is using federal grants to fight crime, which might lead to the discovery of a terrorist suspect. Other cities are using federal money with similar programs.

This is just the beginning of a new trend in domestic law enforcement. As far as they're concerned, we are all terrorists now. To paraphrase the old saying, just because you haven't done anything wrong, doesn't mean they won't come looking for you.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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  • Yes.

    And it's not much better up here in Canada. Well, I suppose it is, but it's getting worse. There have been more reports recently of Taser use not just by police but by transit police, notably in Vancouver. And not for violent, out-of-control criminals but for people who don't pay their fare.

    We take our freedoms for granted, I fear. And they are being taken from us, bit by bit.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 7:57 PM  

  • and watch some of this law enforcement to be "outsourced" to eric prince and blackwater....

    By Blogger Distributorcap, at 9:57 PM  

  • It happens in tiny little increments, just like this. I've been noticing a disturbing authoritarian trend in Canada myself. It comes from your leaders getting too cozy with the ones here.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 9:26 AM  

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