Black uniforms. Automatic weapons. Armored vehicles. Attack dogs. Forced entry into scores of homes. A town under martial law, complete with the black helicopters. Except this is not a B-movie about some far off dystopia. This is 2013, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. With a press, which is by and large at peace with this manhunt run amok.
The press acting as cheerleader for the state’s excesses is just as disturbing as a pressure cooker full of explosives, for such a press has historically abetted and enabled far worse. At least in the B-movie Chuck Norris shows up and saves the day; we got Gov. Deval Patrick droning on solemnly, for dramatic effect.
One of the two self-proclaimed Jihadists who set off the bombs was already dead; the result of a botched attempt at a car jacking which ended in his being run over by his own brother and accomplice. The other was in hiding — the reason for the manhunt; an effort prolonged by these tactics. Martial law, or its 21st century euphemism, “shelter in place” — a brilliant Orwellianism — turned out to be counterproductive. An alert and free citizenry is more effective in finding a fugitive than a militarized police force trampling on the Fourth Amendment in the name of public safety. Once martial law was lifted the suspect was found in short order.
Terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare. Our problem is this nation’s response to the terrorism. We as a nation suffered a far greater number of terrorist incidents in the ‘60s and ‘70s from the likes of the Weathermen , FALN and the SLA than we have in the decade after 9/11. In response to that tragedy, this nation has passed the Patriot Act some twelve years ago. Many papers called the law an attack on our civil liberties at the time. Today Salon is frantically telling us that the forced entry into scores of homes by police armed to the teeth is in no way illegal. The NYT and ACLU are silent in this regard. The Fourth Amendment has been abandoned …
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized
The Fourth Amendment was about the very sort of abuse of power that happened in Watertown. The response to this spasm of police overreach was a collective yawn from the rest of the country. Finding suspect number 2 did not require breaking in doors. It did not require house-to-house searches. It did not require “shelter in place.” It required the populace being alerted, thereby noticing something amiss, and tipping off law enforcement. The police can do their job without resorting to the tactics we observed in Watertown.
Reason Magazine is calling the response in Watertown the beginning of a new normal. This new normal reminds one of a scene from “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. The implication is that we are, as a society, being willingly lead towards a police state. Even the ACLU, typically no friend of the police, appears to be complacent:
“Courts look at it differently when there’s a threat of public safety than if the police just want to search,” the ACLU’s Rose pointed out.
We are becoming numb. We are numb to the computer and cell phone surveillance, the intrusive searches at the airports, the cameras at stoplights and on street corners. The casual giving away of our privacy to the likes of Google and Facebook only anesthetizes us further. We are trained by GM and Apple to believe that the tracking of our movements by using our phones and automobiles will make us safer. Having our movements tracked does not alarm us — big brother knows where we are. What is next? Orwell’s cult of personality is already in vogue in our politics. PC speech codes a.k.a. “thought speak” is rampant on college campuses. The trajectory we are on should be cause for great alarm.