"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
'As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of darkness.' ~ Supreme Court Justice William Douglas
Place: United States of America
Time: A few years from now
From: CofC, UP
To: CofC's, All
Via: Courier Revere
Subject: Courier Dawes, missing presumed dead
All Committees of Correspondence: Be aware that courier Dawes'assumed name, of course' is now listed as missing and presumed taken or dead. All references to Dawes should be destroyed immediately.
Attachment: Transcript of infopacket from Dawes, dictated during last known run.
I'm driving the back roads on a slate-gray rainy day, wondering how long before they catch up to me. Wondering how it all got started. I'm getting old, tired, grim-minded. Trying to recreate history . . . no, not recreate, restore. Trying to restore what is lost is a mind-numbing task. What if we get it wrong? What if we really don't remember? What if it was really the way they tell it and we are a bunch of loonies trying to get back something that never was?
I live in my van now, since they took down my house. Half house and half cave, I had hundreds and hundreds of books there, multiple copies of a great many that have been lost to the people. For the Restoration. My repository had such documents as the English Magna Carta, John Locke's 'Second Treatise on Government,' Thomas Paine's 'Common Sense,' the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our own Declaration of Independence, all the documents of freedom. Not to mention commentaries from Twain, Mencken, O'Rourke, and others. All gone, so now we are searching through all the nooks and crannies of the country, again, trying to replace them and keep them safe for the future.
They've been on my trail for a while now, even though I change the color on the van at every safe stop. The I Spy Eyes may be fooled, but there's a lot more to the surveillance state than satellites in geo-synchronous orbits. I've had this prickling on the back of my neck, ever since I left the UP on the way to Idaho via Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Montana. Places they don't go into too much. Too many of us in these areas, in certain towns, and it's worth more trouble than FedGov wants to take to root us all out. So they'll catch me on the road somewhere and that'll be all she wrote.
I've never hurt anyone, never hit one of them, shot at them, nothing like that at all. Just tried to live my own life. I'm not a violent person is what I'm trying to say. I just believe in freedom, that the highest right is to be left alone to make my own decisions, right or wrong, and take the consequences, good or bad. And I won't hurt anyone, not until the point of death or capture. I have to protect the people behind me.
So I have a surprise for them, when they catch me. Every spare space in this old crate is stuffed with dynamite. A bit of old C-4, too. Couple extra gasoline tanks. I have a dead man switch rigged. Press it down, nothing happens. Let go of it, and two seconds later a very big noise and lots of pieces of van. Me pieces, too. I'll push it when there's no other choice and I'll naturally let go of it when I die. Hence the name, 'dead man switch.'
Kill me they will, if they can't capture me. They want the intelligence, of course. Routes, safe houses, Committee members. I can't let them have that. So, I will resist and they will kill me.
There probably isn't too much time left, so I'll put this out like it's all new, like I'm talking to aliens who just dropped in from Tau Ceti, someone who doesn't know recent history, even the reconstituted pap we're being spoon fed these days.
Like I said, I'm on the back roads, taking it easy. I can't drive the new CC highways that have taken over for the old Interstates because this old van doesn't have Cruise Control. Once you hit the onramp, all the driving is turned over to the Federal Transportation Agency, which not only controls your vehicle, it knows where it is, who's in it, where you're going, where you've been. Running courier for the Committees is dangerous enough without advertising to FedGov where you are.
I'm running a caterpillar program on my comp, a prog someone in the C of C wrote for this purpose. I'm talking as I drive and the speech-to-text editor is converting what I'm saying into a doc, compressing segments into packets, and zipsquealing them out on a wireless freq. The first receiver comp they hit, they get scattered onto the wireless net with a little tail dragger program so they don't leave tracks. Out there, wherever they land, the packets get put together so there's a complete record. That's the plan, anyway.
So, how did it all start? The old-time Libertarians out in the mountains say it started with Roosevelt II, or the income tax. Some even go back to Lincoln and all the infringements he visited on the Constitution in the name of getting the Untied States back together. The real rads think it was all a plot by Madison and Hamilton because there was never a clear definition of Supreme Court powers and the Court basically took over interpreting the plain language of the Constitution to appease the whims of the politicians.
Not many of those old-timers left, though, the big 'L' Libertarians. They moved out west, a lot of them, as part of the Free State Project, and then got into it with local militia groups. Killed each other off, a lot of them. FedGov didn't mind because it was one problem eliminating another, as they saw it.
Most people nowadays figure it was the 'USA PATRIOT Act' that started us down the dark road, followed up by the 'Homeland Security Act.' Most people that talk about it, anyway, and they're getting scarcer all the time. Damn few of us left that remember, that want to remember what it was like before FedGov took everything over and made us safe and secure.
Even before those acts, private property rights were pretty well shot, with every level of government taking property for any reason: suspicious activity, non-payment of taxes, eminent domain, taking property from residents and businessmen and selling it off or giving it outright to other businesses, all in the name of the 'public good.'
Well, the PATRIOT Act'now, there's a name for you, proves you can do anything if you call it patriotic'and the Homeland Act killed off privacy in the name of war on terrorism. The Octagon'or was it still the Pentagon back then? It's hard to remember since the web only mentions the current eight-sided monument to unintended consequences. The Octagon instituted the Information Awareness Office.
Every transaction, personal, public, private, medical, financial, was grist for the mill. The mill ground exceedingly finely. Put a name or a face or a biometric identifier or a driver license or a Social Security number in a comp and your life history popped up. High school grades, books you bought or videos you rented, groceries you bought, restaurants you ate in, where you got gas, what you took for gas after some of those restaurants you ate in'ha, ha.
Then came the 'Total Information Privacy Act' in 2004, I think. Look, some of this will be mixed up. It depends on my memory because all the books are gone, the histories, too. You can't look it up on the web any more and trust the data. So some of the dates might be off a little.
The way they sold the Information Privacy Act was that if FedGov was in charge of all data, it would be kept private. The trust factor, you know. 'I'm from FedGov and I'm here to help you.' The FBI became the big dog agency again after that, renamed as the Federal Bureau of Information, then later, in 2006 or so, it became the Department of Information with all data and information-related functions put under it. Since the FedGov runs on information, that means practically everything.
Gathering, storing, collating, disseminating, acting on information. DOI got real strong, real fast under its new mission. It even took the Information Awareness Office logo for its own. The one with the eye in the pyramid looking at the globe. The Latin phrase underneath, 'Scientia est Potentia.' 'Knowledge is Power.' People called it the 'Oh, I See,' a grim foreshadowing, had they known it. New agencies and bureaus and offices were added on or transferred from other departments and renamed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tax and Firearms became the Bureau of Information Management, but that came later.
But people still didn't know, or didn't care, what was happening. Hey, they were being protected from terrorism. Even though Osama bin Laden coughed up a lung'it's funny, everyone thought he had kidney problems'in '06, there was still a lot of terrorism to be protected from, or so they were told.
There was that smallpox outbreak in Atlanta. Interesting how that outbreak got contained so quick, and I never met anyone who knew anyone that got it. Then the Sears Tower knockdown. The Mackinac Bridge got blown. The container port in Savannah, Georgia. Not constant attacks, but every time the population got settled down and presidential approval ratings started to drop, well . . . . I always wondered why people kept trusting the FedGov more every time something bad happened that the FedGov was supposed to protect them from.
In 2007 or so, a guy rewrote the old classic . FedGov didn't like the update, mostly because it got so particular, naming names and dates and things the FedGov was doing at the time. DOI arrested him, had him held as an enemy combatant, 'giving aid and comfort to the enemy' by complaining about 'lost phantoms of liberty,' as the DOI head put it. That's the last anyone ever saw of him. Other authors started disappearing around that time. That guy who wrote the book about the gun culture, 'Unintended Consequences,' I think. Joe Russo or something like that. He disappeared. So did his book.
I guess I'd better just hit the high points or I'll never get done with this. Let's see . . . .
The Twenty-Second Amendment, the one term-limiting the President, got rescinded in the first part of 2008. All legal. The Congress adopted it really quick, with hardly any debate. Every politician who had a skeleton of any type in his closet'that would be darn near all of them'got on the bandwagon. Particularly after one well-known anti-administration Senator was found in her bathtub with her wrists cut.
There was a manila envelope on the floor, addressed to her, referencing some e-mails she had sent and gotten and a bunch of photos scattered around showing her in compromising positions with compromising people. No return address except that logo I mentioned. I remember reading about the incident and the envelope with the logo was mentioned in the first press releases, then nothing about it. Go back and do a search on it now and you can't find it.
Three or four other politicians, two more from Congress and a couple of governors, also bit the dust about the same time. Either died quickly by their own hands or just as quickly resigned and disappeared into obscurity. As I said, the skids were greased and after Congress adopted it, the states jumped on it, got it ratified. Those states with part-time legislatures called them in to special session to vote. Knowledge is Power.
The president's third term got even more active. The 'Illegal Alien Transportation Act,' for example. Where they got transported to was Alaska. That was the start of the ANWR Gulag. The Alaska National Wildlife Reserve got a makeover, courtesy of illegal aliens, who not only built the first camps, but started working on the oil rigs that sprang up. We didn't really need the oil by then since we were getting what we wanted from the Iraqi Protectorate, but Alaska was a good place to keep certain people on ice'ha, ha.
The excess'illegal aliens, not oil'well, no one ever explained where all those people went, but that was about the time that Russia announced a massive labor force moving to Siberia to start exploiting the oil fields there. Since Russia was a primary trading partner and needed help to get those fields going, and a few years later we started getting tankers of oil from Russia . . . . Well, you put it together.
Then a section of the Alaska pipeline got blown up. It was back in commission in a couple months, but there were gasoline shortages'unexplained because the oil from Alaska was just being put in storage because we didn't need it. Those shortages sparked the 'Alien Repatriation Act.' Everyone not born in the USA, citizen or not, was 'repatriated' to their original country. Their kids, too, even if born here. But they never knew who blew the pipeline. The stories came out that a lot of those repatriated never got home. One day, stories. Next day, all quiet on that subject.
The 'Terrorist Disarmament Act' under which FedGov banned certain weapons, starting with all semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns, then pump shotguns, revolvers, and so on. Each year a new class of firearms came under the ban. A lot of backyard caches for guns and ammo were dug; a lot of backyard caches were later dug up, the owners arrested, and neighbors rewarded under the 'Anti-Terrorism Remuneration Act,' an update of the old TIPS program. Of course, there was no registry of firearms, but there were registries of concealed weapons permit holders, records of purchases of guns, ammunition, and so on going back for years. Total Information was total, and FedGov had it all.
They didn't get all the weapons, though. Mostly from people living in the cities and more populated areas. Out in the country, nobody turned in their neighbors. They kept their guns. Still have them.
There were still people speaking out, journalists, columnists, editors. Too many for FedGov, I guess. The 'Responsibility in Journalism Act' got passed unanimously. (Congress tended to vote unanimously on all issues of national security after DOI started collecting information.) Newspaper editors and columnists were tried, convicted, and sent to the Alaskan Gulag for 'education in the proper role of journalists as patriots in a country at war,' as they put it. A few actually came back, went back to work for their papers editing gardening sections and doing movie reviews. Except for Richards and Turner. These two guys went on the extra-net.
I have to digress. The old internet by then was absolutely riddled with specialized FedGov progs installed under the 'Internet Privacy Act,' another FedGov oxymoron. You'd sign onto a site that was critical of some FedGov program or other, or just a political discussion board or live chat room, and you'd see that logo blinking at you from one corner of the screen. And you knew they were listing you as a visitor to that site. The old sites I used to write for went belly-up pretty quick. No one signing on any more, no advertising revenues. Yeah, I was a writer, a dissident, you might say. Back when being a dissident was kind of quaint. Even patriotic.
After text-to-speech technology was perfected, people would just sign on and let their comps look for whatever they had progged in and read it off to them'daily news, recipes, whatever. But the little logo would be there, along with a vocal override that spoke up every once in a while. 'This site monitored by Information Awareness Office.' Most people didn't care. They had the 'I have nothing to hide so why should I worry about it' attitude. Sheep, mostly. Reminds me of the old joke about a democracy being three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
The extra-net was an outlaw net. I like to think of it as one of those underground meeting places like revolutionaries in the early Twentieth hung out in. Cheap booze, smoky air, intense discussions, bearded dissidents. Some people called it the outer-net, the under-net. It used the internet infrastructure, which was rapidly going wireless, but if you had the right progs, you could access the dissident bulletin boards and even catch outlaw netcasts.
You needed the right security, too, or FedGov sniffer progs would ride the datastream back to your comp. Next day, there'd be a knock on the door, after it was busted in. There were clandestine e-mail ISP's set up, often running for a week or so, then shutting down and changing addresses, staying one jump ahead of the new Federal Bureau of Information Management. Then they got mobile, operating out of old trucks and vans. Miniaturization helped a lot.
FedBIM's job was 'to assess the accuracy of public-accessible information, and to contain unreliable sources of data.' Well, they assessed the hell out of Richards and Turner, those two un-rehabbed columnists. Caught them, tried them as enemy combatants, contained them in the Alaskan Gulag again.
They appealed, of course, but no private attorney would take their case since an attorney for anyone labeled as an enemy combatant got stuck with the same label, and the same sentence, if they lost the case. (I forget the name of that act, but a lot of folks figured it was about time the lawyers got a taste.) So Richards and Turner got a DOI attorney, appointed by DOI, under DOI's regulations. This attorney pleaded all the way up to the Supreme Court. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, et cetera. I don't know how good a job he did.
The Supremes listened, nodded wisely, and voted 8-1 that Richards and Turner had no right to free speech if that speech was inaccurate and damaging to the war effort. Remember the war on terrorism? It had gotten to be a kind of forever war. And the judge of what was accurate or inaccurate, damaging or not, was the Department of Information. The lone dissenter, by the way, retired after this decision and went into seclusion. He was replaced by a cousin of the President.
The 'Information Protection Act' of 2010 changed a lot of things. Basically, the Act provided that FedGov was in charge of protecting all information and data. Protection went a step beyond keeping it private. (Protecting from what, they never said.) In order to protect information, they had to have it all where they could get to it. They banned all newspapers, requiring all news to be posted on the net. No more print news. No more print magazines. No more print textbooks. No more print non-fiction. No more print fiction. No more print at all, after a while.
Everything was put on the net. Book stores, printers, all of them, out of business. Libraries were shut down, except for 'reading rooms' which offered rows of comp stations. Although most people had comps in their homes by now, the 'Internet Access Act' requiring comps in all private dwellings and public gathering places hadn't yet been passed. They passed that after new technology allowed for easy two-way sight and sound through comp. The Eyes in the Sky became Eyes in the Living Room.
People were jailed for 'hoarding information' or 'maintaining dangerous information' and their books were seized. This took a while, but it went faster than you might think. One guy in a neighborhood or small town gets sent north for having a copy of, say, "The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson