"I cannot accept, your canon that we are to judge pope and king unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power....Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." ~ Lord Acton
Ten Minutes With C-SPAN
If you can stand the boredom, it's no bad idea now and again to watch C-SPAN for a while. The patient producers on that channel do a fine job of exposing our rulers' work to the public gaze. Sometimes, as below, a few minutes with C-SPAN can convince us afresh that no rational, acceptable alternative exists to a zero-government society.
It was a dull evening elsewhere on the TV spectrum, so I chanced this week upon ten minutes with the Senate. One James Comey, a senior bureaucrat in the Department of Justice [sic] was testifying before a Committee chaired by Orrin Hatch, R-UT, about the Patriot Act. Comey appeared to be just as nice a guy as his boss John Ashcroft, and was saying that something called "Delayed Notification" was a law enforcement tool just as valuable in fighting terrorism as it has been (for several decades, he said) in fighting regular crime; and so he wanted the Senate to permit its use in that activity too.
What, we may wonder, is delayed notification? Comey obliged us, and the Committee, with a full explanation. The Founders' big mistake was to suppose that they could create a government that would be subject to limits; that is, when we think about it more deeply than they did, impossible; "limited government" is an oxymoron. But they did try, give them a "B" for effort; and one of the restrictions they put in place was that government may NOT, repeat not, have its agents search anyone without a warrant. Fresh from their experience of British Army brutality, bursting in to homes in search of muskets, they insisted that a proper warrant be issued, complete with oaths from witnesses: "I swear I saw Zebulon Smith steal a horse and hide it in that barn!" Amendment 4 resulted. Notice, the agents were not permitted to sneak into Smith's barn, remove the horse and tell him later that they had a warrant; clearly, they were to arrive at Smith's front door, introduce themselves, show the warrant with its specific limits, and then go to the barn to check on the horse. That is the obvious meaning of a warranted search. But according to Comey, years and years ago some government court found it possible to authorize a delay in that notification; for after all, Amendment 4 does not expressly say that there must be no delay! Ever since then, apparently, it has been "legal" for agents to sneak around and reveal their authority later.
No doubt they always take precautions not to be shot as the trespassers they are. I didn't know this. Did you? Comey recalled some examples of its use in non-terrorist enforcement, and did so with a perfectly straight face. The Senators appeared to buy everything he said. One of his stories concerned a drug smuggler. This entrepreneur, seeking to make an honest living by meeting a demand for the products he offered for sale, was being watched by agents of the FedGov as he drove a load of ecstasy into New Hampshire from Canada, hidden in a false gas tank. Seems a big drug-bust was in the works, and Comey's agents didn't want to blow it all by arresting him; yet they shed crocodile tears at the thought of all that ecstasy bringing temporary happiness to so many youngsters in Boston. They resolved their dilemma with "Delayed Notification." They waited for our importer to take a break at a rest stop, then stole his car. Yes, Comey said it solemnly: they removed it for a search, and scattered broken glass on the car park in its place to simulate common theft, and waited for the driver to tell the police. This he did, and when they produced it some days later he proved he was the rightful owner, and they promptly arrested him for breaking their drug laws - along with all his friends in the planned bust. But for delayed notification, the search would have been illegal and the charge thrown out.
Comey did not explain why his men were not charged with littering the car park, nor how they managed to hot-wire the car so fast; they must have had some really light fingers aboard. But I kid you not: this gross violation of rights was held up as a shining example of how valuable and beneficial it is to delay notice of a warranted search. Chairman Hatch, who was once welcomed as a featured speaker at a National Convention of the Libertarian Party, offered not a syllable of criticism but nodded in warm agreement. I've no doubt that the Patriot Act will permit its still wider use.
We can draw some useful lessons from these few minutes with C-SPAN: 1. If ever you suffer an apparent theft, make certain that you're not on the government's Enemies List before calling in the cops. 2. Nice guys do it too. Comey is one, and his boss is a fine Christian gentleman, and so is his; yet they engage in deception, theft, tyranny and mass murder as cheerfully as any modern-day Hitler. Adolf, after all, was kind to dogs and children (if they were Aryan) and was as wildly popular with the ladies as any rock-star. 3. Give government a yard, and it will take another inch. Then another, and another, without limit over time until it has choked off all freedom, all joy, all prosperity and all life. There is simply no rational alternative: government must never begin, and if it has begun already it must be ended without residue.