Surely, the society depicted in State of Terror could not happen in America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The ingenious Constitutional system of checks and balances dividing State powers would prevent any one branch of government from gaining dominance, thus preventing tyranny. The limited, strictly enumerated powers granted to the federal State do not allow for universal surveillance, general search warrants (called Writs of Assistance in colonial times), and arrest without charge. The Bill of Rights was designed expressly to prevent the State from intruding upon the natural rights of the people. And the good sense of the American people, a people who proudly and ostentatiously celebrate their freedom in various national holidays and at sporting events throughout the year, would jealously guard those freedoms from slipping away, interceding before tyranny could progress very far, through the simple devices of the ballot box and citizen petitions. There would be an uproar if fundamental rights were taken away; noisy demonstrations in the streets, protests, shutdowns. Americans wouldn’t take this lying down.
Laws are silent in times of war.
—Cicero (Roman author, orator, and politician, 106 B.C.-43 B.C.)
No, it couldn’t happen here. But it already has. There are secret courts operating under secret interpretation of the laws. There is universal surveillance. Warrantless search is routine. The military has the power to arrest and imprison anyone on U.S. soil, to be held indefinitely and without charge. The president does have special powers, once he declares a national emergency, over Congress, the courts, the Internet, and private industry. It’s ready to be deployed domestically, waiting for a triggering incident. The incident could be real or manufactured; it hardly matters. Such “false flag” incidents are hardly unknown; most of the foiled terror plots claimed so far have been entirely organized, funded, equipped, and launched by U.S. law enforcement, presumably to demonstrate to a frightened public that there are terrorists everywhere, and so they need more power and bigger budgets.
It turns out that the Constitution does not police itself; people do. The people entrusted to honor their oath of office—to uphold the Constitution—have instead violated it. The justices they have appointed routinely violate their oaths, too. But, then, they are merely reflecting the will of the people, are they not? And the people want what they want, damn the Constitution and it’s restrictions. Why should anyone be held to a centuries-old document?
I didn’t invent the tactics and technology on display in the novel. I didn’t make up the laws and Executive Orders. I merely brought it all home and set it into motion. Black-site prisons in foreign countries are inconvenient. Guantanamo is too far away. It would be so much more efficient to just bring it stateside. And why not? Has the guiding principle not already been established? Have the laws limiting what the State may do not already been breached? What difference does it make if summary arrest and “enhanced” interrogation is done overseas or right here at home? The War on Terror is global; it includes the Homeland. Your own senators have said so, publicly, but no one put up much of a fight. After all, the State means well, right? The State is us, isn’t it?
These are dangerous times.