By Walker, Jesse
Reason , Vol. 36, No. 5
Indefinite detentions. Since 9/11, the U.S. government has imprisoned more than 1,000 people for minor violations of immigration law and held them indefinitely, sometimes without allowing them to consult a lawyer, even after concluding that they have no connections to terrorist activities. (Sirak Gebremichael of Ethiopia, to give a recently infamous example, was arrested for overstaying his visa-and then jailed for three years while awaiting deportation.) The Bush administration also has claimed the right to detain anyone designated an "enemy combatant" in a legal no man's land for as long as it pleases, although the Supreme Court finally put some restrictions on that particular practice.
Abu Ghraib. Meaning all the places where Americans have tortured detainees, not just the prison that gave the scandal its name. While there are still people who claim that this was merely a matter of seven poorly supervised soldiers "abusing" (not torturing!). Some terrorists, it's clear now that the abuse was much more widespread; that it included rapes, beatings, and killings; that the prison population consisted overwhelmingly of innocents and common criminals, not terrorists; and that the torture probably emerged not from the unsupervised behavior of some low-level soldiers but from policies set at the top of the Bush administration.
Protectionism in all its flavors. Bush has repeatedly sacrificed the interests of consumers to help politically significant industries, giving us tariffs on products from steel to shrimp.
The PATRIOT Act. It allows warrantless searches of phone and Internet records. It gives police the right to see what you've been reading, while prohibiting the library or bookstore from telling you about the inquiry. It requires retailers to report "suspicious" transactions and, again, prevents them from telling you. And apparently it isn't enough: The Justice Department has another set of proposals nicknamed "PATRIOT II."
The war on speech. In March 2002, Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Its restrictions on political speech in the months approaching an election are so broad they've forced filmmaker David T. Hardy to delay the release of his documentary The Rights of the People until after November because it mentions several candidates. That's not to say the government hasn't done anything to increase the amount of political speech: Its ham-handed crackdown on "indecent" broadcasts-an effort that is to the cultural realm what McCain-Feingold is to the political sector-has turned Howard Stern into Michael Moore.
The war in Iraq. One of the silliest arguments for the invasion of Iraq held that our presence was "flypaper" attracting the world's terrorists to one distant spot. At this point, it's pretty clear that if there's flypaper in Baghdad, the biggest bug that's stuck to it is the USA. More than 1,000 soldiers and counting have died to subdue a country that was never a threat to the United States. Now we're trapped in an open-ended conflict against a hydra-headed enemy, while terrorism around the world actually increases.
The culture of secrecy. The Bush administration has nearly doubled the number of classified documents. It has urged agencies to refuse as many Freedom of Information Act requests as possible, has invoked executive privilege whenever it can, and has been free with the redactor's black marker when it does release information. …