To the Editor:
Some Americans believe that when government officials accuse, arrest, or detain a person that person must be guilty. This belief is a measure of the state of decay of our nation's educational system, mass media, and democracy. For in fact, throughout history, leaders of dictatorships and most democracies have resorted to false accusation as a tactic to bolster their rule and popularity. Accusation and guilt by association against citizens for political gain, made popular in the U.S. by Senator Joseph McCarthy, are inevitable, but the desire to believe the accusations without proof validates, and so amplifies the use of, this anti-democratic tactic.
A month ago an American, born in New York, but with possible connections to Al Qaeda and possible interest in acts of sabotage was seized and is being held without charges. There are actually many hundreds of such secret detainees, but this one got offered up for lunch to the media based on the radioactive dirty bomb hook. Strikingly, Mr. Ashcroft admitted the man is not accused of planning anything, but of "intending" to plan. Motive, but no plan? Tell that to a judge.
If there were no plans why did the government not use intensive surveillance to see if a plan was forthcoming? The only logical answer is that the case is more useful to them as a media event because there was scant evidence that he was likely to do anything. Given this logic, the man is detained and used in Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft's campaign to further promote a police state. Even if he is associated with Al Qaeda, U.S. security agencies have all the tools to monitor his life and find accomplices.
Americans who prefer this "pre-emptive" approach to security unwittingly endorse the appearance (not the reality) of a more secure nation and further totalitarian ends.