Will Liberty Survive the Age of Terrorism? A Review of "The Open Society Paradox." With Author Dennis Bailey's Response
Writing at the outset of a series of newspaper op-eds known to some in the present generation as "The Federalist Papers," Alexander Hamilton noted the tension within a republican government between the love of individual liberty and the need for sufficient energy and efficiency in government to assure the survival of that liberty. This tension always becomes most evident during a great public crisis such as the debate on adoption of the Constitution proposed to replace the Articles of Confederation.
Hamilton - among the Founders perhaps the most ardent advocate of energetic government - predicted that the scope and intensity of passions and interests at stake in the debate would move opponents to distort the true motives of those favoring the new order, stigmatizing their "enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government" as "the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty."
In fact, however, the truth behind such accusations was evident to those who like Hamilton had studied the history of republics. On the one hand, he said, "the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust." Behind that distrust lurks a "dangerous ambition" that itself eventually erupts into despotism. Indeed, Hamilton asserted, "of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants."
"On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated ..."
Hamilton was among the first of many proponents of activist government in America arguing that liberty must always be subordinate to security. It is so in the present crisis Americans face with the Global War on Terrorism because chaos and death will result if the state is denied the power to act decisively on behalf of liberty, according to our contemporary Hamiltonians.
This tension is at the bottom of controversies over the Patriot Act, the proposed Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA), Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II) and much else: To what degree must the liberties of individual citizens - along with the independent private spheres in our society and the state and local levels of what remains of our federal republic - be subordinated to the unquestioned need for sufficient energy and efficiency in the federal government to protect our national security?
The first point of Hamilton's case - let us call it the fear of the Man on the White Horse - is less familiar to many contemporary Americans for whom historic despots like Napoleon Bonaparte and Oliver Cromwell are but names on an unread page in a long-forgotten Western Civ textbook.
But Hamilton's second and ultimately more significant point is at the heart of Dennis Bailey's intriquingly titled "The Open Society Paradox: Why the 21st Century Calls for More Openness, Not Less." Despite a title that seems artfully calculated to attract libertarians and others critical of measures like the Patriot Act, the argument at the heart of Bailey's book would surely bring a smile to the face of the wily architect of the Federalist impulse in American political history.
Bailey opens his case with Al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith's bloody affirmation that the terrorists "have the right to kill four million Americans - two million of them children - and to exile twice as many and would cripple hundreds of thosands" and of "our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons."
What distinguishes the Al Qaeda threat from all previous threats to America, according to Bailey, is the greatly increased likelihood "that in the near future a crazed fanatic might gain access to Nuclear-Biological-Chemical weapons and try to fulfill these diabolical desires." There is greater likelihood of this ultimate disaster scenario becoming a horrendous reality because of the incredible proliferation of communications technologies that potentially put "NBC-relevant research found in academic instutitions, private companies and government labs" within reach of the terrorists. Adding to this worry is the manner in which the emerging global economy encourages Iran's crazy mullahs, the fanatics in North Korea and other renegade regimes to ponder selling NBC technology to terrorists.
There are countless other immensely destructive ways in which terrorists can strike America, but the awful prospect of a successful NBC attack focuses most precisely the need for giving government whatever powers it needs to defeat our terrorist enemies. Otherwise, we either allow the terrorists to take advantage of the liberty afforded them by our open society to murder us while concealed among us or we "lock down" the many to suppress the terrorist few in our midst. Not an inviting choice, aye?
Before we despair, however, Bailey wants us to understand that the same march of technology that produced the NBC threat has also encouraged the development of extraordinary communications capacities, personal identification verification techniques and massive data-pattern analysis capabilities that could give America a decisive edge against the terrorists, with only a minimal and imminently reasonable compromise of our traditional liberties.
The key is making our society more open, not less, according to Bailey: "Paradoxically, more openness promises both security and freedom for this current century. The technologies of openness (secure IDs, surveillance, facial recognition, data analysis and much else) can counter the enemy not by restricting people's freedom and mobility or singling people out because of their race or religion, but by making everyone's public actions more transparent, so that when a sinister plot begins to take shape, it isn't hidden under the cover of darkness but stands out for everyone to see."
Did you catch Bailey's shift in the definition of openness? The traditional focus of openness is the government and making sure the actions of our governors are sufficiently transparent that we the governed can accurately assess the consequences and responsibility. For Bailey, the Global War on Terrorism means we must instead first think of openness as the degree to which we the governed are transparent to our governors, so that those among us who mean us ill will reveal themselves by their conduct before they can do us harm. Otherwise, we may well suffer the hell on earth of a successful NBC attack by Al Qaeda or another terrorist outfit.
For all the distinctively comprehensive horrors of 21st century killing technologies, this is not a new bargain - allow the government a reasonable increase in power and a slight dimunition of liberty in order to assure everybody's continued security. Put another way, without order, there is no liberty, at least according to those who favor such a bargain.
Bailey offers an extremely persuasive, if not qute conclusive case for making the bargain and offers four assurances that our civil liberties will survive. First, the emerging new technologies of surveillance and identification can give our war fighters incredibly advanced capabilities that can mean the difference between winning and losing the Global War on Terrorism.
For example, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) TIA proposal sought to research using extremely sophsticated pattern analysis algorithms with multiple databases representing categories of everyday activities and associations conducted by millions of Americans. The ultimate aim of TIA was being able to "put together the pieces of the puzzle" and thereby identify the terrorists among us.
Despite the sinister sound of TIA, it's basic concept should be familiar to anybody who has done a "Find and Replace" operation on a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. You tell Excel the words or numbers (i.e. pattern) you want it to find and Excel scans the spreadsheet to identify each instance in which your designated pattern appears. You can then replace each such instance as you desire.
With TIA, the vastly more complicated algorithms involved would conduct a remarkably similar operation but across multiple databases, searching for a pattern such as the purchase by an individual with suspected connections to suspect organizations of a one-way airline ticket on a long-distance flight originating near a known major terrorist target. Such a capability might well have identified and led to the pre-emptive arrests of numerous participants in the 9/11 hijackings.
Observes Bailey: "Yet before any meaningful research could be carried out by DARPA, privacy and civil liberty advocates descended on the program like a pack of wolves on fresh meat. Charging that TIA would enable the government to spy on citizens, advocates stirred up a froth of hysteria and fear in the media and on Capitol Hill that forced the Bush administration to close [the program] and Congress to end funding for TIA." Research on pieces of TIA continues elsewhere in the government, however.
Bailey's second reason for believing there is no reason not to embrace such openness technology is our political system's inherent capability to right itself via checks and balances. Bailey acknowledges a familiar list of civil liberties violations in American history, including the Alien & Sedition Acts of 1798 in the first Adams administration, Lincoln's suspension during the Civil War of habeaus corpus, the Wilson administration's extensive domestic spying on opponents of U.S. involvement in World War One like journalist H.L. Mencken of The Baltimore Sun and Franklin Roosevelt's internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor.
These examples also provide proof that the checks and balances built into our government can be relied upon to right civil liberties wrongs, according to Bailey. "The system of checks and balances put in place by the Founding Fathers has worked time and time again, limiting oversteps in power and enabling corrective action whenever abuses have occurred. For example, in 1866, one year after the end of the Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeaus corpus unconstitutional."
A third reason for confidence in the bargain for Bailey is the numerous procedural safeguards that can accompany adoption of advanced technologies that may temporarily compromise to some extent individual liberties in the interest of insuring security. Bailey notes approvingly a lengthy list of such safeguards recommended by Heritage Foundation legal scholar Paul Rozensweig, including congressional approval and public debate prior to implementation, creation of internal limits and guidelines that respect existing privacy laws, protection of individual anonymity by revealing identity only through the approval of a federal judge, approval by a Senate-confirmed official of each pattern query in a TIA-like program, use of pattern-based analysis only as a trigger for additional investigation, protections and legal remedies for false-positive identifications, congressional oversight and penalties for abuse and use of technology solely for the purpose of terrorism investigations.
Finally, Bailey points to the heightened citizen awareness and monitoring power being made possible by the Internet and the fact many of the same technologies that can enable government to catch terrorists could in turn give citizens greater oversight of government.
"Admittedly, the government has shown a historical resistance to greater openness; we see this with the Bush administration, which has been intransigent in resisting disclosure. Even so, it is becoming harder for administrations to keep their secrets behind a wall of privilege," Bailey observes. "When the prying eyes of the media combine with those of thousands of public interest groups and activists fighting for their various causes and of individuals posting news on the Internet at a moment's notice, you have a worldwide web of watchfulness that even the governmen has difficulty resisting."
Is Bailey right that winning the Global War on Terrorism requires a new understanding of openness, one that puts transparency of citizens to government at a higher plane than the uninterrupted exercise of civil liberties? Bailey is an information technology consultant by profession and his book demonstrates a high level of knowledge and understanding of technology, so I am loathe to question his confidence in the technologies he praises.
It should also be noted that much of today's skepticism of proposals like TIA and CAPSS II sound an awful lot like the skepticism many of the same folks expressed about the new weapons systems developed during the Reagan administration. Those weapons worked extraordinarily well during the first Persian Gulf War and I see little reason to doubt we would see a similar outcome today.
The doubt is hard to shake, though, because it is one thing for a pattern-recognition technology to enable a surface-to-air missle to distinguish a decoy flare from the exhaust heat of the targeted jet and quite another thing to apply a more refined pattern-rercognition technology to the everyday activities of millions of individual Americans.
That said, I noted above that I found Bailey's case persuasive but not quite conclusive. While I expect the technology to work as promised, I am less confident about the efficacy of our system's historic checks and balances, the capacities of procedural safeguards and the likelihood that government will allow itself to be as open as it demands its citizens to be in the Global War on Terrorism.
Let's take them in turn. The checks and balances have functioned much as Bailey describes, but he misses completely the most serious instance when they failed. True, Justice Salmon Chase's Supreme Court did declare Lincoln's habeaus corpus suspension unconstitutional but that didn't prevent the Radical Republicans in Congress from forcibly imposing a decade of military dictatorship on the conquered Southern states, nor did it prevent them from impeaching and neutralizing Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor in the White House because he opposed the radicals' hard Reconstruction for its unconstitutionality. The result was nearly 100 years of suffering by the South of economic destitution, constitutional enfeeblement, social regress and political injustice.
As for procedural safeguards, they can work but as often as not they become mere window-dressing. Bailey's endorsement of a qualified national identification system is a case in point. "Whereas today a terrorist can obtain a counterfeit ID and effectively disappear down a trail of false identities, a Homeland ID becomes a virtual ball and chain," Bailey argues. "Once investigators uncover evidence of a terrorist plot in motion, the targeted suspect, unable to switch identities will be trapped within U.S. borders. Unable to evade watch lists, it will become much harder for the terrorist to buy a gun, board a plane or leave the country."
That statement represents a surprising level of naivete, considering the ease with which criminals routinely evade gun registration laws now. And as for being trapped in the country, one wonders how trapped are the legions of illegals who daily walk or swim unimpeded across the thousands of miles of unprotected borders America shares with Mexico and Canada.
Such holes in the system generate demands for more and tighter regulations, which in turn require more procedural reforms, with a result that bureaucrats and red tape proliferate and the system ends up strangling nothing but common sense and civil liberties. Exhibit A in this regard is the federal governments procedural safeguards meant to prevent official abuse of private property rights whenever environmental issues are involved.
And even if they work, procedures can be changed. President Bush will not be in the White House to celebrate America's eventual victory in the Global War against Terrorism. Bush has said repeatedly since 9/11 that we are in a new kind of war that has no criteria for victory and thus will likely be a multi-decade campaign. This raises two possibly insurmountable difficulties for procedural safeguards. First, Bush is no Cromwell-in-the-making, but there is no guarantee that one of his successors won't be. Second, at what point does the war become a permanent state of affairs, thus rendering safeguards moot? After five years? 10? When it becomes the Second 30 Years War?
And what of the efficacy of the Internet, the legacy media and activists in shining the light of transparency on government even as it benefits from the new transparency among the citizenry? I've no doubt whatsoever that the Internet, especially via the Blogosphere, can and increasingly will impose upon government at all levels a striking new understanding of public accountability and transparency.
But Bailey fails to develop adequately what could be his strongest point. It is encouraging that Bailey the author believes it to be true, but the book would be much strengthened by a detailed explanation by Bailey the professional technology consultant of exactly why he believes the new technology will shine the light of transparency on citizen and rulers alike.
Despite these criticisms and observations, I still believe Bailey has written one of the most important books of the early 21st century and one that provides an invaluable public service by comprehensively laying out the terms of an essential debate in America. There has been far too much heat in the discussion of these issues to date. Bailey provides a priceless contribution in the form of much-needed light and I commend his work to everybody who cares about the future of republican government and winning the Global War on Terrorism.
Author Dennis Bailey responds:
In writing in Federalist Paper # 21 of the “authorities essential to the common defense,” Alexander Hamilton argued, “These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, and the correspondent extent and variety of means which may be necessary to satisfy them.” Because as Madison put it, “men were no angels,” and as Locke suggested, “liberty is to be free from the restraint and violence of others,” Hamilton was not only aware of the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation in empowering a government to “provide for the common defense,” but he was prescient enough to know that it must also be able to secure the country against the unforeseen dangers of the future. In our day and age, the national exigency has become known as the Global War on Terror.
In Mark Tapscott’s review of my book, The Open Society Paradox: Why the Twenty-First Century Calls for More Openness Not Less, he is very observant to pick up on some of the federalist themes within my writing. Tapscott, being a history buff and someone quite knowledgeable of the debates that dominated this country’s struggle to pass a national constitution, is right on the mark when he suggests that the “tension within a republican government between the love of individual liberty and the need for sufficient energy and efficiency in government to, among much else, assure the survival of that liberty” has been apparent throughout our history during times of crisis and exists even to this very day when our enemies have brought their war to our shores. During his time, Hamilton persuasively argued for giving the federal government the necessary power to provide for security in times of emergency and in that regard, I would consider myself agreeable to his views.
Despite the heroic and monumental effort of the founders to form a government that attempted to strike a balance between the need to provide for the common defense with the need to protect our liberties, there have been times when this balance needed to be adjusted to face the exigency of the time. As Tapscott says “this is not a new bargain - allow the government a reasonable increase in power and a slight diminution of liberty in order to assure everybody's continued security.”
It is true that in my book I talk about a bargain that the American people in the quest to balance security with freedom have made with their government. But this is a different kind of bargain, one made in a time of relative peace that began after the end of World War II. This bargain was of a Faustian nature, one that found Americans willing to sacrifice some of their security for the alluring promise of freedom. The idea was that we must be willing to tolerate a certain amount of lawlessness and violence knowing that the only alternative was a police state, one that could effectively stamp out crime but only at the price of our freedoms. Statistics which show that out of every 100 felonies, only around 6 are ever prosecuted support this claim. Unfortunately, 9/11 showed us that we were on the losing end of a deal with Mephisto and it wasn’t just a cottage that smoldered to the ground. Not even the world’s last superpower and longest standing democracy can endure a bargain of this sort when the crime could be perpetrated by a terrorist hidden in our midst and willing to killing thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Americans.
What Tapscott and many others miss is that we no longer have to choose between the bargains we have made in war and peace. The premise of the book is that through openness, we can have both freedom and security. It is through the kind of transparency being driven by the exponential growth in technology that allows the defenders of our security to see the threats stalking in the shadows while allowing the citizenry to watch that their liberties are preserved.
It is only when there is a lack of openness that bargains must be made. When the government knows very little about those living within its borders, everyone becomes a potential threat and we are forced to deal our freedoms away. For instance, consider the security measures put in place during the political conventions of last year. The casual observer saw roadblocks, random searches, protestors in cages, bomb sniffing dogs, police in riot gear, and snipers on rooftops. Unable to determine the true terrorist threats, if there were any at all, the government turned New York and Boston into citadels, forcing many residents to flee the city and subjecting visitors and residents who stayed to surrender many of their freedoms.
Take another example - airport security. Privacy advocates have fought tooth and nail against the implementation of an improved airport-screening program called CAPPS II, now known as Secure Flight. A GAO report described the program as working in two parts. The first step would use a person’s name, address and phone number - information that has always been collected - plus one additional fact, birth date, and compare that against commercial databases to obtain the likelihood that the person is who they say they are. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would receive only the identity score in return. The second step would be to compare the person’s name against terrorist watch lists all in an effort to prevent another 9/11 from happening.
Instead of allowing the TSA to use technologies of openness to identify the handful of dangerous people in a country of nearly 300 million, the privacy movement used fear tactics to force CAPPS II to be put on hold. As a result, Americans like my grandmother must endure long security lines and face the humiliation of being groped by security officials. In other cases, individuals of Arab descent are targeted through the degrading practice of racial profiling because officials are left to use information that is common knowledge but not valid as a predictor – the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were Arabs.
The irony of all of this is that advocates fight so hard to protect our privacy that they end up causing the government to become even more invasive in our lives.
So if what I say has some kernel of truth to it, how can we be comfortable giving information such as our identity to the government when educated individuals like Tapscott feel “less confident about the efficacy of our system's historic checks and balances, the capacities of procedural safeguards and the likelihood that government will allow itself to be as open as it demands its citizens to be in the Global War on Terrorism?”
First I would say that despite what many suggest, there is no constitutional right to be anonymous. As Alan Dershowitz has said, there is no right to wear a bag over one’s head. The second point, and perhaps one of the most important in my book, is that we should stop worrying about personal data such as our identity in the first place. Our information has already been swept away at light speed through large fiber optic pipes and stored in massive data warehouses around the world. In many cases, it has been given away freely by a public that willingly trades it for conveniences such as discounts at grocery stores and expedited trips through tollbooths. This is a public which one study found read the privacy agreement of a popular Web site .4% of the time.
The issue is not with our information. It’s with how it is used. Civil liberty groups would be much more effective if they overcame their obsession with personal data (privacy) and focused more on how information can be used to restrict our freedoms (private choice). For instance, it is extremely difficult to hide medical conditions from employers. Often, the medical condition of a person is apparent just by looking at them. Instead of worrying about trying to hide this information from employers, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) makes it a crime for employers to discriminate against employees because of a health condition.
Applied to CAPPS II, I believe we would all be better off if advocates spent less time worrying about what information the government collects and spent more time focusing on whether the information is used unfairly to prevent people from flying. This is a job in and of itself because there have been a significant number of cases where people have been unjustly grounded from traveling because their names were mistakenly added to watch lists and then made difficult to remove.
Once again, here is a case where the lack of clear and open information in the name of privacy has caused an infringement of people’s rights. The TSA can never be sure that Mohammed the patriot American is not Mohammed the terrorist because of a lack of information, and in particular, knowing whether the former person’s identification is accurate. Privacy advocates have overused the moniker of Big Brother to fight against improvements in identification while we are stuck with a system that teenagers can foil. GAO officials demonstrated this when they used off the shelf software to create IDs to enter and travel through the country, even at a time when security was heightened. The point is that if the government were surer about Mohammed the patriot’s identity, he would be less likely to be flagged.
(As an aside to Tapscott’s point about me being naïve about secure identification becoming a ball and chain for terrorists, I would say the following: In the open society of the future, when Mohammed the terrorist is discovered in New York plotting a terrorist attack, he won’t be able to get a fake id, he won’t be allowed on most forms of transportation since those will require identification with checks made against a single watch list, and technology will have longed secured the borders if he could walk that far. It’s far more likely that he will get picked up after a facial recognition camera identifies him out a crowd on the street.)
The main issue is that one cannot go through life without having to prove their identity. Whether it is voting, buying a house, taking out a loan, or beginning a new job, identification is required to live and function in America. However, as the most technologically advanced society on the planet, we have a paper-based system of identification where millions of identities have been pilfered and duplicated, rendering identity useless in many cases. If identification is going to be relied on in this country and used to prevent for example, watch list screw ups or identity theft, we need to develop a system that can do a better job of making sure every individual within America’s borders is unique.
For instance, if I were building a computer system for an animal hospital and setting up a database, there would be a serious problem if I chose to use the pet’s name as the primary key (those not the least bit technical are excused from this paragraph). Every time a dog named Max visited the hospital the doctor wouldn’t be sure if this was the Max who needs a checkup or the Max who needs major surgery. The hospital would have to have an investigation to figure out which Max they were caring for. This is the problem we face in America. The government cannot be sure people are who they say they are and thus we all must face security harassment and infringement on our liberties.
Tapscott is right when he says that “The traditional focus of openness is the government” and for me the “Global War on Terrorism means we must instead first think of openness as the degree to which we the governed are transparent to our governors, so that those among us who mean us ill will reveal themselves by their conduct before they are able to do us harm.” It is true, I do spend much time in the book discussing how more openness among the populace will make the terrorists among us stand out in high-relief. However, I am the first to admit that the need for openness flows both ways and that if citizens are to accept greater openness in their lives they will expect the same from their leaders. I think I am much more optimistic than Tapscott (and a lot of other people I should say) that this is possible.
For this to happen, however, I think that both sides of this debate - those who argue for greater security and those who argue for privacy – are going to need to find some common ground for discussion. Too often I see someone uncover the idea of a government program like CAPPS II or Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA) and before its merits can be demonstrated or even explained, civil liberty groups go into an attack mode determined to drive a stake through the program’s heart. The impact is that those in the government, mostly hardworking individuals who are trying their best to provide security to the country, become defensive and protective and almost reflexively begin to try and hide what they are doing, perhaps hoping that only if they have enough time to get their program off the ground they’ll be able to show the public how it can help keep us both safe and free. As a result, we are a point where neither side trusts the other and the only debate going on is through FOIA battles, legal cases, contesting press releases, quote exchanges in articles, and the like. About the only way to get a full range of reasonable views on the topics these days is to pay a visit to the blogosphere.
Of course, with any standoff, someone has to take the first step. How can civil liberty groups trust the government when it has such as imperfect historical record of protecting freedom? In attempting to answer that, I would ask any reasonable individual to step back and ask themselves whether the federal government has become relatively more accountable, open and protective of civil liberties over the last 100 years. I believe the answer is yes and although we may not have reached Utopia, we are so far from Big Brother that it’s almost ridiculous to hear that word used so often. If this is Oceania, I’d like to know how many advocates have visited room 101 recently. (I should briefly digress to mention the irony in the fact that in one essay George Orwell was critical of those who misused and overused words in political debate). But in my defense I’d cite the following:
Pearl Harbor - In many ways, 9/11 was more horrific than the attacks on Pearl Harbor and in the same way led the United States to declare war on an enemy. However, instead of the wholesale rounding up of Arab Americans including those with U.S. citizenship as we saw when over 100,000 Japanese Americans were interned in 1941, in the immediate aftermath the government incarcerated less than 800 foreign visitors with immigration violations.
Watergate Reforms – During and after one of the worst abuses of power by a sitting president there were dramatic reforms enacted that included The Privacy Act of 1974, the Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976, which requires many federal agencies to open most of their meetings to the public under conditions similar to the FOIA, and three bills passed in 1978: The Inspector General Act, which established Inspectors General to use full subpoena and investigation authority to root out fraud and waste in agencies; the Ethics in Government Act, which forced top officials of all three branches of government to disclose financial statements and imposed restrictions on former employees lobbying their former agencies from the private sector; and the Presidential Records Act which required that most presidential papers become public one a president leaves office.
Our government has become so much more accountable to the people that an individual can sue the President and trigger a chain of events eventually leading to his impeachment. The executive branch can’t even have a private meeting without it being challenged all the way to the Supreme Court. The Majority Leader can’t make a few statements that are considered racially insensitive without being forced to resign his position. Even with the Patriot Act, the legislation that most infuriates civil liberty advocates, there have been several examples where court challenges have overturned sections of the act, for instance, allowing Guantanamo detainees the right to a hearing. Win or lose, each case has shown the system of checks and balances working as our Founding Fathers intended.
Now enter the millions of individuals that make up the blogosphere. These are people from all walks of life participating in the national discourse and doing their own investigative reporting on the events of the day. For instance, in the presidential campaign of 2004 when President Bush’s military record was impugned by documents produced by CBS, it was the blogosphere that demonstrated the documents to be forged, forcing CBS to recant the story. Prior to the campaign, it was revealed that the Justice Department had been working on a follow up to the Patriot Act, creatively dubbed Patriot Act II. Once it was released on the Internet, the firestorm started by bloggers stopped it dead in its tracks. I expect that when the next war approaches, it will be bloggers, unlike the media which failed during the Iraq War, that will challenge any dubious claims and evidence made for military action.
Overall, when you combine the media, thousands of activists and millions of bloggers all acting as the eyes and ears of the American public, you have a world wide web of watchfulness that makes it very hard for the government to conduct any kind of devilish business behind closed doors.
In summary, it is my belief that it will be greater openness that will finally deliver the state of government that the founders dreamed of and which is expressed in the Constitution’s preamble, one that truly does “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” This state of affairs would have brought a smile to the face of both Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Now you have to read the book to see if it brings a smile to yours.