No Comment — August 24, 2007, 12:27 am

The Purge

In many respects the Bush Administration has been a mild echo of the McCarthy era, though in some ways it has been far worse. Joseph McCarthy was a powerful individual, but he was still in the end just one senator, and President Eisenhower was a bastion of integrity and fidelity to traditional values. The Bush Administration is populated with many figures who are convinced that history has laid a bum rap on Joe McCarthy—that he was a wonderful, patriotic American, and that the country would benefit greatly from maintaining an Argus-eyed watch over the fifth-columnists who are attempting to penetrate its institutions. That would include everyone to the left of say, Rudy Giuliani. And Giuliani is suspect, too.

Walter Pincus reports today in the Washington Post on an effort that has a distinctly McCarthyite odor about it:

The Bush administration plans to screen thousands of people who work with charities and nonprofit organizations that receive U.S. Agency for International Development funds to ensure they are not connected with individuals or groups associated with terrorism, according to a recent Federal Register notice.

The plan would require the organizations to give the government detailed information about key personnel, including phone numbers, birth dates and e-mail addresses. But the government plans to shroud its use of that information in secrecy and does not intend to tell groups deemed unacceptable why they are rejected. The plan has aroused concern and debate among some of the larger U.S. charitable organizations and recipients of AID funding. Officials of InterAction, representing 165 foreign aid groups, said last week that the plan would impose undue burdens and has no statutory basis. The organization requested that it be withdrawn.

“We don’t know who will do the vetting, what the standards are and whether we could answer any allegation,” said an executive for a major nongovernmental organization that would be subject to the new requirements and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to harm his organization’s relations with the government.

Not we are not talking about individuals who are working for the Government. We are talking about people who work for private, largely charitable organizations. This marks a massive further expansion of the National Security State, giving it a powerful glance into the heart of the NGO community. It is precisely the sort of tactic which has been used by authoritarian and wannabe totalitarian states when they start to stomp out civil society—for instance in recent years in Uzbekistan and Russia. Yes, let’s build a massive data base on all the people who work for those pesky civil society organizations. Will put them out of work and then we’ll shut down the organizations themselves.

Based on the way similar screening programs operate, here’s my expectation: this will provoke a massive slowdown in the ability of the organizations to make hires. They will be told that certain individuals are “on hold” while security checks are undertaken. And who, precisely, will go on to this “hold” list? Based on the conduct of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the last five years, I anticipate that racial and religious stereotyping will be used to identify those guilty of one of the most serious offenses known to the Bush National Security State: breathing while being of Middle Eastern or South Asian ancestry. That would be illegal, of course. But why would something small like the Constitution stand in the way of the Bush Administration? Of course, it never does. So if your name is “Omar,” “Ahmed,” “Aziz” or “Fatimah,” you can hang it up. Best to look for employment elsewhere. Better yet, think about immigration.

We can also expect that faith-based civil society organizations that sit firmly in the bosom of the G.O.P. will have no problems with compliance with this program, nor will their employees have any trouble getting clearances. And that in turn will make it increasingly easier for the Bush Administration to steer contracts to the faith-based community. Call it pay to play.

America’s security could be enhanced by building partnership and respect around the world, through outreach and inclusiveness. And there’s no area where that’s more badly needed than in the Middle East and the Muslim world. The Administration will argue that this is about security. In fact, it’s about making us much more hated and much less safe—the only project at which this Administration has surpassed all expectations.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Estimated temperature of Hell, according to two Spanish physicists ‘ interpretation of the Bible:

832°F

The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

A TSA agent in Seattle was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of women in the airport, a Maryland police officer was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of an off-duty colleague, and the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that taking up-skirt photos is legal in the state.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today