Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Why The Secret Service Needs A Uniformed Division

As I wrote here, the NewImproved™ USA PATRIOT Act (cooling its jets in Congress while it waits for the Illegal NSA Wiretapping story to be bricked into the wall like Fortunato) includes a provision to expand the U.S. Secret Service uniformed branch into a division and give it greatly extended police powers to quash demonstrations of dissent.

Wouldn't it be nice to believe that this police power is necessary to address the rampant outbreaks of lawlessness, rioting, looting and pillaging that occurs every time the President appears in public?

Here is the redoubtable Glenn Greenwald explaining in acutely painful detail how what the Capitol Police did to Cindy Sheehan last night was an outrage. He concludes:
I still find the whole episode rather disturbing and suspicious. It is crystal clear that the law does not and cannot prohibit the wearing of t-shirts with political messages in the Capitol because t-shirts do not constitute a "protest" or a "demonstration." The Capitol Police's own rules say that expressly and a federal district court has held that the First Amendment does not permit the law to be applied so as to bar non-disruptive conduct.

The Capitol Police officers who removed and arrested Sheehan had to have known that. An after-the-fact apology and admission of wrongdoing, while nice, does not really remedy the misconduct, which still seems vaguely intentional and motivated both by the identity of the person arrested and her message.

And it is still unclear, to put it generously, why Sheehan -- who apparently complied with the request to leave -- was arrested and detained for four hours, while Young, who argued bitterly with the Police and even called the officers "idiots," was simply asked to leave and not arrested. All of this is such a significant story primarily because there is a long line of events under the Bush Administration where people with dissenting opinions are thrown out of public events and divergent views are kept far away from the Commander-in-Chief. This incident grew out of that climate and is clearly a part of it.

Yes, as you can plainly see, there is a huge, compelling need for a uniformed division of Secret Service agents planted in major cities all over America. (Where else do you find concentrations of consular offices?) When you can't count on the local cops to shit on the First Amendment for you, it helps to have your own solemnly sword Prætorian Guard wherever you might go— you know, just to make sure the pomp is first class.

We're going to need overwhelming numbers, comrades. We're a long way away from that. A long way.

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