Intellectuals on the run

On the road to tyranny, intellectuals are the first ones to be forced into silence.

President George W. Bush has admitted that he approved the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying on phone conversations and e-mail correspondence. Bush’s actions violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was adopted in the wake of President Richard Nixon’s programs to gather information on political opponents. Don’t be surprised if many of the people Bush spied upon turn out to be political opponents and intellectuals.

University of South Florida professor and activist for the Palestinian community, Sami Al-Arian, who recently was acquitted by a jury, was spied on by the NSA even a decade ago. After much of our tax money was spent on attempting to land Al-Arian in prison, the law found Al-Arian’s activities legal.

The FBI’s file on Edward Said, which began in 1971 after Said co-delivered a lecture on the topic of “Culture and the Critical Spirit,” was partly released at the request of Counterpunch.com. Despite Said’s death in 2003, the FBI is withholding parts of the 238-page document.

Although some Americans say they have nothing to hide, it’s easy to be naive about how easy it is to make false claims and accusations based on tapped conversations. In the case of Said, he was labeled a strong Arafat supporter, a label completely unsupported by Said’s work.

Combined with the Bush administration’s efforts to obtain library records and cut funding to targeted areas of research, intellectuals are being intimidated into keeping their mouths shut. If they choose to speak out, as in the case of global warming studies, they will be censored.

Bush broke the law and he should be impeached for it. Independent investigations need to be conducted and the balance of power must be restored in our nation’s capitol. On the road to tyranny, intellectuals are the first to be forced into silence.