Don’t feel too smug…

I’ll begin this post by saying I don’t know anything about Hungary.  I was in Budapest for a few days in 1990 as a tourist but just about all I remember were the number of people offering to exchange money for me on the black market and I couldn’t figure out the map.

Still, this is a pretty amazing article about the rise of secret security forces in the country. Two new agencies (independent from both the police and military) have come into existence.  The first is answerable to the Prime Minister and the second takes its orders from parliament.  There’s essentially no oversight on either group and their powers appear extensive and intrusive (even for post Patriot Act America).

I bring your attention to it as it seems to be an example of how a small agency, created for a very specific purpose (to provide security during Hungary’s presidency of the EU) quickly gets a life of it’s own and struggles to continue its existence and expand it’s mandate.

‘Ah,’ I can hear you say ‘those crazy Europeans don’t love freedom like we do.  That’d never happen hear.’

Rick Perlstein does an adequate job (he really could have done better but it’s still worth a read) bringing up two important issues in our own secret police activities.

  • The absolutely essential nature of informants in many domestic terrorism cases.  Not essential for prosecutions but to goad/prod/handhold the suspects to a point at which they can be found guilty of any crimes.
  • The shocking continued ignoring of ‘right wing’ terrorism.  A bunch of people want to shoot up a courthouse?  A county republican party threatens ‘armed revolution’ if President Obama is reelected?  The sound of crickets is deafening.   Half a dozen people decide to hold a peaceful rally about income inequality?  Call out the SWAT team!

Hey, but that’s not all.  Always be wary when a lawmaker says this or that law ‘ties the hands’ of law enforcement, the military or politicians.  Case in point, are Representatives Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State who seem convinced that al-Qaida is winning the propaganda war in America.  After all, so many millions thousands hundreds a few dozen people have taken up the AQ banner and only a couple hundreds few hundred thousand people have joined the military since 2001 and AQ remains almost as unpopular as Congress right now.  So, to rectify this horrible situation, these knuckleheads want to overturn a couple of laws that prohibit the government from creating and disseminating propaganda to American audiences.

The new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Oh, yeah…this is gonna end well.

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