Ten years ago -- when the "Homeland" was first invented... a smooth adaptation of Hitler's "Fatherland"...and TSA agents began frisking grandmothers; -- the whole thing seemed like a joke.
It looked like America's leaders had gotten themselves into a hysterical panic. They thought there were terrorist 'sleeper cells' in every hamlet and burg...and that they were about to wreak havoc on the whole nation. It was preposterous, but we figured they'd come to their senses soon.
Instead of coming to their senses, America's leaders, Republican and Democrat, began to see the advantage of a war that could neither be won nor lost. As long as the country was 'at war,' the money flowed freely to zombie 'defense' industries and the good citizens submitted to indignities that would be intolerable in a more civilized nation.
Leaving the US, our 93-year-old mother was forced to go through the body scanner twice. Wheelchair-bound, with severe osteoporosis, she was unable to put her hands above her head as ordered. So, the TSA enforcer insisted that she do it again.
Why? Did anyone really think our mother posed a threat to air traffic safety?
Arriving in Ireland was entirely different. The agent barely looked at our passports. "Welcome to Ireland," he said.
In Henry Downes' bar in Waterford, a group of Irishmen recounted their own experiences with America's border guards.
"It is unbelievable the way they treat you," said one man. "We got in line. Someone began shouting at us. The woman in front of me didn't speak English very well. She was French, I think. The guard asked her what she was in the US for. She explained that had come to visit her daughter who had just had a baby. The guard acted like she was lying. He kept challenging her until she started crying. I don't think she was used to being treated like that."
"I go to the US often," said another young man. "I know I have to have a story to tell them. I work for a US company. But if I say that they think I am working in the US without a work permit and it gets very messy. So, I have to come up with a plausible reason to go. But you have to be careful. They'll try to catch you up. It's very unpleasant. I only go when I have to."
"It feels like you're entering a police state," a young woman took up the conversation. "They have guns and dogs. And they yell at you. I'm afraid of being taken out of the line for closer inspection in a little room somewhere. I know it is not reasonable, but I feel like I'd never come out. That I'd just disappear."
Unreasonable? Yes. But not unthinkable. People can now 'disappear' - electronically. The NSA has 14,000 smart people in its employ. They can know exactly what you are writing to friends and associates. They can put down an electronic cone of silence around you. Your phone and your computer could stop working. You may never know why. Who would you call? How?
They could also shut down your bank account and all your credit cards. Then, how would you support yourself? Suppose you were traveling when this happened? Again, you may never know why...and may never have any means of remedying the situation. You simply disappear.
As far as we know, the feds, and their private sector zombies, are not disappearing American citizens -- yet. But the fruit hangs too low to resist. With a few keystrokes, they can silence their critics. They can muzzle their enemies. They can disappear anyone who cares about privacy or liberty.
And then, if you try to leave the country you will find that your passport won't work either. You will arrive at the border (assuming you find a way get there without money) and the border guard will take you into custody. You have been traveling with a fraudulent passport, he will say.
Paranoia? We hope so.
Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.