When people think of police states they get an image of jackbooted thugs performing nightly raids in every neighborhood for the purpose of disappearing seemingly random citizens. Because of that image most people fail to recognize a real police state when they’re living in one. A real police state is far more subtle. It is a state where the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons:
If you fall asleep or use the bathroom during your next flight, those incriminating facts could be added to your federal dossier. Likewise, if you use your laptop or look at noisy children seated nearby with a “cold, penetrating stare,” that may be included on your permanent record. If you fidget, sweat or have “strong body odor” — BOOM! the feds are onto you.
Anyone who has recently traveled to Turkey can apparently be put on the list — as well as people “possibly affiliated” with someone on a terrorist watchlist (which contains more than a million names). The program is so slipshod that it has targeted at least one airline flight attendant and a federal law enforcement agent.
After a person makes the Quiet Skies list, a TSA air marshal team is placed on his next flight. Marshals receive “a file containing a photo and basic information” and carefully note whether the suspect’s “appearance was different from information provided” — such as whether he has “gained weight,” is “balding” or “graying,” has a beard or “visible tattoos” (bad news for Juggalo fans of the Insane Clown Posse). Marshals record and report any “significant derogatory information” on suspects.
The key to a police state is that just because the government reserves for itself the right to harass anybody for entirely arbitrary reasons doesn’t mean it will choose to harass everybody or even a majority of people. Usually a police state will choose to harass only a small percentage of people, which allows the majority of people to believe that they don’t live in a police state because they’ve never been harassed.
The United States is a police state. The government has established a system of laws so complete that it is impossible not to be in violation of the law. Moreover, the government grants its agencies a great deal of free reign. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) can surveil any air traveler for any arbitrary reason, including them somehow being associated with one of a million individuals on a secret list, and there is no way to know what the result of that surveillance is because the TSA has long had the power to add people to secret lists of people who it has the right to harass. But since most air travelers won’t suffer consequences from this practice, they will continue to be oblivious to the fact that they live in a police state.