This from the end of today's Washington Post article on the newly revealed 9/11 Commission evidence:
Mr. Felzenberg confirmed an account by Mr. Weldon's staff that the briefing, at the commission's offices in Washington, had been conducted by Dietrich L. Snell, one of the panel's lead investigators, and had been attended by a Pentagon employee acting as an observer for the Defense Department; over the commission's protests, the Bush administration had insisted that an administration "minder" attend all the panel's major interviews with executive branch employees. Mr. Snell referred questions to Mr. Felzenberg.
Then there's the much-ballyhooed (in the blogosphere) case of another Washington Post reporter who wrote an article about the 2nd Bush inagural festivities. The administration assigned minders to follow him around personally, with the express purpose of preventing officials he talked to from giving him their "unvarnished" opinions:
Several reporters covering the balls were surprised to find themselves being monitored by young "escorts," who followed them from hors d'oeuvres table to dance floor and even to the bathroom.
As I was dictating from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged woman, her face afire with rage. "You ignored the rules, and I'm throwing you out!" she barked, snapping my phone shut. "You told that girl you didn't need an escort. That's a lie! You're out of here!"
Their real purpose only occurred to me after I had gone home for the night, when I remembered a brief conversation with a woman I was interviewing. During the middle of our otherwise innocuous encounter, she suddenly noticed the presence of my minder. She stopped for a moment, glanced past me, then resumed talking.
No, the minders weren't there to monitor me. They were there to let the guests, my sources on inaugural night, know that any complaint, any unguarded statement, any off-the-reservation political observation, might be noted. But maybe someday they'll be monitoring something more important than an inaugural ball, and the source could be you.
Presumably the others who had minders, as well as reporters before or since who have been subjected to them, haven't mentioned it in the media because their editors don't want to risk losing "access" to the administration. The papers and TV news shows have minders of their very own.
Of course, there's the ultimate minder: Cheney kept a watchful eye on Bush during their 9/11 Commission questioning. Even presidents need minders. No one is above the thought police.
The minder mention from today's article was merely an aside in a larger piece. There must be tons of instances of this that don't get reported (please comment if you have another example). The whole thing makes me literally sick to my stomach. This administration takes 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale as a playbooks, rather than as warnings.
What really scares me are the mindless "law and order" types like the middle-aged woman in the inaguration story. In doing what they're told (enthusiastically, even) and getting paid, they are the sergeants in the thought police force, keeping us regular Joes in line. Clearly I'm prejudging this person, but you know the type: the ones who seem genuinely delighted to present their belongings to airport security screeners, belt and shoes neatly arranged in the plastic tray five minutes in advance.
Meanwhile, no one has the power to mind the minders. Bush and Cheney have shrouded government activity in more secrecy than ever before in American history. Record numbers of documents are classified, many to avoid political damage rather than to protect actual national security; ordinary non-military non-intelligence functions of government take place in secret (see Cheney's energy policy meetings, supported by court ruling [NY Times article]); and even the government's arguments as to why things should be kept secret are themselves secret (see an ACLU press release on Sibel Edmonds).
They might as well go ahead and put political officers on our submarines, since we're fast becoming the Soviet Union that we once tried to destroy. It's been said here before: our democracy is broken and is in dire need of fixing.
Answers? Advocate paper ballot voting, stronger sunshine laws, stricter limits on media consolidation, and good public education. Extol the virtues of individual liberty (limited only by the prevention and amelioration of harm to others), the core concept of liberalism. Cultivate actual liberal media. Push scandals like the Rove/Libby/Cheney? outing of Valerie Wilson early and often. Say the obvious, because the obvious is much maligned these days. Remind elected officials what the Constitution says. Make government make sense. Make your tax dollars work for you, not against you. Oh, and vote more Democrats into office.