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Creeping authoritarianism on Capitol Hill


On the day Occupy Congress came to Washington, I tagged along with seven Bard College students who went to talk to their representative, first-term Republican Chris Gibson from the 20th Congressional District of New York.  Listening to Gibson defend his vote for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Obama signed on New Year’s Eve and which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens, I had a rare glimpse into the contemporary authoritarian mind-set in all its banality. It illustrated how the slow erosion of civil liberties manifests itself in the halls of power in Washington.

Gibson is a retired Army colonel, and it shows. From the Airborne division name plate on his desk, to the photographs of camouflaged soldiers that adorn his walls, to the “Beat Navy” button on his desk, his military background is on display. He spoke about serving in the military to defend American’s rights – rights that he claims to take very seriously. To his credit, Gibson joined 26 other House Republicans in voting against the extension of the Patriot Act in February 2011. But his written record, and his NDAA vote, indicate he is a politician more concerned with waging war than preserving liberty.

He believes “the West” faces an existential threat from al-Qaida. On Page 4 of his book ”Securing the State,” published in 2008,  he wrote:

The US is engaged in a difficult struggle against a determined enemy who publicly declares his strategic aim the establishment of a caliphate in the Middle East and the ultimate destruction of the West.


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