I had a quite unpleasant experience with one branch of the US National Police, the Transportation Security Agency, in the Phoenix airport last week, but that pales in comparison to what is happening in Russia. According to the Newsweek article, “Russia’s New Police State,” the increasingly totalitarian Russian government has enacted two new laws giving Russia’s “spectacularly corrupt, inept, and brutal police” sweeping new powers.
In a nation whose government has apparently moved to restore the brutal excesses of the USSR secret police,
“Public trust in the police has cratered; according to a recent survey by the Moscow-based Levada Center, more than 70 percent of Russians distrust all branches of law enforcement. ‘Russia is now one of those countries where citizens expect more unpleasantness, problems, and even criminality from the police than from actual criminals,’ says independent political analyst Nikolai Zlobin”
The first new law:
“gives the FSB [Federal Security Service] powers to arrest people on suspicion of planning an act ‘contrary to the country’s security’ before they have actually done anything illegal. The law also establishes fines and detentions of up to 15 days for people seen as ‘hindering the work of an FSB employee.’ The new powers given to the secret police under the new law was one of the reasons cited by presidential human-rights adviser Ella Pamfilova for her resignation last month.”
The second law goes even further:
“Despite some clauses included at the behest of the Presidential Human Rights Commission—such as an explicit ban on torture—much of the new law would extend the police’s already extensive authority. They would have almost unlimited power to stop and search people and to detain them for up to an hour just to check their documents, a reversal of the presumption of innocence enshrined in the Russian Constitution. Police can also now enter private homes without a warrant.”
So maybe the TSA, with all their snappy new police uniforms, condescending bravado and increasingly privacy-infringing search methods, aren’t so bad … yet. But we must always be wary and watchful. The freedoms we enjoy, those guaranteed by an inspired constitution, must never be subjugated to over reaching police power.