Friday, April 27, 2012

The New Inquisition?

In 1208 Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade, and for two decades the Catholic Church warred against, and eventually crushed the heretical Cathars, aka, the Albigensians. The Cathars believed in Christ; however, they saw the Church as corrupt and hypocritical, so they created their own society to worship God, apart from the Church, a big no no.

Anyway, after the bloody crusade, the Church tried to recruit the straggling Cathars into the Chruch  without success.  When that mission failed, Pope Gregory IX concluded that other tactics must be employed to eradicate those few remaining Cathars. Hence, the creation of the Inquisition, which was formally established in 1232.

Amongst the many interrogation techniques at the disposal of the inquisitors, included three forms of torture: the pulley, the rack and a technique that can only be called water-boarding. Yes, water-boarding is torture, despite what Bush says to the contrary.  Initially, Dominican priests set out to interrogate people, bringing many in front of tribunals.  These tribunals would mete out punishments, sometimes fatal, sometimes - and for the most part - not.

So, how did the Inquisition last so long? After all, it wasn't officially abolished until 1908, the last execution, 1826.  We know this because there are vast archives of meticulous documentation of this period on record at the Vatican - and throughout Europe - including revelations and first-person descriptions of torture that were opened to scholars for the first time in 1998 by then, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger; he was then prefect of the Congregation of the Defense of the Faith, the bureaucratic successor to the organization that oversaw the Inquisition.

Now, back to the question, how did the Inquisition last so long?  According to Cullen Murphy, author of God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World, the answer lies in its system of administration: a formal, hierarchical organization with many levels in which tasks, responsibilities, and authority are delegated among individuals, offices, or departments, held together by a central administration, designed to dispose of a large body of work in a routine manner; in other words, an impersonal force dominating the lives of individuals, or in short, a bureaucracy.  Moreover, Murphy adds moral certainty to the equation.  A moral certainty so powerful that those in power believe they have the right to impose their view/belief on everyone for the so-called "greater good".

Here's the thing, bureaucracies operate on cruise control, and seldom, if ever, do they pull back. Bit by bit, they expand, and gain more control and more power. Today, the ingredients for a modern day inquisition are here as bureaucracies, information technology, and surveillance keep expanding, especially post 9/11. As far as the moral certainty goes, What with the Guantanamo Bay, water-boarding, the Patriot Act, the creation of Homeland Security, and under it, the TSA, which, for an unfortunate few, have produced circumstances reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition, and lastly, the "war on terror" providing the atmosphere of "moral certainty" the idea of a new Inquisition is not so far out.

Potential signs of modern day Inquisition:

2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)- particularly noteworthy are sections 1031 and 1032, which allow the president to use U.S. military forces to indefinitely detain American citizens who are merely suspected of having involvement with a terrorist organization. Indefinite military detention without charge or trial.

A former high-ranking NSA official, who spent more than three decades within the spy agency asserted that more than 20 trillion of American citizens' communications have been intercepted -- mostly without a warrant or judicial review of any kind.

NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center  - $2 billion in taxpayer dollars are going toward spying on American citizens without warrant or court approval.

House of Representatives Passes Privacy-Busting Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)


New Call for Internal DOJ Investigation of FBI’s Targeting of Religious and Ethnic Groups for Intel Gathering

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