News - Bill Hitchens

For pissing on the Constitution

Ordinarily, this space is reserved to criticize, to poke fun, to tear down. This week, we'd like to turn that conceit on its head and recognize the laudable service of Bill Hitchens.

Hitchens, as you may know, is Georgia's director of homeland security. Since being hired by Sonny Perdue in January 2003, Hitchens's biggest task has been the security of the G-8 summit in Sea Island. Actually, strike that. The security of the eight world leaders was primarily the responsibility of the U.S. Secret Service. Hitchens's job was to secure the homeland outside Sea Island — you know, high-profile targets such as nearby Brunswick, where almost half of the children under 18 live below the poverty level. Hitchens could be forgiven if he felt like it was Thanksgiving and he was forced to eat at the kids' table.

Undeterred, Hitchens — aided by local governments eager to keep away protesters (which consisted of a few dozen activists) — approached his job with gusto. Thousands of cops spent months training. They were helped by Perdue, who conveniently sidestepped the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the government from using the military for domestic law enforcement, by declaring a state of emergency.

And last week in Savannah, Hitchens boasted that 40 of his men were actually undercover cops posing as protesters. Given the paltry turnout of protesters, a full one in eight protesters was a cop! "They blended right in," the Associated Press reported Hitchens as saying. "Everybody in this country that was involved in anarchist movements, the leadership and anybody who had been tagged for being involved in violent demonstrations before, they had pictures of every one of them."

Well, Bill, let us be the first to congratulate you on a job well done! After all, as police chiefs from Miami to Boston have said, you can't be too careful in this post-9/11 world. Always better to have too much security as opposed to too little. Please Bill, ignore those critics who fear that that kind of logic is used to justify civil rights infringements, government snooping and "free speech zones." Do whatever you think is best. Just keep us safe. Damn the costs.

-- Steve Fennessy

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