“You’re on the list.”

That’s enough, in America, to justify ‘security personnel’ to detain you, search you. Also to search your papers, computer, hard drive, and cell phone.

If you ask, that’s what you may be told, if you are told anything, while they’re holding you in rooms reserved for Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement in America’s airports in the progressive era of the Obama administration. Sometimes, agents say they don’t know.

The machinery of the state has decided that any rights you formerly had under the Constitution don’t apply anymore. That’s because we’re in a war against terrorism and the enemy can be anyone. Because anyone may be the enemy, everyone is to be suspected.

Security personnel will search you because you’re on a list. They will detain you because you are on a list. They need no probable cause, no warrant, no reason at all.

When Obama spoke of his great desire for ‘transparency’ in government, he evidently had in mind that your life, your work, your possessions, and your own thoughts would be made transparent to the government’s agents.

Secrecy is, of course, a necessity for undemocratic governments, especially if they pretend to be otherwise. Of all the ugly surprises Obama had in store for us, this is the worst and most dangerous.

Under Obama, the very rules which protect and sustain a democracy have been almost completely subverted. It cannot be accidental.

There are two applications of secrecy rules in a democracy. One is that the state, while necessarily engaging in sensitive matters, cannot generally or broadly try to deprive the people of information involving any of its operations. The other is that the public is safe from the intrusive eye of the government, which includes police agencies, and free to conduct their lives as free people and without fear.

In America, these rules are not simply fallen into negligent disuse but under relentless assault by the government.

There are “lists”. Initially, there was the “no fly list”, but there are many others. Your appearance on one of more of them may have nothing whatever to do with you or anything you have done. You are not told of this or afforded an opportunity to challenge it.

Two groups already finding their number on search lists are the lawyers for Guantanamo detainees and independent journalists. The effect is obvious: searching the notes, computers, phones, and other repositories of information compromises the ability of the lawyer or journalist to do his or her work. Clearly, that’s the idea.

As Amy Goodman points out, seizing this information turns the lawyer or journalist into “an agent of the state.”

The government’s computers are searching your e-mails, targeting keywords. They know whatever they wish to know about you. They have their address book if they want it, your web search history, your facebook friends. You have no privacy in Obama’s America.

On the other hand, whatever the government is doing is secret and you are not to know about it. The Obama Justice Department is currently engaged in two major initiatives. One of these is the plan to indict, extradite, and prosecute Julian Assange. They want to stop WikiLeaks and anyone else who harbors similar notions. The second is its ongoing court fight to withhold government information from the public. Several victims of torture have had their cases dismissed when courts agreed with the Attorney General that documentation of what was done to them, and by whom, could not be disclosed without endangering ‘national security’.

We are governed now by faceless people, ‘security personnel’, a $55 billion Department of Homeland Security which didn’t even exist a dozen years ago.

Do you feel more secure, or less? Is this what freedom feels like, or is it something else? Is this what you voted for? Is this what you were promised?