In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act was passed, and a giant new federal bureaucracy was created with vast new powers. The Department of Homeland Security.

Like many libertarians, (as well as more than a few conservatives and liberals) I was worried about the threat to freedom posed by this unprecedented federal machinery, and I wanted to believe the assurances that somehow, the new power would not be abused, and that it would be used only against terrorists.

In retrospect, that’s like believing that SWAT Teams would only be used in barricaded hostage and public crisis situations.

In both cases, we were lied to by our rulers. Just as SWAT Teams are now routinely deployed to execute routine search warrants, the Orwellian Homeland Security apparatus is routinely deployed against ordinary criminals. Anyone who thinks that means violent racketeers and dangerous thugs, think again. We’re talking about mundane things like like gamblingillegal file downloading), or even cigarette violations.

From today’s news, a perfect example of what is now considered a threat to the security of our homeland is copyrighted video streaming:

A 19-year-old New York man faces up to five years in prison after federal authorities arrested him on Tuesday for allegedly streaming live copyrighted sporting events over the Internet.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced that Mohamed Ali was taken into custody at his home and charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright.

“Today’s arrest sends a clear message to website operators who mistakenly believe it’s worth the risk to take copyrighted programming and portray it as their own,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.

“Protecting legitimate business interests are a priority for HSI, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when organized criminals traffic in stolen content for their own profit.”

I’d say, “call your Congressman,” except these unaccountable federal bureaucracies are beyond the reach of Congress.

As to fighting terrorism, I don’t know what happened to that. These days, the trend seems to be to broaden the definition of terrorism to include preparing for emergencies. So if you are worried about Hurricane Irene and doing things like stockpiling food and water or buying a generator or ammo, be careful not to tell your neighbors.

Hey, and if you complain about the unconstitutionality of these gigantic power grabs, that is also considered a sign of terrorism.

What a shame.

This used to be a wonderful country.