"We are a nation living with two sets of laws, one public...guided by the Constitution and a second, invisible text that exists between the lines of that document." To William Arkin, an internationally known security and military expert and lead speaker in the ACLU-VT's Surveillance Conference Oct. 30, the first is the familiar "ABC" government. The second is the "XYZ" government, "the charter of another realm, one beyond the reach of Congress, the courts, and the people...."

photo of William Arkin William Arkin

That’s from Arkin’s new book, American Coup: How A Terrified Government Is Destroying The Constitution. He discussed his book earlier this week on VPR’s Vermont Edition show.

Arkin is one of America’s best-known military analysts. He served in Army intelligence in West Berlin during the Cold War and went on to write about military affairs for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

We have become a militarized society, Arkin believes. The constitutional ABC government is what we cherish. But insiders feel it’s inadequate to deal with emergencies and terrorist threats. In such situations, the ABC government must give way to the between-the-lines XYZ government of the military, security agencies, Border Patrol, and even local police.

Arkin writes:

“For the citizens, not only do pervasive threats and vulnerabilities sow fear and suspicion and strengthen the hand of the state, but mistrust and individual concern for one’s survival and one’s family feed apprehension – apprehension about speaking up, apprehension about assembling and crossing the government or the law enforcers.

“The American Coup complete, you are free to say what you want, believe what you want, assemble where you want, as long as you don’t violate invisible limitations and barriers or interfere with the workings of the XYZ.”

Arkin will speak at 9:30 a.m. at the ACLU-VT’s “Surveillance On The Northern Border” conference Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is advised at www.acluvt.org/surveillance.