The Nose, like Attorney General John Ashcroft, views Mike Hawash as a traitor. But for different reasons.

When the Intel engineer pleaded guilty last week, his friends were shocked. This kind soul--a family man and volunteer soccer coach--would never aid the enemy!

Yet Hawash admitted that his bungled effort to join the armed struggle in Afghanistan and his financing of others did indeed constitute a conspiracy to help the Taliban.

So Hawash pleaded. He will testify against the rest of the "Portland Seven." He will serve time in jail. And he'll be branded as a modern-day Judas.

In the Nose's twisted way of thinking, however, Hawash's sin of stupidly seeking to join the wrong side in the Afghan war is only part of his crime.

What else is he guilty of? Handing Big Brother the sweetest gift since Kobe bought his wife that rock.

If you haven't been paying attention, the federal government has in past years arrayed a frightening degree of power to look into virtually every aspect of your life--all in the name of finding would-be terrorists.

Thanks to the post-9/11 U.S.A. Patriot Act and the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, the feds now have vast latitude to conduct searches, read your emails and medical records, examine your finances--without your even knowing about it. All they need is the approval of (the Nose isn't making this up) the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel of federal judges.

How many people have been subjected to an inspection of their library records, a search of their medical records or business affairs?

No telling, 'cause it's all done in secret. In fact, it would be a federal crime if your librarian told you or anyone else that the feds had demanded your records.

Americans are beginning to worry.

Last month, Charles Mandigo, the retiring head of the FBI's Seattle office, expressed concerns to the Seattle Times about the amount of power the government is assembling, calling it a prescription for "tyranny."

Last week, the ACLU filed suit claiming that portions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional.

Even our own U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is making a stink. "We cannot stand by and allow the government to shine a spotlight onto the personal records of law-abiding citizens who have a constitutionally protected right to privacy," he said last week.

So how has Ashcroft responded to these concerns? He wants more authority. Earlier this summer he told Congress that he needs broader powers.

And with the bagging of Mike Hawash--a fella who, from most outside appearances, was the last you'd imagine to be a terrorist--he just may get it.