We The People
in a Terrifying New World
Defending the Essence – The Constitution under
"The apathy here is, first, subjective -- the felt powerlessness
of ordinary people, the resignation before the enormity of events. But
subjective apathy is encouraged by the objective American situation
-- the actual structural separation of people from power, from relevant
knowledge, from pinnacles of decision-making. Just as the university
influences the student way of life, so do major social institutions
create the circumstances in which the isolated citizen will try hopelessly
to understand his world and himself."
- The Port Huron Statement, 1962
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of the September 11th attacks
is that they were facilitated by the incredible freedoms enjoyed by
American citizens. We can fly where we wish, drive where we wish,
speak to whomever we wish, all without any significant supervision
and intrusion from the Federal government. The terrorists who attacked
us used these simple freedoms to deadly intent.
There is no question that 9/11 also happened because of catastrophic
intelligence failures by the American government, failures that are,
when analyzed, almost incomprehensible. This is an issue to be discussed
in another forum. For details, read "The War on Freedom" by Nafeez
Mosaddeq Ahmed of the British Institute for Policy Research and Development.
Even with those failures in mind, it cannot be denied that the attackers
used our freedoms against us. The question has become clear - what
is the proper response to such a daunting fact?
The response of the Bush administration, facilitated by a stunned
and quiescent Congress, was to pass the USA PATRIOT Anti-Terrorism
Act in October of 2001. This Act re-wrote and disposed of a vast array
of fundamental Constitutional freedoms American citizens had come
to take for granted. An ACLU analysis of the Act, drafted a week after
its passage, highlighted the largest issues of concern.
"Among the USA Patriot Act's most troubling provisions, the ACLU
said, are measures that:
- Allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens who are not terrorists
on minor visa violations if they cannot be deported because they are
stateless, their country of origin refuses to accept them or because
they would face torture in their country of origin.
- Minimize judicial supervision of federal telephone and Internet
surveillance by law enforcement authorities.
- Expand the ability of the government to conduct secret searches.
- Give the Attorney General and the Secretary of State the power to
designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations and deport any
non-citizen who belongs to them.
- Grant the FBI broad access to sensitive business records about individuals
without having to show evidence of a crime.
- Lead to large-scale investigations of American citizens for "intelligence"
In a perfect world, a benign government would use these awesome
new powers only to do good. They would not abuse them in any way,
but would focus only upon threats to America. Unfortunately, no
such benign government exists. The Act has been used, and will continue
to be used, as a tool for the intimidation of dissenters, the removal
of immigrants, and for the systematic profiling of citizens and
organizations whose only crime is to be of Arab descent. At bottom,
the Act, as well as those within the Justice Department who would
enforce it, has become a corrosively invasive mechanism for spying
Take the recently-proposed TIPS Program as an example. TIPS - short
for Terrorist Information and Prevention System - would bring in
millions of Americans and use them to investigate other Americans.
Truck drivers, cable television installers, mailmen, cab drivers,
meter readers and a host of other individuals who have intimate
access to private homes and conversations would report "suspicious
activity" to the FBI and the Justice Department.
Beyond the fact that such a program would hopelessly bog down the
FBI with false reports, consider the broad array of interpretation
that could be applied to "suspicious activity." If you have the
Koran on your bookshelf, or if you have literature that supports
Palestine, or a book that is critical of the Bush administration,
or if you don't have a Bible prominently displayed - all of these
benign situations and more could be deemed suspicious by overzealous
citizens bound and determined to root out terrorism. Once reported,
your name is forever ensconced in an FBI file and database.
The fact that the TIPS Program was laughed out of existence - fearful
laughter, yet - does not diminish the simple fact that such a program
was contrived in the first place. Attorney General Ashcroft, while
a member of Congress, tried on multiple occasions to rewrite the
Constitution via amendments that ultimately failed. He is a religious
extremist who chafes at the separation of church and state. While
drafting the PATRIOT Act, he wrote a provision that did away with
Habeas Corpus. While testifying before Congress about the Act in
December of 2001, he stated bluntly that anyone who questions what
he is doing to the Constitution is aiding terrorism.
Simply put, this is not a man to be trusted.
The manner in which we address the means with which we were attacked
on September 11th is of profound importance. A national debate on
the merits of reconsidering some of the freedoms we enjoy is an
absolute requirement. The Bush administration and John Ashcroft
have allowed no such debate. They have, instead, acted by fiat and
gone after the Constitution and Bill of Rights with erasers and
redacting tape. The consequences of this will take years to fully
encompass, and will be dire in the extreme.
In the final analysis, it comes to this. Destroying freedom in
order to save freedom is a terribly poor idea. We should focus on
why 9/11 happened in the first place, but we must also remember
that we are defending the idea that is America as much as we are
defending the physical reality of America. If we shatter that which
makes us unique and special in the world, we hand those who attacked
us an incredible victory.
Come Wind, Come Weather...
"Beware the Ides of March!"
Unfortunately, we were not able
to gather the permits for our March Protest in Washington D.C. We are
revamping this web site to coinside with a national flyer campaign in
partnership with The Alliance For Democracy. Stay tuned.