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We The People

Social Consciousness in a Terrifying New World

Defending the Essence – The Constitution under attack

"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" purposes."

    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 on Americans.

    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.


I. Preamble: We The People - New social consciousness in a troubled world

II. The Port Huron Statement - Participatory Democracy 40 Years Later

III. Defending the Essence - The Constitution under attack

  • Understanding the PATRIOT Act
  • Understanding the TIPS Program
  • Destroying Freedom to Save Freedom

IV. The Return of the Robber Barons

  • Understanding the current state of the economy
  • The murder by inches of functional capitalism
  • A roll call of criminals

V. War Without End

  • A rudderless global conflict with no end in sight
  • The promulgation of fear as a political tool

VI. Conclusion


www.participatory-democracy.org | 2000-2011