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(en) Daybreak #3 - The Anti-Terrorism Bill, and the Creep Towards Fascism Breaks into a Run

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://free.freespeech.org/mn/daybreak!/article20.html)
Date Sun, 24 Nov 2002 05:48:23 -0500 (EST)


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Liberty cannot be entrusted to the Bill of Rights or to the three
branches of government, but can only be safeguarded by our own
vigilance." - Howard Zinn

The Anti-Terrorism Bill, or Patriot Act, was recently rushed
through Congress with very little media attention or discussion.
However, its effects will definitely change how Americans think
about our civil liberties. The legislation, billed as a reaction to the
September 11th terrorist attacks, increases law enforcement
powers at the cost of everyones civil liberties.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with other civil rights
organizations, have released an outraged statement against the
bill, warning Congress of the dangers posed by it. Experts warn
that the powers the bill grants to law enforcement could easily be
manipulated to take away civil rights and to repress dissidents that
disagree with American policy.

One particularly alarming clause minimizes judicial supervision of
internet and telephone surveillance. It creates a special secret
court that approves requests for both surveillance and search
warrants. It also gives authorities the right to utilize "secret"
searches in all investigations. This means that cops are able to
search your house, take your belongings, and plant bugs without
telling you they were there. In addition, the bill allows authorities
to open up personal, financial, and medical records without
alerting you that you're under investigation.

Another disturbing clause is one that gives the government
authority to detain non-citizens, even permanent residents, for any
amount of time without charging them with a crime.

The legislation grants the Attorney General the authority to
condemn any organization as terrorist using the dangerously broad
new definition imposed by the bill. Under Section 802 of the USA
PATRIOT Act, "a person commits the crime of domestic
terrorism if within the U.S. they engage in activity that involves
acts dangerous to human life that violate the laws of the United
States or any State and appear to be intended: (i) to intimidate or
coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a
government by intimidation or coercion, or (iii) to affect the
conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or
kidnapping."

The definition could conceivably include anti-globalization
protesters, environmental groups, or any other violent or
non-violent direct action mobilization or strike. In fact the
repression has already begun, the Forest Service recently
pressured mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club
to condemn more militant activists as terrorists. The FBI has been
making statements in newspapers like the New York Times about
the connection of environmental groups to terrorists on S11.  Civil
rights advocates see this as a major danger because it also allows
anyone to be prosecuted for providing monetary funds to a
"terrorist" group. For example, if you give money to the World
Wildlife Fund or National Rifle Association and in the future they
are labeled as a terrorist group, you could be prosecuted and sent
to jail for supporting terrorists.  This is put in perspective when we
realize that it was only two months ago that the government
released a list of so-called terrorist groups in the US: It was topped
by Reclaim The Streets, mobilization that holds dance parties in
public places.

The anti-terrorism bill also gives the FBI and CIA new powers for
repressing dissent by giving them the authority to specifically
target American organizations. For anyone who knows the history
of these institutions that news should send a chill down your
spine. Since their birth they have been used to frame, repress, and
even execute political activists who disagree with the government.
The most well known example of this was the COINTELPRO
program of the 60's, 70's, and 80's from which dozens of political
prisoners are still languishing in jail.

Let's consider the consequences of this bill: the US government
has never fulfilled its promises to guarantee us rights and liberties.
It has repeatedly violated even the minimum promised to us in the
Bill of Rights. It has done this in two ways, predominately by
violating them unofficially with police abuse and law enforcement
cover-ups. There are innumerable examples of this, we've all
probably had a confrontation with some swaggering cop or judge
and seen how this works on the small scale.

On a larger official scale we've often been subjected to fascist
interpretations of plainly draconian laws. This is how black people
were barred from public life legally. This is how Japanese,
Germans, Italians, and currently Arabs were interned legally in
concentration camps and how students are denied any
constitutional rights in schools. This is how government troops
were used to break strikes and kill strikers. This is how women
were treated like second-class citizens through much of American
history and how anyone involved in radical movements was
persecuted jailed or executed. The list could go on and on but the
point is that the government has never benevolently granted us the
rights that are naturally ours.  Government has always held them
just out of arms reach, until we forced them to let go.


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