jacdon at earthlink.net jacdon at earthlink.net
Thu Sep 19 13:18:11 MDT 2002

The following article appeared in the Sept. 16, 2002,  Email issue of
the Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, N.Y., by the
Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign/IAC, via jacdon at earthlink.net.


The civil liberties of the American people are among the main casualties
of last year's Sept. 11 tragedy, not as a result of nefarious activity
by Osama bin Laden but by the eagerness of George Bush and a supine
Congress to justify the sacrifice of individual freedoms in order to
pursue a dubious "war" on terrorism.

In an assessment of the "State of Civil Liberties" one year after Sept.
11, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) declared that the Bush
administration, Congress and Justice Department "have enacted a series
of Executive Orders, regulations, and laws that have seriously
undermined civil liberties, the checks and balances that are essential
to the structure of our democratic government, and indeed, democracy

In a message coinciding with the first anniversary, ACLU executive
director Anthony Romero said the most "disturbing change" in America
since Sept. 11 "is the government's apparent belief that our society
cannot be both safe and free.... The principles enshrined in our
Constitution are the bedrock of our country.  They define us as a
people.  They are the source of our strength as a nation.  They are our
enduring legacy to  the world.  Defending them in a time of national
crisis is more than an act of patriotism -- it is a moral imperative."

In a report Sept. 5, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights declared
that since Sept. 11, 2001, "the U.S.  government has introduced a series
of security laws and practices that contradict the core values and
principles on which the American government is founded....[Its] actions
over the past year have rolled back Fourth Amendment protections against
unreasonable search and seizure, targeted immigrants, undermined the
principle of separation of powers, and have frequently been undertaken
in secret. In doing this, the United States has also given encouragement
to other governments around the world to deny rights in similar ways."

Examining recent governmental depredations against civil liberties, the
New York Times observed editorially  Sept. 10 that "the American people
need to make clear that they... will not allow their rights to be rolled

On Sept. 5, the Associated Press distributed without comment a brief,
chilling list of "some of the fundamental changes to [U.S.] legal rights
by the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act following the terror
attacks." The list follows [with a few bracketed additions by the

"FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political
institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror
investigation.  [Such "political institutions" include all the peace and
justice groups to which many of our readers belong.]

"FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration
hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges
[actually it is 1,200 so far], and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist
public records requests.

"FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of
any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed
information related to a terror investigation. [Uncle Sam's police
agencies are also able to scan the internet, Email and telephone
transmissions with highly sophisticated devices capable of monitoring
millions of words while looking for 'terrorists.'"]

"RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison
jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers
to Americans accused of crimes.

"FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize
Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror

"RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans
indefinitely without a trial.

"RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or
being able to confront witnesses against them."

In its analysis of civil liberties today, the CCR observed that "The
Executive branch, by using Executive Orders and emergency interim agency
regulations as its tools of choice for combating terrorism, has
deliberately chosen methodologies that are largely outside the purview
of both the legislature and the judiciary. These Executive Orders and
agency regulations violate the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the United
States, and international and humanitarian law. As a result, the war on
terror is largely being conducted by Executive fiat and the
constitutional guarantees of both citizens and non-citizens alike have
been seriously compromised. Additionally, the actions of the government
have been shrouded in a cloak of secrecy that is incompatible with
democratic government.

"Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the government's actions has been
its attack on the Bill of Rights, the very cornerstone of our American
democracy. The war on terrorism has seriously compromised the First,
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of citizens and non-citizens
alike. From the USA Patriot Act's over-broad definition of domestic
terrorism [passed in haste by a panicked Congress last October], to the
FBI's new powers of search and surveillance [mandated by Attorney
General John Ashcroft May 30 when he removed restraints placed on the
FBI by Congress in 1976], to the indefinite detention of both citizens
and non-citizens without formal charges, the principles of free speech,
due process and equal protection under the law have been seriously

The constitutional rights group concluded that "The result of all of
these actions has been the deliberate, persistent, and unnecessary
erosion of the basic rights that protect every citizen and non-citizen
in the United States. A free society demands the rule of law. Without
it, democracy is meaningless. The government has consistently refused to
recognize the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution and
international law, and in doing so, it has failed in its responsibility
to maintain a democratic society that is both open to, and accountable
to, the people."

These attacks on democratic rights have elicited such meager comment
from the mass media -- reflecting the paucity of concern expressed
within the establishment political system -- that the cautious and
belated Times editorial mentioned earlier stands out like a blinking
neon light in the pitch darkness.

Noting that there have been several repressive occasions over the years
when the U.S. government severely restricted civil liberties,  the Times
argued that "to curtail individual rights, as the Bush administration
has done, is to draw exactly the wrong lessons from history.  Every time
the country has felt threatened and tightened the screws on civil
liberties, it later wished it had not done so.  In each case -- whether
the barring of government criticism under the Sedition Act of 1798 and
the Espionage Act of 1918, the internment of Japanese-Americas in World
War II or the McCarthyite witch hunts of the cold war -- profound
regrets set in later.

"When we are afraid, as we have all been this year, civil liberties can
seem abstract.  But they are at the core of what separates this country
from nearly all others; they are what we are defending when we go to
war.  To slash away at liberty in order to defend it is not only
illogical, but has proved to be a failure.  Yet that is what has been

The Bush administration has made the erosion of civil liberties at home
a concomitant of its war on terrorism abroad.  Given the insignificant
attention paid by the "opposition" Democrats to the Republican regime's
abrogation of traditional rights, it falls to left and progressive
activists to pursue the defense of  civil liberties as well as the
struggle to end Washington's imperial wars.

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