The New McCarthyism

Rodent of Unusual Size Ken.Coar@Golux.Com
Fri, 21 Dec 2001 11:58:47 -0500


* On 2001-12-21 at 06:13,
  Kragen Sitaker <kragen@pobox.com> excited the electrons to say:
> 
> This is from the January 2002 issue of The Progressive:
> 
> http://www.progressive.org/0901/roth0102.html

And this is from the Austin Chronicle:

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-12-21/cols_ventura.html

 Appear to Be Dangerous
 Copyright  2001 Austin Chronicle Corp. All rights reserved.

 Letters at 3AM

 BY MICHAEL VENTURA
 December 21, 2001:

Ancient history: The year is 111 CE.  Pliny the Younger is the Emperor
Trajan's legate to Bithynia-Pontus, a city on the Black Sea. Pliny's
discovered lots of Christians there.  He's learned of them, he writes,
when "a placard was put up, without any signature, accusing a large
number of persons by name." He has interrogated many, declared some
innocent, tortured others, and executed still others, but the number
yet to be dealt with is so significant that he writes Rome for
instructions. Emperor Trajan has nothing against persecuting
Christians, but his reply to Pliny includes the following caution
about anonymous placards: "Informations without the accuser's name
subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is
introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is by no means agreeable
to the spirit of the age."

Tell that to George W. Bush. He's claiming more judicial power than
even a Roman emperor.

The Bush White House is mounting the most sustained and successful
attack on the Constitution in America's history.  Review it in
sequence:

October 25. A Senate vote of 99-1, and a House vote of 357-66, passed
Bush's USA-PATRIOT Act (acronym for "the United and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and
Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001").  Among its provisions: Government
agents may enter your home without your knowledge and without a
warrant, if federal attorneys claim the search has a "significant
purpose" relating to an ongoing investigation. So "probable cause,"
which must be specific, has been replaced by "significant purpose,"
which could mean anything. The law allows the government to monitor
telephone and Internet communications with no specific warrants, and
to listen in on attorney-client conversations in prison.  Its
definition of "terrorism" should terrify you: "Acts dangerous to human
life that are a violation of the criminal laws ... [or that] appear
intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population, to influence
the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect
the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or
kidnapping." Only the last clause specifies violent acts; the
definition mainly concentrates on dangerous acts that "appear intended
to intimidate or coerce." Defined broadly, that could include peaceful
protest and civil disobedience -- such acts are certainly intended to
"intimidate" the government; the law could even indict articles like
this one, if this article is accused of intending to inspire peaceful
protest or civil disobedience.

Why say "dangerous" rather than "violent" acts? Because everyone knows
what "violent" means, but this law lets the government define
"dangerous."  Dangerous to whom? (J. Edgar Hoover thought Martin
Luther King dangerous and dogged him mercilessly.) Why the vague word
"appear"? Who gets to define the appearance of an act of protest? The
USA-PATRIOT Act gives the government the sole right to define it,
after the fact -- for a protest must first occur in order to appear to
be anything. You won't know you've appeared to be dangerous until
after you've done something. This law is meant to be defined as it
goes along. That's dangerous.

November 1. President Bush signed an executive order giving an
incumbent president veto power over the release of documents from past
administrations.  According to The Week, "Historians and journalists
will be forced to demonstrate a 'specific need' for documents to be
released to the public."  In practice this means that the American
presidency now has the power to operate under a cloak of complete
secrecy.

An aside: Senate hearings during the first week of November revealed
that a month after the first anthrax case the FBI had yet to locate
all the American labs that legally handle anthrax, much less any
illicit anthrax producers.  Could Bush's constitutional extremism be a
cover for incompetence? Or is it simply to avoid admitting that, after
the most intensive search in our history, he simply hasn't found any
terrorists in America? He clearly lacks hard evidence. Which might
explain:

November 13. President Bush signed an executive order sanctioning
secret military tribunals, answerable only to the president himself,
in which defendants cannot select their own lawyers, have no right of
appeal, and may not even be allowed to see the evidence against
them. (Emperor Trajan would be shocked.)

Also November 13. Ashcroft orders police departments across the
country to pick up and question 5,000 men from Middle Eastern
countries. According to Ashcroft's guidelines, these people will be
asked "for a list of phone numbers of friends and relatives." Police
chiefs in Portland, Eugene, and Corvalis, Oregon, Seattle, Ann Arbor,
Detroit, Tucson, Baltimore, and Richardson (a Dallas suburb), among
others -- either have refused the order outright or watered it down
considerably. Again in this crisis, some American police are behaving
heroically.

November 15. Attorney General Ashcroft said his arrests are meant to
prevent other attacks. Which means: People on American soil are being
held indefinitely, without specific charges and with no evidence, for
what might happen. Well, we want to be protected, don't we? But
(jumping a little ahead here) on December 1, The New York Times
reported that "some at the FBI have been openly skeptical about claims
that some of the 1,200 people arrested were Al Qaeda members ... 'It's
just not the case,' an official said. 'We have 10 or 12 people we
think are Al Qaeda people, and that's it. And for some of them, it's
based only on conjecture and suspicion.'"

Which again begs the question: Are these extremist measures a cover to
avoid the political cost of admitting that the most intensive
investigation in American history has turned up next to nothing?

November 14. Vice-President Cheney emerged from his secure location
long enough to assure the media that terrorist suspects would receive
fair trials from military tribunals. He didn't sound convincing to our
allies, however:

November 23. Spain informed the United States that it will not
extradite the eight men it has charged with complicity in the
September 11 attacks unless Bush agrees that they'll be tried by a
civilian court under our Constitutional guarantees. The next day The
New York Times reported that "a senior European Union official who
asked not to be identified said he doubted any of the 15 [EU] nations
-- all of which have renounced the death penalty and signed the
European Convention on Human Rights -- would agree to extradition that
involved the possibility of a military trial." Five days later Spain's
prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, met with Bush at the White
House. Obviously under intense pressure to change Spain's position, in
his Rose Garden news conference (with Bush at his side) he said only:
"If and when the United States requests that extradition, we will
study the issue." I.e., he's standing fast, politely but firmly. Our
Constitutional rights are being defended more vigorously by Europeans
than by Americans.

November 26. Attorney General Ashcroft explained why he won't reveal
the identities of 1,000 or so men being held indefinitely without
charges: "It would be a violation of the privacy rights of individuals
for me to create some kind of list of all of them that are being
held." Let's get this straight. ... He's holding 1,000 people
unconstitutionally, without charge and without prospect of release,
but he won't tell us their names so that he can protect their rights?

November 27. Senator Arlen Specter (Penn.-Rep.): "The administration
has yet to show where the president gets the authority for this
extraordinary executive order [regarding military tribunals]." During
the Clarence Thomas hearings, Specter was one of the most vicious
questioners of Anita Hill. He's no angel. If he's worried, you should
be worried.

November 28, The New York Times: "The Justice Department has quietly
expanded its power to detain foreigners, letting the government keep a
foreigner behind bars even after a federal immigration judge has
ordered him to be released for lack of evidence." Read that twice.
Ashcroft usurped the power to reverse a federal judge who has already
determined a lack of evidence. Again and again the Bush administration
is demonstrating utter contempt for the requirement of evidence in a
criminal proceeding.

November 30. Anthony Lewis in The New York Times: "The Bush [tribunal]
order could easily be extended to citizens, under the administration's
legal theory.  Since the Sixth Amendment makes no distinction between
citizens and aliens, the claim of war exigency could sweep its
protections aside for anyone in this country who might fit the vague
criterion of aiding terrorism."

There's more, but I'm out of space.  Listen to Rep. John D. Dingell
(D-Michigan): "I hear a lot of [House] members saying they're
concerned, but not many willing to say it publicly."

They're not willing to say it publicly because they're not hearing
from enough of us. Do you want to save your Constitution? Make
yourself heard.
[end story]
-- 
#ken	P-)}

Ken Coar, Sanagendamgagwedweinini  http://Golux.Com/coar/
Author, developer, opinionist      http://Apache-Server.Com/

"All right everyone!  Step away from the glowing hamburger!"