Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Resources for information regarding the Patriot Act

While I was on the phone, I was reading the e-mails (e-mail address is common_ills@yahoo.com) and wasn't surprised that three members had already written in that they're surrounded by conservatives.

In the previous post (which hadn't gone up in time for the three to read), I noted again that this was an issue that went beyond party membership.

The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a page devoted to noting conservative opposition to the Patriot Act. If you feel that you're surrounded by conservatives and think that means there's nothing you can do to help get the word out, check out that page and you'll realize how strong the opposition to the Patriot Act is from the right side.

I mentioned Mary Matlin's TV appearences (on Today). It's true, she'll go on there and she'll smile and she'll "But Katie . . ." her spin that this is some fringe opposition deriving from the far left only. Matlin knows better (and should be held accountable for the lack of truth in her spin)
but that's what passes for "informed discussion" on TV. (To her credit, Katie Couric has challenged that spin when she's interviewed Matlin.)

Matlin's not the first to spin and she won't be the last. Which is why it's important that we realize we can't count on television (the big three anyway) to address this topic.

Besides, aren't they off in Pope-land for the week? Reporting from Vatican City, I doubt they'll be able to do even their usual half-assed job on the topic of the Patriot Act.

Dallas e-mailed to state he'd left a message for Danny Goldberg (Air America) asking that he address the issue of the Patriot Act via Air America. Already, members are brainstorming. Be bold. Will your ideas work? Who knows? But people will know this is an issue.

Danny Goldberg, along with Victor Goldberg & Robert Greenwald, edited It's a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11.

From Goldberg's introduction (pp. 7-8):

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that civil-liberties protections helped cause the September 11 attack, nor any evidence that laws such as the more draconian aspects of the Patriot Act would have helped prevent it.
[. . .]
There has been no answer to liberal Democratic Congresman Jerrold Nadler's haunting question during the debate on the Patriot Act: "If the sole purpose of the new powers granted to the FBI and other police agencies is to protect against terrorism: to detain suspects without conventional due process, to issue searches without notification, etc, why weren't those powers limited to investigation of terrorism." Why?

Shirley e-mailed to say that while the community is in agreement regarding our opposition to the Patriot Act, resources would be helpful. No problem.

Over at AlterNet, you can find an entire section on Rights & Liberties. We'll highlight a column by Nat Hentoff entitled "Patriot Act Speed Bumps." Excerpt from that article:

Bush's re-election ensures that he and John Ashcroft's designated successor, Alberto Gonzales, will press Congress hard to retain the Patriot Act in its entirety, and enact a Patriot Act II that will further disable the Constitution.
There are two primary roadblocks to further assaults on our liberties. Despite continued Republican control of Congress, there is still a firm alliance there between civil-liberties Democrats and conservative Republican libertarians, especially in the Senate. That coalition will continue to oppose Bush's determination to fight the Patriot Act's "sunset clause," which permits reconsideration of parts of the act by December 2005.
During the presidential campaign, Bush repeatedly urged Congress to ignore the "sunset clause" and enshrine the Patriot Act permanently. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee resolutions in nearly 400 cities and towns, and four state legislatures, will keep the pressure on Congress to resist this expansion of executive powers.

[. . .]
Furthermore, the much publicized and dreaded section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gives the FBI authority to search your personal data from your visits to libraries, bookstores, and other sources of information, could also be overturned.

We'll note Hentoff again, but this time from his column in The Progressive entitled "The Terror of Pre-Crime:"

You may now appreciate the prophecy of Senator Frank Church--who was instrumental in exposing the constitutional crimes of J. Edgar Hoover's Cointelpro operation--when he said in 1975 that future government intelligence capabilities could "at any time be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left--such is the capacity to monitor everything, telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter." And that was before the omnivorous, permeable Internet. The Web can be a spider web.
Senator Church, referring to "potential" enemies of the state, warned: "There would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know."
There is still time to fight back.

From The Nation, we'll note Ben Adler and Nina Englander's "Protesting to Protect the Constitution:"

"Dissent is patriotic," read the podium sign at today's rally against the Patriot Act. This sentiment was clearly the theme of the day, as speaker after speaker voiced support for the resolution, which calls for the safeguarding of constitutional rights, thanked the crowd for attending, and--of course--bashed Attorney General Ashcroft. Representatives from organizations ranging from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, to the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, to the New York Public Library Guild, took to the microphone to add their voices to the rally's call for "true patriotism."

The Nation has a great article by Laura Flanders and six other items on the Patriot Act that are available to subscribers only. If you're a subscriber click here but I won't highlight those because too often members e-mail in saying that they're not able to read them.

From the Green Party, we'll highlight Kellie Gasink & William Pleasant's "What is the USA Patriot Act?" Excerpt:

The USA PATRIOT ACT is an acronym standing for: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act." This legislation was signed into law on October 26, 2002 as Public Law No: 107-56. The USA Patriot Act is composed of 342 pages. Most lawmakers admit that they never read the bill before voting on it. Put simply, from October 23 to October 26, a massive piece of legislation was rammed through both the House of Representatives and Senate, without public hearings of any sort. It was sold as the legal measures required to prevent future terroristic attacks on U.S. soil. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the American people were gripped in fear. Any and all measures of self-protection seemed desirable. But in the hysteria, the President, aided and abetted by both houses of the federal legislature, violated the U.S. Constitution and, in turn, stripped away the basic civil liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights, in the name of "national security."
[. . .]
While many Americans were led by the Bush administration to believe that the Patriot Act was soley directed at foreign nationals in the U.S. who may pose a military threat to citizens and property (specifically people of Southwest Asian and North African descent--a version of racial profiling), it swiftly emerged that the actual day-to-day targets of the Patriot Act were U.S. citizens and legal aliens. Overwhelmingly, they have suffered the abuses of federal police policies which have led to public humiliation, invasion of personal privacy, intimidation, movement control and monitoring, capricious arrest and detention, and denial of legal remedy in the court system.

The above is a strong, historical and informative piece worth reading.

From Truth Out, we'll note Jennifer Van Bergen's "Repeal the USA Patriot Act:"

The USA Patriot Act is an insult to Americans. The name, itself, is insulting, given what the Act contains and what it will someday be known for: its complete abdication of democratic law and principles. It should be called the Constitution Shredding Act.
In particular, it utterly relinquishes any semblance of due process, violates the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments, and unacceptably mixes aspects of criminal investigations with aspects of immigration and foreign intelligence laws.
Let me state it even more bluntly. This law is dangerous. It?s a travesty.
What is worse is that few Americans have the slightest idea what this law contains or what it means.
Why is this? Because, the USA Patriot Act has several clever catches in it that have enabled it to slip by the awareness of the average law-abiding citizen. First, it relates mostly to foreign nationals. (So it can't affect U.S. citizens, right? Wrong.) Second, it deals with terrorism. (And we're not terrorists, are we? Don't be so sure.)
If you think this law applies only to the bad guys who attacked our nation, think again. Many provisions in this law apply to and will affect Americans, in many, bad ways.
What is more frightening about it is that, despite the fact that the USA Patriot Act was passed hastily without any debate or hearings and under a cloak of fear, its provisions were obviously very carefully thought out and crafted to take power out of the hands of courts and ensure absolute lack of oversight of law enforcement and intelligence gathering.
There is no way that the USA Patriot Act came into existence solely in response to September 11th. In fact, it is clear from prior legislative and case history that law enforcement and intelligence have been trying for many years to obtain these powers. It is only the unreasoning "bunker mentality" that followed September 11th that allowed its planners to pass it.

This is a six part series (all available via the link) and worth reading.

Back to AlterNet (I just now thought to check Laura Flanders there) where we find a summary of Flanders' article from The Nation (mentioned above). It's entitled "Librarians Under Siege:"

Under an obscure provision of the USA Patriot Act, federal agents can obtain a warrant to acquire information about library users. According to a recent survey, agents have been showing up at libraries a lot, asking librarians for reading records. Nearly everything about the procedure -- from the granting of the warrants to the search itself -- is secret (as an excellent story in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out recently). But, unlike in the cold war years, when the FBI last tried to conduct such library surveillance, this time around, top librarians are on the warpath to protect reader privacy. And Congress wants Attorney General John Ashcroft to account for his agents' library conduct. It wasn't like this back in George W.'s daddy's day.
Between 1973 and the late 1980s, the FBI operated a secret counterintelligence operation called the Library Awareness Program. Back then the Feds were particularly concerned about what Soviet bloc citizens were reading in the nation's premier science libraries. In the words of Herbert Foerstel, a science librarian in those years, "Agents would approach clerical staff at public and university libraries, flash a badge and appeal to their patriotism in preventing the spread of 'sensitive but unclassified' information."
Today, with Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act in hand, law enforcement agents are at it again. This time, the stated purpose is to gather information on people the government suspects of having ties to terrorists or plotting an attack. The act makes it hard to track just what's going on. Anyone who receives an FBI request is prohibited, under threat of prosecution, from revealing the FBI visit to anyone, even to the patron whose records are subject to search. On Apr. 3 I interviewed Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, on Working Assets Radio, and the interview illustrated the problem. To paraphrase: Flanders: "How many libraries have received information requests from the FBI?" Stone: "They are not allowed to tell us, and we are not allowed to say."

Susan's e-mailed about Rickee Lee Jones. Here's an interview (via AlterNet) with Rickee Lee Jones by Laura Flanders entitled "Finding Our Own Dignity and Power:"

Flanders: You felt the Patriot Act should be posted on your website?
Jones: Yeah, people don't actually know what it says.... The Patriot Act attacks two segments of the population. The first is the "fighting man." It calls the fighting man an "enemy combatant," instead of calling him a soldier, and by calling him that they get around the Geneva Convention as we have seen. And they must have wanted to do exactly what they have done in those prisons, otherwise why would they have created a law giving themselves the right to do so? They could do it before, but they wanted to do it legally, so they created the Patriot Act. If you are an "enemy combatant" you have no rights. We can arrest you at any age, we don't have to tell you why we are arresting you, we can hold you forever, and we don't have to tell any [other country] that we have you....
The other segment of the population that the Patriot Act attacks that John Ashcroft was so eager to test it on are American citizens. If we decide to prosecute you under the Patriot Act, you have no Miranda rights.

That's an excerpt of what's available at the AlterNet link, but that's an excerpt itself. To hear the interview Laura Flanders did with Rickee Lee Jones, please refer to the Air America Place archives (that link takes you directly to the July 4th show). As I'm remembering the show, in addition to the discussion excerpted, you'll also be able to hear RLJ performing some songs with her guitar. RLJ is the guest in the third hour. (John Dean, among others, are guests on that Laura Flanders Show, so the entire thing is worth listening to -- as anyone who's listened to The Laura Flanders Show can tell you -- but RLJ is the third hour guest. Which I'm realizing doesn't help those in a hurry because Air America Place archives the show without commercials. Try going to an hour and ten minutes if you're in a hurry and seeing if RLJ is on at that point.)

As Susan pointed out, Rickie Lee Jones has a song (on The Evening of My Best Day) that's at the heart of what we're talking about this morning, "Tell Somebody (Repeal the Patriot Act)."

From "Tell Somebody (Repeal the Patriot Act):"

i want to know how far you will go
to protect our right of free speech?
because it only took a moment
before it faded out of reach...

tell somebody,
tell sombody right now
tell somebody
what happened in the usa?
i wanna read about it in the news
i wanna hear about it on tv, yeah
what happened in the usa?
when they ask you
what happened in the usa?
tell sombody.
they'll wanna know, oh people
the depth of our democracy

is only as good as the voices of protest she protects
voices of protest - rise!

That's an excerpt, full lyrics available by clicking on the song title. And the above excerpts do not convey the full commentary -- either of the articles we've linked to or the full commentary out there. Think of it as a starting point. And remember, to steal from Rickie Lee Jones, to make a point to "Tell Somebody." Get the word out today.

E-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.