The War on Terror as continued assault on Civil LibertiesPosted: December 4, 2011
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 – 1790)
The vote last week on a civil liberty robbing provision tucked deep into a Pentagon Spending Bill reveals how little today’s politicians truly understand the constitution they are sworn to protect. Many of our greatest public leaders have reminded us throughout history that sacrificing our civil rights and liberties for public safety is not prudent or wise. We need that lesson more than ever.
This article at Alternet spells out 20 Ways the Obama Administration has continued Bush Policies that directly infringe on domestic civil liberties. It is amazing to me that there remains few differences between political parties in most major policies issues other than exactly how far to push distinct religious sanctions. There is a long list that begins with violations that continue with the passage of the Patriot Act. There are examples of suppression and criminalization of decent and wrongful use of police powers. We are seeing the militarization of police in their suppression of Occupy and other protest movements as well as weaponizing border and homeland security functions at the state and local level. There is expansion of wiretapping and domestic spying. There is singling out of religious communities–Muslims–for unconstitutional spying, control, and assassinations.
The last two administrations have clearly used the threat of terrorism to expand the power of the executive branch, limit the rights of law abiding citizens, and enact laws and policies that clearly violate constitutional rights. This is truly a frightening list of abuses. Here are specific examples of the militarization of domestic state and local law enforcement activities. I remember clearly how the Bush administration bullied then Louisiana Governor Blanco to attempt to get her turn the Louisiana National Guard over to the executive branch. The late and poor response to Katrina was one example I saw was partial punishment for our Governor’s refusal to do so.
Anyone who has gone to a peace or justice protest in recent years has seen it – local police have been turned into SWAT teams, and SWAT teams into heavily armored military. Officer Friendly or even Officer Unfriendly has given way to police uniformed like soldiers with SWAT shields, shin guards, heavy vests, military helmets, visors, and vastly increased firepower. Protest police sport ninja turtle-like outfits and are accompanied by helicopters, special tanks, and even sound blasting vehicles first used in Iraq. Wireless fingerprint scanners first used by troops in Iraq are now being utilized by local police departments to check motorists. Facial recognition software introduced in war zones is now being used in Arizona and other jurisdictions. Drones just like the ones used in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan are being used along the Mexican and Canadian borders. These activities continue to expand under the Obama administration.
The Muslim Community has been particularly vulnerable. The majority of our domestic terrorist attacks have come from white supremacists and militarists that are not Muslim, yet many resources have been used to infringe on the rights of Muslim Americans.
Muslims in the US have been targeted by the Obama Department of Justice for inflammatory things they said or published on the internet. First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, most recently stated in a 1969 Supreme Court decision, Brandenberg v Ohio, says the government cannot punish inflammatory speech, even if it advocates violence unless it is likely to incite or produce such action. A Pakistani resident legally living in the US was indicted by the DOJ in September 2011 for uploading a video on YouTube. The DOJ said the video was supportive of terrorists even though nothing on the video called for violence. In July 2011, the DOJ indicted a former Penn State student for going onto websites and suggesting targets and for providing a link to an explosives course already posted on the internet.
There are additional activities.
The CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans, works with the police on “human mapping”, commonly known as racial and religious profiling to spy on the Muslim community. Under the Obama administration, the Associated Press reported in August 2011, informants known as “mosque crawlers,” monitor sermons, bookstores and cafes.
The Alernet piece is full of examples where the CIA, the FBI, local and state law enforcement and Homeland security have overstepped constitutional boundaries in the
name of “security” and “safety”. There are so many examples that it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that we are living in a police state. After Katrina, I spent months watching armored vehicles and armed soldiers patrol our city. We heard many stories of both police and homeland security abuse after learning that many of the stories of people firing at helicopters or firing on police were sheer fantasy.
Additionally, we experienced a homeland security practice run that was labelled as an exercise for handling food riots that included having many, many black helicopters buzz our neighborhoods over a series of evenings. Many folks took days worth of of video footage and photos of the exercises. This happened in 2009.
The New Orleans Police Department, along with 150 active duty U.S. troops, are currently engaging in what they describe as “military training” as black helicopters whizz around the city dropping bombs in the latest example of Americans being incrementally conditioned to accept a state of de facto martial law.
The training has been ongoing since January 27 and involves “the use of military helicopters flying after dark throughout the city,” according to an Associated Press report.
Residents were warned “not to panic” if they witnessed the training and were assured that the activities had “been carefully planned and are safe”.
However, initial reports before the exercises began claimed that the training would only involve police, when in fact 150 U.S. troops from the U.S. Special Operations Command are also involved as part of urban warfare training.
I have no idea if you have ever experienced things like this but believe me, it makes you very uneasy. I was one of the first folks home in my neighborhood. The first set of soldiers to see me where obviously startled. I later learned that one of my friends had been chased by black berets while trying to drop dog and cat food to neighbors trapped animals directly after Katrina. We were all basically chased out of the city and unless you were securely locked in your house, you were basically subject to arrest. These are not the kinds of things that we are used to seeing here in the U.S. but the more I read the incredible long list of cited examples in the Alternet article and compare them to my post Katrina experience, the more I think that we are just beginning to experience it. Just think of having most days in our neighborhood being like your experience getting on a US flight these days and I think you can imagine what it will feel like.