"High treason in the U.S. government"
Q: Just who is a terrorist?
A: Anyone (non-U.S. citizen or U.S. citizen alike) Attorney General
Ashcroft designates as one.
Q: On what evidence can Ashcroft designate someone as a terrorist?
A: Mere suspicion and hearsay.
Q: What legal rights and Constitutional protections does someone
detained on the grounds of being a suspected terrorist have?
A: Next to none.
It may be difficult for some hard-core, patriotic Americans to believe
the veracity of the preceding question and answer series, but the
answers to the questions are based upon the implications and dangerous
ramifications of the USA PATRIOT Act (USAPA) that was passed last
October by so-called congressional representatives who never bothered
to read or debate it.
It slipped through at the midnight hour under the cover of darkness,
voted on by men and women engulfed in a terrifying atmosphere of
shock, fear, mass media hysteria, and suspiciously targeted anthrax
U.S. government officials would have us believe that this 342-page,
complexly nuanced document was allegedly crafted after September 11 in
the time span of a little over a month. To accomplish this feat would
have required the in-depth study of fifteen other lengthy acts and
statutes which it modifies and amends.
The act's extremely clever yet highly misleading acronym USA PATRIOT,
which stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing
Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism," is an
obvious attempt to intimidate and brand as "unpatriotic" and
treasonous anyone who might dare to question its alarmingly
In light of the egregious evisceration of the Bill of Rights that this
law undertakes, those who blindly supported and signed this blatantly
unconstitutional act into law should be collectively condemned and
charged for high treason to the Constitution and the people of the
United States of America.
Careful perusal of the USAPA reveals that it defiantly and maliciously
The First Amendment - the people's right to exercise freedom of
religion, speech and peaceful assembly "to petition the Government for
a redress of grievances"
The Fourth Amendment - the right "to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures" whereby warrants - only to be issued upon "probable cause" -
must be specific as to place to be searched and persons or things to
The Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth amendments - which outline the right
to due process - a trial by one's peers, to face one's accuser as well
as view the evidence against oneself, and to have an attorney
The Eighth Amendment - which safeguards the people against excessive
bale and fines, or cruel and unusual punishment
Under sections 411 and 802 in the USAPA, a terrorist is loosely
defined as anyone being "a representative of a foreign terrorist
organization, as designated by the Secretary of State," and
domestically, anyone engaging in "activities that - involve acts
dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of
the United States or of any state; APPEAR to be intended to intimidate
or coerce a civilian population; TO INFLUENCE THE POLICY OF A
GOVERNMENT BY INTIMIDATION OR COERCION..." [capitals mine]
The inclusion of the word "appear" leaves interpretation of the law
wide open to subjectivity and personal whim, as anyone can rightfully
claim something "appears" to be intended for a particular purpose.
Note also that our first amendment right to gather in protest against
what we may see as unjust government policies could easily fall under
the concept of "influencing" government policy by "intimidation or
Anyone participating in activist groups such as Greenpeace, Earth
Liberation Front, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or in
protests like the 1999 demonstration in Seattle against the WTO could
find himself suddenly stripped of his rights by the simple act of
being declared a "terrorist" in keeping with the definition of this
law. Under section 803 of this Act, even the simple act of giving food
or shelter to a friend who may have been involved in any of the
aforementioned activities could, in turn, have you incriminated and
branded as a "terrorist" as well.
The USA Patriot Act absolutely shreds to bits the fourth amendment.
Section 213 permits so-called "sneak and peek" searches. Translated,
that means the government has the right to go into your home while you
are away, copy your hard drive, files, or whatever, gather and take
any information or items they please without ever serving you notice
since "the execution of a warrant may have adverse effect." They can
then delay serving you notice for up to 90 days after the fact. These
newfangled warrants can now be issued for a flimsy "reasonable cause,"
further undermining the much more difficult to achieve "probable
cause" stipulation of the fourth amendment.
Sections 216, 217 and 218 allow for unrestricted wiretapping, the
tracing and spying on email messages and internet activities of anyone
anywhere in the USA without the need to obtain a court order as long
as "the information likely to be obtained... is relevant to an ongoing
criminal investigation." How nebulous can that get? A lawyer of any
worth would be able to argue the "relevance" of anything to an
unspecified "ongoing criminal investigation." Kiss your protection
from "unreasonable searches" good-bye and say hello to Big Brother
If you think this law applies only to foreign nationals, think again.
JosÃ© Padilla, although by no means a model U.S.-born citizen, had his
civil rights stripped from him this past May just by Ashcroft's
uttering the magic words, "enemy combatant" and "suspected terrorist."
To this day, no solid evidence has been produced to substantiate
Ashcroft's claims - neither bomb parts, nor bomb assembly
instructions, nor any plans or maps of intended strike areas.
A "suspected terrorist," according to section 112, needs only to
be "certified" by the Attorney General on "reasonable grounds" that
he "believes" someone to be engaged in terrorist activities. Again, no
solid evidence is required, only a belief or suspicion suffices.
Section 236A gives the Attorney General unprecedented powers
untouchable by any court, whereby he may detain a suspect in
increments of up to six months at a time if he believes the suspect's
release would threaten national security, or the safety of the
community or any person. "At the Attorney General's discretion" [read:
personal whims], "NO court shall have jurisdiction to review, by
habeas corpus, petition, or otherwise, any such action or decision."
In other words, the Attorney General's word is sacrosanct! To give one
man such grave and all-encompassing power over the fate of any other
individual is akin to what happens in fascist police states, not in a
free and openly democratic society.
Whatever happened to one's right to face one's accuser, to have a fair
trial by one's peers, to be allowed to view the evidence against
oneself, or to have an attorney?
Is it not cruel and unusual punishment to be denied your civil rights,
to be considered guilty until you can "prove yourself innocent" -
which is, in fact, very difficult to do - to be held in prison
on "secret evidence" for months or years on end with no access to a
lawyer and no chance of defending yourself against false and unfounded
I heard President Bush on the news a few weeks ago boasting that the
U.S. has so far "captured and detained over 2,400 suspected
terrorists." Yet, by most accounts, most people being detained were
initially brought in on minor violations (which in a saner world would
not have resulted in incarceration), and have not had any terrorist-
related charges brought against them.
To this day, it is my understanding that fewer than a dozen have
actually been connected to any terrorist activity. Is that what a
democracy does: imprison whole groups of people to catch the fewer
than 1 percent who are actually committing criminal acts?
The USA PATRIOT Act also includes under the "crimes of terrorism"
umbrella the destruction of property even if no one is hurt (section
808), telemarketing fraud (section 1011), as well as any kind of
computer hacking (section 217). Under the rubric of "guilt by
association," this act also permits the denial of entry to and even
the imprisonment of "the spouse or child of an inadmissible alien"
who's been "designated" as a terrorist within the past five years
The FBI can now legitimately demand access to anyone's business,
medical, student, bank, library or any other personal records in
order "to protect against ... clandestine intelligence activities."
(Sec. 501) The Associated Press reported on June 25 that the FBI has
been reviewing the library records of several hundred individuals in
libraries across the nation using a quick and largely secret process
which is now legal under the PATRIOT Act.
Judith Krug, the American Library Association's director for
intellectual freedom, in a straight-forward statement is quoted as
saying, "... these records and information can be had with so little
reason or explanation. It's super secret, and anyone who wants to talk
about what the FBI did at their library faces prosecution. That has
nothing to do with patriotism."
It seems we must now extend Ashcroft's warning about watching what we
say in public to include what we may read as well. It is really not
such a large leap to imagine our hyperparanoid government beginning to
imprison people suspected of "aiding and abetting the enemy" based
upon their "unpatriotic" ideologies and choice of reading material.
The USA PATRIOT Act creates and allows for a virtual police state with
little to no judicial oversight. We, as a nation, are literally
treading the razor's edge when it comes to flirting with the grave
dangers inherent in giving up our rights for the empty promises
of "safety" and "national security" masquerading under the guise of
a "patriotic" PATRIOT Act. Once we fall off that edge, reclaiming and
reinstating our rights, authority and power as "WE THE PEOPLE" of this
great nation might prove very difficult.
The next obvious question is: just what can the average person do?
Across this nation, wise and enlightened individuals have been forming
groups to fight the injustices that the PATRIOT Act imposes on us.
Resolutions have been passed unanimously by city councils in Amherst,
Leverett, Northampton, Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Denver, and Cambridge.
Other cities and towns are in the process of preparing their own
resolutions and gathering signatures on petitions to protect our civil
liberties against the offenses of this Act.
The Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee's website,
(www.gjf.org/NBORDC), offers a wide range of organizing tools, links,
and information about similar campaigns around the country to help you
get started in your own community.
A rally in Boston this past June 22 kicked off a movement in
Massachusetts to gather 100,000 signatures to petition our Mass.
congressional delegates to introduce a bill that would call for the
repeal or amendment of those sections of the PATRIOT Act that stand in
clear violation of our constitutional rights. For more information or
to get involved, you may contact the ACLU of Massachusetts at 617-482-
3170 x 314.
At this critical juncture, to sit back and naÃ¯vely trust our
government officials to protect anything other than maintaining their
own uncontested, ill-gotten power is to risk losing the very
liberties, rights, and freedoms our founding fathers fought so hard to
procure for each and every one of us.
If we don't stand up for our rights, then who will? If we don't demand
the extension of these same rights to all people within our borders,
then we are nothing but accomplices in the hypocritical, haphazard,
and biased application of our nation's core principles of democracy
and equal rights.
In closing admonition, I have taken the liberty of adding a few lines
to an excerpt taken from a sermon given in various times and places by
Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984, a Protestant pastor in Nazi Germany:
They came for the "suspected" terrorists, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a "suspected" terrorist;
They came for those of Middle Eastern descent, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't of Middle Eastern descent;
They came for the unpatriotic, and I didn't object -
For I was not unpatriotic;
They came for the dissenters and activists, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a dissenter or an activist;
"They came for the Communists, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn't object -
For I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for me -
And there was no one left to object."
Addendum: For those who may be interested, the final official version
of the USA PATRIOT Act can be found at the following site: