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Posted: 4/10/2002 9:42:34 PM EDT
USA! USA! USA! USA-PATRIOT ACT! Woo hoo! Let's roll! [url]www.gazettenet.com/columns/newman/01122002.htm[/url] Bush's Orwellian war on terror Saturday, January 12, 2002 -- Last weekend President George Bush announced in fractured English that "Anyone who espouses a philosophy that's terrorist and bent, I assure you, we will bring that person to justice." Really? Bring to justice - this president's usual euphemism for a death sentence? Does Bush actually intend to try to criminalize First Amendment protected speech? Well, maybe. It's tough to know because the president's aides refused to elaborate on this apparently unscripted pronouncement. We do know that Bush, using the Sept. 11 attacks as justification, pushed through Congress a series of laws collectively called the USA- PATRIOT Act. USA-PATRIOT is an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The act allows law enforcement officials to rummage around in private lives without probable cause and without judicial oversight. It invests in the federal prosecutors and police forces - the Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, DEA and INS, among others - enormous new powers to surveil, wiretap, spy on, detain and imprison both citizens and non-citizens. The law allows the government to delve into the computer files, e-mails, and Internet usage of any person a prosecutor - not a judge - claims may have information "relevant to an on-going investigation." The act permits the government not only to conduct unannounced and undisclosed searches in certain circumstances but also to help itself, through computer searches and subpoenas, to previously privileged medical, educational and financial records. One frightening effect of this legislation is that it chills our First Amendment freedoms to speak and write. Many of us will decline to attend a rally or sign a petition or send an e-mail or visit a Web site if we think that act may cause the government to target us. It is only human to be self-protective - to avoid the possibility of being indicted or blacklisted. And do note this: In order for the USA-PATRIOT Act to successfully squelch opposition to government policies, it is not necessary for FBI agents to actually read all, or even most, computer files. All that is required is for individuals to fear that they may be subject to surveillance. As Orwell wrote in "1984": How often...the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guess work...There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. Some provisions of the USA-PATRIOT Act continue in perpetuity. Others require Congressional reauthorization after four years. What will happen then? Well, Bush and Ashcroft already have predicted that the war on terrorism will last at least 10 years. The New York Times reported this week that the United States now "is preparing a military presence in Central Asia that could last for years...." And according to the Bush administration, we should suspend freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures at least for the duration of the war.
Link Posted: 4/10/2002 9:43:24 PM EDT
(continued) These official pronouncements and recent developments in Central Asia bring to mind another part of "1984." In that novel, the enemy changes from time to time - sometimes it's Eastasia, sometimes Eurasia - but the war itself never ends. Today's war in Afghanistan has cost blessedly few American lives. But this fortunate fact conjures another passage from Orwell. [I]n a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at.... We continue to receive daily briefings about the war abroad. In contrast, media coverage of the draconian law enforcement - the war at home - has almost disappeared. Jailings and interrogations have become commonplace and accepted, part of the fabric of America. Since Sept. 11, more than 1,100 immigrants have been herded into prison. The charges against them are secret; their names, for the most part, appear on no court docket; and the Bush administration agrees they are not terrorists. They are locked up nonetheless. In addition, the FBI has been interrogating another 5,000 recent immigrants based on racial and ethnic profiling. Law enforcement has - literally - become Orwellian. Foreigners...were a kind of strange animal. One literally never saw them except in the guise of prisoners, and even as prisoners one never got more than a momentary glimpse of them. Nor did one know what became of them.... The Bush administration has responded to the criticism that it is mortgaging our freedoms by pointing to and celebrating the president's 90 percent approval rating. Bush's popularity correlates with the polls demonstrating that a majority of Americans would willingly forfeit fundamental freedoms if our government asserts that our sacrificing liberties would help defeat our enemies. Of course, in Orwell's world, support for the government was virtually unanimous, too. The president's disregard for personal freedom may inflict great damage on the democratic experiment called America. But if we end up forfeiting our freedoms, our complacency would equally be to blame. Last week in preparation for teaching a high school class that had been reading "1984," I reread the novel. I had forgotten the ending. Do you remember? [I]t was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. Bill Newman, a Northampton lawyer, writes a monthly column.
Link Posted: 4/11/2002 10:04:33 AM EDT
So, tell us again, what exactly has been DONE that this guy objects to? Not what has been SAID, or what he is afraid it MIGHT mean...but what has been DONE?
Link Posted: 4/11/2002 10:54:58 AM EDT
<> If this is Northampton, MA, I don't need to know anything more. That place makes Cambridge, Berkeley and Madison look like strongbeds of conservatism.
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