Counterpunch April 27 2004
Keeping up with the lies of the Bush Administration (something that Steve Perry has been doing at Bush Wars) would be a full-time job. In order to maintain my sanity, I focus only on lies about civil liberties. Until recently, Attorney General John Ashcroft has been the Fraudmeister. But fueled by the 9-11 Commission hearings (the panel Bush did not want to begin with) and the steady stream of Administration talking heads who tout the Patriot Act as the compilation of laws that will save us from "terrorism," Bush's handlers have come to the recognition that touting the Patriot Act is a mighty fine reelection campaign tool. After all, it is aptly named so that if you are not for it, you are un-"Patriot"-ic.
Last week, Bush made two speeches about the Patriot Act, one in New York City, one in Buffalo. The Buffalo speech focused on how the Lackawanna Six, young American citizens of Yemeni descent who never engaged in one act of terrorism but made the dumb mistake of going to Afghanistan (and returning) to study Islam before September 11, are serving long prison terms because of the Patriot Act and the prosecutors who used it to nab the bad guys before they could hurt us. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Patriot Act itself cannot be tied to any terrorism "convictions" (mostly guilty pleas) other than the fact that it defines "terrorism" so broadly that my writing this article equals a terrorist act. Ergo, traveling to a "terrorist" country before September 11 makes you a terrorist.
The ACLU has saved me the trouble of cataloguing and contradicting Bush's lies about the Patriot Act:
"By the way, the reason I bring up the Patriot Act, it's set to expire next year. I'm starting a campaign to make it clear to members of Congress that it shouldn't expire. It shouldn't expire for the security of our country."
Less that 10 percent of the Patriot Act expires; most of the law is permanent and those portions that do sunset will not do so until December 31, 2005.
"And that changed, the law changed on- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see?"
Roving wiretaps were available prior to 9/11 against drug lords and terrorists. Prior to the law, the FBI could get a roving wiretap against both when it had probable cause of crime for a wiretap eligible offense. What the Patriot Act did is make roving wiretaps available in intelligence investigations supervised by the secret intelligence court without the judicial safeguards of the criminal wiretap statute.
"... see, I'm not a lawyer, so it's kind of hard for me to kind of get bogged down in the law. (Applause). I'm not going to play like one, either. (Laughter.) The way I viewed it, if I can just put it in simple terms, is that one part of the FBI couldn't tell the other part of the FBI vital information because of the law. And the CIA and the FBI couldn't talk."
The CIA and the FBI could talk and did. As Janet Reno wrote in prepared testimony before the 9/11 commission, "There are simply no walls or restrictions on sharing the vast majority of counterterrorism information. There are no legal restrictions at all on the ability of the members of the intelligence community to share intelligence information with each other.
"With respect to sharing between intelligence investigators and criminal investigators, information learned as a result of a physical surveillance or from a confidential informant can be legally shared without restriction.
"While there were restrictions placed on information gathered by criminal investigators as a result of grand jury investigations or Title III wire taps, in practice they did not prove to be a serious impediment since there was very little significant information that could not be shared."
"Thirdly, to give you an example of what we're talking about, there's something called delayed-notification search warrants. ... We couldn't use these against terrorists [before the Patriot Act], but we could use against gangs."
Delayed-notification - or so-called sneak-and-peek search warrants - were never limited to gangs. The circuit courts that had authorized them in limited circumstances prior to the Patriot Act did not limit the warrants to the investigation of gangs. In fact, terrorism or espionage investigators did not necessarily have to go through the criminal courts for a covert search - they could do so with even fewer safeguards against abuse by going to a top secret foreign intelligence court in Washington.
For criminal sneak-and-peek warrants, the Patriot Act added a catch-all argument for prosecutors - if notice would delay prosecution or jeopardize an investigation - which makes these secret search warrants much easier to obtain.
The president's sneak-and-peek misstatement clearly demonstrates that the Patriot Act is not limited to terrorism. In fact, many of the law's expanded authorities can clearly be used outside the war on terrorism.
"Judges need greater authority to deny bail to terrorists."
The new presumptive detention that the president is proposing takes judicial authority away from the bail process. The presumption would take away the prosecution's burden of showing that the accused is a danger or flight risk and instead puts it on the accused.
Pending Legislation to "Enhance" the Patriot Act
President Bush is setting the stage for a fight that will ensue next year, as several controversial provisions of the Patriot Act that impinge most on American's civil liberties are set to expire. He wants to convince the public that spying on citizens is the way to stop terrorism. If Congress does what it did in 2001, it will once again sell our liberties down the river--this time for good.
In addition, new legislation is pending to create more crimes of "terror," many of them carrying the death penalty.
Following on the heels of President Bush's road trip to promote the controversial Patriot Act at events in Pennsylvania and New York, on April 21, 2004 a key House subcommittee considered a proposal to expand the Patriot Act's controversial definition of "terrorism" to provide a death penalty for any federal crime punishable by more than one year in prison if the crime was intended to influence government policy and results in death.
"The Patriot Act remains one of the most controversial measures ever passed by Congress," said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "Attempts to expand it, such as the now-defunct draft Patriot Act 2 that floated around Congress last year, have been highly contentious. Now we're seeing attempts to pass provisions of Patriot Act 2 piece-by-piece."
Federal law already provides 20 separate death penalties for serious terrorism crimes, including bombings, hijackings, assassinations and hostage taking.
Testifying at the April 21 hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Edgar reminded committee members that the Justice Department has not been forthcoming in its disclosures regarding how the Patriot Act has been used so far, saying Congress should review existing powers before adding to them.
"This proposal will rightly be seen as another federal infringement on civil liberties that will not make America safer," Edgar added. "It will result in increasing mistrust, both at home and abroad, even of legitimate anti-terrorism efforts and further isolate America in the world. It should be rejected."
The proposed legislation would do two things. First, it would make 23 crimes eligible for the death penalty. Second, it would create an unprecedented "catch-all" death penalty for any other federal crime punishable by more than a year in prison if it meets the PATRIOT Act's overbroad definition of terrorism and results in death. The ACLU said that protestors and activists from groups including Greenpeace and Operation Rescue could risk being sentenced to death for participating in certain civil disobedience events if they involved a federal crime punishable by more than a year in prison and resulted in a death of one of the participants or someone else.
Laws such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and the federal gun control regime at 18
The ACLU also noted that the proposal could actually hurt the anti-terror efforts. Many nations that have abolished the death penalty are unwilling to extradite or provide evidence in federal terrorism cases if the death penalty might result from their cooperation. Suicidal, politically motivated terrorists such as members of Al Qaeda would be unaffected as often they are seeking to create martyrs for their causes and to generate publicity.
Read the ACLU's testimony on HR 2934, the "Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act of 2003."
'True Patriot' would restore rightsCasper Star-TribuneThe backlash against the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 is picking up speed and snap. On Sept. 24, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul introduced the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act (HR3171) to repeal the most controversial sections of the Patriot Act as well as some of the more egregious actions taken by the Department of Justice. When introducing the True Patriot Act, Kucinich told members of the House: "Twenty-four months after the Sept. 11th attacks, this nation has undergone a dramatic political change, leading to an unprecedented assault on the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights." Diverse supportersThe act already has 20 other cosponsors, at this point all Democrats, but as the word gets out concerning key elements of this bill, expect conservatives, moderates and liberals to push for its passage. The Kucinich-Paul bill has already garnered the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Muslim Voice, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism. The True Patriot Act heralds its intent by quoting Benjamin Franklin's famous statement: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety." The act would make 11 sections of the Patriot Act null and void 90 days after the bill is enacted. Under the language of the bill, the president can request Congress to hold hearings to determine whether a particular section should be removed from the repeal list before the end of the 90-day period. Congress may or may not honor that request. The True Patriot Act would repeal Section 213 of the Patriot Act, which authorized property to be searched and seized in secret by government law enforcement officials, without notifying the subject of a warrant. The act would repeal Section 214 and Section 216, relating to the use of pen registers for foreign intelligence purposes and criminal cases. Pen registers record all phone numbers dialed from a person's telephone. It would repeal Section 215, which authorized searches of library, bookstore, medical, financial, religious and travel records without a judicial warrant. Probable causeThe True Patriot Act would repeal the broader application of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorized by the Patriot Act, Section 218. This section of the Patriot Act, in essence, gutted the Fourth Amendment's requirement for probable cause to obtain a search warrant in criminal investigations. The act would repeal Sections 411 and 412 of the Patriot Act, which granted new grounds for the deportation and/or the mandatory detention of aliens. The act also would repeal Section 505 of the Patriot Act which authorized FBI field agents to issue national security letters to obtain financial, bank and credit records of individuals - all without a court order or judicial oversight. And the True Patriot Act would repeal Sections 507 and 508 of the Patriot Act relating to the seizure of educational records and the disclosure of individually identifiable information under the National Education Statistics Act of 1994. Finally, in regard to the Patriot Act, the True Patriot Act would repeal Section 802, which defined the new crime of "domestic terrorism." The definition is so broad that political protests that unaccountably become violent could be classified as domestic terrorism. The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act also would repeal sections of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, so that the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are no longer exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The True Patriot Act goes further - to roll back policing powers that the federal government took upon itself since Sept. 11 without congressional authorization. For example, the federal government would no longer be able to monitor conversations between attorneys and their clients, violating the fundamental right of attorney-client privilege. The act would void U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's memorandum to all agencies of the federal government narrowing the scope of FOIA and the ability of citizens to obtain information about how their government is working. The act reinstates tough guidelines instituted in 1989 by former Attorney General Dick Thornburg to rein in a runaway FBI, which had been conducting unlawful surveillance of protesters, peace demonstrators and religious groups. Spying on religious institutions - allowed by Ashcroft's rules - would be put under strict limits. Fundamental liberties at stakeThe Patriot Act of 2001, a 342-page document, was passed without meaningful review. Many members of Congress hadn't read the bill; some still haven't. The Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act would rectify the Patriot Act's serious shortcomings. And, if passed, the True Patriot Act would put this administration on notice that the American people will not barter away their fundamental liberties for so-called safety. Americans understand the risks involved in living with and for freedom - after all, our freedom was born in revolution
'Illegals' term isn't divisive, it's the truth
A hijacking of the English language just took place.
It happened earlier this month when Seattle activists accused Senate candidate Mike McGavick of using "divisive" language by invoking the word "illegals" in an ad.
In the TV spot, McGavick's camp says Sen. Maria Cantwell "voted to allow Social Security benefits to illegals."
Liberal activists, led by Hate Free Zone Washington, a social-justice group, blasted such language, calling it "dehumanizing." "This kind of anti-immigrant rhetoric is inflammatory," the activists claimed, "and does nothing to solve the real problems to our broken immigration system."
Immigration policy in America is broken.
The system doesn't reflect the millions of people who sneak in and help our economy by cooking in restaurants, working as nannies, picking fruit or building homes.
But to suggest people who come from Latin America or Canada or wherever without valid paperwork are somehow here legally is ridiculous.
As David Ray of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, put it: "Referring to an illegal alien as an 'undocumented immigrant' is like calling a bank robbery an 'unauthorized withdrawal.' ""Undocumented workers" or "unauthorized migrants" are euphemisms used for a reason -- to sugarcoat uncomfortable truths.
You see this verbal jibber-jabber all over the place.
Folks at Hewlett-Packard are in hot water for obtaining others' phone records by pretending to be those people -- or people with legitimate access rights -- then coming up with a pretext for needing the records.
The corporate world calls this pretexting. In the rest of the universe, it is known as lying.
After Hurricane Katrina, victims were not to be called refugees, but evacuees, a flaccid noun that doesn't capture the depth of the suffering.
President Bush likes to talk about reforming welfare. He means dismantling it.
What makes the linguistic spin surrounding illegals brain-numbing is that using polite words or phrases doesn't magically give people legal status. It does wipe out accurate language in the name of protecting the feelings of people who are in this country without permission.
I'm usually on the same page as Pramila Jayapal of Hate Free Zone, but not this time.
"Factually, no human being is 'illegal,' " says Jayapal, director of the social-justice group. "People commit acts that are illegal. Many of our august Congress people have committed illegal acts -- but we do not call them 'illegal.' "
Jayapal points out that being in America without valid immigration papers isn't a criminal offense. The immigration system was set up as a civil system, not a criminal one. Immigration violations, she says, are typically considered civil violations.
That said, people without papers aren't following the rules. That makes them illegal immigrants or illegal aliens or illegals for short.
"It's about stigma and dignity," Jayapal says. She said the activists "singled out" McGavick, adding, "It was an educational opportunity."
But to what end?
Public attention got deflected from where it's needed -- on meaningful policy discussions -- and that is nothing new.
Whether they're "refugees" or "evacuees," the flood victims of New Orleans are still without homes.
Whether they're "illegals" or "paperless immigrants," the hardworking people who cross the border still are looking over their shoulders.
Meanwhile, the PC word police keep up a blindfolded pursuit. They recently called the Cantwell campaign to complain about her ad rebutting McGavick's; the senator's ad says "illegal immigrants."
"We're working on changing it," a spokeswoman for the comically hypersensitive Cantwell campaign said Monday. "They need to get the voice-over guy back in the studio to redo it."
What will the new ad say?
"Undocumented workers," the spokeswoman said. "Or undocumented immigrants."
What a bunch of bovine droppings.