12/9/2002

 

Status of your Bill of Rights

 

Just a quick review of the status of your Bill of Rights.

 

A U. S. citizen can be arrested for sympathizing with unpopular causes and contributing money to U. N. approved charities. It’s recently been done. (AZ Republic, AP, 11/20. A successful Palestinian business man who has contributed large sums to U.N. approved Palestinian charities is accused of supporting terrorism because some of the money he donated was routed by one of the charities to a bank which, a year and a half later, was put on a list of suspected terrorist support organizations.)

 

A court has decided the government can use wire taps, email snooping, and other secret spying on citizens much more broadly than it has in the past. Ostensibly this is to look for terrorists. Just who is considered a suspected terrorist is a very broad category. See paragraph one. (Courier, AP, 11/19. Panel rejects secret court’s limitations on terrorist wiretaps.)

 

This court’s decision falls under a law that gives the government sole right to appeal the decision. Of course they’re not going to appeal because they got the ruling they wanted. So, you can’t do anything about it. Let me reiterate that. You are a citizen of a democracy with rights; your government just made a major decision about how much they can spy on you, and…you…can’t…do…anything…about…it. (Same article. “The government has sole right of appeal under the law…”.)

 

A program is under consideration to compile in a database everything you do that can possibly be tracked. (AZ Republic, William Safire, 11/15. “Every purchase…with a credit card…magazine subscription…prescription…web site you visit and email you send or receive…academic grade…bank deposit…trip you book…event you attend…passport…driver’s license…bridge toll record…judicial and divorce record, complaints from nosy neighbors…your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance…”)

 

This is supposed to help us find terrorists. How? By scanning the trails of digital clues to find people who fit certain patterns? Who decides what those patterns are? Who decides which people who fit the patterns are more aggressively investigated? What subtle affects on your life does it have when an agent goes into your local library and asks to see the list of books you’ve been checking out? Oh, and the agency where this database is being investigated? The Defense Department. Think about your military keeping records on you. Who is heading up this program? A man who was convicted of lying to the American people and to congress about secret government operations. (The references for these items will be available on my website Tuesday evening and it all comes from main stream news sources.) (Same column. “A jury convicted Poindexter...but an appeals court overturned the verdict because Congress had given him immunity…”)

 

The White House says that a U. S. citizen can be arrested and held without being charged and without legal recourse for as long as the president wishes. They haven’t just said it, they’ve done it. The Founding Fathers fought a revolution over such issues. Apparently most of us can’t even be bothered to get out and vote about such issues. (Jose Padilla as reported by the AP 6/14. Also see web sites story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/usatoday/20021205/ts_usatoday/4675368 and www.cnn.com/2002/US/06/11/dirty.bomb.suspect/)


One of the sure-fire ways the government has to tell who is a genuine terrorist suspect is to use a lie-detector test. That’s right. The same method that’s not allowed in courts because of its unreliability can be enough to decide you’re a suspect. It doesn’t much matter that the reason your test came out bad was because, while the agent was giving the test, he was making threatening comments about your family. (AZ Republic, AP 11/26 “FBI Cleared in falsifying confession” “Higazy…claimed he confessed only because the polygrapher threatened his relatives…” “…authorities now say he was not involved.”)

 

You don’t even have to be a suspect. You can just be considered a possible “material witness” and be jailed for months with no due process. Again, they haven’t just said they can do it, they’ve done it, and to U. S. citizens. (AZ Republic, Washington Post, 11/24 “ ‘Material witnesses’ often held months without testifying” “Authorities have…jailed at least 44 people as potential grand jury witnesses in the 14 months…but nearly half have never been called to testify…”)

 

What the heck. Why bother jailing suspects? Let’s just kill them! It’s already been done, and to a U. S. citizen again. Theoretically this will only happen to terrorists and their associates in foreign countries who can’t easily be apprehended. But you don’t have to be legally convicted in absentia or anything official like that. And if apprehension is too much of a problem, well… What would the Founding Fathers make out of that? (AZ Republic, AP, 12/4 “CIA can kill citizens who aid al-Qaida” “The CIA has killed one American…although U. S. officials maintain he wasn’t the target.” “The Bush administration said the killing of an American citizen in this fashion was legal.”)

 

Certainly there were some policy changes needed so evidence of terrorism would no longer slip through the FBI’s fingers. But this wholesale rush to abandon rights and all sense of privacy in the name of preserving what we hold important is so far over the line it’s out of sight. And the ones who’ve been so quick to shred your Bill of Rights are more in charge than ever.

 

Sleep well.