On Native Ground
LAND OF THE FREE? NOT UNDER U.S.A PATRIOT ACT
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- While most Americans were busy hanging flags andfrett= ing about anthrax, your elected representatives in Washington decidedto rep= eal a large chunk of the U.S. Constitution.
Under the pretext of "fighting terrorism," the U.S.A Patriot Act wasrushed= through Congress and enacted into law with little debate. What does the ne= w law call for?
It's not the = first time this has happened. From John Adams' Alienand Sedition Act, to Ab= raham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus duringthe Civil War, to the Pal= mer Raids and the deportation of Socialists andCommunists after World War I= , to Franklin Roosevelt's detention ofJapanese-Americans in World War II, t= o the COINTELPRO infiltrations of thecivil rights and anti-war movements in= the 1960s and 1970s, our nation'shistory is filled with overreactions to p= erceived threats during wartime.
This war is proving to be no different. = There are more than 1,000immigrants -- virtually all of Middle Eastern orig= in -- that have beendetained by the Justice Department since Sept. 11. Thei= r names and thealleged crimes they are charged with have not been released = to the public.Not even one has been linked to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.=
Yet their conversations with their lawyers are being monitored, and mo= re than 5,000 other legal immigrants are now being brought in for questioni= ng and possible detention. Did someone say "racial profiling?" A brave Act= ing Chief of Police in Portland, Ore., has become the first local law enfor= cement official in a major city to say he will not cooperate with the FBI-r= un probe. He was echoed by the Chief of Police Charles Wilson of Detroit. = "We are standing with the fundamental rights of individuals under the Const= itution and the state constitution and municipal law," Wilson told the N= ew York Times in its Nov. 22 edition.
But it gets worse. Scarcely not= iced by most of the press was anexecutive order issued on Nov. 13 by Presid= ent Bush. It gives him the powerto label anyone who is not a U.S. citizen a= terrorist and have that personbrought before a secret military tribunal.=
The Secretary of Defense will designate where the trial takesplace, set = the rules of evidence for the trial and decide whichattorneys may be allowe= d to represent defendants. Only a two-thirds vote of the tribunal is needed= for conviction and sentencing. There is no appealprocess. And the tribunal= has the power to hand out a sentence of death.
Needless to say, this ord= er not only violates our Constitution, itviolates every established interna= tional norm for justice -- including theGeneva Convention.
But none of th= at seems to concern President Bush or AttorneyGeneral John Ashcroft. Guided= by the principle that "you are either with usor against us," they and thei= r allies in the press seek to bully intosilence anyone who still believes i= n the Bill of Rights. All they have todo is denounce their opponents as lac= king in patriotism and wave the flagsome more.
I say that we must not let= our leaders get away with trashingfreedoms that generations of Americans h= ave fought and died to preserve.The U.S.A Patriot Act must be repealed immedi= ately. President Bush'sestablishment of star chamber justice for anyone he = deems to be the enemymust be stopped. More than ever, we need to stand up f= or our Constitution -the very document that every elected official in the U= nited States takes asolemn oath to protect and defend.
Silence is no longer an option.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for morethan 20 = years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).