Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006



On Native Ground
LAND OF THE FREE? NOT UNDER U.S.A PATRIOT ACT

by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Dummerston, Vt.

Printable version of this story

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?

  • The concept of probable cause (Fourth Amendment) has been eliminated. = The police can now enter your home at any time for any reason. They can sea= rch your home, your personal papers, your computer and your bank records wi= thout your knowledge or consent.
  • The right to free speech and freedom o= f association (FirstAmendment) have been repealed. The newly created crime = of "domestic terrorism" is defined as the intent to influence or affect the= conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against= governmentconduct. Thus, an anti-war protest can be trumped up into an act= ofterrorism, especially since the Attorney General and the Secretary of St= atenow have the power to designate any group it chooses as a "terroristorga= nization."
  • Due process (Fifth Amendment) and the right to a speedy andp= ublic trial (Sixth Amendment) have also been eliminated. If you happen tobe= someone that the Attorney General designates as a threat to nationalsecuri= ty, you can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial. This alsoviolates the= Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment) and Thirteenth(punishment without co= nviction) Amendments.
  • Judicial oversight has been sharply reduced. Law = enforcementagencies don't need warrants to conduct searches. The FBI can go= throughyour medical, financial and educational records without having to g= et acourt order. The CIA can again spy on American citizens. Monitoring oft= elephone and cell phone calls, interception of emails and tracking of Websi= te visits can all be done without having to bother with legal niceties.

    I= n short, the United States is now a police state. Two hundredyears of Const= itutional protections have been thrown in the rubbish.

  • 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).

    Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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