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Our constitutional rights are under attack in the name of counter-terrorism. The USA PATRIOT Act of October 26, 2001 is a direct assault on the civil liberties of Americans. The new law grants law enforcement and intelligence agencies vast new surveillance and detention powers, restricting the role of the court system to oversee these activities. Like many of the recent initiatives of the executive branch. it consolidates and expands the powers of the federal government, removing accountability and shrouding their exercise in secrecy. Individuals or groups involved in civil disobedience or demonstration, legitimate forms of dissent guaranteed by the constitution, can now be considered criminal under USA PATRIOT, and subject the following counterintelligence operations:
Secret Investigation | Unwarranted Searching | Detention and Deportation Without Cause
Compounding these new powers are other new practices which further limit the ability of U.S. citizens to lawfully promote dissent from government policy. Though every week seems to yield further evidence of unconstitutional repression and the subversion of the balance of power by the executive branch, some of the most troubling developments are in direct conflict with the following civil rights:
Equal Treatment Under Law | Attorney-Client Priviledge | Public Trial | Free Speech
These measures to counter terrorism have exacerbated an already hostile, fearful climate that is now stifling freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of association and other political activities essential to a democracy. Throughout the nation several murders, hundreds of hate crimes and other racial profiling incidents, as well as over 1200 detentions of suspected "terrorists" have been reported since the Sept. 11th attacks.
Such acts - whether instigated or tolerated by the state - are unacceptable in a democratic society, and must be challenged. The Green Party of the United States supports rescinding the PATRIOT Act of 2001. In addition, we urge all citizens to not be intimidated by counter-terrorism measures and to continue to exercise their hard-won constitutional freedoms. Those who suffer violations of their civil liberties are encouraged to immediately contact the Green Party of the United States, publicize their experiences, and seek legal assistance from the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other legal advocacy groups.
A statement from the Green Party of the United States
[explanations of the statements above follow]
USA PATRIOT Provisions
The PATRIOT Act of October 26, 2001 provides the government with the right to secretly investigate members of groups who engage in acts "dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws· and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion." By defining domestic terrorism in such a broad and subjective way, groups protesting the World Trade Organization, the Vieques bombings, or abortion laws, for example, could have their members secretly investigated if a single person in their group were to perform a criminal act such as cutting a fence, throwing a stone, or crossing a police barrier. More overtly, on November 30 government officials announced that Attorney General Ashcroft is considering altering FBI guidelines to allow the FBI to investigate political and religious groups. Thus, the Administration appears to be in the process of undoing the domestic surveillance restrictions which were imposed on the FBI in response to their widespread domestic surveillance which included Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists, antiwar activists, the American Indian Movement, and the Committee In Solidarity With the People of El Salvador. The PATRIOT Act undercuts the First Amendment to the Constitution which protects people from guilt by association, thereby intimidating people from engaging in the freedom of speech and assembly.
The PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to secretly search an individual's home, computer, or business, listen to phone conversations, as well as obtain Internet communications, medical records, financial records, and student records for "intelligence" purposes under the PATRIOT Act's definition of domestic terrorism. In addition, the PATRIOT Act allows the government to search for evidence in a criminal investigation without first issuing a search warrant when it contends that issuing a warrant would impede the investigation. In common language, it allows the government to "fish" for information that may be relevant to a criminal investigation without having to show reasonable cause that the information it seeks may reveal evidence relevant to a crime. The PATRIOT Act undercuts the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance.
For non US citizens who are members of a designated "terrorist organization," the consequences are much worse than unwarranted search and surveillance. Non citizen members of such groups are inadmissible to the United States, and deportable if they are already in the United States. Furthermore, if they are not deportable because they have no state, would be subject to torture if returned, or because their home country refuses to receive a person so-designated as a member of a "terrorist organization," such a person could be indefinitely incarcerated without showing that they have committed any crime. Around 1200 immigrants have been detained by the United States government since September 11 for undisclosed reasons.
Other Disturbing Developments from the Bush administration
On November 9 the Administration announced a policy of ethnic profiling in which it would discriminate against granting visas to men from Middle Eastern countries. In addition, it would "invite" 5,000 Arab immigrants who have entered the United States since January 2000 to submit to questioning.
On October 31 new regulations were issued that allow the government to listen in on conversations between an attorney and an inmate when the Attorney General "suspects" such a conversation may have a connection to terrorist activity. This is in accord with Attorney General Ashcroft's belief that "the constitution does not apply to terrorists." This regulation clearly undercuts the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees the right to competent legal defense.
On November 13 the Administration announced its intention to create secret military tribunals to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism. The usual rules of evidence and right to defense counsel would not necessarily apply. There would be no right of appeal. This is particularly striking since the US succeeded in pressuring Peru to retry an American citizen, Lori Berenson, in a civilian court after she was convicted of revolutionary activity in a secret military tribunal. Such tribunals would clearly undo the right to a public trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Establishment of "Patriotic" Behavioral Codes and Intimidation of Dissent
In Wisconsin there is a mandated recital of the Pledge of Allegiance and/or National Anthem in state public schools. In addition, registration for the draft will become a prerequisite for employment within Wisconsin higher educational institutions in 2003. US Veteran Vic Lancia of the Connecticut Green Party was attacked and injured by police while peacefully protesting the war in Afghanistan and falsely charged with inciting to riot. A freshman at Durham Tech was investigated by the US Secret Service for allegedly having "anti-American material." Such violations of free speech create an atmosphere of political intimidation and diminish political discourse essential to democracy.
|A Statement by the Green Party of the United States
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Members of the Green Party have joined other Americans protesting the manipulation of fears about terrorism in order to violate basic liberties and constitutional rights of due process and fair treatment under the law.
"From the round-ups of hundreds of Americans of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims to the application of the word 'terrorism' to unrelated allegations, we're beginning to see suppression of rights similar to McCarthyism and the hysteria over communism," said Anita Rios, an Ohio Green activist and national steering committee member.
Greens see special danger in the agenda of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has tried to crush democratic dissent by suggesting that U.S. citizens who criticize Bush policy only "aid terrorists."
In Florida, West Virginia, and Indiana, students have been expelled from school for criticizing the war. Journalists and activists have been harassed and have lost jobs for not backing the war effort. Sami Al-Arian, a tenured professor of computer science and activist for Palestinian rights, was recently fired from the University of South Florida for having made statements against Israel in 1988.
A column in Forbes magazine by Cato Institute fellow Steve H. Hanke titled "Barbarians at the Gate" (October 29, 2001) accuses nearly every kind of civic organization of terrorism, including churches, when they oppose free trade or support measures to improve the lives of working people. Hanke urges Bush to target dissent as a menace to "the core of Western civilization."
Even before September 11, nonviolent protesters were increasingly being hit with huge bails and fines, multiple counts, harassment by police and U.S. Marshals, and the threat of many months, even years, behind bars. At the 2000 Republican Convention, some demonstrators were held on one million dollars bail for organizing legitimate rallies or for being seen talking on their cell phones.
Accusations of terrorism have been extended to cases that represent no threat to security. In San Francisco, AIDS activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli were jailed for over two months, with bail set at $500,000 and $600,000 respectively, on a litany of felony and misdemeanor charges, allegedly for harassing telephone calls made to officials in protest of what they call repressive public health measures and inaccurate information being used to frighten the public. After more than two months in custody, a second judge reduced the bail in the face of public protest, and the two were recently released to await trial.
In a display of what Greens call bipartisanship at its worst, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) requested investigation of Petrelis and Pasquarelli -- her own constituents -- under the 'USA PATRIOT' Anti-terrorism Act, which allows the suspension of due process and other constitutional guarantees. Greens allege that the act, which Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, would not pass the scrutiny of a court.
"Do the allegations merit investigation and possible prosecution?," asked Starlene Rankin, media coordinator of the Illinois Green Party and organizer of the growing national Lavender (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) Greens Caucus. "Yes. But do they constitute a terrorist threat to national security, justification for excessive bail, arbitrary upgrading of charges from misdemeanors to serious felonies, and abrogation of due process? No."
"Public officials, with the support of political and organizational leaders -- especially those who've been stung by Petrelis's whistleblowing AIDS Accountability Project and exposure of organizational improprieties and inflated salaries -- have found a convenient way to banish gadflies and a tactic for chilling dissent," added Rankin. "Petrelis and Paquarelli deserve fair treatment by the legal system, in proportion to the alleged harms. Regardless of one's opinion about the accusations or the accused, the implications are frightening for anyone who engages in political protest and civil disobedience."
Greens call for close public scrutiny to hold law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts accountable for violations of constitutional rights in the investigation and prosecution of political activists.
"When President Bush named Tom Ridge head of the Office of Homeland Security on October 8, Ridge said 'Liberty is the most precious gift we offer to our citizens.' Gov. Ridge was wrong," said Tom Sevigny, a Connecticut Green and member of the party's national steering committee. "Liberty, like democracy and other basic rights, is the foundation of our nation, not a 'gift' from an indulgent government."
"The willingness of the Bush Administration to rescind basic rights and freedoms, with the complicity of Democrats, puts the basis for our democracy into a state of peril greater than any threat from outside terrorism. It's an exercise in homeland lawlessness in the name of security."