The War Against Humanity: domestic front


Richard Moore

Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
From: "Marty Jezer" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Friday's Commentary: Attack on the Bill of Rights
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2001 20:22:52 -0400

From the Brattleboro (VT) Reformer, 10/19/01


by Marty Jezer

   The two houses of Congress are now negotiating the
details of an anti-terrorism bill that would severely
compromise the Bill of Rights, especially the first
amendment rights of free speech, petition, and public
assembly, and the forth amendment right against unreasonable
searches and seizures.

The bills are known in the Senate as the Uniting and
Strengthening America Act (USA Act) and in the House as the
PATRIOT Act. A more accurate title would be the "J. Edgar
Hoover Memorial Trash the Bill of Rights And Silence The
Opposition Act." This title is apt because the legislation
harks back to the political repression of past eras rather
than to the present situation of high-tech global terrorism
and digital internet communications.

The bills are based on a draft submitted by Attorney-General
John Ashcroft within days of the September 11th disaster.
The Bush Administration wanted -- and had in preparation --
the legal means to intimidate its political opponents.
Opportunistically, they've used the September 11th tragedy
to ram their bill through Congress.

An unprecedented coalition of Republican libertarians and
Democratic liberals initially joined forces to fight the
Ashcroft bill. As Brad Johnson of the conservative Free
Congress Foundation <> told the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "We know that we have to be
happy with whatever rules we put in place for when Ted
Kennedy is the attorney-general." Fair enough. The genius of
the Bill of Rights is that it compels political factions to
agree: "I won't put you in jail for your political ideas
when I'm in power if you won't put me in jail for my
political ideas when you're in power." The Bush
Administration wants to break that historic consensus.

Alas, this left-right coalition buckled. Few politicians
have the guts to stand up for principle in an emotionally
frightening war-time situation. Vermont's Senator Patrick
Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a
critic of the Senate bill's questionable provisions, joined
95 other Senators in supporting the bill, leaving Wisconsin
Democrat Russ Feingold to stand alone in opposition.

Leahy had hoped to improve the bill when it reached the
House/Senate conference committee. Initially there was hope
of this possibility. On October 3rd, Republicans and
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had unanimously
approved a bill that gutted the provisions in Ashcroft's
draft that undermined civil liberties. But House GOP leaders
ignored their vote and imposed a bill more to Ashcroft's
liking and akin to the Senate version. This passed the House
337 to 79 with three Republicans and Independent Bernie
Sanders joining 75 Democrats in opposition. The success of
the GOP maneuver in the House leaves little room for Leahy
to influence the conference committee.

The twin bills tackle two subjects. The important area
dealing with real issues of safety and security demand
creative thinking and careful scrutiny by law enforcement
and public health officials, constitutional scholars, and
experts in high technology. We not only need to know why our
intelligence was so bad leading up the attack of 9/11, but
how we can best protect ourselves in this new era of global
terror. In its haste to do something, Congress gave
short-shrift to these issues. Congress also kowtowed to
special interests. Provisions to track money-laundering by
tightening oversight of banks and other financial
institutions were passed by the Senate and the House
Judiciary Committee over the opposition of the Bush
Administration. Then lobbyists for the banking industry went
to work. Important investigatory tools that would have
enabled law enforcement agents to track terrorists by their
financial dealings were deleted from the House bill.*

Among the other flaws of the bill, as detailed by the ACLU
<>, are "Sneak and Peak Searches,"
which allow the government to obtain secret warrants to
enter homes, offices and places of business and download
computer files without first informing the subjects of the
search, and "Forum Shopping," which allow police to obtain a
search warrant from any jurisdiction in the country
regardless of where the search is to take place. If a judge
in Vermont won't provide a warrant to search a home in
Vermont, the police can go to Texas or anywhere else to
obtain the warrant.

The most dangerous part of the bill is Section 803 of the
Senate Bill which creates a new crime, that of "domestic
terrorism." Domestic terrorism is defined vaguely as to
include the intention to "intimidate or coerce a civilian
population" and to "influence the policy of a government by
intimidation or coercion." Any political demonstration can
be deemed coercive and intimidating, as can speech or
writing. A demonstrator (or an undercover police agent) who
throws a rock or damages property (already illegal under
existing law) could provide the government with the pretext
to charge demonstrators with an act of terrorism. Moreover,
any person who provides assistance to the demonstrators
would also be liable for prosecution as a terrorist. The
provisions regarding "domestic terrorism" are not meant to
protect the country from real terrorists. They are, instead,
an intimidating and coercive threat to free speech and
public assembly.

There is no doubt that we need to improve our law
enforcement procedures to guard against terrorism and to
prosecute those who attempt to carry out terrorist acts. But
there's a difference between giving up conveniences and
privileges for the sake of public safety and giving up
rights and freedoms to impose conformity and create an
illusion of popular support for political programs. The
bills in Congress were too hastily written to deal with the
essential issues or safety and security. As written, they
are repressive and politically motivated.

"There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it
would be easier to catch terrorists...," Feingold said in a
speech to Congress. "But that wouldn't be a country in which
we would want to live.... That country wouldn't be America."
One of the goals of the 9/11 terrorists was to undermine our
freedoms by fomenting political hysteria. With the so-called
anti-terrorist bill now being negotiated in Congress, the
terrorists are succeeding in that goal.

*The conference committee took this up yesterday and may
have put some of these provisions back in the bill


Marty Jezer writes from Brattleboro, Vermont. His books
include Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel. He welcomes comments
at <mailto:•••@••.•••>•••@••.•••.

Marty Jezer
22 Prospect Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301
Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words
Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel
Rachel Carson: Author, Biologist
The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960
Visit my web site <>



Copyright © 2001 by Marty Jezer