Bush and FBI
As we have seen, nations from all over the world have used the “War on Terror” to pass laws that reduce the rights and civil liberties of their populations. We have seen this in Europe, and especially in Asia where Israel, India, Nepal and even China, are taking away civil liberties. The U.S.A. started the trend with the National Patriot Act.
It is said that politics make strange bedfellows. No alliance is stranger than when Dick Armey, once considered the House of Representative’s most radical conservative, agrees with the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing Bush Administration policy. Groups as diverse as the ACLU, Christian conservatives and Christian liberals have come together in opposing proposed legislation to expand surveillance powers of the federal government, called Patriot Two. Many believe that the National Patriot Act which was ram-rodded through congress after September 11, 2001, has take away so many civil liberties that the United States is becoming less democratic and more autocratic. Millions of Americans are concerned that the United States is losing its claim to be a free democracy.
Viet Dinh, former assistant attorney general, and now professor at Georgetown University Law Center commented that the war on terror was really a battle on the “Western order”. But he then commented that if America becomes “the boy in a bubble-security without liberty” that “It’s not an America I would want to live in.” The Patriot Act has brought opposition from core support groups of the Bush Administration. While Bush, in a statement on September 3rd said that the “churches and Christian support is stronger than ever for a Patriot Two act” polls conducted just 2 days earlier indicated the opposite. Bush’s core support Christian groups are deeply concerned and opposed to Patriot Two. This new bill will allow greater spying on Americans, grant the federal government power to conduct tapping of telephone and internet communications at will and without warrant, allow arrests and imprisonment without judicial warrant, allow the right to invade any property, search and seize any persons property, allow Americans to be stripped of citizenship without normal due process of law, allow citizens to be incarcerated with limitations on their right to counsel, and in short, strip Americans of several basic Constitutional rights.
Senator Arlen Spector , R-Pa said: “I’m concerned that it (Patriot Two) may be too sweeping…the Justice Department has gone too far.” (New York Times Sept 14) The law, by eliminating the need for a court order, eliminates the involvement of a Judge. Nicholas M. Gess, a former federal prosecutor and senior aide to former Attorney General Janet Reno said: “there’s good reason to have a judge looking over the government’s shoulder.”
Another facet of the law allows the government to keep those charged, even though not tried or proven guilty, in jail, pending trial. It suggests that “Judges must presume that suspects should not be allowed out on bail.” The law allows “gateway crimes” such as indirect financing or contributions to groups that may have supported acts dangerous to the U.S. to have the death penalty. Some have raised the question, “then if someone gave money to a charity, not knowing that the charity gave money to a terrorist, could he potentially be subject to the death penalty?” The answer is unclear, but possibly yes.
A member of the political right wing, Attorney General, John Ashcroft replies to criticisms by saying: "Our rights don't' come from government, they come from God", to justify the government taking basic rights and freedoms away from the American people. That by the way is the same type of logic that Paul Hill (the anti abortion activist who murdered a medical doctor with 7 shots to his head) used when he said; "God told me to kill these people, and others should do the same." Paul Hill was executed by the U.S. Government, apparently, believing that he heard the voice of God. Strangely, Attorney General John Ashcroft also cites praying and listening to the same God in his policy decisions. Here is an ironic conundrum worthy of consideration. The same God seemed to be perceived as giving two messages. Ashcroft's "God" suggested executing Hill. Hill's "God" voice suggested executing medical doctors. This is further complicated by George W Bush's comment to reporters that he didn't let his advisors make decisions for him, because he, like Ashcroft prayed and listened for "God's answer" before making important decisions. Thus we would have to assume that God instructed Bush to invade Iraq. Would this be the same God that teaches peace and that killing is wrong? The point is, that we have some very strange mentalities in high places in this government, and they are coming into play powerfully on the Patriot Act issue.
The wife of a Texas businessman, who had been arrested under the Patriot act told a first hand account of how scary this can be. "The FBI started investigating my husband after 9-11. My husband is a well known and established businessman. The government interviewed our bankers, looked at cancelled checks and deposits for years, they even interviewed our friends. We knew we were being investigated, but were still surprised when one night took my husband away and imprisoned him under the Patriot Act. The FBI called him an Arab (they didn't seem to know the difference between an Arab and an American citizen born in Pakistan. My husband was born in Pakistan, but only lived there for a total of one year. He has been an American citizen for over 30 years." The government presented a series of charges, most of which were based on an unnamed witness and testimony of a convicted felon with questionable motives. When cross-examined by an attorney it was apparent that the FBI's case had weaknesses. Many suspected that the investigation was pushed because my husband had a foreign last name. This is the type of incident that Lori Waters, executive director of Eagle Forum referred to when she said that Patriot Two would be overly broad. "Every person regardless of religion is a terrorist suspect until it is proven that you are not." Waters cites the Pentagon "Carnivore" computer that spies on every citizen to identify potentially dangerous people. She fears that prosecutors could "redefine profile groups as domestic terrorists."
Colby May, an attorney at the American Center for Law and Justice says: "federal agents should not put a question mark" on those involved in controversial but legal protests, whether they are Christian or not. Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action said that Ashcroft may be overlooking how power can corrupt or be abused by FBI or law enforcement officials.
One federal officer, in describing the mentality at the FBI told the magazine, Christianity Today, (September, 2003 issue) that he was ordered to "Just give me some names, so we can bring them in." Could young FBI agents be facing pressures or even see career advancement opportunity if they arrest more and more people under the Patriot Act? Could they be overzealous? Even the Inspector General of the United States has become concerned enough that he has instructed Attorney General Ashcroft to discourage unwarranted detentions.
David Lyon, wrote the book: SURVEILLANCE AFTER SEPTEMBER 11 and SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY: MONITORING EVERYDAY LIFE. He said "We are seeing the growth of a culture of suspicion, where not only law enforcement agencies, but ordinary people, are encouraged to distrust and spy on their neighbors." It seems like a KGB mentality has developed within some agencies of our beloved freedom loving U.S.A.
I interviewed Bill Meir, former State Senator from Texas, and arch Republican. He said: "I know Carl Rove, Bush's right hand man, surely he will convince the President to change this." Dick Armey, former Republican congressman from North Texas, led the fight for more civil liberties in the Patriot Act, creating anger from Ashcroft and other Bush staffers. Shortly after it was passed, Armey announced that he would not seek reelection for his congressional seat.
In the meantime, businessmen and citizens who have been targeted for investigation find their lives a living nightmare. Often, even if the courts rule them innocent they must endure years of litigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees just to stay out of prison and to prove that he is not "a danger to the United States". We have to wonder if their last name were Smith, Jones, Cheney, or Bush if he would been targeted.
In a broader sense one must wonder why the American people take the removal of their personal liberties so lightly. Other people on earth don't give up their rights so casually. In Hong Kong, the government proposed a law like the Patriot Act, in the name of fighting terror, and over 100,000 people filled the streets in protest. In the face of public resistance, the government of Hong Kong announced on September 4, 2003 that it was dropping the idea. So, we see a scenario where people in communist China seem to be willing to fight for personal liberties and what personal rights they have. Perhaps the Chinese in Hong Kong will inspire more Americans to do the same. One of the things that patriotic Americans love about our nation is that Americans have freedom of speech and the right of protest. We should exercise our patriotic duties and our freedom of speech to protect our personal legal freedoms before an ill-advised government steals them from us! Someone might consider the logic of spending $160,000,000,000.00 to fight for the freedom of the people of Iraq, to send our young boys and girls there to die for 'liberty and justice for all', while our domestic freedoms are being pre-empted by reactionary government policy in our own nation. We believe that "liberty and justice for all" includes those of all religions and all citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin. Now the mantle to protect individual rights in America seems to be carried by a loose coalition of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian Right. This is an issue that all citizens who love the U.S.A. should participate in and an issue that all nations on earth should observe and take note of. The implications for governance, freedom and individual rights to the citizenry of the world are profound.