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More Americans Losing Their Liberties Every Day

By       Message Sherwood Ross       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   28 comments

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You might give the FBI the benefit of the doubt that it had some incriminating evidence when it raided the homes of eight antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago September 24th except for the fact that its past record in such cases is stinko. The F.B.I. broke down Mick Kelly's door around 7 a.m., and it wasn't to get an early cup of coffee from a man employed as a food service worker at the University of Minnesota. The agents were probing to see if the occupants of any of the homes they burst into were supporting "terror organizations." Uncle Sam here might be a trifle jealous of private citizens' backing violent entities when it has always assumed it had a superpower's exclusive franchise to fund violence. The Midwest raids are correctly seen as "a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression and violence in the Middle East and Latin America," by the International Action Center of New York, an anti-militarist group. Kelly, after all, was a key figure in organizing the successful 2008 anti-war street protests that embarrassed the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. In today's America, standing up for peace automatically makes you a terror suspect.

Concerning the FBI's record of past transgressions, the Chicago Tribune reported Sept. 21, "FBI agents improperly opened investigations into Greenpeace and several other domestic advocacy groups after the Sept. 11thterrorist attacks in 2001, and put the names of some members on terrorist watch lists based on evidence that turned out to be 'factually weak,' the Justice Department said Monday." The evidence against the 1-million other Americans on the no-fly lists likely is equally flimsy. Last year, Justice Department's own Inspector General(IG) found many subjects of closed FBI investigations "were not taken off the list in a timely manner, and tens of thousands of names were placed on the list without appropriate basis," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported. And The Tribune added that an internal review by the IG concluded that the FBI was guilty of improprieties but did not purposely target the groups or their members. (See, it wasn't on purpose. The FBI just makes tens of thousands of mistakes with other people's lives and reputations.)

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The travails of Mick Kelly increasingly are being repeated across the U.S. against many others in a variety of unconstitutional ways, according to a review of President Obama's first 18 months in office by the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), which fears Obama is "normalizing" some of the egregious practices of predecessor George W. ("The Invader") Bush. There is a very "real danger," the ACLU says, Obama "will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful" during the Bush regime. These include denying the very rights of torture victims to bring suit in the U.S. Court, the refusal to release torture photos and refusing to prosecute the torturers, plus keeping secret the records of his predecessor's policies on rendition, detention and interrogation. Like any odious dictator of the past, Obama claims he can hold 48 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely without charge or trial; and that, like Russia's Joseph Stalin who had rival Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico, he can reach out and kill any of his citizens anywhere in the world without trial.

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Obama's regime has manufactured "kill lists" of suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens, he claims he can eradicate with impunity. The creation of these lists, as far as we know, is done without judicial review, totally in secret. As the ACLU points out, "Such a program of long-premeditated and bureaucratized killing is plainly not limited to targeting genuinely imminent threats." It is "far more sweeping than the law allows and raises grave constitutional and human rights concerns. As applied to U.S. citizens, it is a grave violation of the constitutional guarantee of due process." The ACLU further notes over the past eight years the U.S. has repeatedly detained persons as "terrorists" only to discover later the evidence was "weak, wrong, or non-existent." The very idea of killing terror "suspects," therefore, is chilling.

Besides dispatching the FBI to break down the doors of peacemongers, Obama has expanded the warrantless electronic eavesdropping on American citizens and has told border agents they can "engage in suspicionless searching of Americans' laptops and cell phones at the border," the ACLU says. Its report adds that Americans' returning home "may now find themselves confronted with a border agent who...insists on copying their electronic records---including emails, address books, photos, and videos---before allowing them to enter the country." What's more, the ACLU has learned, border agents have used this power "thousands of times." And rather than reform the watch lists, Obama's regime "has expanded their use and resisted the introduction of minimal due process safeguards" while adding "thousands of names to the No Fly List, sweeping up many innocent individuals," ACLU says.

As a result, the watchdog organization warns, "U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been stranded abroad, unable to return to the United States. Others are unable to visit family on the opposite end of the country or abroad. Individuals on the list are not told why they are on the list and thus have no meaningful opportunity to object or to rebut the government's allegations." ACLU calls this "an unconstitutional scheme under which an individual's right to under the complete control of entirely unaccountable bureaucrats relying on secret evidence and using secret standards."

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And is the U.S. public outraged over these denials of their basic liberties as the Colonists were outraged by the transgressions of King George? Apparently, not that much. A poll early this year by McClatchy News Service-Ipsos found "51 percent of Americans agreeing that 'it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.'" With President Obama following Stalin's lead in claiming his right to kill citizens overseas without trial, in controlling citizens' right to travel, in asserting citizens' can be arrested and held indefinitely, and that citizens' homes can be broken into on the flimsiest pretexts, maybe the Treasury Department should issue a two-dollar bill with Stalin's picture on the far left and Obama's on the far right. They seem to have more in common every day. #

(Sherwood Ross is an American journalist who has worked as a reporter for major dailies including the Chicago Daily News and The New York Herald-Tribune, as a columnist for wire services, and as a news director for a large civil rights organization. Reach him at


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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)

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