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The Broad Umbrella of "Terrorist"

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We are living in perilous times. Economies, nations, and even the planet teeter on an array of tipping points. Now, legislation which made many uneasy is playing out as we had feared it might. The umbrella of "terrorist" is expanding, and the wheels of justice threaten to grind many in the dust. Constitutional rights and protections are being tossed aside in the labeling of people as terrorists thereby calling into play everything from intense surveillance to hash imprisonment, to endless incarceration without access to courts or justice. Much of this is off the front page because of the economic meltdown and the political campaigns. But frankly, most of this wouldn't make the front pages or top of the news even if nothing else were happening. There seems to have been significant efforts to minimize coverage of these problems. The problems started with the passage of the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T.Act, advanced with the Bush administration redefining "enemy combatant", were reinforced with the Military Commissions Act, and went over the top with ever-increasing surveillance powers. Now we have a situation where citizens and non-citizens can be held "indefinitely with limited to no access to the courts or counsel. We have a situation where even when a jury sets a sentence, that the accused can be held indefinitely. We have a situation where the labeling of people as "terrorists" brings the full force of covert surveillance into play. Back in August 2008, military jurors were surprised to find out that Salim Hamdan (bin Laden's driver) would be held despite the tribunal ruling.
Gitmo jurors disappointed convict could be held In an interview with The Associated Press, the juror said the panel of six American military officers did not learn until the trial ended on Thursday that the Pentagon retains the right to hold Salim Hamdan as an ''enemy combatant,'' even after he completes his sentence. ''After all the effort that we put in to get somebody a fair trial ... and then to say no matter what we did it didn't matter -- I don't see that as a positive step,'' the juror said in the telephone interview.
Now fast forward to a flurry of news bites. We have lawyers for two U.S. citizens detained on U.S. soil (namely the military jails at Norfolk, Va., and Charleston, S.C.) who have been given the "Gitmo treatment" and are being held in isolation indefinitely - to the point that their attorneys are concerned for their sanity (Documents Say American Detainee Near Insanity analyzed separately in New Documents Reveal Unlawful Guantanamo Procedures Were Also Applied On American Soil). It has come to light that the Maryland police put the names of death penalty and Iraq "war" activists onto the national terrorist watch list, along with related (though unspecified) organizations. This broad use of the terrorism watch lists put simple activists and peaceful organization under "legal" intensive surveillance. (Maryland Police Put Activists' Names On Terror Lists) We then discover that member of the "RNC Welcoming Committee" - part of an anarchist group who were protesting during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, are being held as terrorists and face up to eight years in jail. (Framing the 'RNC 8') Meanwhile, we discover that surveillance has been very broadly used and abused - as we hear in this ABC report on 10/10/08 - NSA's Ears Wide Open. This flash video was removed for security reasons Instead of cracking down on the abuses, our legislators continue to expand the powers of "Big Brother.". The Attorney General's (Mukasey) new "guidelines" for the FBI instead expands the powers of surveillance - not make them more specific and contained:
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy said the new guidelines expand the FBI's powers of surveillance. "It appears that with these guidelines, the attorney general is once again giving the FBI broad new powers to conduct surveillance and use other intrusive investigative techniques on Americans without requiring any indication of wrongdoing or any approval even from FBI supervisors," Leahy said in a statement.
The abridgment of habeas corpus, and the protection of citizens from the abuse of the power of government, are absolutely necessary to maintaining a democratic society. If the people fear that they may come under the increasingly aggressive watchful eye of the "security" apparatus, and then may be consequently disappeared (and tortured) for even the hint of raising a contrary voice, then we are truly lost. No claims of patriotism - or of threat to our security - is worth giving up the most fundamental of rights and protections. People, pundits, and government officials point with anger and disdain at the junta government of Myanmar while allowing the implementation of policies that reflect the worst abuses of human and civil rights. Many people have pooh-poohed concerns along the way that the vast new powers of government were any threat whatsoever to "honest" "law abiding" citizens. Well, they are being proven dreadfully naive as the "terrorism" laws morph and expand to implements of control of the population. Waiting in the eves for the other shoe to drop is yet a different enforcement and control agent is the deployment of the First Brigade Combat Team of the Third Division which has been tasked (and is training) to operate inside the United States to quell civil unrest as well as be a disaster response force (see excerpts at end of this article). We are at a critical juncture in the existence of the United States. There are many (both Obama and McCain supporters) who think that the new President will take all the "crazy" stuff out of the law, and reinstitute checks and balances. While that may or may not be the intent (or hope) of the presidential candidates, undoing the legal and legislative damage will take decades of unstinting work by committed citizens. It always has, and I doubt that will change. OTHER RESOURCES I recommend this article by Edwin Viera, Jr., Hazards for Habeas Corpus From the Army Times (9/30/08) Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1:
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one. "Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future," said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. "Now, the plan is to assign a force every year." ... They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. ... The 1st BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use "the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded," 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them. The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose. "It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we're undertaking we were the first to get it."
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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.


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