Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Thought Crime Bill – It’s Worse Than It Seems
A few more mainstream publications are gradually picking up on S.1959, The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (full text here). The more I read from others, along with related protests against our criminal administration, the more I am convinced that the moment is now. If we do not stand up and demand the return of our liberties, we will soon see the end of America. So…
There will be more posts here about S.1959 and other terribly troubling acts and events, and fewer about aging. But as Marian Van Eyk McCain of Elderwomanblog pointed out to me in an email, this IS elders’ job.
Who else, Marian asked, has the foresight, long memories and ability to see the big picture? Certainly not young folks who, in recent decades, have been deprived in our failing schools of the more in-depth teaching our elder generations received on how precious and fragile our freedoms are.
To maintain a democracy takes a lot more work than voting. It is our responsibility as citizens to be constantly vigilant and to oppose government’s drift toward fascism. Fighting this assault on our civil liberties is the most important thing we can do with our time now to preserve the American way of life for our children and grandchildren.
S.1959 is only the latest in the growing arsenal of unconstitutional legislative tools our government has granted itself that make it possible to shut down our open society. On Monday, 26 November, Phillip Giraldi, writing at Huffington Post on S.1959, succinctly laid out the build-up of these tools. Read it and be very afraid:
“…there has been the post 9/11 creation of a virtual avalanche of legislation and commissions designed to protect the country at the expense of the Bill of Rights. The two Patriot Acts of 2001 and 2006 and the Military Commission Act of 2006 have collectively limited constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association, freedom from illegal search, the right to habeas corpus, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from the illegal seizure of private property.
“The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights have all been disregarded in the rush to make it easier to investigate people, put them in jail, and torture them if necessary.
“A recent executive order of July 17th, 2007 goes even farther, authorizing the President to seize the property of anyone who ‘Threatens Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.’ The government's own Justice Department decides what constitutes ‘threatening stabilization efforts’ and the order does not permit a challenge to the information that the seizure is based on.”
Mr. Giraldi is a more careful reader of legislative bills that I am, obviously more experienced (his HuffPost bio describes him as “a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues”) and my new reading of the bill after a careful read of his piece reveals reasons to fear not just the potential legislation that may result from S.1959, but the new Commission itself which, writes Giraldi:
“…will be empowered to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and designate various groups as ‘homegrown terrorists.’ The commission will be tasked to propose new legislation that will enable the government to take punitive action against both the groups and the individuals who are affiliated with them.
“Like Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the past, the commission will travel round the United States and hold hearings to find the terrorists and root them out. Unlike inquiries in the past where the activity was carried out collectively, the act establishing the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Commission will empower all the members of the Commission to arrange hearings, obtain testimony, and even to administer oaths to witnesses, meaning that multiple hearings could be running simultaneously in various parts of the country.”
The HUAC hearings were my childhood political awakening. The committee's denunciations, based on not a whit of evidence, that I watched on my family’s first television were set against simultaneous civics classes at school each day about such past travesties to the Constitution as The Alien and Sedition Acts and how the Bill of Rights protects us.
I was getting whiplash from the discrepancies between school and current events, and it broke my naive, young heart to see on television and read in the newspapers - just as I was beginning to understand the amazing accomplishments of our founding fathers - that the government cannot be trusted to follow the law. The anger I felt back then in my early teens that government subversion of the Constitution was not just history, but happening again in front of my eyes has never left me.
Here is Edward R. Murrow's famous statement against Senator Joseph McCarthy's tactics and HUAC as portrayed by David Straithorn in the movie, Good Night and Good Luck. It is as pertinent now as then.
Given how slowly things move in Congress, I have believed that we had a good amount of time to fight back against S.1959, but then Mr. Giraldi writes this:
“It is believed that approval by the committee will take place shortly, to be followed by passage by the entire Senate.”
It is our responsibility as citizens, each and every one of us as the first small step toward restoring the rule of law, to prevent passage of this bill. It won't be easy. It means each of us keeping up the pressure on our senators, again and again. We cannot afford to be, in Thomas Paine's words, "sunshine patriots."
Naomi Wolf’s book, The End of America, explains how easily democracies can be shut down by fascists who would destroy our liberties, and how close those people are to achieving it now. It is our job to educate ourselves, our friends and neighbors, and our blog readers to the danger our country faces. If you have not read this book yet, I believe you have a duty to do so and if I could afford it, I would buy one for every one of you.
Since I can't, here is an interview with Ms. Wolf that should scare the pants off you and push you to more urgent action. It will take 30 minutes out of your life to watch and would be worth ten times that much.
Pay heed at the end to her suggestion of one thing more we can and should all do.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today Susan Gulliford, inspired by Linda Jordan's Secret Love contribution here last week, gives us a story titled Thoughts on a Veteran.]