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Orange Alert for Civil Liberties
L ast October, Senator Russell Feingold asked the Department of Justice to “describe what efforts are being made within the department to broaden the powers of the USA Patriot Act.” He never received a response, but now the American people have the answer.
A leaked copy of the Bush administration’s draft Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (DSEA) indicates that even after the 2001 Patriot Act expanded federal police powers while curtailing privacy rights, the Bush administration thinks Americans are still too free and government too small. Like the Patriot Act, the massive Security Act draft contains a few measures that could help catch a terrorist, surrounded by many that propel us toward a secretive police state.
For starters, the DSEA would revoke key elements of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), enacted to prevent government from keeping secrets from the public unless a legitimate security concern exists. Currently, FOIA gives us the right to know if a missing person is in the custody of any government agency. But under DSEA, anyone—even U.S. citizens—could be detained secretly in connection with any “terrorist” investigation, a term lacking legal definition.
Does abandoning this bedrock principle of freedom make us safer? Not likely. The Freedom of Information Act already allows the government to withhold such information if disclosure could hamper investigation of other suspects or events. Under the government veil of secrecy established last year, we have no legal right to know who among the 1,000-plus people secretly detained by the Bush administration since September 11 was charged with a terror-related crime.
Chemical and nuclear corporations may be among the few entities cheering the DSEA. The Act would grant a long-standing dream of chemical corporations: stripping citizens of their right to know about threats posed by toxic chemicals and the risks of spills or explosions in our communities. Like many Bush administration proposals, this draft smells like a case of waiting for the right opportunity to provide cover for pre-existing agendas.
When asked about the document, a Department of Justice spokesperson claimed that it represented “staff discussions.” But the DSEA clearly is ready for introduction any time (online at ReclaimDemocracy.org)—perhaps while the public is distracted by an attack on Iraq.
The DSEA contains many proposals disturbing for immigrants, including increased punishments for violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Perhaps the most alarming proposal (Section 501) would give the Justice Department power to revoke a person’s permanent resident alien status or even U.S. citizenship for participating in or “providing material support to...a terrorist organization.”
Since the 2001 Patriot Act redefined “terrorist activity” so broadly that minor vandalism could qualify, donating to a nonprofit organization that, unknown to you, is on Ash- croft’s hit list could end your life as an American citizen and resident.
Section 312 would revoke laws that prohibit police from spying on citizens without substantive evidence of criminal activity. This effectively reauthorizes the CIA and FBI to engage in domestic terrorism against activist groups—practices that became illegal after the well-documented COINTELPRO program abuses of the 1960s ruined the lives of many citizen activists.
Denver area activists don’t need to be warned. Last year, they learned that Denver police had created “spy files” on more than 3,000 activists and 200 civic organizations for their organizing activities or participation in rallies. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Quaker group, the American Friends Service Committee, is among the groups labeled “criminal extremist” by Denver police.
This would be laughable if the news hadn’t prompted many calls to targeted groups by people asking to have their names removed from databases. Imagine the damage to human rights organizations so labeled at the national level.
These threats are just a few among dozens of proposals within the DSEA. Thanks to a brave soul at the Justice Department, we have a chance to examine this assault on civil liberties before it is thrown on us amid the fervor of attacking Iraq or terrorist threats.
Jeff Milchen directs ReclaimDemocracy.org, a nonprofit organization devoted to reviving democracy and restoring citizen authority over corporations.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.