FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs 06-11
Buy Cable, Free Gun
Assault on Civil Liberties
SC Lets DA Off
Roots of Stonewall
Free Speech for People
Meaning of Madison
Budgets, Taxes, Classes
The Missing Story
War on the Earth
Zaps - 06/11
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The Long Term Assault on Civil Liberties in America
Visiting Budapest in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to talk to some Hungarians about their lives during and after the Soviet occupation. I was particularly interested in the secret police. Did they feel safer now that they couldn't be taken away in the middle of the night for something they had said or written? One woman's response was typical. "They would never come for me," she said. "They came for our writers, our intellectuals, but never for me. I was never scared."
Perhaps the average American thought similarly about the USA PATRIOT Act, passed within a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Apparently, members of Congress felt that way. The act was over 300 pages long and most did not have time to read it in the rush for passage. They should have. It gives our government the right to secretly investigate individuals and groups if their actions "appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population...." Cutting a fence, throwing a stone, crossing a police barrier in pursuit of civil rights, protecting the environment, or protesting the World Trade Organization would certainly qualify. And only one member of a group needs to engage in this type of action for the whole group to be investigated.
The USA PATRIOT Act largely does away with the need for a search warrant, the process that requires the government to show a judge reasonable cause that there is evidence relevant to a crime. This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications.
The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know. As an example, librarians were put on notice that it is a violation of law to let any library user know that his/her records have ever been checked. And hundreds of libraries report that records have been checked, although they are forbidden to reveal the specifics. There can be little doubt that homes have also been searched, patient records copied, etc. since passage of this act.
Indefinite imprisonment without charge and without evidence used to be unthinkable. But the USA PATRIOT Act allows this for non-citizens who are members of a designated "terrorist organization." Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization of American citizens trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did, and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two American citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a precedent.
Secret military tribunals have been set up to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism, with the death penalty a distinct possibility. Even U.S. citizens who are allowed access to a lawyer may have their conversations monitored if the attorney general "suspects" that terrorist activity is involved.
The Total Information Awareness database, organized as part of the Bush era's Department of Homeland Security, was an ominous step towards a police state. Masterminded by Admiral John Poindexter—criminally convicted in 1990 for lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and obstruction of justice—this database would have collected every bit of information that existed on every citizen in this country. A massive public outcry stopped this program before it was put into place. But since then, the government's surveillance programs have multiplied dramatically, especially under Obama who signed an extension of the PATRIOT Act without any reforms at all. Currently, the Justice Department is trying to get a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling against planting GPS devices without a warrant.
"Big deal," you reply. "The FBI has been doing all this stuff for years. Where have you been?" Well, it has been doing this since 1908 when Congress refused to authorize the FBI (at that time the Bureau of Investigation), explaining that "a system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia" was unacceptable in a free society. The president then created the FBI while Congress was not in session.
The clearest and most reliable source of FBI history is the Church Committee Report, a Congressional investigation of the Bureau conducted in 1975. According to this report, the FBI was in trouble by the 1920s when agents carried out the Palmer Raids that eventually rounded up 10,000 citizens in what was termed "indiscriminate arrests of innocent with the guilty" as well as "unlawful seizures by federal detectives." The Church Committee also cited reports by legal scholars that "found federal agents guilty of using third-degree tortures, making illegal searches and arrests, using agents provocateurs...."
J. Edgar Hoover joined the Bureau in time to take part in these raids. By the 1950s, Hoover, as head of the FBI, used his investigators to collect information on a range of public figures and had no scruples about using that information to influence Congressional votes or presidential decisions. It was under Hoover that COINTELPRO was born (the acronym for the aptly-named Counter Intelligence Program), a comprehensive system of surveillance that the Church Committee found "had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order." Combating the Civil Rights movement, the Native American movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement to be specific. Through this program, the FBI served as thought police in the 1950s and 1960s.
The mindless destruction caused by COINTELPRO is still coming to light. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a particular target. Over several years, the FBI wiretapped King's home and office phones and put bugs in his hotel rooms.
At the same time, it worked to deny him awards and honorary degrees, and even tried to prevent an audience with Pope Paul VI. Hoover was quick to exploit the results of the wiretaps—proof of King's illicit affairs—that he then had his agents mail to King's supporters and to the media. Finally, the FBI mailed copies of bedroom tapes to King himself, along with an anonymous letter suggesting he commit suicide rather than having his wife, family, and the nation know about his marital infidelity.
The FBI vendetta against others was just as brutal. Leonard Peltier sits in a federal prison today, framed for a murder that most historians doubt he committed. The role of the FBI in his extradition from Canada and the withholding of over 12,000 FBI documents from his trial is another low point in the violation of civil liberties. Among the documents withheld was a ballistic test which proved that the fatal bullets could not have come from the gun tied to Peltier at the trial. According to Amnesty International, he is a "political prisoner" who should be "immediately and unconditionally released."
The Church Committee Report was released in 1976. Senator Church told the nation at that time that the FBI's COINTELPRO had been "a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association." He also reassured U.S. citizens "that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order."
But by 1980, things were back to normal for the FBI, at least according to Frank Varelli, who infiltrated a CISPES office in Dallas for the Bureau that year. In a statement to Congress in 1987, he revealed a complicated pattern of surveillance, theft, and dirty tricks. CISPES (the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) was founded to promote peace in El Salvador. Specifically, it worked to expose U.S. military aid that funded right-wing death squads operating there. Varelli was hired by the FBI as part of an "international terrorism investigation," but his tactics included the familiar cameras and sound equipment in bedrooms, this time as part of an attempt to smear and blackmail the Dallas head of CISPES.
Varelli also provided the El Salvadoran National Guard with lists of U.S. citizens traveling there "who were not friendly to Reagan policies..." Just one year before Varelli supplied these lists, three nuns and one church worker, all U.S. citizens, had been raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of this same National Guard.
The FBI has admitted to launching this investigation from 1981 through 1985, but has refused to reveal on what legal authority it did so. Over 50 CISPES offices were broken into during this period.
In 1990, environmental activists, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, were arrested and accused of making and transporting bombs, a charge the FBI knew was false. Historian and writer Howard Zinn's testimony in a successful lawsuit against the FBI explained: "It seems clear that the history of the FBI is consistent with the charges that it sought to discredit and 'neutralize' Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, and the environmental cause they were working for, by smearing them publicly with sensational false charges of possession of a bomb, and that it did not hesitate to violate their constitutional rights to achieve its ends."
The fact that the average American citizen is unaware of all of this is a testament to the FBI's skill at public relations. Of course, the FBI has done some crime fighting in its history, but even its campaign against the Mafia has been exaggerated in the media. Anti-crime efforts in places like Boston are now being exposed for what they were: the FBI allied themselves with certain crime families to arrest and take the credit for convicting members of other families.
The FBI, as well as similar federal law enforcement agencies, has done a much better job of protecting us from dissent than of protecting us from crime. As for terrorists, in the entire history of the FBI, there were precious few of those caught among the tens of thousands detained, bugged, discredited, falsely charged, and publicly humiliated. Looking at the history of the FBI, is it any wonder that 19 men were able to board 4 domestic airliners and fly them with such deadly accuracy into their targets? They learned to fly at U.S. flight schools while the Bureau was busy tracking down and playing dirty tricks on students protesting corporate "trade" and the World Bank.
Police forces all across this land have followed the lead of the FBI in snooping. The Denver Police Department revealed a 40-year program of gathering and storing information on the usual suspects, such as Sister Antonia Anthony, a 74-year-old nun who taught destitute Indians, and Shirley Whiteside, who, along with her husband, ran a community soup kitchen. These were the types of people labeled "criminal extremists" in the database developed by Orion, a software company with ties to the Pentagon.
When asked how over 3,000 Denver citizens ended up with this label, the police said that it was up to each officer to "use his own judgment" in characterizing people.
On Friday, September 24, 2010, the FBI raided seven homes and an antiwar office. Fourteen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan were also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. The usual groups were targeted, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, and Students for a Democratic Society. All had been involved in antiwar marches and attended the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Tracy Molm was one of the activists targeted in the raid: "I heard a pounding on my door in my apartment. That was pretty bizarre. I opened the door and they shoved their way in saying, 'We are FBI agents and we have a warrant.' I was in my bathrobe and they told me I had to sit on my couch and they were going to search my apartment. They pulled my roommate and a friend out of her room and told them to sit on the couch, too. They took my phone and my computer. They proceeded to go through everything in our apartment. If we wanted to go to the bathroom, an FBI agent had to come with us. We were told we could leave, but couldn't come back.... I was outraged. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this could happen. Everything I have ever done has been around peace and justice issues and particularly U.S. foreign policy."
I have never much liked Benjamin Franklin's famous quote about civil liberties: "Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." It seemed somewhat elitist, suggesting that some people haven't earned the right to enjoy freedom of expression. Perhaps they have no need for it, like the woman in Budapest saying that the secret police would never come for her. Or maybe Franklin was simply saying he had done his part and the rest was up to us. In many ways, we have failed Franklin and we have failed ourselves.
I like to think that there is still time to win back our basic civil liberties.
Fred Nagel, a veteran, is a filmmaker and political activist. A resident of Rhinebeck, New York, he also hosts a show on Vassar College Radio (classwars.org).
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.