[Vision2020] Bush's War On Democracy

Tbertruss at aol.com Tbertruss at aol.com
Mon Aug 30 23:22:55 PDT 2004

> Bush's War on Democracy
>   By Marjorie Cohn
>   t r u t h o u t | Perspective
>   Tuesday 31 August 2004
>   When George W. Bush's weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale for invading 
> Iraq evaporated, his excuse morphed into bringing democracy to the Iraqi 
> people. But the way Bush has eviscerated our democracy in the United States is 
> proof positive that his democratic credentials are phony.
>   We have seen our government assault First Amendment rights in the past - 
> during the McCarthy era, and when the FBI instituted COINTELPRO to spy on and 
> discredit civil rights activists.
>   But Bush has taken the attack on civil liberties to a new level. The most 
> striking warning of his strategy to stifle dissent in an unprecedented way 
> was former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's admonition shortly after 
> the September 11 attacks that Americans should "watch what they say, watch 
> what they do."
>   That statement is now the mantra of Team Bush. 
>   The Bush administration depicts as public enemies, and even potential 
> terrorists, those who speak out against U.S. government policies.
>   In an annual survey by the First Amendment Center in 2003, 93 percent of 
> respondents agreed that individuals should be allowed to express unpopular 
> opinions in this country. Two-thirds supported the right of any group to hold a 
> rally for a cause even if offensive to others.
>   Three new developments on Bush's watch have a chilling effect on protected 
> First Amendment activity: 1) the shift from reactive to preemptive law 
> enforcement; 2) the enactment of domestic anti-terrorism laws; and 3) the recent 
> relaxation of FBI guidelines on surveillance of Americans.
>   From Reactive to Preemptive Law Enforcement
>   Like Bush's new "preemptive" or "preventative" war strategy which led us 
> into Iraq in violation of the United Nations Charter, law enforcement in the 
> United States has moved from reaction to "preemption," in violation of the 
> U.S. Constitution.
>   Collective preemptive punishment against those who wish to exercise their 
> First Amendment rights has taken several forms: content-based permits, where 
> permission to protest is screened for political correctness; pretextual 
> arrests in anticipation of actions that haven't yet occurred; the setting of huge 
> bails of up to $1 million for misdemeanors; the use of chemical weapons; and 
> the employment of less lethal rounds fired without provocation into crowds.
>   Protestors are painted by the government and the mainstream media as 
> violent lawbreakers.
>   In this week's demonstrations against the Republican Convention in New 
> York, police are prepared to use sound, ostensibly to convey orders to the 
> crowd. This Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) has been utilized by the U.S. 
> military in Iraq, and during the Miami free trade protests last year.
>   When employed in the weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream 
> of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger 
> nausea or fainting. Even if LRAD is not used by the police, the warning that it 
> might be was designed to frighten potential protestors from taking to the 
> streets of New York.
>   New Domestic Anti-Terrorism Laws
>   The USA PATRIOT Act, rushed through a timid Congress a month after 
> September 11, 2001, creates a new crime of "domestic terrorism," defined so broadly 
> that anyone who may have, at some time, participated in civil disobedience, 
> or even a labor picket, could be targeted.
>   This provision has been used to label environmental and animal rights 
> groups "terrorist." Congressman Scott McInnis (R-Co) called Earth Liberation 
> Front, which was responsible for major property damage in Colorado, a major 
> domestic terrorist organization. Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash) suggested 
> treating Earth Liberation Front like the Taliban: "I propose," he said, "that we use 
> the model that has worked so well in Afghanistan. Give them no rest and no 
> quarter." These politicians draw no distinction between human rights and 
> property interests.
>   Relaxed FBI Surveillance Guidelines
>   During the McCarthy period of the 1950s, in an effort to eradicate the 
> perceived threat of communism, the government engaged in widespread illegal 
> surveillance to threaten and silence anyone who had an unorthodox political 
> viewpoint. Many people were jailed, blacklisted and lost their jobs. Thousands of 
> lives were shattered as the FBI engaged in "red-baiting."
>   COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program) was designed, by its own terms, 
> to "disrupt, misdirect and otherwise neutralize" political and activist 
> groups. In the 1960s, the FBI targeted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a program 
> called "Racial Matters." 
>   King's campaign to register African-American voters in the South raised 
> the hackles of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who disingenuously claimed King's 
> organization was being infiltrated by communists. 
>   In fact, the FBI was really concerned that King's civil rights and 
> anti-Vietnam War campaigns "represented a clear threat to the established order of 
> the U.S." It went after King with a vengeance, wiretapping his telephones and 
> securing very personal information, which it used to try to discredit him and 
> drive him to divorce and suicide.
>   A congressional committee chaired by Frank Church documented the abuses of 
> COINTELPRO. As a result, in 1976, Congress established guidelines to 
> regulate FBI activity in foreign and domestic intelligence-gathering.
>   John Ashcroft, again using the excuse of September 11, has relaxed the 
> 1976 guidelines on FBI surveillance, spying and infiltration of political groups 
> and meetings. The probable cause requirement for initiating surveillance of 
> individuals and organizations has been removed. FBI surveillance of all 
> public meetings and demonstrations is now authorized.
>   An internal FBI newsletter encouraged agents to conduct more interviews 
> with activists protesting the war "for plenty of reasons, the chief of which it 
> will enhance the paranoia endemic in such circles and will further serve to 
> get the point across that there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox."
>   The national drive by the FBI to collect intelligence related to protests 
> through local law enforcement has resulted in the harassment of people in 
> places such as Denver, Fresno, CA, New York, and Drake University in Iowa.
>   In an October 2003 memo, the FBI urged law enforcement to monitor the 
> Internet, because "protestors often use the Internet to ... coordinate their 
> activities prior to demonstrations," reported The New York Times.
>   The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) - the same group 
> that wrote the memos advising Bush how to get away with torturing prisoners - 
> blessed the 2003 FBI memo. The OLC said that interrogating and gathering 
> evidence on potential political protestors raised no First Amendment concerns. 
> But, it went on to say, any "chilling" effect would be "quite minimal" and far 
> outweighed by the overriding public interest in maintaining "order."
>   The Bad News and the Good News
>   As we approach the November election - and for the next four years if Bush 
> secures another term - we can expect that opponents of the Bush 
> administration's repressive policies will increasingly be targeted.
>   But over 300 cities and four states have called for the repeal of the 
> PATRIOT Act, and organizations like the National Lawyers Guild have filed 
> lawsuits challenging the unconstitutional actions of the government.
>   And in the largest demonstration ever at a political convention, hundreds 
> of thousands of demonstrators registered their protest Sunday against the 
> assault on democracy by the forces of George W. Bush. 
>     Marjorie Cohn, a contributing editor to t r u t h o u t, is a professor 
> at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, executive vice president of the National 
> Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the 
> American Association of Jurists. 

Above article posted to V2020 by Ted Moffett
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