Planned detention centers, expanded USA Patriot provisions, specious charges of 'eco-terrorism', no-fly lists, warrantless domestic surveillance, and invasions of privacy are destroying freedom and the rule of law, say Greens
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Green Party leaders called on all Americans to recognize and stand up to various attacks by the Bush White House on the right to political dissent.
Greens noted expanded government power to block and crush protest, President Bush's order for the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens without obtaining warrants in accord with FISA, surveillance of library records, and evidence (such as the no-fly list) that the U.S. government is compiling databases on Americans who disagree with Bush policies.
Among more recent and less known threats:
*** A new provision in the USA Patriot Act bill would allow authorities to arrest demonstrators on felony charges at any "special event of national significance" if they are caught breaching a security perimeter. The measure would extend the power of the Secret Service, allowing agents to arrest people who enter an arbitrarily defined restricted area at an event, even when the President or any other official protected by the Secret Service isn't present. No hearings are planned on the provision.
"The new provision will empower the Secret Service to declare any area at any given time the site of an event of 'national significance' in order to arrest people expressing unwelcome political ideas and charge them with a felony," said Jody Grage Haug, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and founder of the Nonviolent Peacekeeper Pool in Seattle. "It'll crush the kind of civil protest that was necessary to advance the civil rights movement. The purpose of the new Patriot Act provision is not security, but intimidation and suppression of political speech."
Greens are urging Congress to vote down the current version of the USA Patriot Act, citing the 'security perimeter' provision as well as other warrantless invasions of privacy.
*** In the wake of criminal property destruction by small number of environmental activists, the U.S. Department of Justice has called such acts 'eco-terrorism', even though such actions have nothing to do with inflicting injury and fear on human beings. (The Green Party supports neither violent protest nor vandalism.)
"When public officials label vandalism and other property crimes 'terrorism', then terrorism ceases to have any useful meaning—except as a tool for making the public see all dissent, including nonviolent civil disobedience and legitimate environmental protest, as criminal behavior," said Richard Scott, Online Fundraising and Outreach Coordinator for the Green Party.
*** During his February 7 confirmation hearing, Judge Samuel Alito declared "I stand behind this President being commander-in-chief, to pursue fifth column movements," defining fifth column as "a movement known to every war where American citizens will sympathize with the enemy and collaborate with the enemy."
Since the Bush Administration has accused its critics of expressing sympathy with America's enemies, Judge Alito's comments imply that the Court should uphold White House efforts to spy on, intimidate, and suppress political dissent. Judge Alito also espouses an "unitary executive" theory of an imperial presidency that stands above the law and beyond the oversight of Congress and the courts.
"When Judge Alito talks about fifth column movements, he means all Americans who protested the invasion of Iraq and who will protest the impending U.S. assault on Iran," said Rebecca Rotzler, co-chair of the Green Party and participant in the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle as a member of the Mid-Hudson (New York) Direct Action Network.
*** On January 24, Halliburton subsidiary KBR announced that the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement component has awarded KBR a five-year $385 million contract to build and maintain detention centers to deal with "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs"—possibly in response to political unrest.
"In recent years, peaceful protesters against global trade authorities and against the war on Iraq have increasingly found themselves detained for over 24 hours without charge. We know that FEMA has sought bids from major real estate and engineering firms to construct giant internment facilities, ostensibly to deal with disasters and attacks on the U.S. But evidence that FEMA also claims the power to detain political protesters goes back to the Iran-Contra hearings in the 1980s. The American people should recognize these developments as ominous in the era of endless 'war on terror', military occupation of Iraq, and a likely U.S. military attack on Iran," said said Sundiata Tellem, co-chair of the Green Party Black Caucus.
Greens noted that some leaders in Congress, including Democrats, are already backing down from holding President Bush accountable for his illegal order for domestic spying without warrant or congressional oversight.
"These threats to our freedoms and to the rule of law are more dire than at any time in U.S. history, because of surveillance technology, training of civilian police forces in military tactics as ordered by President Clinton in the mid 1990s, and the control of media by conglomerates that benefit from such policies. The Green Party has already called for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for various crimes and abuses of power. But it will take a very loud 'No!' from the American people and a concerted effort to remove the Bush regime from power if we're going to regain our rights and freedoms," said Marc Sanson, co-chair of the Green Party and former director of the Heartland Peace Center in Springfield, Illinois.