Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Police State Update

By Carol Gee

"Police state" stories, about the sad turn of government events in the United States, came to my in-box in stacks from my regular contributors in recent weeks. The following set of posts about the same news story is my post's lead today.

Overturning Posse Comitatus? Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com, asks about an article at Global Research, "Why is a U.S. Army brigade being assigned to the homeland?#." Also, from News With Views, Chuck Baldwin asks, "U.S. Army troops To Serve As U.S. Policemen?#" At Truth Out, the author asks the question* again, about how it will be when U.S. regular troops become law enforcement authorities within U.S. borders.

As domestic surveillance takes center stage, the FBI's traditional law enforcement role diminishes. And that is the reason why the vigilance of the American Civil Liberties Union is so crucial. The ACLU sends me a regular newsletter. Anthony Romero's Sept. 29th letter got my attention. To quote from it:

Bush and Mukasey are at it again. They've announced dangerous new FBI guidelines that will severely jeopardize the personal privacy of innocent Americans. These regulations need no congressional approval and are terrifying.

Just how far can the FBI go without any factual basis for suspecting improper -- let alone illegal -- activity? Under far-reaching new guidelines proposed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the answer is frightening. All the FBI has to do to put you or any American under prolonged physical surveillance is assert an "authorized purpose" such as detecting or preventing crime or protecting "national security." Sound familiar? It's the same Bush/Cheney/Gonzales/Mukasey "just trust us" policies that have been eroding our rights for the past eight years.

. . . These new guidelines would allow the FBI to interview you, your friends and your family under a false pretext. The FBI could recruit secret informants and have them infiltrate peaceful protest groups. And the FBI could initiate investigations based on little more than race, ethnicity or religion. The FBI could also search commercial databases for personal details about your life with no real reason. And all of this would be allowed without an ounce of evidence that you or anyone else has done anything wrong.

The right to privacy is increasingly under assault by the U.S. federal government. This is another example of the police state mentality that turns more and more away from law enforcement and towards domestic surveillance. This article from The Raw Story (9/23/08),"DHS quietly expands border search policies,*" explains. To quote:

The Department of Homeland Security quietly expanded its authorization to examine, copy and archive an array of documents and electronic files from citizens and visitors crossing US borders, according to reams of internal documents released Tuesday.

The changes implemented last year reverse a two-decade-old policy requiring border agents to have reasonable suspicion of a crime before reading documents someone is bringing into the country; probable cause was required before documents could be copied.

Those standards have been thrown out the window in favor of lenient standards that allow Customs and Border Patrol agents to read or copy essentially anything they would like from a person entering the United States. The new policies also make it easier for CBP to share documents it copies or confiscates with other law enforcement agencies.

Within the Bill of Rights is another under assault, that of free speech. And we also have the right to petition our government for redress. We see more and more of this under the current administration. The story is from After Downing Street (9/15/08): "Three peace activists arrested in front of Federal Building in Madison.*" To quote:

Three Madison area peace activists were arrested during a peaceful demonstration, blocking the door to the federal building at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd at 1:00 pm on Monday September 15, 2008. Cassandra Dixon, Bonnie Block, and Joy First were charged with obstruction of building during a peaceful vigil calling for an end to war and for an end to the deployment of our national guard to Iraq. They were cited and released.

The three joined about 30 other activists for the peace vigil that has been a fixture on Monday noon in downtown Madison for the past 26 years.

The USA is in a very sorry state of affairs when the cops act as an "arm of the state," in the worst sense of the term. Here is a relatively benign example that is still unnervings. It comes from The Raw Story (9/28/08), "Denver cops get T-shirts that mock DNC protesters*." To quote: ". . . commemorative T-shirt that makes light of the use of violence by police, particularly in the wake of 154 arrests during the week of Democratic National Convention this past August."

A "police state" climate could be contagious. Here is an example of such absolute insanity, from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (9/25/08): "Student who wore gorilla suit says he was trying to boost school spirit#." To quote:

Curtis Patton said he and Sean Kight, seniors at Flower Mound High School, thought sprinting across the school football field dressed as a gorilla and banana during last Friday’s homecoming game would be good for school spirit.

"I thought it would unite the student body, but not like this," he said, referring to a large segment of students who — from online postings — seem to believe administrators and police overreacted when they hauled the two off to jail for 16 hours.

More police state silliness -- For those of us who call themselves civil libertarians, this story from Yahoo! News (9/25/08) reinforces the sense of disquietude that pervades these times. The headline, "Hot dogs outside Philly ballpark cause bomb scare.#" makes my head spin. To quote:

But someone inadvertently left three of the duct taped hot dogs outside the ballpark, sparking security fears. Stadium employees were evacuated and the bomb squad was called in.

Only after the packages were blown up did authorities realize they'd just exploded some sausages.

This police state update is not just another of my regular civil libertarian gripe sessions. It is my way of reinforcing what registering. . . and phoning . . . and distributing yard signs . . . and, then voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden is all about. It does not hurt to say again, the stakes could not be higher.

Reference -- on one of the chief architects of the Police State, Vice-President Cheney:

  • "Talking with the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman," by Eric Umansky of ProPublica - September 23, 2008. It is on the new book about Dick Cheney. To quote:
    But, part of Cheney’s legacy is that he over reached and got pushed back. The Supreme Court said, for the first time, that the president needs permission from Congress to have military tribunals, for example. Even though Congress turned right around and said, “well okay, you go right ahead,” that doesn’t mean that the presidency is not constrained by this.

    So ironically, precedents of limitations of power have been set.

    Yeah, precedents have been set that are not good for the presidency or for the unilateral declaration of executive power. Sometimes Cheney’s tactical victories led to strategic defeats.

  • About Civil Liberties: McCain vs. Bush (9/21/08)Yeah, precedents have been set that are not good for the presidency or for the unilateral declaration of executive power. Sometimes Cheney’s tactical victories led to strategic defeats.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.

(Cross-posted 10/5/08 at South by Southwest.)

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  • This is so frightening that I can't call it anything but State sponsored terrorism.

    Even if thy don't have the manpower to implement it, the threat is there. The prospect of one's life being ruined for any reason the government wants to dream up; the idea of having no recourse, nowhere to hide, is enough to shut people up, subdue dissent or even commentary and frighten us into submission.

    And all out of fear someone may blow up another building? I don't think so. It's about tyranny.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:41 AM  

  • So well put, Capt. Fogg. We are relatively run-of-the-mill folk, and even I spend far too much time angry and anxious. I cannot imagine what it would be like if one of us were in a suspect cohort, a target of watching just because of who we are.
    The Founding Fathers had something in what they laid down. We throw that away at our peril. Ben Franklin even warned about the dilemma of security vs. liberty.
    Thanks for your very thoughtful comment.

    By Blogger Carol Gee, at 11:37 AM  

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