Monday, February 09, 2004
QUO VADIS, GENERAL ASHCROFT?
There is a consistency in the encroachments of John Ashcroft and his Justice Department. The liberties that Americans prize, and the constitutional protections which bless their country have been weakened by those who are most clearly charged with defending these freedoms. This has not been an overwhelming onslaught; but it looks to be a methodical war of attrition against America's democratic covenant. Intimidation is its chief instrument, and its objectives are to stigmatize and hamper dissent, and to bully those who would speak out against the deranged policy of the present Administration. As the Patriot Act makes citizens feel like outcasts in their own country, darkening the horizon with its Sneak and Peek, with home invasion that allows government to surreptitiously copy one's personal papers and copy computer disks; we feel anything but secure. But the worst is yet to come, if the Attorney General has his way. The federal authority is now apparently committed to open political harassment of its critics.
The mind-set of the top law enforcement officer embraces the notion of electronic surveillance of all Americans, to protect those same folks from their terrorist enemies. Executive letters can be written which can place a selected citizen outside the realm of due process and the access of the accused to a lawyer. Recently, this Administration has ignored international law and custom, deporting a passport-bearing Canadian national to a third country (Syria) in order to subject him to torture. What kind of country is ours becoming, that it can stoop to such thuggery?
The John Ashcroft, who has made his presence felt as Attorney General, is the same man who accused his critics of hysteria, when America's librarians reacted with alarm over federal surveillance of library records. There were reports of librarians who purged electronic records and warned library patrons of the new snooping into traditional areas of privacy.
And every time the Administration wants to further impoverish the freedom of America's open society, they remind us of 9/11. But this gathering repression has become overt, and it is now poised to strike directly at dissent.
In an article entitled, "Feds Win Rights to War Protesters Records", Associated Press writer, Ryan J. Foley, reports an ugly incursion. From Des Moines, Iowa, ..."In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists."
"In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury"...
"Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas."
"The group, once targeted for its alleged ties to communism in the 1950s, announced Friday it will ask a federal court to quash the subpoena."
"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds its authority", guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement."
"Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union said they had not heard of such a subpoena being served on any U.S. university in decades."
"Those served supoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002."
"They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent."
"This is exactly what people feared would happen", said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed...."The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."
"The forum, titled 'Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!' came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National Guard headquarters, in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included nonviolent training for people planning to demonstrate."
"Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based American Association of University Professors, ...said that the case brings back fears of the 'red squads' of the 1950s and campus clampdowns on Vietnam War protesters."
Source via Jim Hightower's Weblog