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Downsides of Security

Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither.
Ben Franklin

We live in dangerous times. The material below speaks for itself.

When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History

We bring you the following information in hopes of safeguarding the institutions that made a great nation out of ordinary people, refugees from other lands who found freedom and knew what to do with it.

This history is long and pieces of it are infamous. They began with the Palmer Raids after WW I. We quote in part.

    "A. Mitchell Palmer claimed that Communist agents from Russia were planning to overthrow the American government. On 7th November, 1919, the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution, over 10,000 suspected communists and anarchists were arrested. Palmer and Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution but large numbers of these suspects were held without trial for a long time. The vast majority were eventually released but Emma Goldman and 247 other people, were deported to Russia.

    "On 2nd January, 1920, another 6,000 were arrested and held without trial. These raids took place in several cities and became known as the Palmer Raids. A. Mitchell Palmer and John Edgar Hoover found no evidence of a proposed revolution..."

Japanese Americans were interned during WW II. Ansel Adams captured their plight with a photo essay. Again history exonerated the internees.

Both of these events are chapters of shame in American history.

Since 9/11, hundreds of people have been detained in Guantanamo. Many were from the American heartland. For more, see Human Rights Watch.

On this page we explore some critical issues in the balance between liberty and security and how our Constitution has been significantly eroded without a formal constitutional amendment. This erosion has come about gradually over the last 25 years under both Democratic and Republican Administrations. The new laws have even legalized certain procedures that made McCarthyism so notorious and damaging.

That history lesson seems to have been lost on those implementing FISA and The Patriot Act. The roots of FISA actually predate McCarthyism with Truman's Executive Order 9835 which for the first time established a comprehensive loyalty screening program for Government employees. Truman's order became a vehicle for Senator Joe McCarthy and others to engage in witch hunts using fear of Communism as their primary tactic. reports on the McCarthy era:

"The most intensive focus of the Red Hunters was on Hollywood, perceived as the shaper of public thought. Many writers and performers moved to Mexico or Europe to avoid being put in prison. There was great pressure to avoid controversial subject matter in films or on TV, and the result was the Ozzie and Harriet myth, Doris Day and Annette Funicello, Beach Blanket Bingo: silly, vapid entertainment..."

"The reign of stupidity called McCarthyism was big news for most of the 50's, and shaped future national mood swings. It brought 'denial' to new heights, and showed once again how easily fascism can take root."

McCarthy Era Witch Hunt John Peters Symposium, Yale Univ. A prominent physician, John Peters worked for a just and peaceful society where health care would be available to the common citizen. He never stood trial in an open court, but his career was ruined when it took six years for his case to get to the Supreme Court where he was exonerated. Although the Court overturned the Loyalty Review Board and ordered his grants reinstated, the order came too late for a destroyed career. See: Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (June 6, 1955). Although Peters won his personal battle, FISA and the Patriot Act now empower witch hunts with unprecedented means available. You may read about them below. There was never an iota of evidence that Peters was disloyal in any way.

Links for researching the McCarthy Era:

Ashcroft = McCarthyism?- Jane Hood
Blacklisting - LexisNexis
Einstein - American Museum of natural History.

Einstein despaired over the effects of McCarthyism: "The current investigations are an incomparably greater danger to our society than those few Communists in our country ever could be. These investigations have already undermined to a considerable extent the democratic character of our society." October 25, 1945 U.S. Congressman John Rankin criticizes Einstein for his allegedly subversive political beliefs. This came even before Truman's Executive Order. Einstein would truly be totally aghast by FISA and the Patriot Act.

McCarthy Era Returns - Joost van der Hoek, Overlanderstraat 291, Purmerend, The Netherlands.

Newspaper Clippings OAC. McCarthy era newspaper clippings, 1946-1954

From "Witch Hunts & McCarthy" -

"No one was safe from his [McCarthy's] probing, beady little eyes. Government workers, College Professors, Playwrights and Hollywood Screenwriters, actors, artists, musicians, gays, Jews and anyone with a goatee was suspect. (He would be foaming at the mouth if he came back today...;-) Many people's careers were destroyed by just knowing the wrong person."

A Serious Reminder for Our Times

Tenuous Liberty - Outline of American History, Ch 8. From Revolution to Reconstruction. Yes, for several years McCarthy trampled on the civil rights of loyal Americans. Almost all of them were totally exonerated -- eventually. The key word, eventually, enabled continual harassment during the long interval it took to win exoneration. People were guilty until proven innocent. McCarthy's drumbeat: fear of Communism. He got away with it for years in an open society! Fear drives people to do fearful things, even to themselves.

Fear drives people to do fearful things, even to themselves.

We are now facing a similar period where the prime mover can be a president, not a Senator. Moreover some of McCarthy's tools are now legal to use, and the Patriot Act does more than amend FISA, it goes well beyond it. Tenuous times are indeed in the offing.

WWII and the Cold War were both won in the laboratories and factories of America. Field intelligence materially set Japan back in the Pacific, but interning Japanese Americans at Manzanar remains more than an embarrassment; it is a disgrace. Interning Americans of Japanese dissent was a gross travesty of justice and unnecessary. The same mentality drove the Patriot Act.

Where has the wisdom of our forefathers gone? If we do indeed lose our liberty, Iraq and terror will be viewed by history as the diversion that made it finally possible.

WAKE UP! AMERICA, McCarthyism reborn could be our collective legacy. Not a chance, you say? Excuse me, it has already happened once, right here in the good old USA, during a Democratic administration. The Patriot Act provides the legal tools to roll back liberty; it already has in fact . Extremism is a lurch to the right or to left. It can happen, and if it can happen, it will eventually and is happening now in fact. This is Murphy's law, make that natural law.

There is a very fundamental issue here. If America became a dictatorship over night, how would that have any influence on terrorism? Any effect at all? Radical Muslims would still hate and fear us for all the same reasons they do now, maybe even more so. Radical secular politicians in Islam would still want our scalps. Would we be any more secure than we are now? Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Amin, and Pol Pot are all lessons from history that say, NO. In each of these cases, the citizenry had much more to fear from their own leaders than from outsiders. WAKE UP! AMERICA, before we too feel our own master's boot.

NO AMOUNT of restricting liberty will have any effect at all on terrorism. History teaches that loss of liberty leads to tyranny against the populace. WAKE UP! AMERICA, lest we bring terror home.

A Wise Man Said:

A Wise Man Said: The answer to terrorism lies not in restricting the freedoms of the free;
it lies in expanding the freedoms of those not free.

Following Afghanistan so closely, and in the absence of any serious provocation, Iraq could only be viewed by the Muslim mentality as just another Zionist assault on their dignity, their very being, their natural resources, and yet another Humiliation. Before the domino theory could possibly work, the whole of Islam would have to be not only ready for a reformation but ready to accept alien ideas and institutions for governance as well. Such things can only happen by evolution. America is good at exporting the trappings (pop music, fast food, Levis) of freedom, not so good at teaching the fundamentals of infrastructure, the value of secular laws, and the market economy that democracy cannot exist without.

None of these foundations for liberty exist in the Middle East. The whole of Washington (both parties) needs to take some crash courses in history. Equally as important are language facility and knowledge of Islam as a religion. With that knowledge and skill in our tool bag we would be in a better position to deal with terror and one of its motivations, modernism. Communication on a level playing field is vital if peace is ever to be won.

American voters and Washington, for sure, may not have the patience to do it right. In the meantime, we can at least read Barbara Tuchman "March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam"? She has much wisdom for our times.

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
Albert Einstein

See: "The Answer to Terrorism Lies..."
New York Review of Books
Fourth Amendment

Visit CovertAction Quarterly

The Fourth Amendment deserves a better fate than FISA. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA, 1978, [Jimmy Carter's Presidency] established a secret court to further enhance the struggle against Communism. FISA was amended twice during the Clinton Administration and again much more substantially with the passage of the Patriot Act on Bush's watch. The Attorney General, AG, can now invade our homes on nothing more than suspicion, and he decides suspicion. Beyond that, he can now spy on US citizens by saying information gained MIGHT relate to an investigation, with the AG defining "MIGHT"! So not even suspicion is required in all cases. This is a very low bar indeed; too low for our founding fathers.

Is this trend America's future? Will we really throw away what is left of the Fourth Amendment? We are increasingly concerned. Does the Patriot Act threaten our liberty? It does in our opinion, but research this question and decide for yourself.

So far, the Secret Court has already accepted the Attorney General's "suspicion" thousands of times. A single request was denied on a legal technicality. The AG's "suspicion" was accepted every time. Even American citizens are no longer exempt. Elements of McCarthyism became law in the Patriot Act with bipartisan support.

Politicians are great about claiming the need for accountability--for others.

Amendment IV - US Constitution.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Among them, FISA, its amendments, and the Patriot Act have materially amended the constitution without the formal procedures required for a constitutional amendment. It was done a piece at a time during moments of relative panic in Washington. The Red Scares of the McCarthy era were far less serious than what we now face.

How do you suppose the current Supreme Court would rule on these obvious violations of the Fourth Amendment? The conservative wing claims to be a strict constructionist of the constitution, so to uphold the new provisions, they must redefine a galaxy of words. The words secure, unreasonable, searches, seizures, probable cause, oath and affirmation each have legal and Webster meanings. But wording was no bar to the "Florida five," they were/are all for states rights, except where their pet candidate was/is involved. Many legal scholars agree the Supreme Court's "Florida five" did a stretch in their Florida precedent. In presenting their judgment, the Majority included a curious passage:

    "None are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitutions design to leave the selection of the President to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere. When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, however, it becomes our unsought responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront."

If they were truly confident of their ground, why include something that should go without saying. Could it be that the majority realized their judgment could be criticized on legal grounds and would be unpopular with many in any event? If so, it is propaganda. We would like to think better of them. But their intrusion into the business of an individual state speaks volumes.

Consider the radical-right judges Bush has tried to ram through the Senate. Further politicization of the Supreme Court is part of the Bush master plan.

A politicized Supreme Court? What then? Well many countries have undergone armed coups. But America will do it differently, peacefully, while the populace sleeps in ignorance born of our self-indulgent age. But one day our sons and daughters could wake up feeling the boot of McCarthyism, what it feels like to occupy an oubliette [a dungeon with only one entrance--a trap door in the ceiling], and the heat of burning at the stake.

From Drums of War:

    "Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood and narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind is closed, the leader will have need in seizing the rights of citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know this? Because I have done this, and I am Caesar." [Attributed to Julius Caesar]

This is NOT what made America great. It is too close to the current administration's agenda for comfort.

Think about it. Patriotism both emboldens the blood and narrows the mind. The mistake in Iraq happened for this precise reason. Our government used no conservatism at all in evaluating intelligence, and we citizens mostly sat on the sidelines. Shame on us. We now have a huge problem on our hands--the kind that our grandchildren may get to finish, or continue making still worse as the case may be.

More on FISA.

As individuals, we are not much different genetically from other people; in fact Americans are a blend of other people. It is our institutions that set us apart, to the extent America can be set apart. Until recently, our institutions were the envy of the world. Now we are becoming more like the systems that spawn radical terrorism. In fact our political system has become polarized toward the respective extremes with money and name recognition buying seats of power.

We could even start spawning our own terrorists. Not possible you say? Please excuse me again, we did exactly that already in Vietnam under a Democratic president.

We bring you some excerpts and resources that explore FISA issues in greater depth. Some excerpts.

Electronic Privacy Information Center:

    "In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which establishes a separate legal regime for 'foreign intelligence' surveillance. Title III (the 'Wiretap Statute') outlines the strict guidelines regulating ordinary law enforcement surveillance, while FISA regulates the government's collection of 'foreign intelligence' information in furtherance of U.S. Counterintelligence. FISA was initially limited to electronic eavesdropping and wiretapping. In 1994 it was amended to permit covert physical entries in connection with 'security' investigations, and in 1998, it was amended to permit pen/trap orders. FISA can also be used to obtain some business records.

    "Under the Fourth Amendment, a search warrant must be based on probable cause to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. This is not the general rule under FISA: surveillance under FISA is permitted based on a finding of probable cause that the surveillance target is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, irrespective of whether the target is suspected of engaging in criminal activity. However, if the target is a 'U.S. Person', there must be probable cause to believe that the U.S. Person's activities may involve espionage or other similar conduct in violation of the criminal statutes of the United States. Nor may a U.S. Person be determined to be an agent of a foreign power 'solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.'"

Two iffy statements in tandem here, "probable cause" and "may", bode unwell for our future. Could radical judges appointed by the radical right or left bring an Inquisition to America? You can bet they would try. Yes, judges can be impeached. But what if we elect a radical congress? The history of the last 25 years projects adversely on our fortunes. The Fourth Amendment will go entirely and the First Amendment will no longer be the beacon of freedom that so excited the world for so long. Terrorism will still be around. We can start fixing it now...or maybe never.

Extremism is the cancer of our times. Will the moderates among us find and attract enough votes to end this nonsense? We can only hope so. But our political parties are now so polarized, radical governance from either extreme could easily result. The so-called Patriot Act gave this secret FISA court and the President this kind of power and opportunity.

Possible FISA Ramifications.

In reply to our question about how FISA and the Patriot Act might affect operations on, an insightful young man replied:

"As to the threats, you will probably know you have been taken out when they seize your server, the case is classified and you are locked in an oubliette somewhere with no access to legal counsel working for you."

He could have been more diplomatic. He could have helped us with the pronunciation, oo' (as in ooze) bli-et', not to mention the definition, a concealed dungeon having a trap door in the ceiling as its only opening.

As patriotic US citizens, not engaged in espionage or traitorous activity, we are safe enough, or are we? We surf the net frequently. See next.

CovertAction Quarterly

    "When Clinton signed Executive Order 12949 on February 9, the frightening mandate of the FISA court was greatly expanded: It now has legal authority to approve black-bag operations to authorize Department of Justice (DoJ) requests to conduct physical as well as electronic searches, without obtaining a warrant in open court, without notifying the subject, without providing an inventory of items seized. The targets need not be under suspicion of committing a crime, but may be investigated when probable cause results solely from their associations or status: for example, belonging to, or aiding and abetting organizations deemed to pose a threat to U.S. National security. Furthermore, despite a lowered standard for applying the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure than is necessary in other U.S. Courts, under the 1995 expansion, evidence gathered by the FISA court may now be used in criminal trials. Previously, evidence was collected and stockpiled solely for intelligence purposes."

There are many front organizations for terror and some have been found and taken out or had their funds frozen. But all? Not even close. How can any web surfer know if an organization or web site that seems to espouse liberty is actually subversive in fact? It seems to us that it is only a matter of time before innocent American citizens pay stiff prices because some self-styled witch hunters unleash the powers of the secret court by claiming suspicion and/or association. Are politicians saintly? Hardly. They are full of dirty tricks.

Will your homeowners insurance cover what government agents can walk off with? Don't bet on it. Are you safe from search while behind a guardhouse at work? Probably, but your spouse at home is not. In fact, your house and workplace can be entered whether you are there or not. They have their own keys. Your home can be searched and anything and everything in it can be seized, leaving no inventory of what was taken. All this in the name of fighting terror, of course. Never mind that autos, cigarettes, guns and obesity kill multiple more people annually than terrorists do.

Freedom of speech (the next real target of the DOJ, the Neocons, and the religious right alike) could well come under ever greater attack and disappear too if the present regime gets an extended run toward a dynasty. This could happen courtesy of a packed Supreme Court and voter apathy. It would be like a tsunami. A tsunami is a seismic sea wave; some have enough power to reach half across the globe. So two tsunamis a dynasty makes! The FISA/Patriot Act was the first one.

Put it in perspective. As a cause of death and property damage, terrorism does not hold a candle to automobiles in traffic accidents. There is one difference: the fear factor. Everyone fears terror; indeed that is its only real purpose. We drive with confidence, too often with overconfidence, too rarely with the continuous nervous alertness called for. Does it make sense to fear a minor hazard while we ignore much bigger ones?

Another perspective: terror is such a motivator, it led a Congress to rubber stamp folly in Iraq and then vote an 87 billion bailout package. That amount of money is about $4,300 for every goods-producing American; each of some twenty-two million such persons must generate that much extra cash.

We conquered Afghanistan and Iraq in a breeze, but we somehow lost our bearings and the initiative in a storm. We lost our direction toward peace. We do not know where to strike back. We do not even properly protect our humvees. Nor do we create and send the forces necessary to "pacify" Iraq.

Leaving Iraq to others too soon will mean difficulty for others at best; at worst it will be chaos. Shias are the majority but have little experience with national governance. Both the Sunnis and the Kurds oppose the Shias as well as each other. All three resent being under foreign control. Radicals are ever present to stoke fires of resentment and hatred and finance terror. The Kurds are often viewed as being in the American camp by the other two.

Many Muslims will risk cooperation, but more, maybe most, won't. They justifiably fear our lack of commitment. In addition to mutual ethnic distrust, they also fear the Baathists, fundamentalist mullahs, and secular terrorists who turn on perceived "traitors" in a flash. These internal wars have begun in earnest.

Our adventure in Iraq has done nothing to eliminate terror. It eliminated no weapons of mass destruction, because there weren't any. There was never any connection between bin Laden and Hussein. To be sure Hussein is a bad guy. Equally sure, he was killing fewer people weekly than we are. To accomplish these failures, we effectively tie up our entire army; we cannot respond to either North Korea or Iran should they wave a nuclear sabre. We cannot begin, as a nation going it alone, to police all the violent places on earth. A solution can only come from a comity of nations backed by a stronger UN, a UN in charge of all things nuclear with adequate checks and balances to preserve the freedom and security of all peoples.

Ever wonder why our intelligence is so bad in the Middle East? The answer lies in the impact Zionism has had on our image, along with our being "invaders" of course. Zionists razed hundreds of villages in Palestine, turning much of a nation into homeless refugees. A half century later, they are still homeless as the Zionists continue settling occupied lands. America (its tax payers really) have supported Zionism for five decades now. So why the indignant surprise (denial really) when terrorists call us Zionists?

How would you like to be called an insurgent for fighting for your homeland? Maybe the word patriotism only applies to the winners. The proud neocon claim is that terrorists kill innocent people. That, too, is certainly true, but it is not the end of it. When humiliation and degradation create hopelessness, what else can one do? Besides, it often works!

What is more, we are now even emulating anti-terror tactics of Sharon and his Zionist cohorts. We chase Phantoms with more civilian hits than our fragile goodwill can stand. Every morning begins with prayers in the White House and every morning there are prayers throughout Islam. Is there a connection here? There is in fact a strong one, one you can check for yourself (or rationalize away.) See Religion and Terror for more on this vital issue.

Which way will the balance go between the good in ridding Iraq of a tyrant and a widening of terror with a problematic resolution? Is there any way we can leave a stable government behind that the populace can accept? Not the way things are going. Like the early Zionists who thought the Palestinians would buy in once they saw how successful their system was, Mr. Bush made the same mistake in thinking the Middle East would see our "superior" ways in governance and become democratic like dominos falling.

What good is war if you cannot win peace?

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot.

After 9/11, things went our way--at first. Then by our arrogant behavior, we alienated key allies to the point where most now offer little or no help. We weakened the UN at a time when it is more badly needed than ever.

Would an extreme leftist behave differently? Yes and no. Yes, in the angle of attack and specific results; no, in their long-term effects on liberty, at least if their history holds. The key word is extreme. Together, the political extremes victimize the center which really wants neither of them. It is those who seem moderate, but are not, that are most capable of hoodwinking the center.

A Most Serious Threat.

We have one in charge just now, elected by the "Florida Five" sitting on the Supreme court. Seven of the Justices were appointed by Republican presidents. Five of those seven were appointed by Reagan and Bush Sr. Justice Thomas studied under Leo Strauss, the brain behind the Neocon movement. These conflicts of interest could be a tragedy in the making. Whether we like it or not, the Supreme Court is already politicized. Only the American voters can change that.

This most serious threat ever to American freedom is coming from within. It is not external; the external angle is all smoke and mirrors by the plutocratic Authoritarians who can't find a way out of the quagmire of paralyzing fear that terrorism has become the world over.

Like Israel, the authoritarian compassion and imagination both find expression at the end of a gun barrel or under the treads of a tank. Like Don Quixote, authoritarians chase their dreams with never a glance at their flanks. This issue goes way beyond Iraq. It is even way beyond Islam. It is, in Barbara Tuchman's words, The March of Folly yet one more time.

The worst of it is, the Democrats are not much better; they do not have an equivalent of the Neocon movement, much less one enlightened enough to deal with the real roots of terror. FISA was tightened twice on Clinton's watch. Registered Democrats voted Republican in 2000 and in 2002. Most Democrats elected to national office sat on their hands, aiding and abetting folly. Does it matter? It will to our children.

Where Now?

If the Democrats regain lost ground, the Neocon adventure would come to a halt, at least for a time. Would the Democrats have the wisdom to study the histories of Islam, Zionism, imperialism, and Modernization? Would they have the courage to face up to what they find and plan and act accordingly? Would they look at themselves to understand better our inborn tendencies nature bestows upon each of us? We can only hope so for all these take far more courage and fortitude to accomplish than does a shoot out. But we see no one of the needed stature and psycho-historical insights in the coming presidential race. Sadly, we see an American electorate rooting for a facade that is style, very short on substance, a beautiful face with nothing underneath.

Afghanistan was won with the tools left by the Clinton Administration. Any Democrat would have done as well. Would any have gone into Iraq and alienated allies in the process? Not without the Neocons or a leftist equivalent to take the lead.

What about a radical Democrat? S/he would be just as bad in other directions. For these reasons, the focus of this web site is on extremism in its many manifestations.

Bush was right-on about one thing. The war on terror will be a long one. It will go on and on until wisdom and patience replace fallacious thinking and self-righteous impulsivity, whether from the right or left politically. Wisdom is most likely to come from its owner having centrist insights in all the matters that count.

Mr. Bush was right about something else. America is now so fat and self-indulgent it voted for promises; never believing that history since 2001 showed they would not be kept. The drum beat goes on. "We are winning against Terror," he claims.

By permitting open ended surveillance, FISA lowers the protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment. All the Justice Department has to show is suspicion, or in some cases, just an association, to the court to get a go-ahead. Because the Presidency ultimately appoints judges, with Senate approval there is potential for the politicization of FISA. Being totally secret, there are no checks; no audit is possible; no Freedom of Information Act can pry loose the proceedings. Witch hunt trials come to mind, with a difference--FISA activities NEVER will become public while the witch trials were comparatively well-known and reported in their day. All this in the so-called world's greatest democracy.

We have entered a period of conflict of interest. The Patriot Act made it worse. With a history of continued tightening, the noose around liberty will continue to erode liberty with little or no discernable effect on terrorism. Of the petitions to this court, how many have been rejected? Of the several thousand reportedly handled since 1978, only one rejection has been reported that we can discover, and it was on a legal technicality, not substance. Where is the presumption of innocence? Under FISA, it seems no longer to exist.

Courtesy of the Patriot Act, the US president now has the legal authority to incarcerate any American at all, solely on suspicion. This idea could have come straight out of the Qur'an which gives any male the right to divorce his wife based on suspicion. All a Muslim male need do is declare "I divorce you" and his wife is instantly out, in a black robe with head covered of course. She has no recourse. And neither will the hapless denizens (US citizens) in the oubliette.

CovertAction Quarterly Again

    "The possibility of FISA-sanctioned fishing expeditions was only one of the potential abuses that alarmed legal scholars and people concerned with civil liberties. It's absolutely ripe for abuse, said New York City defense lawyer Ron Kuby. There are hundreds of solidarity groups that American citizens work with, and all of those groups could be targets under FISA. These groups and individuals, engaged in legitimate dissent and solidarity work with the victims of U.S. Foreign Policy around the world, fear that their First and Fourth Amendment rights will be eroded.

    "Others worry that under cover of secrecy, the court would exceed even its own broad legal mandate. Clearly the FISA court was strengthened to allow the government to conduct searches they would not be allowed to conduct under the traditional constitutional provisions, said Turley. That means the government could attempt and fail to secure a search warrant under traditional constitutional arguments, then go to the FISA court and convert the case artificially into a national security investigation and secure approval for the very same search."

We are not legal scholars. But we can see the benefits that accrued from liberty in the 227 years since our founding. Doesn't this "solution" to terror make us too much like the terrorists who take a fundamental view of the Qur'an? Aside from that, there are plenty of scoundrels everywhere who would seize absolute power if they thought they could. We might even elect one president, if he were a smooth talker, rich, with a handsome face and name recognition.

Is this the best way to fight terror? Of course not. Is this a good way to gain power? Absolutely. Why is this happening? It is happening because across party lines, too many politicians care more about themselves (their power really) than they do about the American people. This is one compelling reason why we risk the oubliette in advocating that a reformation is needed. That reform is most needed in the US, but similar reforms are needed nearly everywhere.

How close does advocating reform come to suspicion or association with treason or subversion? It depends on the Attorney General and his secret court. Not so long ago, people critical of Mr. Bush were accused of being unpatriotic. It is medieval to incarcerate one's enemies. For the first time in history, a democracy has given its Attorney General the power to do just that.

Some Ironies.

Oppenheimer played a huge role in winning WWII. But he fell victim to McCarthyism.

Aldrich Ames single handedly damaged the CIA's listening post in the Kremlin. But we can ask, "What was Ames's relative effect?" In spite of the best efforts of the Communists, with the help of Ames and others, Communism went into sharp decline. And that decline is now decisive as market economies and liberty develop worldwide. A funny thing about Aldrich Ames. The Patriot Act would not have found him any sooner.

Cold War Perspective.

"Victory" for the free market system came from liberty, not oppression. Espionage played only a very minor role in the eventual outcome which arose from free people doing their things, finding new ways to make life better. Market economies under freedom are simply more efficient than controlled ones under tyranny. The movement of China toward a market economy is just the latest notable example. In the final outcome, the power of democracy dwarfed the value of covert intelligence. There was and still is no need at all for the Patriot Act. It can duplicate the Oppenheimer experience; it cannot prevent the potential Ames in our midst.

The Cold War was won over decades, and for the first time in history, peacefully.

There is a great need to improve the workings of bureaucracy and the people who manage it. We had all the tools needed to prevent 9/11. We just did not use them.

Again from CovertAction Quarterly:

    "Even if the court and law enforcement agencies did not overstep their powers, legal scholars assert that warrantless searches are unconstitutional, no matter what the context or motivation. The court's defenders, on the other hand, argue that the end justifies the means. Gorelick recently conceded that the government could not gather as much evidence under the traditional standard of the Fourth Amendment. By this logic, notes Kate Martin, it is also true that torture allows the government to get information it would not otherwise get."

    "...The Supreme Court, however, has never endorsed the concept of a national security exception for physical searches. In 1972, it ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless surveillance of domestic targets. The Court specifically warned that the danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts under so vague a concept as the power to protect domestic security."

    "...But given the secrecy surrounding the FISA court, even finding a test case to challenge incursion on Fourth Amendment rights may be difficult. Most people surveilled under the authority of the court remain blissfully ignorant that a search has taken place"

This is not fantasy, nor is it mindless panic. In a very real way, the President now has absolute power and everyone knows that absolute power eventually corrupts absolutely. This is not just partisan politics. FISA and the Patriot Act came into being as bipartisan measures.

Our argument is for more and better defense of our liberty. Our liberty is our strength; it should be strengthened so we can all pull together, motivated by trust in our government instead of fearing our leaders and what their suspicions can do to us.

Liberty is far more precious and powerful than all the turncoats or spies ever born.

An alert, properly organized and efficient bureaucracy could have averted 9/11. People in command need only listen and act. See Forewarning Heroes for how that worked. An earlier passage of the Patriot Act would have had no affect at all. Washington is still not listening to those in the trenches.

Is this scare-mongering? Read on from CovertAction Quarterly and decide for yourself.

    "Among the handful of FISA-tainted investigations that have become public is the prosecution of Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh of the so-called Los Angeles Eight for their membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In that case, Martin [their lawyer] said, permanent residents whom the government sought to deport based on their First Amendment activities were informed that they had been subject to FISA surveillance. The government then secured a completely ex parte [one side only, the government in this case, is represented] ruling that the surveillance was legal in a proceeding in which the [U.S.] Residents were not even allowed to participate. That ruling then foreclosed forever any adversary hearing on the legality of the surveillance."

    "...Based on the remarkable record of servility the first-string spy court has achieved on surveillance requests, 15 years with only one rejection, and that one on technical grounds, new requests for physical searches are unlikely to cut into the Review Court's happy schedule."


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