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Most people thought the Patriot Act was a good idea. They did not study it nor did many bother to read it. We believe it will hurt more that it will help in the long run. It does more to stifle freedom than it does to preserve it.

From "Electronic Frontier Foundation."

    "On October 26, 2001, President Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act... into law. PATRIOT gave sweeping new powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies and eliminated the checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that such powers were not abused. Most of these checks and balances were put into place after previous misuse of surveillance powers by these agencies were uncovered including the revelation in 1974 that the FBI and foreign intelligence agencies had spied on over 10,000 U.S. Citizens, including Martin Luther King."

The Electronic Frontier provides the following advisories:

    "Expanded Surveillance With Reduced Checks and Balances. PATRIOT expands all four traditional tools of surveillance used by law enforcement -- wiretaps, search warrants, pen/trap orders and subpoenas..." "Be careful what you read on the Internet. The government may now monitor the online activities of innocent Americans, and perhaps even track what Web sites you read, by merely telling a judge anywhere in the U.S. that the spying could lead to information that is "relevant" to an ongoing criminal investigation...

    "Nationwide roving wiretaps. FBI and CIA can now go from phone to phone, computer to computer without demonstrating that each is being used by a suspect or target of an order, or even specifically identifying the person targeted...

    "ISPs [Internet Service Providers] hand over more user information. The law makes two changes to increase how much information the government may obtain about users from their ISPs or others who handle or store their online communications...

    "New definitions of terrorism expand scope of surveillance. One new definition of terrorism and three expansions of previous definitions also expand the scope of surveillance...

    "Over breadth with a lack of focus on terrorism. Several provisions of PATRIOT have no apparent connection to preventing terrorism..." Government spying on suspected computer trespassers with no need for court order...

    "Adding samples to DNA database for those convicted of "any crime of violence..."

    "Wiretaps now allowed for suspected violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act...

    "Dramatic increases to the scope and penalties of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act..."

    "General Expansion of FISA Authority. FISA authority to spy on Americans or foreign persons in the U.S. (and those who communicate with them) increased from situations where obtaining foreign intelligence information is "the" purpose of the surveillance to anytime that it is "a significant purpose" of the surveillance..."

    "Increased information sharing between domestic law enforcement and intelligence. This is a partial repeal of the wall put up in the 1970s after the discovery that the FBI and CIA had been conducting investigations on over half a million Americans during the McCarthy era and afterwards, including the pervasive surveillance of Martin Luther King in the 1960s..."

    "FISA detour around federal domestic surveillance limitations; domestic detour around FISA limitations. Domestic surveillance limits can be skirted by the Attorney General, for instance, by obtaining a FISA wiretap against a U.S. person where "probable cause" does not exist, but when the person is suspected to be an agent of a foreign government. The information can then be shared with the FBI. The reverse is also true."

This is scary. We at RoadtoPeace.org may want to explore the Internet for ramifications of Shariah Laws in Islam, for example, or read up on the Thugs and Witch Hunters. In fact, we often surf for legitimate alternative views of terror in its various manifestations, and what is different in the eyes of others. If our browsers happen upon a site that is a cover for terror (perhaps coding messages and the like) that also happens to have a filter installed under the Patriot act, our ID automatically drops into a government data base. What happens then is problematic. But one option could find the government tracking our every move anywhere on the net, recording all phone calls, tracking or even snooping into all personal letters sent, listing all credit card expenses and doctor visits, monitoring bank transactions, and yes, even listening to what we say in the privacy of our own homes. Those of us who became aware, would then feel firsthand the excesses of the McCarthy era. Those of us who didn't, could wake up in a oubliette.

The Patriot act actually greases the skids for erasing political opponents, check that, patriots like you and me. More than that, it has gone a long way toward making the Fourth Amendment null and void, with the First Amendment now in sight. We have read that the Patriot Act precludes the Government using what citizens say under First Amendment protection in a FISA court--unless something we say, in context or not, can be taken to suspect that we are collaborating with the enemy. We may in fact be only one act of Congress away from the oubliette--or maybe none if history holds to its course.

One might argue that our president is too kind, too clean, too decent, too truthful, too good, and too wise to ever let his troops do such things. Aside from the question of whether he is these things or not, is he personally able to monitor each connection to the Internet, each voice line, each mail service? Of course not, his bureaucrats will do all that. Assuming that any president is infinitely wise and good, how can he possibly screen each of his troops for wisdom and integrity not to abuse The Patriot Act? Those charged with screening billions of Internet transmissions daily will necessarily be flawed individuals like you and me. And what kind of character will successor presidents have? If he further extends FISA, then we have double reason to fear for our children. One thing for sure, terror will not go away anytime soon. That may not be soon enough to save liberty if things continue as they are.

Mr. Bush has a worrisome answer:

"It is time for members of the Senate to stop playing politics with American justice."
[10 Nov 2003, Little Rock Arkansas.]

This is like a pot calling a kettle black. Mr. Bush was addressing Democratic Senators who will filibuster rather than permit radical judges to be put in line for the next Supreme Court vacancy. "I've nominated superb men and women to the federal courts -- people who interpret the law, not legislate from the bench." Many are, but some are ideologues. In fact, Mr. Bush nominated one of the latter while Congress was not in session; he took great pride in doing so.

The Florida Five obviously meet his criteria. This is Double Speak at its worst. Still this is how he gets away with it. By "superb men and women" he really means ideologically conservative in the extreme; these are judges who will rubber stamp the Neocon and religious right agendas. Where does America's political center stand? Too many are complacent, remain ignorant of society trends, go with the flow, do not care enough to vote, or practice denial. Of course this is all an extreme interpretation. But like Murphy's Law, it could happen.

It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.
Attributed to Benjamin Franklin

The far left shares these same traits. So where is middle America? On the sidelines, of course!

How close is this to dictatorship? Not very, we can hope, but it is a whole lot closer than it was before FISA. We all know that Rome was built one brick at a time. In this metaphor, the Patriot Act goes way beyond the first brick. If FISA is the foundation, the Patriot Act laid down the cornerstones for a dictatorship. Together, they are beginning to smell too much like the trap door of an oubliette for comfort. A return to feudalistic governance could happen right here in America.

For a preview, observe how Putin marched Russia back toward a totalitarian state in 2004. For a post-view in the Western Hemisphere, see: The Day Democracy Died in Chile.

An example, close to home: What happens if a subversive or a terrorist hijacks our e-mail address. As a matter of fact this is now happening daily. What if a non-deliverable, but incriminating, e-mail that we did not send is returned to our our in-box because the Internet could not deliver and believed we sent it? We might not even know of the hijacking if our spam filter rejects such messages. For the same reason we might not know if bin Laden himself sent us an e-mail with incriminating content. But guess who WOULD know about both messages? (God is NOT the answer.) Would you sleep tonight? Of course you would. You will not know you are being watched, until you fall through the trap door--the Oubliette. Is this a Patriot Act or what? Of course our government denies it would ever be used against its citizens. Of course, all politicians elected are saints and so also are all their political appointees. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

One might argue that the e-mail headers will protect us. Headers can be altered. And what if "Son of Joe McCarthy" can convince the secret judge that it was you who altered the header to make it look like it came from or went to elsewhere? Good luck and no thanks. Again a reasonable mind will say, "It can't happen here!" The trouble is, it already has. Joe McCarthy was missing only one thing the the President now has, an oubliette.

And, if that is not enough, check out Spying on in-car Computers for what the FBI is up to already. Or check out what the DOT is doing.

FISA is a product of the Authoritarian Personality in action. The Neoconservatives have the initial plan. Will it ride to "triumph" on the Drums of War? Stay tuned.

Free people have nothing to fear from Mata Hari. They have everything to fear from those who would erode the very foundations of their freedom and liberty.

Combine that with this:

If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as Im the dictator. - George W. Bush, December 18, 2000.

This was before 9/11, before taking office. It may have indeed been an offhand remark. The trouble with offhand remarks is that they do indeed reflect the deepest of the deep in the speaker. See Tea Leaves. Authoritarians and Plutocrats know well how to exploit the authoritarian vulnerability in all of us. They know how to phrase their extremism in moderate words. They know how to pose for photo ops. Everyone is for Compassion. Bush ran for president on that word. What has he delivered? We mean, what can you see that he has actually delivered?

If the American electorate opts for the authoritarian view, dictatorship (with no recourse to democratic principles or even ensuring any enlightenment of governance) can happen within a generation. See the full text of Global Issues for some more scary stuff. It can all progress by legal means once a politicized and radical Supreme Court is set for the time it will take. This may be all that is required to make the third item in the Neocon Manifesto an ongoing reality--governance by an elite is their goal. That means, basically, the Florida Five.

We find no comfort from the Florida experience. As one Supreme Court Justice pointed out, democracy suffered a grievous blow. It was Florida's right to work it out. The Supreme Court stopped the recount with a stay (saying the count was "obviously" not being conducted constitutionally) and after it was too late, used that lateness as one reason for their decision to overturn Florida's Supreme Court. Smells fishy doesn't it?

A question for the Democrats. Are you ever going to be outflanked legally again? The answer will not come from you (or Republicans.) It will come from us, the American voters in the moderate group, we will decide, at least as long as votes count. The hour may just be a lot later than most of us think. The question is can we educate ourselves in time to vote wisely for the wisest on any ticket?

Al Gore shares many of our concerns for similar reasons. We quote from a recent speech:

"I want to challenge the Bush Administration's implicit assumption that we have to give up many of our traditional freedoms in order to be safe from terrorists.

"Because it is simply not true.

"In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama bin Laden.

"In both cases, the Administration has attacked the wrong target.

"In both cases they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country.

"In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American Democracy.

"In both cases they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening not strengthening America."

Al Gore

This is not scare mongering. It is factual. We think we are in reasonable company though we know little of Mr. Gore's actual insights in the sense needed to roll back the damage already done by the radicals chasing phantoms.

In case you missed it, take a look at:

When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History

The US System is not quite dead. The President lost his case in two decisions recently. ABC-CBN.com reports:

    "...[The] ruling by a panel of the 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals in New York involved Padilla, a former gang member in Chicago and convert to Islam. His case drew wide attention when Attorney General John Ashcroft said in June 2002 that Padilla had been planning to explode a radioactive dirty bomb in the United States."

    "The majority of the three-judge panel ruled that while Congress might have the power to authorize the detention of an American, the President, acting on his own, did not."

    'The President, acting alone, possesses no inherent constitutional authority to detain American citizens seized within the United States, away from the zone of combat, as enemy combatants,' said the majority, composed of Judges Rosemary Pooler, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, and Barrington Parker Jr., appointed by Bush."

    "The New York court gave the government 30 days to release Padilla or take some other action. The judges said the government could then bring criminal charges against him in civilian courts or seek to have him held as a material witness, a procedure that has been used to detain others and that is similarly under challenge in federal courts."

    "In a strong dissent, Judge Richard Wesley, a Bush appointee, said he believed the President had the power to 'thwart acts of belligerency on US soil.'

    "Wesley called it startling that the majority would find that the President lacked authority to detain a citizen terrorist who was 'dangerously close' to putting Americans in peril."

    "The chief White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the administration would seek to have the Padilla ruling overturned."

    'The Presidents most solemn obligation is protecting the American people,' McClellan said. 'We believe the 2nd Circuit ruling is troubling and flawed. The President has directed the Justice Department to seek a stay and further judicial review.'

Another bit of misspeak here. The president also took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution--as it is, protecting all of us, not as he wishes it would be, protecting only his cronies. Stay tuned for more on how he progresses toward that goal.

    "In the case of the Guantnamo detainees, the ruling, by a panel of the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals in San Francisco, provides a counterweight to an earlier ruling by a federal appeals court in Washington that had unequivocally supported the administrations position that the detention camp in Cuba was beyond the reach of US law."

Not everyone in the Administration misspeaks all the time. At least Rod Paige said what he thinks when he accused the National Education Association of being a "terrorist organization." He later sugarcoated his remarks:

    "'It was an inappropriate choice of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics the NEA's Washington lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind's historic education reforms' Paige said."

    "Apology or no, the remarks continue a pattern within the administration of attempting to portray anyone who disagrees with government policy as being somehow un-American. But more importantly, Paige's remarks reveal the administration's attempt to dismiss and ignore legitimate concerns from school employees and parents about the far-reaching education law, including a lack of funding to carry out the actions it requires."

Since when is "'It was an inappropriate choice of words..." an apology? His original statement was his thinking and feeling; he did not deny them; he simply said they were inappropriate. If you are a Republican educator, the message is: "You too are not immune to the new McCarthyism."

Paige was projecting "...obstructionist scare tactics..." from his own view of the world. The fact remains, even in Republican quarters, that "No Child left Behind" is already a dismal failure. Aside from added cost, which cash strapped states have to pay, it doubly penalizes kids unfortunate enough to go to disadvantaged schools. They are the ones left behind in fact. The result is not just Plutocratic. At best, "No Child left Behind" is propaganda. At worst it is also racist in that the disadvantaged kids are mostly minorities who need help most. For these and other reasons, several states are taking counteraction.

Do you notice a symmetry developing? Starting from two years ago, the drums have at last become a lot more evenly balanced. Drums beating for War are now being answered by drums beating From and for Peace. This could be significant news.

MoveOn.org is one important high-profile example of a grassroots movement working to protect our liberty. We are proud to be a part of their efforts.

See Peace for more links. Hopefully, liberty and its voting privileges are not yet dead. Hopefully also, the American electorate will research these issues and opt logically for moderation over McCarthyism.

The only people we have to fear is us.

As Albert Einstein said:

"The psychological roots of war are, in my opinion, biologically founded in the aggressive characteristics of the male creature."

He also said:

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

This great man foresaw the present world condition from his much earlier time, and way ahead of Zimbardo's Prison Experiment that established the "do nothing" phrase as fact scientifically. Einstein's (and Zimbardo's) comments suggest the solution.


To rule ourselves, we must first think for ourselves, then vote.
We are not a mindless people. But we can be complacent, remain ignorant of societal trends, go with the flow, not care enough to vote, practice denial.
These are the real enemies of our freedom, not Islam, not terrorism, not neoconservatism.

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