Monday, July 21, 2008

Chipping away at your Constitutional rights -- all in the name of fighting "terrorism"

I'm starting to think "the terrorists" have won. Terror: intense, sharp, overmastering fear. And Terrorism: the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

Fear and submission? Point in case, from the Baltimore Sun:
Spying uncovered
Documents show state police monitored peace, anti-death penalty groups

Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, newly released documents show.

The files, made public Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, depict a pattern of infiltration of the activists' organizations in 2005 and 2006. The activists contend that the authorities were trying to determine whether they posed a security threat to the United States. But none of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs - some with agents' names and whole paragraphs blacked out - mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.
In other words, the State has become so afraid of "terrorism" that it has violated the law to spy on Americans who speak out against State sanctioned executions. Unless I missed something, we're still allowed to dissent? Remember, freedom of speech and all that? First Amendment?

The ACLU says it best:
"Everything noted in these logs is a lawful, First Amendment activity .... For undercover police officers to spend hundreds of hours entering information about lawful political protest activities into a criminal database is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer dollars and does nothing to make us safer from actual terrorists or drug dealers."
Because this is what the undercover agents found:
The only potentially unlawful activity mentioned anywhere in the documents, she said, were two instances of nonviolent civil disobedience. In one, activists refused to leave a guard station during a protest at the National Security Agency after bringing cookies and drinks for the guards, and in the other, they hatched a plan to place photographs of soldiers who died in Iraq on the fence surrounding the White House.
Do you still wonder why I'm so upset about Barack Obama's vote on FISA? These rights are worth protecting. If we don't speak up now, will we be be able to later?

UPDATE: From RawStory:
Kucinich to investigate police surveillance of protest groups

"[M]ost people would be upset to know that police were spying on lawful citizens and infiltrating peaceful organizations, rather than chasing down real criminals," said Kucinich in a press release delivered to RAW STORY. "At a minimum, such police spying is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars and a diversion from the mission of protecting and serving the people.

"I want the subcommittee to determine how widespread these activities are and who ordered them," the Ohio Democrat and former presidential candidate said.
Things that frustrate me to no end: The short guy with big ears from Ohio loses out big time to the charming smooth-talker from Chicago. But who's got your back, folks?


Anonymous said...

Sadly, people vote for who they think looks like a winner. The majority of us don't use the space between our ears for much.

Sue J said...

Because I can think of no articulate way to say it:

What the hell is wrong with people?!

donald said...

they just don't think for themselves! they are lead around like cattle anymore. our government is now more interested in controling the people, instead of the people controling our government. i believe they actually want to bred terrorism so they have a platform for controling us all. scary!!

i'm sure this is all fodder for getting us watched as well!

Allie said...

FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) doesn't cover any type of surveillance of US persons within the US. I think people see surveillance and automatically assume it has something to do with US citizens. It doesn't. The closest thing FISA covers to surveillance in the US, are the procedures required to obtain permission to spy on US persons abroad, and only if they're involved with foreign persons possibly linked to terrorism.

I haven't heard a democrat yet who agrees with surveillance of local peace organizations or just plain Joe Blog. I think FISA is vital to our national security.

Sue J said...

Allie, I'm not disagreeing that there is a need for surveillance. My issue with FISA is that it undermines the process of checks and balances that are established in the Constitution.

What you say is true -- it is was created to address foreign communications. However, the FISA Amendments Act that was signed into law on July 10 has negated the power of the courts over the Federal government. Instead of obtaining a warrant for surveillance, the government now needs to present only vague procedures to the court. AND if the court happens to disagree, the government can continue its questionable surveillance while it appeals the court's decision.

The ACLU has a very useful page describing just why the FISA Amendments Act is unconstitutional. I'm all for stopping terrorism -- I just don't want us to lose our constitutional rights as a result. Because if we're so scared that we give up the Constitution, the terrorists have won.

Mauigirl said...

This is very scary stuff...I hope they do investigate it. Why is it Nixon got in so much trouble for what he did and this administration and its minions just get away with everything?

Kucinich is like the voice in the wilderness calling for justice...if only people would heed him.

Sue J said...

Kucinich is like the voice in the wilderness calling for justice...if only people would heed him.

This is the sad state of America today -- instead of supporting him, we mock him. It's shameful.