|what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that. There never is."
We should watch what we say. We should watch what we do.
These arrogant and alarming comments were later said to be “taken out of context” by the media, and eventually COMPLETELY ERASED from the official transcripts of the White House briefing. In reality, the above statements were not taken out of context at all. On that overcast day in Washington, the White House spokesman delivered a verbal blueprint of the tyranny that is to visit the American people. While the media lulled the people to sleep, the government began a steady and systematic series of events whose purpose and end result was the same: the elimination of American civil liberties.
Months later, the first step was complete. The USA Patriot Act was passed overwhelmingly by Congress, giving the federal government unbelievable new authority to pilfer through our library records, credit card purchases, and even our personal computer hard drives. Democrats and Republicans came together in true modern bipartisan spirit to create a police state that tyrants like Hitler and Mao would salivate over. Now, no probable cause was needed to ransack a typical American’s home for “evidence”. A judge presiding over a “secret court” was now dispensing search warrants and American justice. Why was this atrocious bill passed by both political parties and signed into law by the President? To protect our freedom from the terrorists, of course. Never mind the fact that the Patriot Act (and its horrifying contents) wasn’t listed in the newspapers for public consideration. Never mind the fact that the men and women who signed this abomination into law didn’t even read it. Never mind the fact that the very premise of the Act completely violates the US Constitution! The message was loud and clear: The federal government has the “legal” authority to monitor your actions, purchases, and day to day habits. So watch what you do.
Fast forward to November 2001. For America, it was a time of healing and recovering from the 9/11 attacks, and the people were being subjected to some of the most intense propaganda since the days of World War II. From every mainstream newspaper, radio and television station, the power of democracy was touted as the only thing that could save the world from terrorists. After all, wasn’t it our freedoms that the terrorists were jealous of? Behind the scenes, however, the President, who proclaimed publicly to the world the virtue of democratic government, was actually working to destroy it. How? By overturning the Presidential Records Act, which was signed into law by Congress in 1978. The act served as a means of restoring public accountability to the federal government. After suffering terrible losses of credibility after the Nixon administration, Congress passed the law, which released to the public the President’s personal records 12 years after his final day in office. Essentially, the Act provided the American people with a certain transparency, a certain visibility of how the President spent his time. Whom he met, what he said, and what he was thinking. On November 1, 2001, however, this era of Presidential visibility came to a grinding halt when President Bush signed Executive Order 13,233, which gave the Commander In Chief the power to veto at will any and all portions of his record. This eliminates any future accountability of the President’s actions while in office. This eliminates all potential accounts of meetings with private and public figures, both legitimate and illegitimate. In short, this Executive Order allows the President the authority to act as he pleases, regardless of issues of legality. It allows any future President the luxury of not worrying about the pesky public finding out about what he might be up to, and is a huge blow to those of us who demand accountability in government. It was also a message to the people that the Executive branch of government was going to be operating in as much secrecy as the judicial, and those “democratic” principles were being sacrificed in order to save democracy itself. (To further underscore this point, John Ashcroft followed suit this past October, advising various federal agencies to disallow use the Freedom of Information Act -an equivalent of the Presidential Records Act- when American citizens made information inquiries.) The second step was now complete, and the message was clear: we have the legal authority to not be held accountable for our actions. So watch what you say.
Now, let’s move ahead to November of 2002. It was time for the third, most powerful step to be implemented. In the late stages of last year, both parties of the House and Senate came together again to overwhelmingly pass The Homeland Security Act. The bill created the Homeland Security Department, which operated as a cabinet position, under orders of the President. This new Agency was given vast new spy and information gathering powers, and directly targets the American people. In the name of the homeland, the government can now: gather huge amounts of information on groups and individuals via corporate, private, and government databases, allow for federal agencies to meet in secret, and further erode and invalidate the Freedom of Information Act. It also shields corporations who produce technology or medicines for the government from lawsuits (see vaccine manufacturers), and increases the powers of the federal government to declare national emergencies. So you can now be legally targeted and profiled anywhere and everywhere you leave an information trail. At churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. At hospitals, restaurants, and through digital cable boxes. Through purchases via credit card, and by differences in the amount of bank deposits/withdrawals from previous months. Through websites you visit and emails you read and send. If you take a smallpox vaccine and become ill or die, the government will not allow you or your family to sue the manufacturer…even if the shot is REQUIRED! Freedom of Information Act requests can also be denied much easier. All in the name of stopping the terrorists. So, again, the establishment says we must destroy America in order to save it. We must destroy freedom at home to save it abroad.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the bill is the creation of the Homeland Security Department as the domestic law enforcement entity that will “deal with” any suspected terrorists…A national police force with almost unlimited power and zero accountability to the public. A horror unseen in the United States, and reminiscent of Hitler’s SS. To review: First, the federal government creates expanded and unconstitutional laws whose main purpose is to spy on the average American citizen. For the second step, it almost completely shields itself from public accountability. Then, it expands further its unconstitutional powers, and creates a domestic national police to enforce said laws. The message becomes all too clear: we have the means to create and enforce our laws, and you have little legal recourse to stop us, so watch what you do. Watch what you say.
Tonight, as I am writing this, I wonder, as the long shadows of doubt are cast over the latest media propaganda, what it is we are fighting for overseas. Certainly not freedom, for we are losing it at home. Certainly not “democracy”, for the powers that be have no regard for the people or public accountability that is alleged to coincide with democracy. At least the Romans were able to fight for the glory of Rome. At least the Egyptians conquered for their Pharaoh. Who is it that we conquer for? The two-party system? The glory of Washington DC? The multinational corporations? For what purpose are we spilling American blood abroad? For what reason do we send our relatives and friends to war? It certainly isn’t freedom.
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|The Night of Long Shadows: Fighting for Freedom Abroad while losing it at Home
By Kevin Newsom
Shortly after the tragedy of September 11, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer delivered an amazing speech. In it, he discussed numerous topics, but rarely strayed far from the administration’s reactions to and plans for the coming war on terrorism. Then, a chance event occurred. When asked to comment on TV shock comedian Bill Mahr’s controversial statements concerning terrorists (which resulted in a loss of sponsors and his eventual firing), the President’s mouthpiece admitted a chilling new direction of American policy regarding freedom of speech. "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say,