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Welcoming the Summer Soldier and Sunshine Patriot: Suppressing Dissent in America

December 31st, 2010 - by admin

David Model / Op Ed News – 2010-12-31 18:24:12


(December 26, 2010) — Zealously hunting for a rationale to indict Julian Assange for the Wikileaks documents reveals the obsession of presidents to suppress information exposing improper or illegal conduct. They treat the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment as privileges to be withdrawn when those freedoms threaten to cause them a serious problem. Their pretext for their response is to blur the distinction between subversion and dissent.

Together with the suppression of individual freedoms, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, unwarranted search and seizures, assassination squads, harsh response to protests and the designation enemy combatant are part of a security regime that leads Americans on a dangerous path to tyrannical government, some might even say dictatorship. Ironically, the structure of American democracy was heavily based on the fear of monarchies and the accumulation of too much power at the highest levels of government.

A healthy democracy is based on an open society with a free exchange of ideas and tolerance of dissent where seeking the truth is considered the noblest pursuit. John Adams warned us about the dangers of tyranny even in a democracy when he uttered the words: “The Jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arms always stretched out if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook postulates a far grimmer scenario when he claimed that: “All the checks and balances that the founding fathers constructed to restrain presidential power are broken instruments.”

At the extreme end of the spectrum are those who believe that the United States is becoming or is a police state. Naomi Wolf, author and political consultant, argues that: “It is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps [to becoming a fascist state] have already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.” As well, Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, worries that: “It is no exaggeration to say we are moving toward a police state.”

There have been numerous attempts since 1798 to suppress dissent in the United States but in recent years the sophistication of technology, a corroborative media, a climate of fear and the abdication by Congress of its critical role as a check on the powers of the president, not to mention its collaboration in the expansion of his powers, has resulted in significantly greater powers of the chief executive to suppress dissent.

Previous attempts to suppress dissent usually occurred when perceived internal or external threats induced fear over the security of the state in the same way that terrorism justifies the extreme security measures that are in place today.

When the United States was on the brink of war with France in 1798, the Federalist Party passed the Alien and Sedition Acts to safeguard the union from internal threats. The Alien Act targeted immigrants who might side with France and the Sedition Act criminalized malicious writings which defamed, brought into contempt or disrepute, or excited the hatred of the people against the Government, the President, or the Congress, or which stirred people to sedition.

Then in 1962, President Lincoln facing an armed rebellion within the United States suspended habeas corpus, the foundation of all the freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

During the outset of the civil war, President Lincoln, facing riots and hostile militias, particularly in Maryland, suspended Habeas Corpus in Maryland and parts of some mid-western states. Article 1, Section 9 of the constitution prohibits the suspension of Habeas Corpus “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it”. Since Section 9 refers to Congressional powers, Lincoln’s decision was very controversial.

President Wilson signed the Espionage Act into law in 1917 which criminalized vaguely defined anti-war activities such as gathering information with the intention to injure the United States or with the intention of promoting its enemies during World War 1. It was followed by the Sedition Act of 1918 which defined as illegal acts defaming the American flag or the uniforms of military forces.

During Word War II, President Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 granting the military the power to create internment camps to hold all persons of Japanese ancestry for the duration of the war.

Other attempts to suppress dissent include the FBI Cointelpro program which appallingly authorized the assassination of suspected internal threats to American security and the harsh treatment of protestors at various events including the 1968 Chicago Convention, Berkley sit-ins and Kent State.

Since 9/11, civil, political and legal rights both nationally and internationally have been severely curtailed all in the name of protecting the security of the United States.

One of the cornerstones of the emerging quasi-police state in America is the Patriot Act which grants agents of the state the powers to treat ordinary American citizens as suspected terrorists if, in their judgment, there is reasonable cause.

US government officials can now name individuals as terrorists without a public hearing, conduct search and seizures in private homes, tap telephone lines, subpoena anyone’s telephone, medical and university records without any real legal obstacles.

Surreally, it expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism, enlarging the scope of activities to which the Patriot act implies. Since its passage, Americans can be detained indefinitely under the aegis of the Patriot Act. In addition, it granted immigration authorities the power to detain and deport immigrants.

Congress overwhelmingly supported passage of the original and reauthorization Bills with the Senate voting 98 in favor in 2001 and 89 in favor in 2006. In the House, 357 voted in favor in 2001 and 280 in favor in 2006.

On February 2010, President Obama signed into law, legislation that would temporarily extend for one year three controversial provisions of the Act.

In contrast, there was sharp opposition in Congress to the Sedition Act of 1798. Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the entire Democratic-Republican Party condemned the Act as unconstitutional. As well, there was strong public opposition to the Sedition Act.

When Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, the press and Supreme Court opposed it as unconstitutional. Congress called an emergency session to introduce a bill to provide indemnity for President Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus although the democrats strongly opposed the suspension. The press demanded that the suspension be tested in the courts to determine its validity.

President Wilson’s introduction of sedition legislation in 1918 met with considerable opposition from Republicans and the final vote in the Senate was 48 to 26 and in the House 293 to 1 in favor. Congress repealed the Sedition Act on December 13, 1920.

Although the Sedition Act was upheld in the Supreme Court in Abrams v. United States in 1919, it was subsequently considered unconstitutional in cases such as Bradenburg v. Ohio in 1969 which virtually rendered it extremely unlikely that similar legislation would be considered again.

Massive popular non-violent protests acting within the law are a key mechanism for communicating to the administration and Congress that there is opposition to government policies. Clearly, first amendment rights protect the protesters from intimidation, harassment or detention by agents of the state.

Following the principle that First Amendment rights are only privileges, President Obama mobilized all the resources at his command to ensure that protesters at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh were denied an opportunity to deliver their message and furthermore he precipitated a deterrent to dissuade people from participating in future demonstrations. Highly militarized police from across the nation attacked the protestors with batons, pepper gas and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)

In all the above pre-9/11 examples involving the suspension of civil, legal and political rights, there was strong opposition and the above-mentioned Acts were short-lived. There was no danger that those security measures would lead to a permanent and growing abrogation of constitutional rights.

Dissent has always been fragile but is now becoming a security threat that requires an immediate and harsh response. Without dissent, there is no democracy. Just ask Julian Assange.

Author’s Bio: I have been a professor of political science at Seneca College in Toronto. I have published five books the last of which Selling Out: Consuming Ourselves to Death was released in May/08. As well, I have been featured in CounterPunch, Z Magazine,Dissenting Voice and College Quarterly. Additionally, I have delivered numerous papers at international academic conferences including Cambridge and Oxford. Author’s Website: http://consuming-ourselves.blogspot/

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

What WikiLeaks Revealed to the World in 2010

December 31st, 2010 - by admin

Glenn Greenwald / Salon – 2010-12-31 18:16:34


(December 25, 2010) — Throughout this year, I’ve devoted substantial attention to WikiLeaks, particularly in the last four weeks as calls for its destruction intensified. To understand why I’ve done so, and to see what motivates the increasing devotion of the US Government and those influenced by it to destroying that organization, it’s well worth reviewing exactly what WikiLeaks exposed to the world just in the last year: the breadth of the corruption, deceit, brutality and criminality on the part of the world’s most powerful factions.

As revealing as the disclosures themselves are, the reactions to them have been equally revealing. The vast bulk of the outrage has been devoted not to the crimes that have been exposed but rather to those who exposed them: WikiLeaks and (allegedly) Bradley Manning.

A consensus quickly emerged in the political and media class that they are Evil Villains who must be severely punished, while those responsible for the acts they revealed are guilty of nothing. That reaction has not been weakened at all even by the Pentagon’s own admission that, in stark contrast to its own actions, there is no evidence — zero — that any of WikiLeaks’ actions has caused even a single death. Meanwhile, the American establishment media — even in the face of all these revelations — continues to insist on the contradictory, Orwellian platitudes that (a) there is Nothing Newâ„¢ in anything disclosed by WikiLeaks and (b) WikiLeaks has done Grave Harm to American National Securityâ„¢ through its disclosures.

It’s unsurprising that political leaders would want to convince people that the true criminals are those who expose acts of high-level political corruption and criminality, rather than those who perpetrate them. Every political leader would love for that self-serving piety to take hold. But what’s startling is how many citizens and, especially, “journalists” now vehemently believe that as well. In light of what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world about numerous governments, just fathom the authoritarian mindset that would lead a citizen — and especially a “journalist” — to react with anger that these things have been revealed; to insist that these facts should have been kept concealed and it’d be better if we didn’t know; and, most of all, to demand that those who made us aware of it all be punished (the True Criminals) while those who did these things (The Good Authorities) be shielded:

Wikileaks Releases Video Depicting US Forcs Killing of Two Reuters Journalists in Iraq.
— Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2010

‘Ha Ha, I Hit’em’: Top Secret Video Showing US Helicopter Piltos Gunning Down 12 Civilians in Baghdad Attack Leaked Online.
Daily Mail, April 7, 2010:

Iraq War Logs: Secret Order that Let US Ignore Abuse
— The Guardian, October 22, 2010

Iraq War Logs Reveal 15,000 Previously Unlisted Civilian Deaths
— The Guardian, October 22, 2010

Clinton Ordered American Diplomats to Spy on UN Officials
— Foreign Policy, November 29, 2010:

Obama and GOPers Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe
— Mother Jones, December 1, 2010:

US Maneuvered to Stop High Court Cases
American embassy issued threats over the cases of ‘Guantanamo’, ‘Couso’ and ‘CIA flights’ – Politicians and Spanish prosecutors collaborated on the strategy
— El Pais, November 30, 2010:

The Day that Barack Obama Lied to Me.
— Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Inquirer, responding to the cables from Spain, December 1, 2010:

US Pressured Germany Not to Prosecute CIA Officers for Torture and Rendition.
— ACLU, November 20, 2010:

The CIA’s El-Mosri Abduction: Cables Show Germany Caved to Pressure from Washington.
— Der Spiegel, December 9, 2010:

Yemeni President Lied about US Strikes.
— Sydney Morning Herald, November 29, 2010:

Contrary to Public Statements, Obama Admin Fueled Conflict in Yemen
— Salon, December 9, 2010:

Wikileaks: India ‘Tortured’ Kashmir Prisoners
— BBC, December 17, 2010:

UK Training Bangladesh ‘Death Squad’
— BBC, December 22, 2010:

UK Agreed to Shield US Interests in Iraq Probe: WikiLeaks
— Reuters, December, 1, 2010:

Wikileaks: Pope Refused to Cooperate in Sex Abuse Investigation.
— MSNBC, December 11, 2010:

Wikileaks, Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.
— The Guatemala Times, November 28, 2010:

WikiLeaks: China Behind Google Hack
— CBS News, November 29, 2010:

WikiLeaks Cables: US Special Forces Working Inside Pakistan
— The Guardian, November 30, 2010:

Wikileaks Reveal the Obvious Dangers of Afghanistan
— Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, July 27, 2010

Afghanistan War Logs: Massive Leak of Secret Files Exposes Truth of Occupation.
— The Guardian, July 25, 2010

Those are just some of the truths that led WikiLeaks — and whoever the leaker(s) is — to sacrifice their own interests in order to disclose these secrets to the world.

Author’s Bio: For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot Act?, a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

War: What If Christians Took Jesus at His Word?

December 31st, 2010 - by admin

Sylvia Clute/ Genuine Justice & Op Ed News – 2010-12-31 18:11:41


NEW ORLEANS (December 26, 2010) — In November, more than 400 Christians gathered in New Orleans for the Centennial Gathering of the National Council of Churches (NCC). One focus of their work was to grapple with a paper on “Christian Understanding of War in an Age of Terror(ism).” The issue is how to reconcile allegiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ with serving in the military, especially when ordered to engage in military actions that are believed to be inconsistent with Jesus’ message.

This is not a new dilemma. The teachings of Jesus have perplexed those engaged in military action and war from the time of Constantine the Great (circa 280 – 337 CE), the first the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian. As the emperor, he used his armies as his means to sustain control of the Roman Empire. As a Christian ruler unwilling to give up his armies, he needed to reconcile the teachings of Christ with militarism. This is what the Just War Doctrine purports to do.

The inception of the Just War Doctrine as church law is traced to the theologian Augustine in the fifth century, although he drew upon established Roman practices and the tradition of punitive justice that extended back to well before the time of Moses. While probably the original intent was to limit war, or control the conditions of war, in so doing, it has had the significant effect of condoning war.

The doctrine holds that war is moral if it is executed in accordance with certain tests that Augustine defined as follows: right authority, a just cause, right intent, the prospect of success, proportionality of good to evil done, and that war is a last resort. The problem with these tests is this: any aggressor, by his own measure, can claim to have met them all.

The test of right authority is easily met if the aggressor is a state. A just cause, from the aggressor’s perspective, is a given. The prospect of success is often pure speculation for which little objective evidence is likely to exist.

Proportionality of good to evil done is a matter of perspective based upon what interests are at stake. That war is a last resort has been claimed even when the enemy is not planning an attack, as in the Iraq War. Each test being subjective, the Just War Doctrine provides a form, without substance, for justifying war.

The fact that the Just War Doctrine does not include the question, “Are you doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?” is not an oversight — it is a test that war cannot pass. As a result, rather than providing a safe haven for the oppressed, the church has too often accommodated the state by permitting church doctrine to serve the aggressor.

But it seems like there might be a shift occurring, with more Christians questioning this doctrine than in the past. Section 4 of the NCC report on understanding war, a section entitled “Tending to the Injury of War and Supporting Christian Discernment and Conscience,” urges Christian churches to “much more vigorously stand with their members in the military who seek to follow church teaching. Churches should energetically support their members in uniform who face disciplinary measures for refusing to work with certain weapons systems or participate in particular military campaigns.”

The report encourages churches to appeal to the US government to establish selective conscientious objector status. “Without such status Christians may be assigned to work with nuclear weapons or be pressed to perform other duties that violate their conscience.”

The report states that churches should provide clear teaching about the moral danger of participating in military actions that are deemed to be unjust.

“Given the immense tension and contradictions of trying to both follow the One who died on the cross for his enemies and being an active participant in the largest military enterprise in world history, some churches may join their voices with the churches of former East Germany and counsel their members to choose conscientious objection as ‘the clearer witness’ of God’s call to peacemaking.”

For 2,000 years many Christians have resolved the conflict between Christ’s teachings and war in favor of war. We know what the world looks like when that has been the choice. Imagine what the world might look like if Christians actually took Jesus at his word.

Attorney, author, blogger and former trial attorney Sylvia Clute became disillusioned with the legal system and turned to writing books. She had authored Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for a Compassionate Revolution, and a novel, Destiny Unveiled. A pioneer in legal reform, she spearheaded changes in Virginia’s laws relating to women and children. She holds an MA in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law, and an MA in Public Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia. Author’s Website: www.sylviaclute.com

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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