PART 7: OBSESSION WITH NATIONAL SECURITY
Librarian Takes on Patriot Act: And Wins
By Brandon and Jeffrey
Editors' Notes by Daniel and Jeffrey
This particular post was originally written on April 12, 2005. At the time we wrote it, we had no idea that it might actually qualify as an essay in a series about the 14 characteristics of fascism. Indeed, in April 2005, there was some doubt as to whether or not the Patriot Act would be renewed. As it turns out, President Bush, despite promises that he made in 2001 that such Draconian measures would be temporary, has now decided that they should be permanent, and the Patriot Act, with only minor amendments has been tragically approved.
Why does that not surprise us? The Neocon agenda has never been all that sympathetic to civil liberties. Indeed, it seems as if only one Senator, our own Russ Feingold from right here in the State of Wisconsin, was the only Senator who even bothered to read this right wing abomination. Had the other 99 Senators bothered to have done so they would have realized that the Patriot Act was nothing more than a wish list for just abut every repressive measure that the GOP has been hoping for since the Nixon Administration.
When you think about it, the legislation was produced rather quickly--too quickly-- which tells me that it had been sitting on a back shelf somewhere waiting for the right opportunity to exploit.
In many ways this reminds me of what happened on 28 February 1933--the day after the Reichstadt Fire in Nazi Germany. Never one to let a good opportunity slip by, then Chancellor Hitler went to President Hindenburg, asking that the aged president sign a decree for the "Protection of the People and the State. To quote William L. Shirer's masterpiece, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH: A HISTORY OF NAZI GERMANY (1959-1960, Simon and Schuster), the decree stipulated that:
"... restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.
"In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence on a number of crimes, including 'serious disturbances of the peace' by armed persons."
Now where have we seen this before? A national tragedy being used as an excuse to limit civil liberties. Oh, Jeeze. I don't know. You think maybe it might be in the Bush administration and their Orwellian named Patriot Act?
On the other hand, not all of the news is bad news. As a result of efforts liberty-loving librarians and a concerned American public, our elected officials may well drop the library related provisions in the Patriot Act--even if they haven't quite risen to the level of true patriotism and decided to scrub the entire act and its misbegotten spawn, Patriot Act Part II. Here, fellow readers, is an example of a plucky little lady and how she defied actions which could have easily led to an invocation intellectual repression. Here is Brandon's Post from 12 April 2005. It is called ....
2005 PEN/NEWMAN OWN AMENDMENT AWARD GOES TO COURAGEOUS LIBRARIAN
This year's winner of the 2005 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award is Joan Airoldi, of the Whatcom County Rural Library District in Washington State! Airoldi, who serves as a librarian and library director at the family home-sized library in rural Whatcom County, Washington had the courage to stand up to an FBI officer who demanded the names of all local patrons who had borrowed the book Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. According to the FBI, a reader had contacted the FBI after discovering the following, handwritten note in the margin of the book:
"If the things I'm doing is (sic) considered a crime then let history be a witness that I am a criminal. Hostility towards America is a religious duty and we hope to be rewarded by God."
As it turned out, the quote paralleled certain comments that bin Laden had made in a 1998 interview. As a librarian and library director Airoldi believed that she had a duty to protect the privacy of her patrons, opting to defend the right to read without government scrutiny. Acting on conscience, Airoldi and the library refused to turn over the information, informing the FBI agent that the information would not be turned over without a court order or subpoena. In a subsequent
action the library board voted to fight any further action in court.
You guessed it. On June 18, 2004 a grand jury issued a subpoena demanding the names and other identifying information of every patron which had borrowed the Bin Laden biography since November 15, 2001. True to its word the library board held a special meeting at which it resolved to proceed with a motion to quash the subpoena on the grounds that it interfered with the patrons' First Amendment rights. According to Airoldi and the board, libraries not only have to disseminate information; they also have a right and a duty to do so confidentially without the fear of disclosure.
Moreover, the board and Airoldi believed that Washington State law protected the confidentiality of the patron's records. According to Airoldi, "Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek whatever information they want to pursue without any threat of governmental intervention." A few weeks later, on July 14, the library received word that the FBI had withdrawn the grand jury subpoena.
Airoldi [was] honored at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on April 20 of this year. At that time also [received] PEN's $25,000 prize in recognition of her successful effort to organize and guide the library's effort against governmental intrusion into the personal lives of the library's patrons. According to PEN Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems: "What Joan Airoldi and her staff and Board did, standing up to an unwarranted intrusion by federal agents into the privacy of ordinary Americans, was heroic in itself. At the same time their success vividly illustrates why the protections states and courts have carved out for reading are so essential."
Ironically, if the FBI agent had arrived with a Patriot Act order the library would not have been allowed to challenge the request. Moreover, if the FBI obtained a Section 215 order from the Secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the infringement into the readers personal lives would have proceeded without restraint. Worse yet, the patrons would not have been informed as to the fact that supposedly private information was being viewed by agents of the United States government.
"For years and long before the Patriot Act passed, law enforcement agents have shown an unconstitutional interest in what people are reading," said Siems. It was librarians who helped bring an end to the FBI's infamous Library Awareness Program during the Cold War and who led efforts to pass library confidentiality protections in 48 of 50 states. Joan Airoldi and her staff and board acted in this great, professional tradition in a fearful time and extremely charged atmosphere. We are honored to be able to salute her and the Whatcom County Library System."
This year's judges included: novelist Maureen Howard; author and Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy; Marjorie Jeins, Coordinator of the Free Expression Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law and Paul McMasters, First Amendment Ombudsman at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center.
The Penn/Newman's Own First Amendment Award was created as a joint effort between author, A. E. Hotchner and actor, Paul Newman as a means to honor those individuals who fight courageously for First Amendment rights and who stand up during difficult times to protect freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression in regards to the written word.
Editors' notes by Daniel and Jeffrey
As it turned out the highly repressive Bush Administration had in fact been surveiling our emails and phone calls, collecting data bases of the people we call and who call us, and snooping through our financial records. It kind of makes you wonder--are they worried about securit or are they trying to obatin a shit list with which they can blackmail potential opponents? Judging from the way they evicerate the opposition with little regard for the truth, is it really going too far to wonder if they would collect dirt on anyone and everyone who might potntially disagree with them?
Don't answer. That was a rhetorical question
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH: A HISTORY OF NAZI GERMANY
By William L. Shrier
1959, 1960 Simon and Schuster
2001 Version, Complete
Privacy Information Center
Librarian Who Fought FBI Search of Patron Records to Receive
2005 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award
From Penn America Center
Patriot Act smackdown: Librarians 1, FBI 0
By Peter Pollack
June 27, 2006
From ars technica
POWER CORRUPTS BUSH ABSOLUTELY
By Brian and Kyle
"Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end....liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition. "
Historian Lord Acton.
We should be so proud. We have a President who should either be impeached for an abuse of power, or who should be removed from office by reason of diminished mental capacity, (i.e. megalomania). The idea that this president wants to protect us is laughable at best and delusional at the very worst.
The fact of the matter is that Bush has already confessed to having broken a federal law, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. True, FISA does allow for the surveillance of American citizens --when they are communicating outside the United States to potentially dangerous groups or individuals, but before that can happen you actually have to acquire a so called FISA warrant; you actually have to prove some kind of probable cause before you can do monitor an American citizen. And (surprise, surprise) Bush did not do this. He just went ahead, acting on yet another faith-based, internal impulse, and used the situation to satisfy his insatiable craving for personal power.
Let's not forget that we really don't know who's being monitored here. For all we know, Bush and his lackeys could be listening to American citizens for domestic, political reasons which have nothing to do with national security. That seems plausible when you consider the fact criticism of any kind represents a threat to national security in the Demander and Thief's irrational thought process. We are, after all, dealing with a President who cannot and will not admit that he ever made a mistake, and who views political criticism as a form of treasonous behavior. And when you're dealing with someone whose thought process (or lack thereof) is that rigid and that paranoid, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that he's monitoring whoever he thinks may represent a political threat, not just a security threat.
That may sound trivial to some, but we need a little perspective here. Previous wars (conventional wars), have a beginning, a middle, and an end. But according to the Demander and Thief, this war is different. This war may well go on for a century. No one seriously believed that the Civil War, the World Wars, or Korea, or Vietnam would go on for a hundred years. In the case of World War II, the end result might have been in question until Hitler's failed invasion of Russia, but there was no doubt that it would eventually end. The so called war on terror, however, could go on indefiitely, and during that time we could be raising generation after generation, after generation of children who will be raised to believe that the government has a right to invade our privacy, that the Constitution is a meaningless piece of paper. That's an awfully big risk to take with our civil liberties. The "conservatives" will probably raise the frightening possibility of another terrorist attack, but there is another way to look at that. Terrorists, by the very nature of their violent acts, seek to change the behavior of the nation they are terrorizing. Well, friends and neighbors, if we act out of fear (or a craving for personal power), if we trample personal liberties and reconfigure our Constitutional rights then we have played right into the terrorists' hands--we have changed our behavior and given them a psychological victory; and yet the Bush Administration claims that it both, wants to protect us and protect our civil liberties, when it has little interest in doing either.
If Bush had been serious about protecting us, he would have gone to the Congress and asked for an extension of the FISA provisions. In the days following 911--before we learned that our dysfunctional mediocrity was a congenital liar-- he had the sympathy and the adoration of just about everyone on the face of the planet. At that point in time, Bush could have easily easily asked for an amendment of the FISA provisions. But yet again, Bush didn't bother to play by the rules. Instead of following clear and legal guidelines which would have given him most of what he sought, he again acted as if her were an American dictator. We're sure that some right wingers will claim that a public debate with the Legislative branch would have tipped off potential terrorists, but let's get real. The terrorists aren't as stupid as some people on the right think they are. One of the most interesting characteristics about this administration is that key members don't know how to keep their mouths shut. They're so interested in protecting the president's political popularity that they won't do anything (at least in public) that would threaten his reputation. To that end we saw a number of trial balloons after 911 which were designed to test and poll the attitudes of the American people.* We heard outlandish ideas about collecting files of information on every single Americans (a project that would have been headed by convicted liar, John Poindexter); planting phony news articles in American and foreign papers; the United States Senate passed the Patriot Act by a margine if 99 to 1 without bothering to read what it actually said. If anyone thinks that a potential terrorist wasn't taking steps to cover his or her deeds in the light of all that, then we really have to question the intelligence of the right wingers who were doubting the intelligence of the terrorists.
In other words, it wouldn't have mattered one way or the other if the American people had been informed through a public debate or not, simply because the terrorists would have automatically assumed that they were being monitored in the first place.
So, why didn't Bush bother to get a FISA warrant?
The answer is obvious.
A so-called FISA warrant requires that the person seeking the warrant actually show some kind of probable cause. There actually has to be a good reason to suspect that the person you want to monitor poses a serious a threat. For the past week we've been hearing the conservative mantra about how the President has more information at his disposal than the Legislative body. Well, if he had that much information at his disposal, then why didn't he take it to the FISA court, show probable cause, and get warrants for wire taps?
The fact that failed to do so only shows that he didn't have enough information to prove probable cause. Once again, the Demander and Thief acted on impulse with little to no concern about what may be going on in the real world.
You just have to wonder: What kind of a nightmare world does Bush envision? We've already talked about how surveillance like this, how a repression of privacy rights and other civil liberties causes a self censorship on the part of the American people. Do we really want to find ourselves in a position where we watch what we say with friends and relatives? Do we really want to create a climate of fear and distrust in the name of security which will only stifle political debate and leave the American people frightened to oppose governmental policy? That's what happened in the Soviet Union, where the Soviet people, terrified by the idea of secret surveillance and governmental retaliation, essentially censored their behavior in both the private and public arenas. Why, if you didn't know better, you'd think that Bush and his Neocon advisers had been fighting the Cold War for so long, that they have become the enemy that they once hated the most.)
Sadly, we have a president who doesn't care about anyone nor anything except himself. He hasn't grown nor matured a bit since he was 30 years old and he took his little Brother Marvin on a drunken joy ride, cruising around the neighborhood knocking down mailboxes with baseball bats. Only now the Demander and Thief isn't knocking down mailboxes. Now he's knocking down Constitutional provisions which have kept us safe and secure for more than 200 years. Violations by past presidents were bad enough, but this president craves power in the same way that a heroin addict craves a regular fix; and he he needs more and more of his drug of choice just to achieve the same repressive effect.)
Considering his inability to learn from mistakes; his aversion to playing by the rules; his proclivity for violating laws and constitutional provisions as he sees fit, all coupled with his increasingly erratic behavior, it might just be time to initate those impeachment procedings that the far right had been clamoring for in the late 90s. Failing that, we might ask that he submit himself to a rigorous psychiatric exam to determine whether or not he is a full blown megalomaniac.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Judge Rules Against Wiretaps