Posted by CODEPINK Staff
by Tamara Cushway
I recently watched the movie J. Edgar, a biography of the J. Edgar Hoover/FBI story. The most memorable moment was the scene of Hoover addressing a crowd after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. After Hoover gives a rousing speech about the lack of any competent tracking system for criminals in the United States and pushes for tougher laws on surveillance of American citizens, the crowd applauds uproariously. Hoover started a new wave of intelligence gathering on radical groups, individuals and "subversives." His methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, and planted evidence. Whether the shock of the Lindbergh kidnapping had anything to do with the acceptance of Hoover’s attack on civil liberties is up to historians to decide but a pattern does emerge—when tragic events occur in our history, there is always some equally horrible backlash which threaten our civil rights in a way that is nothing short of dangerous.
After the attacks on 9/11, the United States hastily passed the Patriot Act, as well as other draconian laws which were readily accepted by millions of Americans as if there would be no future consequences. In December 2011, the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) was passed through a signing statement by the Obama administration. The signing of this act was no surprise-the National Defense Authorization Act itself has been signed into law every year.
One of its main objectives is to allow the government to continue funding national security interests and the military. Among the numerous disappointments in the NDAA, is contained within sub-sections 1021 and 1022, which deal with the Indefinite Detention of persons, including U.S. citizens, the government suspects of involvement in terrorism. The detention sections of the NDAA are an extension of the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) which was passed after the 9/11 attacks.
Despite the push-back by some politicians, (Dianne Feinstein among others) to remove the provisions which allow the government to detain US citizens, the bill was passed. The ACLU raised its concerns at the legal implications of this act, specifically, the President’s authority to hold those who the government claim to be terrorists indefinitely, which could include U.S. citizens arrested on American soil, including arrests by members of the Armed Forces. The future implications of this bill could not be clearer. I predict a chilling effect on organizations that challenge the government’s policies or in the case of Bradley Manning, actually expose the government for conducting illegal activities.
As for the Guantanamo detainees who languish indefinitely in prison, the United States will continually be viewed as utter hypocrites in the eyes of the Middle East and the entire world as we preach to them about democracy and the rule of law, and then keep detainees locked up for years, if not indefinitely. The outcry from the so-called “constitutional purists” on the right (and the left) in Congress could not be more tepid. Sadly, the enactment of these “tough on crime” laws set legal precedents and are viewed by many Americans as the “cost of freedom” in order that we may live in a free society. How ironic.
As a member of Code Pink and Women Occupy who practice non-violent civil disobedience, I have to ask, at what point does civil disobedience becomes a “terrorist threat?” Am I being paranoid to think that there may come a time when any civil disobedience will be viewed as a threat to national security? And what will the consequences be if certain protest organizations are label as “domestic terrorists”? Indefinite imprisonment? Witness the latest scenes of Occupy Wall Street in New York and Oakland and the violent treatment and mass arrests of young protesters and you may be able to envision a day when people exercising their 1st amendment rights may be viewed as terrorist threats.
Code Pink, Women Occupy and other progressive and peace organizations will continue to raise our voices against these laws and persuade cities and municipalities to create laws to counter all future threats to our individual civil rights and demand an end to indefinite detention for Americans and non-Americans. These laws are not in keeping with the vision our founding fathers had for this country. As we wait for these changes, we must have action and continue to expose the federal government for being the threat that it truly is.