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Summer 2002 • Vol 2, No. 7 •

USA Patriot Act: Uncle Sam’s Domestic Reign Of Terror


By Art LeClair

What did they know and when did they know it? FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft, right, avoid answers when questioned about 9-11 during a news conference in May. Despite the sidestepping, Congress went on to grant them unheard of police powers. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

alled the U.S.A. Patriot Act, an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” these Draconian laws and regulations have done little to protect the public and have instead been used to target and victimize immigrants and citizens alike.

Kicking off the rally, Nancy Murray, director of the Civil Liberties Task Force, noted that instead of investigating the boondoggle of the so-called “Intelligence Community” including the FBI, CIA, to say nothing of the president himself, who had been warned well in advance of September 11, 2001 that something horrific was going to happen and did nothing, the government is investigating us instead

“The ACLU was formed over 80 years ago during another ‘time of crisis’ known as the first Red Scare. Immigrants and political dissenters were being rounded up, imprisoned and deported without charges or any kind of due process,” Murray told the crowd. “The ACLU’s mission was to make the Bill of Rights a living, breathing reality for all people who live in our country, both citizens and non-citizens. Today we have our work cut out for us,” she concluded.

Where might the new laws lead?

Another speaker, Ken Oye, an assistant professor of political science at MIT reminded those gathered on the Common of another shameful period in American history. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans by the U.S. government. Instead of holding the usual commemoration, we join the Arab-American community which now faces the same oppression and prejudice.”

Boston University Professor Emeritus Howard Zinn asked the crowd; “Have you ever felt like you lived in a country that has been taken over?” Overwhelmingly they responded, “YES!”

The problem, he pointed out, is that; “We’ve been taken over by our own government.” The crowd went wild when Zinn suggested, “Perhaps it is time that we declared our independence from this government.”

He concluded by stating that governments are artificial creations; “The founding fathers stated this. That is why they drafted documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. That’s why the Declaration of Independence tells us that if the government becomes abusive to the people, the people have every right to alter or abolish it.”

Boston City Council member Chuck Turner, who represents Roxbury and North Dorchester, two of the poorest sections of the city told the gathering that the U.S.A. Patriot Act was poorly named. “It should be called the USA Fascist Act,” he said. “George Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft are walking us down the road to fascism,” he added.

“The Act is supposed to stop people from outside the country who might attack us. We cannot allow this to cloud our vision to the reality that we are under attack from within, by the very government that is supposed to protect us,” stated Turner.

The case of Jaoud at Abouazza

On the evening of May 30, Jaoudat Abouazza was pulled over by a Cambridge, Massachusetts police cruiser on the pretext that he committed a minor traffic violation. Without being charged with a crime and without being read his rights by the police officers on the scene, he was arrested, handcuffed, and brought to the Cambridge police station.

In a matter of hours, Mr. Abouazza found himself locked in a jail cell being interrogated by FBI agents for suspicion of “terrorism.” The evidence used to hold Mr. Abouazza? (A) He is a Palestinian, and (B) He was in possession of leaflets calling for the legal, permitted (by the City of Boston) protest of the Israeli Independence Day Festival on June 9th.

During his first days in jail, the FBI questioned Abouazza a total of seven times, several times waking him up in the middle of the night. His court appointed attorney was not present at any of the interrogations. By the time of his appearance in court, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had already filed a papers requiring that Abouazza be held in jail until their agents came to get him.

As a result, he was moved to an INS detention facility in the early morning hours of June 4. At Abouazza’s pre-trial hearing on June 12, a Cambridge district court judge found him in default for failure to attend the proceeding, after a court ordered writ of habeas corpus to ensure his transfer to the courtroom was rejected by the INS, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

On June 16, several members of the “Jaoudat Abouazza Defense Committee” were allowed to visit him while he was detained by the INS at the Bristol County House of Correction in North Dartmouth, Mass. To their amazement and shock, they learned that at approximately 10:00am that same morning, prison guards at the facility forcibly took Mr. Abouazza from his cell and restrained him in a chair while a man wearing a surgical mask forced open his mouth and pulled four teeth!

A broken piece of tooth was left in his jaw, leaving Abouazza in excruciating pain, swollen, bleeding and unable to eat. This vicious attack followed a week of physical assaults by the guards, solitary confinement, numerous threats and repeated epithets of “Taliban” directed at him.

The next morning Bristol County prison officials demanded that Abouazza, who understands little English, sign a form, which he did not understand. When he requested that his attorney review the form before he signed it, Abouazza was again thrown into isolation for non-cooperation.

[Since this article was written, Abouazza has been sent to Canada where he is a citizen.]

Ashcroft targets New York City attorney

On April 9, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment of four “associates” of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, leader of the designated terrorist organization the Islamic Group, who has been serving a life sentence since 1995 for “conspiring to wage a war of terrorism against the United States.”

The blind Egyptian cleric was alleged to be the prime mover behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Among those charged was Lynne Stewart, who was Sheik Abdel-Rahman’s attorney during the trial which resulted in his 1995 conviction. Stewart has been charged with “repeatedly and willfully” violating special administrative measures imposed on the sheik at the time of his imprisonment.

Ashcroft alleges that Stewart, by her actions “allowed Sheik Abdel-Rahman to maintain influence over the terrorist activities of the Islamic Group,” from the confines of his Minnesota prison cell.

According to the indictment, Ms. Stewart has, “unlawfully, willfully and knowingly combined, confederated, and agreed...to provide material support and resources, to a foreign terrorist organization.”

According to Bill Goodman, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, Stewart’s arrest is “a full-scale attack on the Bill of Rights.” The center released a statement saying that the arrest was an attempt to prosecute an attorney for nothing other than mere representation of her client.”

Stewart, a 62 year old radical activist known for taking up unpopular causes and infamous clients, has stated that the time-honored principle of attorney-client privilege will be at the center of her defense.

As a result of this case, Attorney General Ashcroft announced that the Justice Department will monitor all future conversations between the sheik and his attorneys. This marks the first time the government has invoked that provision of the USA Patriot Act.

The National Association of Defense Trial Lawyers has protested the monitoring of attorney-client communications in prisons without court supervision, saying the practice violates the Constitution.

The National Lawyers Guild condemned Stewart’s indictment. In a statement released to the press the day after she was charged, that organization said, “The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects attorney-client privilege, without which there can be no effective assistance of counsel.”

Citing her track record as an advocate for unpopular clients, the statement goes on to say, “The government seems to be singling her (Stewart) out as a poster child for its campaign to justify the unconstitutional monitoring of conversations between lawyers and inmates. This is clearly designed to have a chilling effect on lawyers zealously representing their clients.”

Outside the courthouse, after having been released on $500,000 bail, Stewart said she was ready to fight. “The government has to put up or shut up here! And I don’t think they can put up,” she said. “I’m going to continue to be a lawyer, hopefully, until they carry me out. I’m sincerely hoping it won’t be the U.S. government doing the carrying.”

FBI Criminal Activities Legalized

On May 30, Ashcroft freed the FBI to visit internet sites, churches, libraries and political organizations as part of the government’s effort to give that discredited agency new tools to “prevent further terrorist attacks.”

“It only serves the purpose of heightening the scare in society and the paranoia against Muslims,” says Shaker Elsayed, secretary general of the Muslim American Society.

In reality, the new measures are the codification of the illegal activities of the FBI and other police agencies addressed in the Cointelpro investigations and federal lawsuit in the 1970’s. At that time, working hand in hand with state and local police departments nationwide, the FBI spearheaded the infiltration of anti-Vietnam war organizations, political organizations and social activists on the government’s “enemies list.”

The end result was not just the illegal disruption of political dissent in the United States, but the assassination and murder of dozens of leaders of the Black Panther Party and the frame up and imprisonment of hundreds of members and supporters of the BPP and the American Indian Movement (AIM). Most of these political prisoners, including such notables as Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier remain behind bars to this day.

As the so-called “war on terrorism” unfolds, we can only prepare ourselves for the further whipping up of the campaign of fear that is the centerpiece for the U.S. ruling class agenda for the next period. According to several Middle East sources, U.S. combat troops are already on the ground in Northern Iraq, preparing for operations in that country modeled on the war against the people of Afghanistan.

Clearly immigrants will continue to be a primary focus of the attacks on civil liberties. Across the country literally hundreds of airport workers have been dismissed because they “aren’t Americans.” The number of “detainees” will also increase as Bush’s McCarthyite witch-hunt gathers momentum.

In light of the dismal failure of the entire U.S. “intelligence community” in the days leading up to September 11, and the Bush administration’s refusal to investigate the incompetence or indifference of various government agencies prior to the attacks, the search for scapegoats will need bolstering. I’m confident of the fed’s capabilities in that area.





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