Eroding Liberties

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Jim Spickard's University of Redlands Website

Eroding Civil Liberties



-- J.S.

The last few months have seen a systematic erosion of civil liberties unlike anything proposed since the Nixon era -- and unlike anything seen since the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.  

This page is dedicated to exposing elements of that erosion.  Please visit over the next few months as I add information and analysis.

bulletRonald Dworkin: "The Threat to Patriotism" (New York Review of Books, 2/28/02)
bullet"What has al-Qaeda done to our Constitution, and to our national standards of fairness and decency? Since September 11, the government has enacted legislation, adopted policies, and threatened procedures that are not consistent with our established laws and values and would have been unthinkable before. ..."
bulletArhey Neier: "The Military Tribunals on Trial" (New York Review of Books, 2/14/02)
bullet"Among the many defects of President Bush's order for military commissions to try suspected al-Qaeda members or supporters is that it lumps together at least four categories of persons who have distinct sets of rights under either domestic or international law. ..."
bulletAmerican Civil Liberties Union Analyses:
bullet"How the Patriot Act Permits Indefinite Detention of Immigrants Who Are Not Terrorists"
bullet"What amounts to a life sentence should at a minimum be based on clear proof at a hearing, not on a certification of merely the level of suspicion that normally allows only a brief stop and frisk on the street."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Allows for Detention and Deportation of People Engaging in Innocent Associational Activity"
bullet"The Act also allows for detention and deportation of individuals who provide lawful assistance to groups that are not designated as terrorist organizations. It then requires the immigrant to prove a negative: that he did not know, and should not have known, that his assistance would further terrorist activity."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Limits Judicial Oversight of Telephone and Internet Surveillance"
bullet"Law enforcement obtains the equivalent of a blank warrant. In addition, nationwide searches of pen register and trap and trace orders effectively insulate law enforcement from challenge in court."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Expands Law Enforcement 'Sneak & Peek' Warrants"
bullet"The Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures requires the government to both obtain a warrant and to give notice to the person whose property will be searched before conducting the search. ... [The Act] would allow law enforcement agencies to delay giving notice when they conduct a search. This means that the government could enter a house, apartment or office with a search warrant when the occupant was away, search through her property and take photographs, and in some cases seize physical property and electronic communications, and not tell her until later. This provision would mark a sea change in the way search warrants are executed in the United States."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Puts the CIA Back in the Business of Spying on Americans"
bullet"Until the mid-1970's, both the CIA and the National Security Agency ("NSA") illegally investigated Americans. Despite the statutory provision in its charter prohibiting the CIA from engaging in law enforcement or internal security functions (50 U.S.C. 403-3(d)(1)), the CIA spied on as many as seven thousand Americans in Operation CHAOS. ... After these abuses were exposed, the CIA's domestic surveillance activities and collection of information about Americans were greatly curtailed. For example, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act made it clear that the Department of Justice would have the leading role in gathering foreign intelligence in the United States. The USA PATRIOT Act would tear down these safeguards and once again permit the CIA to create dossiers on constitutionally protected activities of Americans and eliminate judicial review of such practices."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Enables Law Enforcement to Use Intelligence Authorities to Circumvent Privacy Protections in Criminal Cases"
bullet"The FBI has a sad history of abusing broad foreign intelligence investigative authority. It has investigated people because of their ethnic or racial background, or because of their political viewpoint. ... [The] Act would grant FBI agents across the country breathtaking authority to obtain an order from the FISA court or any federal magistrate requiring any person or business to produce any books, records, documents or items. The judge exercises no discretion: he must issue the order upon receipt of the FBI application asserting that the FBI seeks the records for a foreign intelligence investigation."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Puts Student Privacy at Risk"
bullet"The Act amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the confidentiality requirements for statistical databases of student information (Sections 507 & 508). Law enforcement officials already have adequate tools to access student records under current law. These sections of the bill would allow law enforcement officials to cast an even broader net for student information without any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing. When these student record anti-privacy proposals are combined with other information-sharing provisions contained in the USA PATRIOT Act, highly personal student information will be transmitted to many federal agencies that could lead to adverse consequences far beyond the stated goal of the anti-terrorism bill."
bullet"How the Patriot Act Puts Financial Privacy at Risk"
bullet"The Act would continue the unfortunate trend of expanding government access to personal financial information rather than safeguarding it against intrusion. While there is a need to shut down the financial resources used to further acts of terrorism, this legislation goes beyond its stated goal of combating international terrorism and instead reaches into innocent customers' personal financial transactions."
bullet"Safe and Free in Times of Crisis" (page & links)

A right-wing report entitled "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It", by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Webmaster's Note:
For those of us who lived through the McCarthyism of the early 1950s, the FBI repression of the late 1960s, and the Reagan attacks on free speech in the early 1980s, this is a scary document.  Note that its selective quotes and overall rhetoric lump all dissenters with the terrorists.  Are we starting down this road again?  -- js


2nd Note:
ACTA took so much flak for publishing this "report" that it changed the original version by removing specific professor's names, substituting such things as "Professor of _______ at MIT".  This seems to blame schools, not individuals, but it still encourages repression, takes quotes out of context, and equates honest questions with disloyalty.  I'll raise their grade from "F" to "D" -- and still flunk them for intellectual dishonesty!


A response from the American Association of Colleges & Universities web site


Here's a way to fight back: Join the List:

John Troyer: "Blacklist Me!"


Martin Sherwin: "Tattletales for an Open Society"


More volunteer Tattletales (collected by The Nation, 16 pages & counting)


A List of Articles (and links) on the Threat to Civil Liberties from The Nation


All contents Copyright 1996-2002 by Jim Spickard
All rights reserved

Revised, March 2002

Page copyright 1995-2008 by Jim Spickard
last edited 01/25/2008