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Patriot Raid - We Are ALL in Trouble Now

from  http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3166.htm
Patriot Raid

I was held, against my will and without warrant or cause, under the USA PATRIOT Act.

By Jason Halperin,

04/30/03: (AlterNet) Two weeks ago I experienced a very small taste of what hundreds of South Asian immigrants and U.S. citizens of South Asian descent have gone through since 9/11, and what thousands of others have come to fear. I was held, against my will and without warrant or cause, under the USA PATRIOT Act. While I understand the need for some measure of security and precaution in times such as these, the manner in which this detention and interrogation took place raises serious questions about police tactics and the safeguarding of civil liberties in times of war.

That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show "Rent." We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.

We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I'd eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.

"Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant," they yelled.

I hesitated, lost in my own panic.

"Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down," they demanded.

I complied and looked around at the other patrons. There were eight men including the waiter, all of South Asian descent and ranging in age from late-teens to senior citizen. One of the policemen pointed his gun point-blank in the face of the waiter and shouted: "Is there anyone else in the restaurant?" The waiter, terrified, gestured to the kitchen.

The police placed their fingers on the triggers of their guns and kicked open the kitchen doors. Shouts emanated from the kitchen and a few seconds later five Hispanic men were made to crawl out on their hands and knees, guns pointed at them.

After patting us all down, the five officers seated us at two tables. As they continued to kick open doors to closets and bathrooms with their fingers glued to their triggers, no less than ten officers in suits emerged from the stairwell. Most of them sat in the back of the restaurant typing on their laptop computers. Two of them walked over to our table and identified themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.

I explained that we were just eating dinner and asked why we were being held. We were told by the INS agent that we would be released once they had confirmation that we had no outstanding warrants and our immigration status was OK'd.

In pre-9/11 America, the legality of this would have been questionable. After all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."

"You have no right to hold us," Asher insisted.

"Yes, we have every right," responded one of the agents. "You are being held under the Patriot Act following suspicion under an internal Homeland Security investigation."

The USA PATRIOT Act was passed into law on October 26, 2001 in order to facilitate the post 9/11 crackdown on terrorism (the name is actually an acronym: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.") Like most Americans, I did not recognize the extent to which this bill foregoes our civil liberties. Among the unprecedented rights it grants to the federal government are the right to wiretap without warrant, and the right to detain without warrant. As I quickly discovered, the right to an attorney has been seemingly fudged as well.

When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."

We remained seated. Our IDs were taken, and brought to the officers with laptops. I was questioned over the fact that my license was out of state, and asked if I had "something to hide." The police continued to hassle the kitchen workers, demanding licenses and dates of birth. One of the kitchen workers was shaking hysterically and kept providing the day's date - March 20, 2003, over and over.

As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."

I most certainly understand that we are at war. I also understand that the freedoms afforded to all of us in the Constitution were meant specifically for times like these. Our freedoms were carved out during times of strife by people who were facing brutal injustices, and were intended specifically so that this nation would behave differently in such times. If our freedoms crumble exactly when they are needed most, then they were really never freedoms at all.

After an hour and a half the INS agent walked back over and handed Asher and me our licenses. A policeman took us by the arm and escorted us out of the building. Before stepping out to the street, the INS agent apologized. He explained, in a low voice, that they did not think the two of us were in the restaurant. Several of the other patrons, though of South Asian descent, were in fact U.S. citizens. There were four taxi drivers, two students, one newspaper salesman - unwitting customers, just like Asher and me. I doubt, though, they received any apologies from the INS or the Department of Homeland Security.

Nor have the over 600 people of South Asian descent currently being held without charge by the Federal government. Apparently, this type of treatment is acceptable. One of the taxi drivers, a U.S. citizen, spoke to me during the interrogation. "Please stop talking to them," he urged. "I have been through this before. Please do whatever they say. Please for our sake."

Three days later I phoned the restaurant to discover what happened. The owner was nervous and embarrassed and obviously did not want to talk about it. But I managed to ascertain that the whole thing had been one giant mistake. A mistake. Loaded guns pointed in faces, people made to crawl on their hands and knees, police officers clearly exacerbating a tense situation by kicking in doors, taunting, keeping their fingers on the trigger even after the situation was under control. A mistake. And, according to the ACLU a perfectly legal one, thanks to the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act is just the first phase of the erosion of the Fourth Amendment. From the Justice Department has emerged a draft of the Domestic Securities Enhancement Act, also known as Patriot II. Among other things, this act would allow the Justice Department to detain anyone, anytime, secretly and indefinitely. It would also make it a crime to reveal the identity or even existence of such a detainee.

Every American citizen, whether they support the current war or not, should be alarmed by the speed and facility with which these changes to our fundamental rights are taking place. And all of those who thought that these laws would never affect them, who thought that the Patriot Act only applied to the guilty, should heed this story as a wake-up call. Please learn from my experience. We are all vulnerable so speak out and organize, our Fourth Amendment rights depend upon it.

Jason Halperin lives in New York City and works at Doctors Without Borders/Medicins San Frontieres. If you are moved by this account, he asks that you consider donating to your local ACLU chapter.
dont believe it 30.Apr.2003 12:08

skeptic

Please.

failed script 30.Apr.2003 12:09

bobby

Sounds like a failed script from a FOX TV show.

You had better wake up 30.Apr.2003 13:11

Leroy Brown

Shit like that happens all the time.
You had better wake up.

Why don't you believe it? 30.Apr.2003 13:19

K

It looks like a real article to me, and has been published on many sites; in addition, he is a real person, and if you don't believe it, why don't you call him at (212) 847-3143?
Or better yet visit www.doctorswithoutborders.org and email him?

Believe it, our liberties and freedoms are being given away by the citizens, no-one in the mainstream is complaining - what about the idea that someone could, theoretically, own every single newspaper, radio station, and television station because of the new acts of the FCC? Doesn't that worry you at all in addition to acts like this?

Hmmm. 30.Apr.2003 13:26

Tree Topper

It sounds like someone just finished with a writing class and wanted to share with everyone how great he/she is. Not bad, but the part where the INS person was saying "we are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this." WEll that was the Academy Awards and you got the gold. What a load of trash.

we are not at war 30.Apr.2003 13:55

just me

Actually Tree Hopper the chant "we are at war, people need to understand that" fits perfectly. Shortly after 9-11 I attended a talk in Hood River and one of the speakers was the highest ranking Fed who is stationed in Oregon. The basis of his comments can be summed up in the statement "we are at war" That is the administration's view point... So we should just expect to have our civil liberties assualted...sorry... well not too sorry actually.
The last time I read the constitution of the United States it very specifically stated that Congress is to declare war. Has that been done? Do we still live in the US?
Okay then I guess these pricks are running a false government and have duped the rest of our fellow Americans, and unfortunately many people who read this board into thinking that is okay.
Throw the bums out already!

uh huh 30.Apr.2003 14:03

nerf

I agree that civil liberties are under grave threat from the PATRIOT act and the Bush regime. On the other hand, the posted story is simply not credible. The idea is that while the elite agenda is to erode civil liberties, they are not really eroded yet in a de-facto sense. As a result, trash like this is posted to create and foster the fear of dissent. Just like how some libraries have been manipulated to post signs about monitoring. No one actually has the time or resources to investigate everyone who checks out a book on anarchy or whatever -- so instead they try to scare people away from libraries with their Orwellian-type warnings. I've also seen stories about harassment and/or investigation of people wearing anti-Bush T-shirts. Total rubbish -- just another scare tactic in my opinion.

If you are interested... 30.Apr.2003 14:21

Gertha

I'm amazed with people's ability to argue over something they know nothing about, in this case the above post. It's especially amazing when it is such an easy story to check on. Simply go to the D.W.B. site and find Jason Halperin's contact info! Then call/write/email him and find out if the post is true. I already have, but I'm not telling!!

You're getting your information where? 30.Apr.2003 14:30

huh?

I know someone who works as IT in a library. It's not "rubbish." People getting hassled for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts? Try PEACE t-shirts ... did you miss that story?

Open your eyes.

asdf 30.Apr.2003 17:13

zxcv

Maybe they even harassed one person for a T-shirt or busted in to one restaurant. I really don't believe the reastaurant thing though because it sounds way too scripted. But the point is, they have to try to make an example and then play it up in the media. Their only hope is to control people with fear because they can't put everyone in jail who wears a peace t-shirt. I certainly won't let stories like this interfere with my choice of clothing or what I say that's for sure.

uh,... 30.Apr.2003 19:54

heimdallr

What exactly is it that makes this article hard to believe? Could those of you calling it rubbish and such elaborate a bit as to why you don't consider it credible?

Frankly, I shouldn't make these kinds of presumptions, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the posts condemning the article are reflections of a view of the world distorted by racial privilege. I don't exactly hail from the most oppressed sector of our society (I'm a white male heterosexual with a Protestant upbringing), and up until recently I always made certain assumptions about police whenever I heard about police violence. Since none of my personal experiences with police involved inappropriate or aggressive conduct, whenever I heard about people being attacked by police, I assumed for the most part the victims "must have done something" to provoke the violence. Thus, whenever I saw pictures or footage of riot police beating political demonstrators I assumed that they were responding to the initiation of violence by the crowd and that police at such events were acting in a restrained manner and simply trying to ensure public safety. I no longer make these kinds of assumptions having personally experienced nice friendly Officer Engen, who could have been any of the police officers who have ever given me directions or helped tow my car out of a ditch during a blizzard (I'm not from around here), beating me about the torso with a nice big stick because I "wasn't moving fast enough."

Reading this article I encountered nothing that cast doubt on the sincerity and credibility of its author. That is to say, the only thing that would tend to make me doubt the article is the nature of the event it describes, simply because that event contradicts certain assumptions I would tend to make based on my own experience with federal agencies such as the INS, i.e. they've never raided a dining establishment in which I was eating with guns drawn and threatened me while demanding proof of citizenship. However, it occurs to me how fallacious is the idea that because it has never happened to me, it does not happen. The fact is that however nice Officer/Agent so-and-so may be, it is his or her job to carry a gun around and intimidate people, and the only thing necessary for you to be on the other end of that gun is for you to find yourself in a marginalized group for whom that treatment is deemed appropriate, in this case being of South Asian descent on a day when there was potentially an increased likelihood of a terrorist attack ("we are at war; this is for your protection").

Note the last part of the story; the implication is made that the authorities wouldn't have behaved the way they did had they known the author was on the premises, i.e. this type of conduct is something reserved for "Those People" and shouldn't have been experienced by an individual who for whatever reason is a "normal" and not "one of them." What you and I and everyone else who are not immigrants from 'suspect' regions need to realize is that this kind of thing does happen, and is happening more and more in the current political climate. Rather than try to pretend it isn't happening, we should be asking ourselves what kind of society we will be living in if we refuse to question it. History has amply demonstrated the truth of the adage "Your silence will not protect you."

So, either come up with something concrete to demonstrate that the information contained in this article is not credible, or, as they say, check your privilege.

Shit. 01.May.2003 09:27

Freedom Fighter

This is what we're up against. This kind of shit. And then, the corporate media won't tell us this story, and most people won't belive anything they didn't hear about from corporate TV.