AUDIO FILES: The National Security State
Friday evening, November 5, 2004, a presentation was held at the First Methodist Church in Portland Oregon concerning the erosion of Civil Rights in this country and the emergence of the National Security State. Much of the material was concerning the USA PATRIOT Act.
After giving a brief biography of both speakers the moderator introduced the first speaker, Elden Rosenthall.|
Elden Rosenthall, according to the moderator, is the premier civil rights lawyer in Portland. "He's been involved in serveral police accountability cases over the years. He represented the family of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who was killed by....a Neo Nazi group back in the early 90's, and obtained a multi million dollar verdict on behalf of the family....." Rosenthall is also currently involved with the Perez case, James Perez being an unarmed African American man murdered by the Portland Police Department during a routine traffic stop. And most recently, along with Jerry Spence and a Newport attorney, he is representing Brandon Mayfield in the civil rights case he has filed against John Ashcroft and the U.S. government.
He begins, referencing Joseph McCarthy, by speaking of the history of American intolerance, Xenophobia and the jailing of dissenters. "Our history is replete with alien and sedition acts; efforts to declare Marshall Law; restrictions on minorities, and in the 50's, redbaiting.....My view of American history is that whenever the U.S., either rightly or wrongly, perceives the existance of real threats from foreign powers or organized minorities, that oppresive Federal legislation is inevitabley enacted, which seeks to protect America by restricting the Civil Liberties of Americans." Rosenthall then speaks about CIA and FBI infiltration of the Black Power and Civil Rights movements of the 60's, including Martin Luther King, using electronic surveilance and informants. Not mentioned were similar infiltrations and sabotage of the American Indian Movement.
Due to these widespread abuses, in 1975-76, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect To Intelligence Activities...... conducted an investigation of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies to determine the extent to which U.S. citizens had been subjected to invasion of their privacy by the American Government." This committee discovered that the CIA had illegally spied on as many as 7,000 citizens throughout the 1960's and early 1970's, during what was termed "Operation Chaos," and that the FBI, as part of Operation COINTELLPRO, had authorized illegal wiretapping of dissenters and anti war protestors.
"As a result of these investigations, the Foreign Intelligence Security Act was adopted. FISA was actually an effort to reign in governmental abuses. FISA required for the first time a showing of probable cause before allowing domestic surveilance, where the purpose of surveilance was to obtain foreign intelligence information from an American citizen or resident. Because prior to the adoption of FISA, every Attorney General and President since Roosevelt had claimed the inherent right to wiretap American citizens and residents, as long as it was a foreign intelligence purpose. FISA changed that and said 'wait a minute,' you've got to go through some steps before that type of surveilance."
"After 911 however, the government took FISA and turned it on its head." Rosenthall continues speaking about the PATRIOT Act, empasizing the current misuse of the Material Witness Statute and finishing up discussing the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 11.This was an engaging and illuminating presentation, which, along with his introduction, lasted about 17 minutes.
The second speaker was Michael Avery, national president of the National Lawyers Guild Avery, a Professor at Suffolk University in Boston, is also one of the founders of and active with, the National Police Accountability Project,
a project of the Lawyers Guild.
Beginning with some remarks about the recent election, Avery asks if any of those present were tired of voting for the Democrat because they weren't as bad as Nixon, or Reagan, or Bush's one and two. He the says that "we're liberated from the Democrats as far as I'm concerned; as progressive people we need to chart a different course, and now is the time to do it, and now is the time that we have to do it. Let's talk about whre our country is right now."
Avery says that all forms of government suirvuve for a certain amount of time and pass away. But, here in America, we seem to think that our experiment in Constitutional Democracy would will survive forever. "Well now we're ;looking straight in the teeth of the fact that it may not go on forever, that our experiment in COnstitutional Democracy may be coming to an end.....(that) it may be replaced by an American form of a National Security State, and we are already well down that road.........."
He then quotes C. William Michaels's book, No Greater Threat, , which analyzes the PATRIOT Act, chapter by chapter, "And also talks historically speaking about those elements of society and government that are necessary and characteristic of National Security States. He points out that if we have a NSS in the United States, it's not necessarily going to look like a police state, or a Latin American dictatorship or exactly like the Third Reich, it's going to have a particular American character of it's own. But if you review National Security States over a period of history, these are some of the characteristics he says they have." Avery then goes on to list 12 of these characteristics of a National Security State and asks "where do we stand in America today in regard to these 12 things?:"
"First, visible increase in visible security;
Lack of accountability in law enforcement;
Reduced role of the Judiciary, and instead, Executive treatment of suspects;
Secrecy on the part of the ruling authority;
Media that operates in the service of the State;
Natural resources devoted almost single-mindedly to the aledged security threat;
Patriotism that gallops towards Nationalism;
Lack of critical response by Religion, to what's happening on the part of the State;
A wartime mentality and a permanant wartime economy;
Individuals and groups that are targeted for special treatment;
A direct attack on dissent;
Increased surveillance of the citizen."
"I hear nothing in that list that is unfamiliar to me, in terms of the American landscape. There are certain rights that our Constitution has always protected that are essential to the exercize of other rights. I would mention just three. One is the right of Habeus Corpus....second Freedom of Speech.... third, protection of your privacy. And all three of these......are the prime target of the PATRIOT Act; of the Executive Proclamations that President Bush issued; of the Memoranda that Attorney General Ashcroft issued."
From there Avery discusses the importance of National Security Letters, which are in a different section of the PATRIOT Act than the FISA Provisions, mentioned earlier by Elden Rosenthall. They are in section 505 of the Act. Few in the room were familiar with these so he goes on to define them and explain their importance.
"National Security Letters are letters that the F.B.I. can send out to telephone companies, telecommunication companies, and financial institutions, requesting information which they internally certify is significant to counter terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation." To do this, "the F.B.I. does not need the permission of any court. The person has to respond to the National Security Letter by furnishing whatever information they have in their possession about the subject of the letter....In December of 2003, with very little fanfare, the definition of finacial institutions was expanded.so that it now includes almost anything." He goes on to illustrate how this could be used, citing the recent terror alert which took place in Las Vegas Nevada, between December 23, 2003 and New Years. The government sent National Security Letters to every hotel in Las Vegas, asking for all the information those hotels had about anyone who had stayed in their hotels during that period. Anyone who flew in and out of Las Vegas, and anyone who rented a trcuk during that tiome period were also scrutinized. "To justify this, all the F.B.I. has to say is that this is pursuant to a counter terroism or foreign intelligence investigation."
Avery continues on for a total of about 28 miunutes, further defining and explaining the proximity of the National Security State to our daily lives.
And finally, Dr. Frankel, spoke concerning what people in Portland and Multnomah Country are doing about the PATRIOT Act. Frankel opens his remarks directly to the point: "December 9th, Thursday morning, 9:30, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners will unanimously pass a resolution expressing a committment to protect civil rghts and reduce discrimination and harassment in the era of the USA PATRIOT Act." This resolution will soon be published "together with a set of appendices, one of which will be a brief history abd a detailed content of the Bill of Rights. Another will be a detailed analysis of the effects of the USA PATRIOT Act on civil rights."
"But the most important part of the set of appendices will be letters that are currently being written by groups of many sorts in Multnomah County: lawyers groups; professional groups in other professions; national minlrity groups; peace and justice groups; academic groups' trade union groups; business peoples groups." These letters will be thanking the Commissioners for generating a Resolution addressing these topics, "and an explanation of why the individual or the organization that is sending the letter regards this as being of great importance."
Dr. Frankel encourages people to give serious consideration, either as individuals or members of organizations, to write letters directed to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, "saying that you're pleased that a Resolution of this sort is being passed and spelling out why you consider it to be important." The purpose for this is not only to be raising consciousness about this issue, "but to establish connections, to be establishing a basis for us to exercise our rights and our responsibilities to be active citizens."
The website for this action is Rights 101Oregon
After a few more remarks Dr. Frankel concluded his presentation, which lasted about 7 minutes.
Dr. Herman Frankel
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