The US Patriot Act is 342 pages long and makes changes to over 15 different statutes. It was passed by overwhelming margins in both the Senate and the House. The US Patriot Act is a large and complex law that has was known by four different names and several versions in the five weeks between the introduction of its first predecessor and its final passage into law.
While containing some sections that seem appropriate – providing for victims of the September 11 attacks, increasing translation facilities and increasing forensic cybercrime capabilities – it is clear that the vast majority of the sections included were not carefully studied by Congress. Sufficient time was not taken to debate it or to hear testimony from experts outside of law enforcement in the fields where it makes major changes.
This concern is amplified because several of the key procedural processes, applicable to any other proposed laws, including inter-agency review, the normal committee and hearing processes and thorough voting, were suspended for this bill (EFF). The law has been criticized by civil libertarians and constitutional rights groups as overstepping the bounds of proper law enforcement procedure. The Act gives law enforcement agencies extraordinary new powers unchecked by meaningful judicial review. (Schabner).
The Law sacrifices civil liberties for the illusion of safety. The law is based upon a very legitimate cause: fear. This fear has been encouraged and strengthened by the US government. This fear can not and will not disappear by consenting to further laws and acts, which limit civil liberties and freedom of speech. Surrendering the freedom to dissent the State gives the State enormous power where they are further able to imprison, incarcerate and disappear those who dissent, the undesirables.
A series of serious repressive measures has been instituted and refined in the course of recent criminal prosecution of political activists. Political activists convicted in US courts have received draconian sentences, a great deal more severe than non-political defendants, and often designed to hold them for life, or until they willingly surrender their offensive political beliefs. When prisoner of war status has been claimed, as in the case of the Puerto Rican independistas, and the accused refuse to submit to the court's jurisdiction, illegal sentences have been imposed (Deutsch & Susler).
The purpose of the government's counterinsurgency strategy is to destroy the growth and support of our struggles for national liberation and social justice, and to deter dissent and civil disobedience… We will continue because in order to achieve justice and peace for our peoples, we must dare to struggle, dare to win. Alejandra Torres Many of today's political prisoners were victims of an FBI counter-intelligence program called COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO consisted of a series of covert actions directed against domestic dissident groups, targeting perceived threats to "domestic tranquility.
" In the FBI's own words; "the purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize the activities of Black Nationalist organizations and groupings and their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters. " Millions of pages of FBI internal documents revealed a coordinated national program of war against the movement. COINTELPRO and the FBI were waging a war against people, citizens, who were simply trying to exercise rights and stand up for justice (Day & Whitehorn).
In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret action designed to "disrupt" and "neutralize" target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial (mailing reprints of Reader's Digest articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison pen letters intended to break up marriages), and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers).
COINTELPRO involved institutions that interact and relate to each other for the purpose of oppressing communities of color and poor communities in the US, and to make sure that a vanguard did not, and could not succeed in liberating them from the oppressive patriarchal system (Warren). In response to pressure from a broad spectrum of the American public, a congressional subcommittee, known as the Church Committee, was formed to investigate and study the FBI's covert action programs.
The Church Committee found that the FBI had "conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of the First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence… Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity" (Church Committee).
Before COINTELPRO was dissolved they were responsible for maiming, murdering, false prosecutions and framings, destruction, and mayhem throughout the country. It had infiltrated every organization and association that aspired to bring about social change in America through whatever means they deemed necessary. Many of today's political prisoners were incarcerated as a direct result of COINTELPRO's activities.
They were targeted because of their political beliefs more so than their political actions. Unlike those convicted and sentenced for similar crimes, they were given much harsher sentences and routinely denied parole. … the FBI actually gave covert aid to the Ku Klux Klan, Minutemen, Nazis, and other racist vigilantes. These groups received substantial funds, information, and protection – and suffered only token FBI harassment – so long as they directed their violence against COINTELPRO targets.
They were not subjected to serious disruption unless they breached this tacit understanding and attacked established business and political leaders (Mazzone). The Church Committee ended its review of COINTELPRO concluding: "The American people need to be assured that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers threats to the established order. " That was just over twenty-five years ago. The American people are in need of reassurance once more.
As if the prison situation was not completely unjust, immoral, and evil to begin with the outrages and false imprisonments increase in an attempt to find those responsible for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Within hours of the attacks, several of the political prisoners were rounded up and put into administrative segregation, known as the hole. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum to the BOP directing them to terminate all communications, both social and legal for certain prisoners (Elijah).