Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Lone Wolf' Terrorists are Government's Biggest Fear

President Obama came out yesterday with a statement that he is less worried about an orchestrated large-scale terrorist attack on the United States than he is about the 'lone wolf' extremist. This is made obvious by the tightened government controls over its own population. The Patriot Act was a bill signed into Law by President Bush in 2001, and has been extended and expanded under Barack Obama. Essentially, this act allows the government to suspect, conduct surveillance upon without a warrant, and arrest people with which the government does not agree under the auspices of preventing 'domestic terrorism.'

The FBI and Homeland Security have been given increased roles in monitoring U.S. citizens. They are able to monitor all phone conversations by computer and flag specific words of interest through voice recognition software for investigation. They review medical records, financial interactions, and other personal information for possible suspicious activity. They have access to permits granted for all buildings, satellite topography, and the GPS built into our phones, computers, and cars.

They also use corporations and financial institutions for information gathering. When I worked at a particular bank chain, I was required by law to send a report to the FBI any time someone transferred a large amount of money. The criteria were: if the amount was $10,000.00 or above; if the amount was unusual given the individual's account history; or if anything about the transaction made us personally suspicious or uncomfortable. (and we were subtly encouraged to profile based on race or economic background). The purpose was clearly spelled out, the FBI collects this information to prevent drug trafficking, terrorist funding, and to prosecute fraud. The FBI needs no warrant to conduct these investigations.

More recently, while working for a "big box" hardware retailer, I was notified that we are now required to take notice of people's purchases and look specifically for items that could be used for creating explosive devices or used as other weapons. We are to report the "incident" to our manager who will review it and if it appears suspicious to them, they will report it to police. The police will in turn hand the investigation over to the government. Thus we have turned our everyday transactions into spying operations.

One may object and say, "If you are not guilty, you have nothing to fear." The problem is, that sentiment does not deal honestly with our current political climate. When "terrorism" is such a charged word and so broadly defined; when those accused of "terrorism" are swept up and held or even tortured without rights or aid; and when our politicians are accusing other political parties of being "terrorists;" we have entered a dangerous time. What happens the next time you head into your local hardware store to buy some nails and steel pipe fittings? You may just be quietly investigated as a terrorist.

Why am I making such a big deal about this? For one reason. The Patriot Act, for as much comfort it may give us from the Bogey Man, stands blatantly against the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights on several points. First, all citizens have the right to Habeas Corpus - the right to a court date or possible release under the Constitution Article 1, Section 9. This right is removed under the Patriot Act. Second, Treason against the United States (and isn't that what domestic terrorism should be defined as?) consists only in levying war or adhering to her enemies - and no one may be convicted except by two witnesses or open admission in court (Constitution Article 3, Section 3). Amendment II of the Bill of Rights states that the right to bear arms (within a well regulated militia) shall not be infringed. This means Sam Smith could own or build a bomb, but it depends on how he uses it, if he uses it, as to whether or not he is guilty of a crime. Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights 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. . ." Is a box of nails probable cause? Is a large amount of money probable cause? Amendment V of the Bill of Rights states that no one is to be held to answer for a crime unless indicted. Amendment VI of the Bill of Rights entitles people to a speedy and public trial by jury. (V and VI are saying citizens cannot be held for long periods of time without official charges which would lead to public trial.) Amendment VIII of the Bill of Rights prohibits cruel and unusual punishments of either the accused or the convicted (i.e., no torture).

The Patriot Act contravenes our founding articles of law and freedom and allows our government to move against its own populace by fiat. Don't fear the Bogey Man or lone wolf, yes these situations can occur, but they are very infrequent and result in relatively little loss of life (although I agree that no loss of life is really acceptable). Rather, fear the government that removes rights previously given and then redefines criminal activity in order to retain power and influence.

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