Revolutionary Worker #1120, September 30, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
Within hours after the September 11 airliner attacks in New York and DC, top figures in the U.S. power structure were announcing that life "will never be the same."
Leading Republican Senator Trent Lott, former White House national security chief Brent Scowcroft and the influential former Senator Sam Nunn all announced on TV that the U.S. would, from now on, have to restrict civil liberties in the name of national security.
In the days that followed, all kinds of proposals were made for increasing police powers, for more closely tracking and surveilling the population, for eliminating internet privacy and anonymity, further tightening border controls, and for using federal troops and CIA resources in new ways within U.S. borders. A climate of mutual suspicion, racial profiling and government informing was encouraged among the population.
And meanwhile, in an unprecedented manhunt across the U.S., the authorities took hundreds of people into custody, installed spying machinery on Internet companies, and confiscated all kinds of records, emails, files and computers.
When Bush went on TV on September 20 he announced the creation of a new cabinet level post, "The Office of Homeland Security"--a name that evokes Orwellian and fascist imagery. Even NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw commented that to some people the title "might sound like something out of a totalitarian state but..."
The full scope of this position is not completely clear. But what has been said so far is that it will be charged with centralizing and concentrating the work of 40 different government agencies, from the Coast Guard to the Treasury Department, on issues of domestic security. The person appointed to head it, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, indicates the brutal nature of its mandate. One man writing to the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette said, "When Ridge became governor, he proposed legislation to make the warrant process automatic and nondiscretionary. Since then, he has signed more than 190 warrants of death [now up to 214] and has never spared anyone. He has put three mentally ill men to death and did not listen to Aldona DeVetsco, the mother of Keith Zettlemoyer's victim, who asked Ridge to spare Zettlemoyer."
Before the creation of this new post, U.S. Attorney General Ashcroft spearheaded a number of new repressive initiatives. On September 18, Ashcroft announced he had created an anti-terrorism task force with representatives from every U.S. attorney's office in the country--a major centralization of the U.S. investigative and prosecutorial apparatus. Ashcroft also announced a major expansion of the covert Federal Air Marshal program, where undercover federal agents are put on domestic flights. This is a program that was started in 1968 and wasn't even made public until the early 1970s.
At the same time Ashcroft announced that existing INS rules, that a detained person must be formally charged within 24 hours or released, have been changed. On September 18, INS Commissioner James Zigler signed the order authorizing that the detention period for legal immigrants can now be extended during emergencies to 48 hours or "for a period of time considered reasonable." In other words, indefinitely. INS rules already allow the indefinite detention of "illegal" immigrants.
As of this writing, in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, 80 people have already been put in detention--people who have been charged with no crimes. And the FBI has a list of more than 190 people it wants to "question." Among these are at least six people who have been arrested as material witnesses. They are being held under the utmost secrecy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "FBI Director Robert Mueller said that the identity of those being held, their arrest warrants and affidavits to the court supporting them are secret or sealed while the investigation continues." Meanwhile a federal grand jury has been convened in White Plains, N.Y., to hear evidence in the investigation.
There are measures in the works to quickly take this further. The Justice Department is preparing legislation that will allow the U.S. attorney general to jail immigrants who the government says are terrorist suspects and order them deported without presenting any evidence.
Together with the clampdown being instituted in the U.S., there are major moves by governments in Europe to centralize and gather information that will be shared with the U.S. London's Daily Telegraph reported that the British spy agencies M15 and M16 will now be required to share information "related to terrorism" with the European Police Office, Europol. The paper reported that, "Officials from the British clandestine services will join a special anti-terrorist squad at Europol's headquarters in The Hague." And, "For the first time, Europol has been told to share information with the FBI and other U.S. federal agencies."
Last year when it was revealed that the FBI had developed a hardware/software technology called Carnivore to monitor and retrieve virtually any e-mail or internet traffic, there was loud outrage from privacy groups, civil libertarian, political activists and individuals. With the World Trade Center tragedy the FBI immediately has stepped up its efforts to dispatch Carnivore, which it has now renamed DCS1000.
Less than 24 hours after the incidents in DC and New York, FBI agents went to talk to executives at the Atlanta headquarters of Earthlink, a major internet service provider (ISP). The agents brought with them subpoenas to install Carnivore. Earthlink did not allow that, but did retrieve the records the FBI was looking for in what it calls a more "precise" method than scanning all internet traffic.
Meanwhile the FBI is all over the internet, following anything they consider provocative. The New York Times reported an online posting from Aug. 30 that had as its subject "911," and warned "Something is going to happen tomorrow... REPENT!" When the user then posted that he had predicted what happened, the FBI was all over it sending agents to the ISP that serviced the user. FBI and anti-terrorism investigators in 10 cities started calling the offices of O1.com, the Sacramento company that sells internet access to smaller internet service providers that this message was carried on. The FBI also says that some of the people they are investigating used public libraries to send e-mails--so libraries, too, are coming under the FBI's scrutiny.
On top of this, new laws are being drafted to widen the reach of electronic surveillance so that law enforcement has the power to eavesdrop not just on a particular phone or computer but on any communication device a person they are spying on uses.
In New York State, Governor Pataki immediately went to work to push through new laws that have the potential for broader uses. The laws created a new state crime of "terrorism" with a maximum penalty of life in prison. The laws also make it a crime to make a terrorist threat, to falsely report a bomb, or to place a fake bomb in a public building, and carry up to a seven-year sentence. Along with this, it is now a state crime to give more than $1,000 to a terrorist organization--a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The statutes also allow the death penalty for anyone who commits murder during an act of terrorism. It is not clear of this writing just how the state defines "terrorism," but the potential implications could be far-reaching.
A heavy clampdown remains in many places in New York City. There are checkpoints in different areas, with NYC-based police from federal and state agencies and outlying counties seemingly everywhere. It has become routine to see National Guard "humvees" cruising the city's streets, to say nothing of National Guard troops themselves stationed at some checkpoints. And it is becoming standard for businesses and institutions throughout the city to require identification before allowing people to enter buildings.
The New York Times reported that five men associated with the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose main public activity consists of standing on the street corners sparking contentious debates, were arrested for "inciting to riot" because they had been making "anti-American" remarks.
As the imperialists prepare to unleash new horror in the far reaches of the world, they are feverishly putting into place new and extreme repressive measures--and are trying to whip up a patriotic, unquestioning fervor to support such moves. These are the ugly moves of a brutal bourgeois dictatorship. This is a time for resistance to Big Brother and all the moves by the government to clamp down on the people.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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