- Noted journalist HL Menchen described "The most
dangerous man to any government (as someone) who is able to think things
out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.
Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives
under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable," yet resisting, he faces
recrimination - political imprisonment for his beliefs and activism, officials
tolerating no opposition to their authority, no matter how extreme or lawless.
- In his book "Race to Incarcerate," Marc Mauer
focuses on America's obsession with imprisonment, punishment, and the commodification
of prisoners to fill beds - harming society's most vulnerable, targeted
for supporting ethnic justice, racial emancipation, and political, economic
and social equality across gender and color lines, locked away in the "Land
of the Free." In submitting a new report to the UN, National conference
of Black Lawyers activist/attorney Stan Willis said:
- "The United States is very, very concerned when
its citizens begin to raise questions in these international forums, because
(America) still prefers to posture itself, including the Obama administration,
as the leader of the free world and that they don't have any human rights
violations, and they certainly don't have any political prisoners, and
we have to dispel that notion in the international community."
- American officials don't "want to have these issues
reach the world's people. How do you go into Iraq (and) Afghanistan telling
people about their democracy when (you've got innocent people) locked down
in prison for 30 - 40 years as political prisoners....(activists) against
social injustice, colonialism, and/or imperialism, (incarcerated for) their
- Others are victimized by judicial unfairness, get tough
on crime policies, a guilty unless proved innocent mentality, three strikes
and you're out, and what the Innocence Project calls "McJustice -
the crisis of indigent defense."
- Also for being undocumented, violating the racist drug
laws, for being Black, Latino or Muslim, to fill prison beds, to satisfy
the prison-industrial complex, one of America's fastest growing, including
a private gulag, prisons for profit, nearly a score of corporations running
dozens of facilities with tens of thousands of prisoners, about 8% of state
and federal inmates, expected to increase exponentially in the next decade,
the Wall Street Journal saying:
- "This multimillion-dollar industry has its own advertising
campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses
on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed
security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors."
- Over 2.4 million prisoners are held in federal and state
facilities, local jails, Indian, juvenile, and military ones, US territories,
and numbers held by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), half
for nonviolent offenses, many for political activism, the Truth & Justice
Foundation (the National Innocence Project) estimating up to 15% wrongfully
- Using modern-day slave labor, the Left Business Observer
reports that American prisons produce 100% of US military helmets, ammunition
belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens."
They also supply 98% of equipment assembly services, 93% of paints and
paintbrushes, 92% of stove assemblies, 46% of body armor, 36% of home appliances,
30% of headphones, microphones and speakers, 21% of office furniture, and
- Captives in America's gulag, political and other prisoners
have languished for decades, under cruel and inhumane conditions. Some
die their. Others rot, endure years of solitary confinement, poor medical
care, other forms of abuse, and perfunctory parole hearings denying their
right to justice.
- America's Longstanding Political Repression Agenda
- COINTELPRO targeted political activists, J. Edgar Hoover's
illegal counterintelligence program to neutralize political dissidents,
including communists; anti-war, human and civil rights activists; the American
Indian Movement; Black Panther Party; Puerto Rican nationalists; the Chicano
Movement; environmentalists, and others challenging state authority - "threats"
to "domestic tranquility" for supporting equity and justice,
the rule of law, and right over wrong. Today they're called "terrorists."
- Yale Law Professor/constitutional scholar Thomas I. Emerson
(1908 - 1981) expressed outrage saying:
- "The FBI jeopardizes the whole system of free expression
which is the cornerstone of our society (raising) the specter of a police
state....In essence, the FBI conceives of itself as an instrument to prevent
radical social change in America....The Bureau's view of its function leads
it beyond data collection into political warfare," protecting privilege
from beneficial social change, denying due process and judicial fairness
to society's most vulnerable, easy pickings for America's criminal injustice
- Definitions of Political Prisoners
- The Free Dictionary call them people "who have been
imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views....for
holding, expressing, or acting in accord with particular political beliefs."
- In the 1960s, Amnesty International (AI) coined the term
"prisoner of conscience," referring to anyone incarcerated for
their race, religion, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, beliefs,
- In a London Observer May 28, 1961 article titled, "The
Forgotten Prisoners," AI's founder Peter Benenson (1921 - 2005) defined
the term as follows:
- "Any person who is physically restrained (in prison
or otherwise) for expressing any opinion which he honestly holds and which
does not advocate or condone personal violence."
- "Open your newspaper any day of the week and you
will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned,
tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable
to his government." Millions are affected globally - "by no means
(all) behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, and their numbers are growing."
- "That is why we have started Appeal for Amnesty
(AI), 1961. The campaign, which opens today, is the result of an initiative
by a group of lawyers, writers and publishers in London, who share the
underlying conviction expressed by Voltaire: 'I detest your views, but
am prepared to die for your right to express them.' "
- Howard Zinn called dissent "the highest form of
patriotism. In fact, if patriotism means being true to the principles for
which your country is supposed to stand, then certainly the right to dissent
is one of those principles. And if we're exercising that right to dissent,
it's a patriotic act....One of the great mistakes (about) patriotism....is
to think (it) means support for your government....(ignoring America's
Declaration of Independence principle that) when governments have become
destructive (of life, liberty and equality) it is the right of the people....to
alter or abolish" it.
- Incarceration as an Instrument of Social Control
- In her 1999 article titled, "Prisons, Social Control
and Political Prisoners," former political prisoner Marilyn Buck called
prisons warehouses to "disappear the unacceptable....to deprive their
captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish....(to)
stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based
on bad genes - skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) as a crime."
- Millions of prisoners aren't incarcerated "because
they are 'criminal,' but because they've been accused of breaking (a law)
designed to exert tighter social control and State repression," scapegoating,
demonizing, and criminalizing them for their beliefs and activism.
- America's militarized police state brutalizes them, locking
them in cages for advocating peace, not war, for their courage to resist
injustice, defend freedom, equality, and human rights, and believe another
world isn't just possible but struggling for it nonviolently is noble and
- In a 1986 Quinn v. Robinson ruling, the US Court of Appeals
for the 9th Circuit differentiated between political and other crimes,
- "It is the fact that the insurgents are seeking
to change their governments that makes the political offense exception
applicable, not the reasons for wishing to do so or the nature of the acts
by which they hope to accomplish that goal."
- In other words, advocating beneficial social or political
change is criminal, turning justice on its head, the same kind that imprisons
lawyers for defending unpopular clients to intimidate others not to try.
- In the Vol. 18, 2002 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal,
J. Soffiyah Elijah headlined, "The Reality of Political Prisoners
in the United States: What September 11 Taught Us About Defending Them,"
- In a post-9/11 climate, they "and their lawyers
have been targeted for renewed abuse," constitutional protections
not shielding against spurious charges, corrupt prosecutors, hanging judges,
and long imprisonments, many under extremely harsh conditions, including
long-term isolation, over time producing severe anxiety, panic attacks,
irrational anger, social withdrawal, and a profound sense of hopelessness
and despair, for many a totally dysfunctional state and inability ever
to live normally outside of confinement.
- Always unfair, American justice is now worse than ever,
unjustly affecting undocumented immigrants, Blacks and Latinos, anyone
of color, Muslims for their faith, ethnicity, activism and prominence,
and those challenging state authority, its imperial marauding, and sweeping
homeland repression, turning America into a police state.
- Activists were always targeted, noted civil liberties
writer Stephen Kohn documenting nearly 1,000 cases in his 1994 book titled,
"American Political Prisoners: Prosecutions Under the Espionage and
Sedition Acts." Today, it's under the 1996 Effective Death Penalty
and Anti-Terrorism Act, and post-9/11 ones, including:
- -- the 2001 USA Patriot Act, eroding Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment due process rights; First Amendment free expression and association
ones; and Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures,
enabling vast extralegal surveillance powers to destroy the right of privacy;
- -- the 2001 Military Order Number 1, letting the president
usurp authority to capture, kidnap, arrest and torture accused terrorists,
holding them indefinitely without charge; trying them in Military Commissions
with no right of appeal; denying them due process and judicial fairness;
- -- the 2002 Homeland Security Act, a sweeping anti-terrorism
bill creating a national Gestapo, centralizing unprecedented military and
law enforcement power in the executive branch, enhanced by US Northern
Command (USNORTHCOM), established in 2002 to militarize the homeland, Canada,
Mexico, Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida, and, for the first time, let
troops deploy on US streets to protect "national security," and
- -- other repressive laws, Executive Orders, National
and Homeland Security Presidential Directives, and other measures targeting
anyone threatening state authority by any means, including those advocating
nonviolent political or social change.
- Using previously unavailable FBI, Bureau of Prisons and
other DOJ divisions files, Kohn covered earlier cases, including activists
for "blowing the whistle" on WW I participation, unionists fighting
for worker rights, pacifists, socialists, and others for having unpopular
political or religious beliefs.
- In three parts, he chronicled the history and use of
the law to imprison anyone for their political or religious views, described
prison life in their own words, and covered hundreds of people affected,
discussing their beliefs, length of imprisonment, and treatment.
- Earlier through today, they've been targeted, hunted
down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted
in their right to counsel, provided the "McJustice" kind, tried
on secret evidence, convicted on spurious charges, given long sentences,
then incarcerated and abused in America's gulag, its hell, for Dante its
entrance inscription saying "Abandon hope all ye who enter here,"
the fate of many locked away in the "land of the free."
- A Final Note
- On July 15, political prisoner Marilyn Buck was released
from the federal prison medical center in Carswell, TX and paroled to New
York. Three weeks later on August 3, she died.
- She served 25 years of an 80 year sentence for opposing
racial injustice and US imperialism. Late last year, she was diagnosed
with uterine sarcoma, a rare aggressive cancer that took her life. To the
end, she heroically maintained her beliefs.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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