US history is littered with repressive laws. Constitutional protections and civil liberties have been targeted. The 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts restricted First Amendment freedoms.
So did the 1917 Espionage Act, 1919 anti-communist Palmer raids, 1934 Special Committee on Un-American Activities, its House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) successor, FBI COINTELPRO crackdowns, 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 2001 USA Patriot Act, and other post-9/11 measures.
Police state harshness today reflects US policy. Compromised civil liberties expanded government surveillance, eroded habeas rights, formalized military tribunals, permitted torture-extracted confessions, and sanctified violence in the name of national security.
Thousands of political prisoners languish in America's gulag. It's the world's largest by far. It's one of the harshest.
Many there deserve praise, not imprisonment. OWS activists may join them. More on that below.
For the first time, Patriot Act provisions created the crime of domestic terrorism. Section 802 applies to persons alleged to engage in acts "dangerous to human life."
Evidence isn't needed. Accusations suffice. US citizens and permanent residents are vulnerable. They're frequent targets. They're unjustly accused of violating federal, state, or local laws if they:
intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
influence government policy by intimidation or coercion; and/or
affect government conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.
Patriot Act legislation enacted sweeping federal powers. They're used to investigate and prosecute alleged terrorism. Civil libertarians, environmental and animal rights activists are targeted.
Peaceful demonstrations are criminalized. At times, long-term incarceration follows.
In 2001, prominent Americans demonstrated on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Civil disobedience actions were included. Activists entered a US airbase. They harmed no one.
They protested against Pentagon exercises. They included bombings. This type activism is called domestic terrorism if done to influence government policy.
Patriot legislation's Section 806 lets authorities confiscate or freeze foreign and domestic assets. No hearing or notice is required.
Individuals, organizations, and other entities are vulnerable. Prosecutors can say they engaged in planning, supporting, concealing, or perpetrating any anti-American act of domestic or international terrorism.
Evidence isn't required. Guilt by accusation follows. Victims are some of America's best. They're targeted for their political beliefs. Putting their bodies on the line for justice harms them.
Wide-sweeping, vague legislative language perversely permits calling constitutionally protected acts terrorism.
Imagine being criminalized for doing the right thing. Occupy Wall Street activists were targeted straightaway. Dissent is called subversive.
Patriot Act provisions compromise due process, freedom of association, and protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.
They authorize unchecked surveillance powers. They're used to access personal records, monitor financial transactions, as well as student, medical and other documents.
Virtually anything goes replaced constitutional protections. No one's safe anywhere for doing the right thing.
America's on a slippery slope toward full-blown tyranny. Freedom hangs by a thread. Anyone challenging state power is vulnerable. Constitutional protections don't apply.
On December 24, Russia Today headlined "Terrorists and criminals: Documents prove FBI monitored OWS."
Federal surveillance was initiated weeks before demonstrations began.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a public service legal organization. It's "dedicated to the defense of human and civil rights secured by law, the protection of free speech and dissent, and the elimination of prejudice and discrimination."
PCJF issues involve constitutional law, civil rights, women's rights, economic justice matters, and Freedom of Information Act cases.
Its work includes "landmark constitutional rights litigation, often concentrated in the areas of free speech, assembly or other protected political organizing activity."
On September 20, PCJF sued local authorities. They challenged New York police arrests "based on...association with or proximity to dissent and protest."
In March, PCJF obtained heavily redacted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requested documents. They showed federal agencies began "coordinated (anti-OWS) intelligence gathering and operations." They began in August 2011.
On December 22, PCJF headlined "FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring," saying:
FOIA documents "reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat."
It did so "even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did 'not condone the use of violence' at occupy protests."
FBI surveillance is standard practice. PCJF called information received "just the tip of the iceberg." It reflects longstanding policy.
It treats peaceful protests against massive financial fraud and related malfeasance as "potential criminal and terrorist activity."
Documents show FBI, Homeland Security, and other federal agencies function "as de facto intelligence arm(s) of Wall Street and corporate America."
Heavily redacted material shows federal authorities concealed more than they revealed. PCJF is appealing for full disclosure.
What's known divulges police state harshness. In October 2011, Obama lied. Doing so comes easy to him.
He alleged OWS support. He told ABC News:
"The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you're supposed to do, is rewarded."
"And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don't feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren't rewarded."
His key words were "we are on their side."
At the same time, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Secret Service agents were working cooperatively with state and local authorities.
They still do. They actively engage in infiltrating, disrupting, subverting, and destroying OWS in cities and communities nationwide.
Peaceful protests, marches, public speeches, picketing, sit-ins, camp-outs, leafleting, banner and placard displays, as well as other constitutionally protected activities are targeted.
Various Supreme Court cases affirmed that First Amendment protections are wide-ranging. They're not limited to speech and assembly. They include conduct intended to convey vital messages.
OWS activists put their bodies on the line for justice. They want Wall Street crooks held accountable. They're criminalized for doing the right thing.
It bears repeating. Tyranny in America approaches full-blown. Freedom hangs by a thread. Activism is called terrorism. Constitutional protections are null and void.
Some of America's best are called enemies of the state. Indefinite detentions threaten them. So does military tribunal justice. Perhaps targeted assassinations come next.
Police state harshness reflects official policy. No one anywhere is safe. Rogue governance takes precedence.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.